HERE’S an interesting development in the world of TV Horology: Swiss Watch International has apparently lost the use of the word Swiss in both the name Swiss Watch International and Swiss Legend.

I stumbled on a legal decision dated January 30th of this year while researching another possible blog topic and started reading through the court records in the case, Swiss Watch International Inc. V. Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, T.T.A.B., No. 92046786, 1/30/12

The decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office was the culmination of an action that began in 2006 when the USPTO did not grant Swiss Watch International trademarks for either their name or house brand, Swiss Legend on the grounds that the “Swiss” would create confusion with the Federation’s marks “Swiss” and “Swiss made”.

SWI then attempted to have the “Swiss” and “Swiss Made” marks cancelled in the US on the grounds that the names had become generic in the US because the Federation did not control their use and so they were no longer entitled to protection.

But the USPTO dismissed this case and ruled that the certification marks are not generic, despite the unauthorized use of these trademarks by other parties. They cited the Federation’s worldwide monitoring and enforcement system as well as the actions they have taken against third parties that have infringed on these trademarks, as well as the American public’s recognition that the certification marks ‘Swiss’ and ‘Swiss Made’ identify the origin of a timepieces manufacture as Swiss.

Swiss Watch International has already registered a new Legend logo and trademark and I couldn’t find anything pertaining to the parent company’s name.

What strikes me is the argument; that the trademarks are “generic” in the US because third parties have used them without penalty. Might this weak argument be a finger pointed at Invicta for such memorable missteps as the Swina Gate Fiasco and the great The Great DD Debacle? There’s no way to tell because the exhibits used to make their case are either redacted or confidential.

As expected, the company currently known as SWI has filed an appeal so it will probably be awhile until we see how this case ends.

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UPDATE 09/14/2010: Invicta II Men’s Diver “Sandstone Material” dial as it is now being described, is going for $83.21 and three value pays of $27.74.

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UPDATE 09/09/2010: After a week and half, Team Invicta responded to the origin of their “Natural Sandstone” dials confirming what we already know – that they’re about as natural as Pergo wood floors.

“After speaking extensively with numerous experts, there seems to be confusion between the term Sandstone as used in jewelry and sandstone the raw dessert like sand material found in nature. What we are using is absolutely sandstone as known in the jewelry world and is considered a gemstone. That is why when you search the term “sandstone Jewelry” or look at all other vendors you will find a broad selection of jewelry with the same material used as in our sandstone dials. Many stones are modified, bonded, compressed, heated, dyed, bombarded, etc., for use in jewelry. The main reason being one of hardness, since in order to cut semiprecious stones for jewelry or dials you need a minimum hardness of 5-6. Some stones are rare and turned to dust and then compressed with natural, others have a tradition of going by the wrong gemological name such as black onyx which is also dyed black Agatha. No one sells Ruby as a chemical compound (mineral) and tell you its pure aluminum oxide. No one sells Lapis as a Rock, or a diamond as carbon.
These stones have natural properties, not manmade, but have been processed to achieve the hardness required and/or change or enhance their look. We stand by our sandstone, a stone from natural elements, processed to achieve 5-6 hardness and it is not to be compared with raw sandstone which is too porous and soft for use in jewelry
A gemologist explained it as follow: Sandstone in the Jewelry industry is a sedimentary rock composed of tiny grains of quartz or feldspar. It can be any color, but is most commonly tan, brown, yellow, red, grey or white. The color is usually dependent on the region in which the stone was found. Sandstones are formed by cemented grains of small fragments of pre-existing rock or crystals and are usually bound together by calcite, clays or silica. The sedimentation process occurs when sand grains are bounced along the bottom of a body of water or ground surface, resulting in a pressure compacted mixture. Because sandstone widely varies in its creation, its hardness widely varies as well.
I think that no answer is ever going to satisfy everyone, I appreciate the passion. If anything this has been very educational – I am sure there is no other brand out there that gets so personal and detailed about a component of a watch… I’m happy to do it – if this is not commitment, I don’t know what is.”

Uncle Lalo still didn’t address the lack of discernible depth and that only three “crystal” images are arranged in a repeating pattern. But I suppose the ardent – at this point seemingly moronic – über fans will find this response enough.

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UPDATE 09/05/2010: I was able to find out a few more details regarding specifics on the dial. First, the actual thickness of the dial confirms that it is not a slab of sandstone. It is 10 nanometers thick. The thinest that the professor has ever saw sandstone cut is 30 nanometers.

The dial may not even contain natural sand. Looking at it under a microscope reveals that the shiny bits have no dimensionality; not appearing as three dimensional pieces, instead lacking any discriminable depth. Like the difference between a hardwood floor and a laminate. One is the real, three dimensional object that includes the grains. The laminate is a pictorial representation of the same thing.

Also of note is that there are only three distinct shapes that all of the crystalline structures share. In natural sand, the variation approaches the infinite.

These two facts seem to even contradict Eyal Lalo’s statement that actual sand was used in the manufacture of these dials.

THERE is still no explanation from Invicta.

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UPDATE 09/01/2010: Invicta CEO Eyal Lalo semingly confirmed that the dials marketed as “Natural Sandstone” are in fact anything but. He posted two statements this morning on watchgeeks.net:
“The ONLY thing that is man-made is the process of bonding the sandstone grain to a brick like raw bar, which then gets sent to our dial factory and gets cut to dials and polished.” He added “I wrote: “bonding the sandstone grain to a brick like raw bar”
The correct wording would be “bonding the sandstone grain INTO a brick like raw bar”. The sandstone garins do NOT get bonded to something else, it just gets bonded ALL TOGETHER.”

In his second statement, he’s admitting the sand is bonded onto a medium and a dial is cut from it. This is NOT natural sandstone! This is a composition mimicing sandstone and he is admiting as much.

The name of the geologist mentioned below has been passed to Jim Skelton for further discussion of his findings; his identity is not being made public at his request.

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ON this last day of August, the Invicta Watch Group did not disappoint by offering up the trifecta scandal to end the summer of 2010 that has seen a major debacle every month. This time it is the apparent bogus claim of natural sandstone dials.

THIS investigation was initiated by a member of Watchlords, GEEKNOMO, a disillusioned former member of Watch Geeks who obtained a sample from his model 0050, Invicta II Blue Sandstone with Diamond accents. He believed all along, based on color and a close inspection, that it appeared to be a man-made material. After attempting to burn it he felt that it was actually a type of glass. Upon further research, he settled on the conclusion that it was aventurine glass. While I never doubted his belief that it wasn’t sandstone, I know how Eyal Lalo and Jim Skelton on behalf of ShopNBC, attempt to cause confusion when presented with fact. I personally felt it needed confirmed by an expert.

With help from a fellow member of Watchlords, that is exactly what happened.

The sample was shipped to, and examined by a prominent faculty member of the Colorado School of Mines. He believes that it is a glass matrix with manmade crystals floating in it. He rated the hardness on Mohs scale at about 5.5: consistent with glass. Unfortunately, the schools directors have a policy that prohibits any documentation to accompany this finding but they routinely examine samples of materials provided by the public, but the Doctor who examined the sample is an expert with nearly 30 years in the field of geology.

IT was just a few days ago that Eyal Lalo responded on a question and answer Watchgeek thread that the dials are “Natural“. One is reminded of Mr. Lalo’s supposed “loud talks” with Dubois Depraz, a company that did not have any business relationship with IWG and Swiss labeled watches as being entirely Swiss made, another untruth revealed as Watchgeeks popped the backs off of their “Swiss” made watches to reveal movements stamped “Far East Assembly” as well as the revelation of fake diamonds on the Classique womans watches marketed by both ShopNBC and Invicta.

WILL this revelation prompt someone to have a meteorite dial examined to determine if it is genuine? Are the diamonds on the bezel of the 0050 model real diamonds or crystals?

Check back for more updates as this story unfolds.

From the homeshoppingista blog:

“ValueVision Media, parent of the No. 3 home shopping network, filed a so-called “shelf registration,” or S-3 form, Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission for the stock offering. ShopNBC declined to comment.

But in its filing the company said that if it doesn’t stem its losses, “We could reduce our operating cash resources to the point where we will not have sufficient liquidity to meet the ongoing cash commitments and obligations to continue operating.

Through a shelf registration, a company can fulfill certain SEC-mandated registration-related procedures before offering shares to the public, which permits the company to go to market more quickly when they are ready to do the public offering. The company essentially puts stock shares “on a shelf” in case it needs to raise capital for any reason.

We have a history of losses and a high fixed cost operating base and may not be able to achieve or maintain profitable operations in the future.

In its filing, ShopNBC said it had operating losses of about $41.2 million, $88.5 million and $23.1 million in the years ended January 30, 2010 (“fiscal 2009”), January 31, 2009 (“fiscal 2008”) and February 2, 2008 (“fiscal 2007”), respectively.

It also reported a net loss of $42 in fiscal 2009 and a net loss in fiscal 2008 of $97.8 million.

“While we reported net income of $22.5 million in fiscal 2007, this was due to the $40.2 million pre-tax gain we recorded on the sale of our equity interest in Ralph Lauren Media, LLC, operator of the polo.com website,” the S-3 filing said. “There is no assurance that we will be able to achieve or maintain profitable operations in future fiscal years.”

ShopNBC said it has high fixed costs, primarily driven by fixed fees on the merchandise it sells to cable and satellite operators in exchange for distribution.

“In order to operate on a profitable basis, we must reach and maintain sufficient annual sales revenues to cover our high fixed cost base and/or negotiate a reduction in this cost structure,” the filing said. “If our sales levels are not sufficient to cover our operating expenses, our ability to reduce operating expenses in the near term will be limited by the fixed cost base. In that case, our earnings, cash balance and growth prospects could be materially and adversely affected.”

ShopNBC reported that it has limited unrestricted cash to fund its operations, $20.9 million as of May 1, 2010 (with an additional $4.9 million of cash that is restricted and used to secure letters of credit and similar arrangements).

“We expect to use our cash to fund any further operating losses, to finance our working capital requirements and to make necessary capital expenditures in order to operate our business,” the filing said. “We also have significant future commitments for our cash, primarily payments for our cable and satellite program distribution obligations and redemption of our Series B Preferred Stock. If our vendors or service providers were to demand a shift from our current payment terms to upfront prepayments or require cash reserves, this will have a significant adverse impact.”

It appears that ShopNBC’s shareholder GE Capital Equity will have to approve the offering, according to an 8-K that the network filed with the SEC in June.

“On June 10, 2010, our board of directors authorized the filing of a shelf registration statement on Form S-3 with the Securities and Exchange Commission covering the sale by our company of up to $75,000,000 of securities, including common stock, preferred stock, warrants, units and stock purchase contracts,” the company said in that filing. “Our shareholders agreement with GE Capital Equity Investments, Inc. (“GE Equity”) and NBC Universal, Inc. require the consent of GE Equity in order for our company to issue new equity securities and to incur indebtedness above certain thresholds, and there can be no assurance that we would receive such consent if we made a request.”

ShopNBC’s largest shareholder, NBC Universal, back on June 24 decided not to sell its 6,452,194 shares in the home shopping network “due to prevailing prices.”

Who knew that the distant number 3 network was in such financial dire straits? My guess is that repeated scandal after scandal from one of the networks cash cows, Invicta, has surely taken a toll. From the faulty Ocean Quest screw design and moldy dive cases; to Swinagate and the Great D-D Debacle of 2010, the 27 hours of watches marathon revealed few Invicta sellouts compared to last years event. And the revelation just the other day that watches marketed as having diamonds but actually containing crystals surely is not going to help sales.

I wonder if ShopNBC Host Jim Skelton, who recently went on a very public spending spree buying two cars, a new house and a shit ton of knives, all while working a few weeks over several months with one medical ailment after another, might now be regretting blowing all that cash?

What would ShopNBC’s demise mean for all of those stuck with bad watches from the past 7 months?

IT has been a summer of scandal for the Invicta Watch Group following a winter of troubles.

The latest IWG problem for July is with the Invicta II Women’s Classique Boutique Quartz Diamond watch. The ‘diamond’ bit is as flawed as Diamond Jim!

Let’s start with the ShopNBC description:

“The round 316L stainless steel case comes in your choice of gold-tone, silver-tone and even two-tone if you can’t make up your mind. The gold-tone and silver-tone options display coordinating bezels while the two-tone option displays a silver-tone case with a gold-tone bezel. Twenty four beautiful diamond accents are set around the bezel.

The 316L stainless steel bracelet displays in the case coordinating color and the gold-tone is plated in 18K gold. The two-tone option appears in both gold-tone and silver-tone. Notice two diamond accented bracelet links located near the dial totaling an additional 18 diamond accents.”

UNFORTUNATLY for one consumer, the sad truth was revealed by a local jeweler where he took his wife’s newly acquired timepiece to replace a diamond that had fallen out, only to find out that the ‘diamonds’ are actually crystals! This scandal surfaced like the others; on the Watchgeeks website. CZ Jim Skelton quickly stepped in and locked the thread down.

Like the Swinese revelation, ShopNBC quickly moved to pull down videos that featured Shop and Invicta employees promoting the value of the pieces because of the diamonds. The diamonds being a major point of the sales presentation.

One is reminded of the ShopNBC/Renato scandal a few years ago where Renato diamond timepieces where sold with claims that the diamond quality was much higher than they actually were. This resulted in a timeout for the brand which has recently resurfaced on the number three network. When is Invicta going to get a time out? When are watchgeek/Invicta consumers going to stop buying this junk?

Some are claiming that they attempted to alert both the network and fellow TV brand watch collectors that the watch did not have diamonds; only to be rebuffed as any truth apparently is in the world of TV watch collecting. If this is truly the case, one wonders why the self described horological genius, who just so happens to rep diamonds in his internet forum handle, Jim Skelton didn’t pick up on this or how Michael “Grape Ape” Davis, Invicta’s Technical Brand Manager missed it? I mean these folks will tell you they are experts but oddly enough are only hosts and salesman whenever scandals break. Really, what’s the difference between this watch and the Waltham Crystal Kitty watch that the network has sold? About plus $80 for the Infauxta.

INVICTA made a pretty decent $100 watch back in the day. Then they attempted to market high-end pieces and have not faired well in doing so with countless issues and questions. Now they’ve somehow managed to not even make a good cheap watch anymore.

BETTERSKILLS blog has learned that Invicta Watch Group has come to the attention of the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH over the Swinagate Fiasco. This was the Invicta practice of labeling Swiss Parts watches manufactured in the Far East as SWISS and then presenting these watches as “all Swiss Made” on homeshopping’s third place network, ShopNBC. A practice carried out for several years. Intrestingly enough, when the truth was revealed on watchgeeks.net by several members of that site with links to an archived ShopNBC presentation where Eyal Lalo, Invicta CEO, made the claims, the videos mysteriously disappeared. Watchgeeks is co-owned by Invicta Technically Brand Perception Manager Michael Davis and ShopNBC host Jim Skelton. Recently, Michael Davis responded to these complaints on watchgeeks by telling memebers to stop complaining or leave. Continued complaining would would get you banned.

Invicta, who is no stranger to lawsuits, potentially has a huge issue on their hands if this is pursued as they may have violated US Customs and Swiss laws.

IF a case is openned, might the “Swiss Made” provenance of the D-D Speedway Elite also be investigated?

Betterskillsblog will keep you posted.

FRIDAY, June 18, 2010 marks exactly one week since the revelation that Invicta Watch Group did not obtain the
Dubois Dupraz movement in their much hyped Speedway Reserve Elite from the source; that they did not work hand in hand with D-D and that they were, in point of fact, never a D-D customer. This revealed through D-D’s Business Development Manager in North America, Chris Becker by several email inquiries from angry customers and curious WIS.

Initially Skelton disputed the authenticity of the emails; even going so far as to question Mr. Becker’s title. Because, you know, Technical Brand Manager is a real function in so many organizations and Skelton’s vast corporate experience, no doubt, makes him an expert in such matters as well.

And then there was the problem of the statements made by Eyal Laylo, through both Jim “In Cognito” Skelton and Michael “Fuckin” Davis, that he (Laylo) was having stern talks with D-D and that they were taking full responsibility for the bum movements. Skelton later stated that he believed this to be a D-D issue after having discussed the matter “…with another brand” who had “seen “slop” in the gear train of some DD modules that can create an up/down shift in gears.”

Laylo had been busted in an outright lie – Skelton, a self proclaimed horological expert, was repeating statements that he supposedly “heard” from some mysterious brand. I tried to corroborate Skelton’s statements but could not; instead only finding praise for D-D movements.

As could be expected, there was no immediate statement forthcoming because of the weekend but a joint statement was assured by Laylo through his toadie Skelton, “in a few days”. Here we are at the end of the fifth and still no word.

One can only imagine the behind the scenes legal wrangling and probable payoff that are taking place. I’m sure there will be a statement at some point and I bet that it is an apology from Eyal and an absolution of any guilt on D-D’s part. And then, more silence.

There is still the question of where these watches were actually produced. I do remember Invicta’s Pioneer line that was touted as “Made in the USA” with the globalist, shakey provenance that the Invictards who derailed threads regarding the Swinese revelation love; Chinese components and a Japanese movement lovingly assembeled in Hollywood Florida:

“Hell yeah – that’s Amuricun enough for me!”

“I don’t care where it’s made or how it’s marked!”

“Stop beating a dead horse!”

I wonder if that experience led Eyal to believe he could case the watches at home. Sure, they are marked Swiss Made. But as he’s told us in his statement on the Swinese issue, Swiss is just a marketing gimmick. Of course this suggests possible illegal activity, but isn’t stating on several occasions that Swiss is Swiss Made to ShopNBC buyers illegal? Invicta has skated on that one and SNBC has apparently colluded by removing video evidence, so what does it matter?

And “Where in the World is” Jim Skelton? We’ve been asked to believe that he has TMJ that has been aggravated to the point that it’s kept him off the air for over a month? And this wa before he threw D-D under the bus which oddly coincided with his full schedule posted on SNBC being removed. He is slated to return; for the third time with a full schedule. Will he?

A coworker who was a religious zealot once told me that “Sometimes no answer is an answer too, you know…” It is a point that I never considered before he said it and it is, in some instances, completly true. But it was the only bit of wisdom that this guy ever spoke. He was self-centered, self absorbed, self rightous and full of shit.

Sound familiar?

This guy was a Jew for Jesus, yet not Jewish. He started fights with a Muslim coworker over the divinity of Jesus. He went so far as to key the guys car; so bold in fact that he did it while parked next to him!

Sound familiar?

He spouted so many crazy statements that a living document was created to capture them all. Shit like, “By the time I was 12, I was driving to the horsetrack in my daddy’s Imperial, drinking a Pabst and smoking a cigarette to bet on the ponies” and “My dad traded headhunters cigarettes for rubies – they would eat the cigarettes.”

Utter horseshit.

As you can imagine he had a lot of problems with other coworkers. One day he was lamenting the fact that everyone was wrong; that he knew the truth and that everyone around him was wrong and stupid and should just listen to him. I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Robert,” I said, “if everyone is telling you you’re an asshole… you probably are.”

WHAT a weekend it’s been for critics and devotees of the Triumvirate of shady known as Jim Skelton’s ShopNBC, Invicta Watches and the horological world’s branch of Scientology; watchgeeks.net. On the heels of Invicta CEO Eyal Lalo’s revelation that Invicta timepieces labeled SWISS are actually Swinese and on the day of the Watchgeek’s first annual gathering of the Jimilo’s the revelation that the flop known as the Invicta Speedway Reserve featured a Dubois Dupraz movement that appears to be sourced from a third party, despite Eyal Lalo and Jim Skelton inferring that it was a obtained through a working partnership.

Fear and anger quickly spread through Invicta’s camp of loyal followers as many started to suspect that they may have blown a thou-wow on a Chinese copy: a suspicion driven in a big part by Invicta admitting that they misled buyers of SWISS labeled watches into believing that they were buying Swiss made timepieces and not Swiss Parts / Chinese cased watches like several of the Android an Croton models that they compete with.

I never thought that they were counterfeit. What the point? Whether you love Invicta or hate them they do have, at least for now, a fan base that rivals some major league sport franchises. The current global economic depression has Swiss watch sales falling off a cliff so it seems perfectly reasonable that as sales slowed major companies would unload movements in a bid to keep liquid assets while waiting for a reversal. And Invicta die-hards keep buying – with salvation only 5 value pays away.

WATCHGEEKS immediately went into damage control. How? By deleting posts and banning members. The same Yellow Shirts that trolled several of my blogs were in full force, causing trouble on threads to force a violation of WG’s Terms Of Service to get threads closed and ultimately deleted. Some members called out these individuals but it didn’t matter as the Yellow Shirts pretty much succeeded and enough Sheeple accepted it and complied with their silence. I find it unimaginable how that site still has members after this latest revelation – what type of person takes Corporate bullying lead by a toad like Jim Skelton? If you’re one of those people and you’re reading this, why are you still a member? Aren’t you feed up with the phony two party system and multi-national corporate serfdom? Where is the outrage of being treated like a sucker; a mere means to someones fiscal end?

But I digress.

THE big issue are the continued seemingly untruths released as statements of fact and sometimes, like the case with the Swinese watches, admissions. When it became clear that the Speedway had serious issues, vague statements were released on the WG site. Customers who had purchased it were assured that Lalo was directly communicating with DD via “many conference calls” and this threatened to put “several large scale projects with D-D” “ON HOLD”. Skelton’s statement from Lalo went on to state, “All involved believe the issue is a D-D issue” and so “D-D as” Skelton understands it is “owning up to their responsibility”.

Skelton also made a statement implying an underlying problem with the movement in a bid to redirect the anger from his forum’s sponsor; precisely the slippery slope of interwoven shenanigans and self interests that I pointed out in October. But as the emails began to surface, from both an inquiry and several angry purchasers of the turd, it became clear that this was another Lalo “Swiss is Swiss Made” misspeak.

According to Jim Skelton, ShopNBC’s resident horological expert and watchgeek forum owner, the problems with the hands can be solved with a washer, and we can expect a statement from DD and Invicta within a few days. I suspect a team of lawyers is working hard to retract Eyal’s statements an absolve DD from any responsibility.

In light of the technical solution to the problem, the question really is where were these watches assembled? One would assume that a Swiss manufacturer would be aware of these nuances and build the watches accordingly with respect to the precise tolerances required. And so this begs the question: are these pieces in fact Swiss Made?

ONE also has to wonder what liability might Skelton have and how might that extend to ShopNBC. I have a suspicion that Skelton may have sold his interest in WG to SNBC. Do I have proof? No. But there are a couple of interesting facts: he has been on an extended medical leave because of issues with his jaw related to TMJ – yet he’s stated that he hasn’t had time for WG because he recently bought a new house and has been on the phone with movers and he’s also purchased a new muscle car to park in the driveway. So he appears to be flush with cash and just a few weeks ago, Michael “Fuckin” Davis made a vague, seemingly stunned mention opposite Shawn Wilsie, of “Big Acquisitions”. With the economy what it is; ShopNBC reporting a 6.6% drop in net sales in the first quarter of the year, would you burn through money? The elephant in the room is the hiring of Bill McGrath and ShopNBC’s Anywhere Initiative. their aim is to leverage social media sites like Twitter and Facebook as well as iPhone apps and shopnbc.com. So where does that leave watchgeeks?

Competition.

And then there is that sticky matter of Jim’s comments regarding the debacle as a DD issue. His words: “Learned today through conversation with another brand that they have seen “slop” in the gear train of some DD modules that can create an up/down shift in gears.” But he did manage to add within the same message, “Is this absolutely the case? No idea yet…” I’m not a legal scholar so I don’t know if the final bit absolves him of responsibility with respect to definition of the brand. I don’t think it does because it implies direct knowledge of “slop” in some of D-D’s movements. As an agent of ShopNBC I think this may open the way to a lawsuit against his employer. He is one of the faces of ShopNBC and has implied in the past that he is no horological amateur.

But only sometimes.

When the heat is on, he’s just the guy that sells the watches.

I for one, eagerly await the outcome.