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A Galaxy Of Timely Options Awaits Traders (HKTDC Watch & Clock, Vol 03,2002)

Vol 3, 2002

Product Features
HK Enterprise Internet

Fair Preview

A Galaxy Of Timely Options Awaits Traders

 

A Galaxy Of Timely Options Awaits Traders

21st Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair
September 10-14, 2002

Show Times

Fair Dates Opening Hours Buyer Registration Counter
September 9   2 pm - 7 pm
September 10 10:30 am - 6 pm 10 am - 5:30 pm
September 11-13 9:30 am - 6 pm 9 am - 5:30 pm
September 14 9:30 am - 5 pm 9 am - 4:30 pm

Time Saver

Register in advance on the Internet before August 20 to avoid queues at the fair.
Visit the fair Web site: http://hkwatchfair.com

Total Exhibitors
2002 (Expected): 750
2001: 720

Total Visitors
2002 (Expected): 15,000
2001: 14,362

Product Mix
Complete watches and clocks, parts and components, related machinery, packaging and publications

Group Pavilions
Chinese mainland, Korea and Taiwan

Scale
32,000 square metres

Venue
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre

Organizer
Hong Kong Trade Development Council

Admission
Trade only

Enquiries
Exhibitions Department,
Hong Kong Trade Development Council,
Unit 13, Expo Galleria,
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre,
1 Expo Drive, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Tel: (852) 2240-4026, (852) 2240-4323
Fax: (852) 2824-0249
E-mail: exhibitions@tdc.org.hk

 

Showcase Event Serves As Business Barometer

It was toasts all around as the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair 2001 marked its 20th year. Cutting a ribbon at the opening ceremony were (from left): Wu Ku Chuen, co-chair of the 2001 fair organizing committee; Dr Samson Sun, permanent honorary secretary of the Federation of Hong Kong Watch Trades and Industries; Michael Sze, TDC's executive director; guest of honour Chau Tak Hay, Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Industry; Bob Chong, TDC Watches and Clocks Advisory Committee chairman; Hilton Cheong-Leen, honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Watch Mfrs' Assn; and Tommy Chan, co-chair of the 2001 fair organizing committee.

THE Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair, the largest event of its kind in Asia and the second largest in the world, is a highly anticipated annual sourcing opportunity for thousands of international buyers.

The 2002 edition, set for September 10-14 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC), is an ideal barometer to measure how strongly international markets will recover from economic sluggishness.

About 750 exhibitors and more than 15,000 buyers from around the world are expected to buy, sell and promote timepiece products.

"People attend to source products and find suppliers. The Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair is truly international and has a firm trend towards more participation by buyers from the Chinese mainland. The fair is a one-stop shopping place for them because they can source not only what is made on the Chinese mainland, but from elsewhere too," says Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC) senior exhibitions manager Anne Chick.

The fair is co-organized by TDC, the Hong Kong Watch Mfrs' Assn Ltd and the Federation of Hong Kong Watch Trades and Industries Ltd.

Last year, 18% of the exhibitors and more than a third of the buyers came from overseas. Together, they represented 92 countries and regions.

"Increased overseas participation expands the fair," Chick says. "We recruit everywhere, but see a major role for participation from Asia, including the Chinese mainland, Taiwan and Korea."

This year the five-day fair will occupy 32,000 square metres at the HKCEC in Halls 1, 2 and 5 and the Grand Hall.

Complete watches and clocks, including an array of mechanical, LCD, quartz-analog and digital models, will occupy Halls 1 and 5. Meanwhile, Hall 2 will feature clocks and group pavilions from the Chinese mainland, Taiwan and Korea, among others. Machinery, parts and components will occupy the spotlight in the Grand Hall. Other special sections will highlight packaging and publications.

A popular Brand Name Gallery, with fashion labels, licensed and original brands, will return bigger than ever. "We expect an array of Hong Kong companies to highlight their creativity and original designs," Chick says.

Brand Name Gallery exhibitors will use specially designed booths to attract the international buyers. Target visitors include brand-name agents, importers, retailers and wholesalers.

Design excellence can be seen and appreciated through a display of leading entries in the 2002 Hong Kong Watch & Clock Design Competition. Intended to inspire talent, the competition draws more than 100 corporate and student entries each year.

While negotiating and networking, fair visitors can investigate industry developments at the Asian Watch Industry Conference. There, an expert panel will share insights and discuss issues of concern.

"We will invite Chinese retail-store representatives to elaborate on the mainland's retail-watch market. And we plan to invite a US expert to discuss that market," says Chick.

An on-site user survey will assess product trends and market developments. Findings announced on the final day will also appear on the fair Web site at http://hkwatchfair.com.

Golf enthusiasts can swing and putt at the pre-fair Watch & Clock Golf Classic 2002 on September 9. Highlighting the fair's opening day is an evening cocktail reception.

Visitors can schedule appointments in advance through the fair Web site, where courtesy e-mail is available to everyone.

Invitees to the on-site Dragon Lounge can snack, read newspapers and work online at a bank of computers.

A customer service centre will offer postal services, rental of mobile phones and sightseeing information.


Stainless Steel, Multifunctions Prevail, Say Industry Trend Trackers

WITH the US rebounding from the impact of last September's terrorist attacks, Hong Kong watch manufacturers anticipate a surge in exports following an 8% decline in 2001.

"Last year problems emerged in the fourth quarter. The general forecast for 2002 is comparatively better. US buyers are ordering again, and Europe's economic situation is improving," says Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair 2002 co-chairman Frank Chau, managing director of Goldstone Int'l Ltd.

Some Hong Kong producers focus on an expanding fashion-watch segment placing a premium on design. Leather, metal, plastics and wood combine with various finishes and colours.

The expectation for the upcoming fair is that stainless steel watches with metal bracelets will remain dominant, despite indications that two-tone white and gold designs are gaining. Mechanical watches also see renewed demand.

Leather straps may be on the rise. "Markets are tiring of metal," says Bestrap Mfy Ltd director Charles Lee, a specialist in leather straps. Bestrap hopes for a 30% sales increase.

On the technical front, timepieces with voice announcements, EL flashing and illumination, electronic compasses, calendars and other functions find ready markets.

The most popular clocks may be those with novelty designs and special themes like cartoons and graphics.

Premium buyers snap up multifunction alarm clocks and travel clocks with enhanced features like digital diaries, calculators, currency converters, thermometers and AM/FM radios.

Last year Hong Kong exported US$5.2bn worth of watches and clocks. Its largest market is the US, with Europe rising in importance. Hong Kong is regarded as the world's second largest exporter of complete watches and the largest exporter of complete clocks in value terms.

Buyers have pressured manufacturers for the lowest possible prices.

"The decline in export value had a lot to do with value per unit. Prices for everything came down: components, movements, bracelets and cases," says Chung Nam Watch Co Ltd managing director Bob Chong who sees "no room for more cuts".

In Japan, prospects remain uncertain due to fluctuating value of the yen. Industry experts say other Asian markets, like Taiwan, Korea and Malaysia, should be fairly stable.

For Hong Kong suppliers, the Chinese mainland is a vast potential market and a significant competitive challenge. Mainland enterprises have a niche as makers of low- to medium-priced timepieces, notably analog watches.

Hong Kong has moved upmarket to medium and higher price ranges, prompting more emphasis on quality and original design manufacturing.

"We must outperform competitors in design and added value, such as customer services. Hong Kong manufacturers must continue developing their own brands," says Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair co-chairman Yip Siu Fan, a director of Sun Tai Watch Co Ltd.

This strategy also serves Hong Kong well against rivals like Switzerland and Japan.


Timepiece Experts Detect Strong Outlook

COMPANIES based in Hong Kong, albeit often with factories on the Chinese mainland, are among the world's leading producers of timepieces, with battery-powered wristwatches accounting for 60% of their exports.

Industry prospects are promising, says Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair 2002 co-chairman Frank Chau, the managing director of Goldstone Int'l Ltd.

"I believe the Hong Kong industry is growing. Our quantity will continue increasing because southern China has become such an important manufacturing location," Chau says.

"The US and Europe consistently buy watches from Hong Kong. Even Switzerland sources parts from us, so the future should be very positive."

Hong Kong companies make numerous models - from analog to digital, metal to plastic, fashion to classic, standard to jewellery, novelty to sports watches. They export components like assembled movements, cases, straps, dials and parts for cases and bands. In clocks, the major offerings are alarm, wall and travel varieties.

All these and much more go on display at the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair.

Although about 75% of Hong Kong's exports arise from original equipment manufacturing (OEM), suppliers increasingly focus on original design manufacturing (ODM).

"The only way to excel is through innovative designs and affordable prices," says Bestrap Mfy Ltd director Charles Lee.

Founded in 1984, Bestrap produces leather, plastic and thermal PU straps at HK$4.50-220 (US$0.57-28.21) per pair FOB Hong Kong. "We also trade in metal bands," Lee adds.

Bestrap started with 15 workers, but now employs 250 to create 150,000 pairs of straps per month at its factory on the Chinese mainland. Lee notices revived interest in leather straps, which were out of fashion.

Hong Kong manufacturers use technologies like computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided industrial design (CAID) to improve their products. They also invest heavily in machinery to enhance quality and production.

For example, Chung Nam Watch Co Ltd has embraced metal-injection methodology (powdered metal is injected into moulds), iron plating machinery and computer-numerical-controlled machinery for more precise cases, bracelets and buckles.

"Hong Kong companies understand they cannot remain static. We must invest in hardware and software. A lot of factories are upgrading to outpace rivals," says Chung Nam managing director Bob Chong.

Founded in 1935, Chung Nam makes up to one million watches per month. The company's history is one of steady progression. It started making straps and expanded to metal bands in the 1950s. During the next decade, it began making mechanical watches. LCD and quartz-analog watches followed in the 1970s. More recently, Chung Nam bought the Swiss brand, Roamer, and obtained a global licence for another, Caterpillar.

Renley Watch Mfg Co Ltd makes quartz analog watches priced at US$18-100 FOB Hong Kong. "Our policy is making high-quality watches at a certain price level," says managing director Stanley Lau.

The company owns three Swiss brands: Jean D'Eve, Buler and Sultana. Five years ago, it created a subsidiary, Time Union Mfg Ltd, to concentrate on lower priced watches (US$10-20 FOB Hong Kong).

At factories in Hong Kong and Switzerland, Renley makes 100,000-120,000 watches per month. Various ODM or OEM orders, mostly from the US and Europe, account for 55-60% of Renley's business. Branded watches make up most of the remainder. Five Hong Kong retail shops create a third sales category.

As buyers become more quality conscious, a growing number of Hong Kong enterprises demonstrate the strength of their quality management by gaining ISO 9000 certification.


Pre-Fair Expectations Run High And Varied

The Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair is a valuable opportunity for buyers and sellers alike to spot trends, conduct business and assess the state of the industry.

ALREADY a defining annual event, the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair is a prime opportunity to spot trends, conduct business and assess the state of the timepiece industry.

Maybe stainless steel watches (the white look) will continue to predominate, as they have for several years. Perhaps fashion watches will become the hottest segment. Mechanical watches may stage a comeback.

"Mechanical watches are on the upswing because they are something new to a lot of youngsters," says Chung Nam Watch Co Ltd managing director Bob Chong.

Some Hong Kong exhibitors plan to highlight such watches with Japanese or Chinese movements.

Other exhibitors predict strong interest in fashion watches as consumers put design and brand names on an equal footing with function.

"More and more people buy watches not just to tell time, but as a fashion accessory. They want to buy a brand so everyone can see what they wear," Chong says.

Big sellers at the 2001 Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair, such as digital and anadigit watches, may inspire less demand this time, although watches with a combination of plastic and metal remain in favour. "You might have a metal case and a plastic strap with a half-plastic bezel, or a plastic case with a metal top ring," says Chong.

The fair is an ideal venue for networking. Other exhibitors, including Renley Watch Mfg Co Ltd managing director Stanley Lau, look forward to conducting significant business.

"We want as many orders as possible, but the most important thing is showing customers our new samples," says Lau.

He predicts success for oversized, or jumbo, cases and a ready market for complicated timepieces like chronographs and moon-phase watches.

Bestrap Mfy Ltd director Charles Lee anticipates more colour in some leather and plastic straps. "Those for women will be more colourful, but men still prefer earthy tones," he says.

Lee will use the fair to introduce a new type of strap in a combination of leather, plastic and metal.

Buyers visit Bestrap's booth each year for reasons beyond price. "We are not so inexpensive, but we do provide high-quality products, service and innovative designs," Lee says.

All exhibitors hope for improved buying sentiment due to encouraging economic news from the US and other major markets.

"Business should be better than last year. Manufacturers dealing with the American market say people are eager to place orders," says Goldstone Int'l Ltd managing director Frank Chau, co-chairman of the fair organizing committee. Goldstone produces fashion watches priced at US$100-500 FOB Hong Kong.

Other trends involve use of fabrics, titanium and aluminium. Chau says "very big or very small watches" will catch buyers' eyes.

Now in its 21st year, the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair is an Asian counterpoint to the major European fair staged each year in Basel, Switzerland. Each edition of the fair is a valuable opportunity for manufacturers and buyers.

"We are well known throughout the world, and buyers do feel they cannot afford to miss coming here," insists Sun Tai Watch Co Ltd director Yip Siu Fan, the fair's other co-chairman.

WRITTEN BY ANDREA PAWLYNA

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