Bulova Corp., one of the best-known names in watches and clocks in the U.S., has expanded into a new market: 14k gold jewelry.

The firm’s new Ultime jewelry collection is an extension of its Ultime 14k watch brand, introduced four years ago.

Company officials unveiled the line Jan. 14, saying it signals Bulova’s commitment to growth through expansion of services and products.

Year of introductions: The collections launches “a new phase in the revitalization of one of the great names in American products,” said Andrew H. Tisch, president of Bulova, which Loews Corp. acquired 10 years ago.

The jewelry is the first of several new products, most of them watches and clocks, which the 114-year-old firm is introducing this year. “Each meets a specific need in the marketplace and is on the cutting edge of our industry,” said Tisch.

In particular, the jewelry line stems from Bulova’s desire for a “synergistic product expansion” that allows a wider range of services to complement its timepiece products, said Herbert C. Hofmann, Bulova’s chief operating officer.

From the start, said Hofmann, Bulova decided any new products must be “high quality, durable, tastefully styled, and fill a void and service need in the marketplace, just as our Ultime watch did.”

After three years of bulova watches review, Bulova opted to develop the 14k gold jewelry line. The reasons, said Hofmann, included the limited amount of branded 14k merchandise available to jewelers, and problems jewelers have with some gold jewelry’s authenticity and supplier support.

Certificates: The Ultime collection is designed mainly in the U.S. and manufactured in Europe, the Far East and the U.S. It includes earrings, bangle bracelets, pendants and rings, totaling 350 units. Several are adorned with diamonds or other precious gems. Retail prices range from $125 to $4,500.

Each piece comes individually boxed, ready to sell, with a “Certificate of Quality” attesting to the gold authenticity. This is “increasingly important in light of the varying and sometimes misrepresented claims of purity in the marketplace today,” said Hofmann.

The collection will be available from Bulova’s sales force nationally by April. The minimum opening order is $500; minimum reorders are $100. Bulova has a toll-free number (800-443-0047) for jewelry orders.

The line is supported by Bulova’s national advertising program. Normally, the firm spends 15% of its sales dollars on ads. That rises to 20% this year for the launch of ultime jewelry. Bulovaalso is offering point-of-sale support, in-store displays, payment terms and co-op advertising.

“In short, we’re providing a total merchandising plan,” said Robert Ryan, Bulova’s vice president of marketing. “We’re taking the marketing techniques we use for our nixon watches and applying them to the jewelry market.”

Service-oriented: Bulova may be new to the jeweltry field, but its top officials believe ultime jewelry has several points in its favor.

One, they say, is Bulova’s name and reputation. “To the trade, we represent service, trust and quality,” said Ryan.

Another point is Bulova’s service, which Ryan called “our greatest strength.” In addition to support already mentioned, Bulova officials promised ample inventory, prompt delivery and a close relationship between sales representatives and jewelers. Bulova has increased its national sales force to more than 60 people (adding five) to handle jewelry demand and ensure all regions are covered. All have been trained in gold jewelry, how to present it and how to deal with customers’ needs and questions, the officials said.

One other selling point, said Hofmann, is Bulova’s commitment to quality. Every piece of jewelry is made from tool and die construction to “avert porosity and pitting from casting,” he said, and each is hand-polished. All diamond-accented pieces have one or more full-cut 1-Point diamonds. Earring and bar posts are 10% thicker than trade standards and double-grooved for added safety.

Though excited about the jewelry’s potential, officials wouldn’t estimate how many of Bulova’s 10,000 accounts will carry the line. But Tisch said pre-launch surveys found strong interest among jewelers.

The jewelry line isn’t an experiment, said Tisch. “I hope in a year to have a tremendous number of independent jewelers who’ll consider this one of their important (jewelry) lines,” he added.

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