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Maurice Lacroix watches are available at Tobin Jewelers.
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It's time to shine in style
By Diane Schlindwein

If you really want to know what time it is, you have a lot of choices in timepieces. However, if you are a watch enthusiast, you might be a tad more particular.

Evan Hart, president of Tobin Jewelers in Springfield, says Citizen Eco-Drive watches are very popular in the capital city area. The watches range in price from about $215 up to approximately $895. Most of the watches are stainless steel, but a few are titanium.

Eco-Drive means the watches are fueled by light. The Eco-Drive technology harnesses light from any natural or artificial light source and converts it to energy, which is stored in a permanent, rechargeable lithium-ion cell.

"It recharges continuously so the watch owner never has to buy a battery like they do with a quartz watch," Hart says. "That isn't a big deal, but it doesn't ever stop. People like that idea. I will tell you that Citizen sells a lot of watches. Within Citizen, we've got a pretty darn good selection."

Central Illinois time-tellers who want a watch that is unique to this area can purchase one made exclusively for Schramm-Bacher Jewelers and Gemologists in Springfield. The watch works are Swiss movement, explains owner Michael Schramm. "The bands and cases are made in the United States," he says.

The Schramm-Bacher watches, which carry an SB logo on the dial, cost between $200 and $600. "Our watches come with a lifetime free battery on the quartz movement watches," Schramm says. "It's the same for both men's and women's watches."

Besides wedding bands, watches are a man's jewelry of choice. "Men don't wear much jewelry, but they do like watches," Schramm says. "A lot of them like specialty watches and they like watches with alarms."

"Men like to buy watches because it is kind of their connection with jewelry," Hart says. "Women want diamonds; they want emeralds and rubies. Guys want watches - and watches have different functions that will occur." Pocket watches seem to have become a thing of the past, both jewelers say.

Customers who desire a pricier timepiece might want to purchase a Maurice Lacroix, which are also available at Tobin's. As a retailer Hart is very familiar with these watches, but customers can ask to see the 83-page hardbound book that tells the history of the company, explains watch movements and provides full-color detailed photos of the watches' faces and movements. These watches sell for at least several thousand dollars apiece.

"When most people think of a watch, they think of one that just tells time. It might do something other than that," says Hart, who explains that some men like mechanical watches, which generally cost much more than a quartz watch.

"I think it comes down to what you want the watch to do. You don't just stick a battery in it and it does the function," Hart says. "There has to be a lot of thought that goes into mechanical watches because it is moving parts. You've got to set it up so it knows what to do. There are layered wheels on each one of those watches, so as it turns it will tell this one to turn so that it flips a day or a month ...

"You have to adjust mechanical movements if they are running too fast or running too slow - to get it so the watch keeps accurate time," Hart explains. "The reason things went to quartz rather than staying mechanical (beginning back in the 1950s) is that quartz were a heck of a lot more accurate. They didn't lose time."

Hart points out one of the Maurice Lacroix watches - the Regulateur from the Masterpiece Collection that sells for $4,500 - as a good example of an automatic mechanical watch. "It has a little hammer moving in the back. That's what winds it up. As you wear it, that hammer is constantly turning and that is what winds up the main spring. If you set it down and don't wear it for a couple of days, it will keep running. After that you'll have to reset it."

Although there are some very high-end watches on the market - Bulgari, IWC, Breitling and Patek Philippe, to name a few - many of them aren't available in central Illinois. "These Citizens are obviously going to turn much more so than the higher-end pieces," Hart says. "Most people are going to walk into a store - whether it is Tobin Jewelers or wherever - and they're not going to look at a $3,000 watch. They're just not. People are not going to spend that kind of money."

When it comes to the bottom line, Hart says he carries what he believes will sell in Springfield. "Each one of these Lacroix watches is available in stainless, it's available in gold," he points out. "I'm not going to carry the gold versions because they are going to be five times as expensive. If you look at something in stainless that is $4,000, if you were to do it in gold it is probably going to cost $20,000. Would I love to have it? Absolutely - but I've got to be able to sell it. You have to know your market."


Story published Friday, July 3, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 4 )

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