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HQ 734565

October 16, 1992

MAR 2-05 CO:R:C:V 734565 LR


Ms. Carol Reignier
Manager - Customs
Timex Corporation
Waterbury, Connecticut 06722

RE: Country of origin marking of imported watch straps; HQ 734673; HQ 733965; C.S.D. 91-23; HQ 733533; HQ 731546

Dear Ms. Reignier:

This is in response to your letter dated March 20, 1992, concerning the method of marking the country of origin on watch straps that are imported attached to watches.


HQ 733965, published as C.S.D. 91-23 in the Customs Bulletin, on August 7, 1991, concerned the proper country of origin marking requirements for certain leather watch straps imported in bulk and their retail packaging. Several issues were addressed. The first was whether a hot foil method of marking, i.e., stamping the straps in a contrasting color, was satisfactory. Customs determined that this method of marking was acceptable since the contrasting color made the marking legible and easy to read. The second issue concerned the location of the hot foil marking - on the tip of the overlaying strap of the buckled watch strap. Customs determined that this location was not conspicuous as the ultimate purchaser cannot merely turn the watch strap over to locate the marking but rather, must first unbuckle the watch strap. The final issue, which concerned repackaged watch straps, is not relevant to your ruling request.

You indicate that Timex is using C.S.D. 91-23 as a guide in the marking of all current and future shipments of watch straps imported in bulk. However, you ask Customs to limit the requirement to mark in contrasting colors to watch straps imported in bulk and request a ruling that permits cold stamping (stamping in a non-contrasting color) on watch straps imported attached to watches. This is based on your contention that a prominent country of origin marking on a watch strap - a relatively minor portion of the entire watch - would mislead an ultimate purchaser concerning the country of the watch he or she may wish to buy. You note that in some cases, a hot foil marking on the strap may be more conspicuous than the country of origin marking on the watch face itself, which is often quite small and difficult to read. You believe that a ruling permitting cold stamping of watch straps imported attached to watches would alleviate this concern.


Whether C.S.D. 91-23, which determined in part that hot foil marking of watch straps imported in bulk was permissible, applies to the marking of watch straps which are imported already attached to watches.


Section 304 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended (19 U.S.C. 1304), provides that unless excepted, every article of foreign origin imported into the U.S. shall be marked in a conspicuous place as legibly, indelibly, and permanently as the nature of the article (or container) will permit, in such a manner as to indicate to the ultimate purchaser in the U.S. the English name of the country of origin of the article. Part 134, Customs Regulations (19 CFR Part 134), implements the country of origin marking requirements and exceptions of 19 U.S.C. 1304.

As provided in 19 CFR 134.1(b), country of origin means the country of manufacture, production, or growth of any article of foreign origin entering the United States. Further work or material added to an article in another country must effect a substantial transformation in order to render such other country the "country of origin".

With regard to watches, Customs has ruled that the country of origin of a watch is the country of origin of the movement. For purposes of 19 U.S.C. 1304, this country of origin must appear legibly, conspicuously, and permanently on the watch. The watch face or the back of the watch case are considered conspicuous locations. Customs has also determined that the country of origin of the watch strap must be separately marked when its country of origin. See HQ 733533, August 3, 1990; HQ 731546, October 27, 1988. This is because the attachment of the watch strap to the watch does not effect a substantial transformation of the watch strap; after attachment, the strap maintains its separate identity. This position was most recently reiterated in HQ 734673, July 22, 1992. Therefore, the country of origin of the watch strap must appear legibly, conspicuously and permanently whether imported together with the watch or separately.

In order to satisfy the conspicuousness and legibility requirement, the country of origin must be easy to find and easy to read. See 19 CFR 134.41(b). The watch straps must satisfy this standard whether they are imported in bulk or attached to watches. As such, the discussion set forth in C.S.D. 91-23 regarding legibility and conspicuousness would apply to all such articles. It should be noted, however, that this ruling does not state that hot foil stamping is the requisite method of marking. The ruling merely states that this is an acceptable method, provided such marking appears in a conspicuous location. Any method of marking which is easy to find and easy to read may be used. Whether or not cold foil marking is acceptable in a given situation depends on the size of the letters, the location of the marking, and the depth of the impression.

We disagree with your contention that a conspicuous marking on the watch strap will be confusing to the ultimate purchaser. Although the watch strap may be attached to the watch, the consumer will generally look for the country of origin of the watch on the watch face or back of the watch case and for the country of origin of the strap on the strap. We do agree that many watches are being imported with an origin marking which is difficult to read. However, the way to address this problem is to require that watches be marked in a more conspicuous manner; not that watch straps be permitted to be marked in a less conspicuous manner. Therefore, Customs intends publish a proposed notice which would require the country of origin of a watch to appear in a more conspicuous fashion than is the current practice. This should alleviate some of the concerns that you have raised.


Subject to the exceptions specified in 19 U.S.C. 1304 and 19 CFR Part 134, watch straps must be conspicuously marked to indicate their country of origin whether or not they are attached to the watch at the time of importation. Although hot foil marking is an acceptable method, any method which is legible, conspicuous and permanent is acceptable.


John Durant, Director

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