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Geoffrey Walsh: When The Big Hand Is On Mona Lisa's Nose...



Geoffrey Walsh was an entrepreneur before he could pronounce the word. At 6, he recalls selling matches to other youngsters who coveted fire. By 12, he procured issues of Playboy and would rip the pages out and sell them to neighbor kids. When Walsh was 13, he says, the police in Ossining, N. Y., even traced a big fireworks business to his attic--but they let him off with a stern warning to his mother and father.

He's older now, but no less ambitious. Through his Bronxville (N. Y.)-based Walsh Enterprises, the 24-year-old entrepreneur peddles ArtWatches--wristwatches with detail from paintings on the faces. Walsh's earliest timepieces, back when he launched the business in 1989, featured works by the masters, including van Gogh, Monet, and Picasso. He has since added new images, such as wild animals in Africa by environmentalist painter Betsey Burhans Fowler.

Walsh got the idea for his business from a joke he heard while an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School: "What did Mickey Mouse get for his 60th birthday? A Dan Quayle watch." He found a watchmaker to add Quayle's face and sold 1,500 watches at $50 apiece. Later, recognizing the popularity of Impressionist painting reproductions in dormitory rooms, he hatched the ArtWatch idea and made it his senior thesis.

Walsh sold 100,000 watches last year and expects to sell 275,000 worldwide in 1991. The watches, which retail for around $50, are available in department stores, museum stores, and catalogs. Realizing that their popularity will likely peak one day, he's already planning other businesses, including a line of sports-related items. But, he says, "I can't tell any more about it." Now, Geoffrey, it wouldn't have anything to do with fireworks, would it?Edited by Andrea Rothman

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