1 Sept 2000
COMPANY PROFILE(HKTDC Watch & Clock, Vol 03,2000)
Vol 3 2000
Pockets Of Time
Goal To Goal
E&C Watch Enterprise Ltd
POCKET watches evoke the elegance and leisure of another era. Tucked into the vest pocket of a suit, they convey an old-fashioned sense of style and professional status.
E&C Watch Enterprise Ltd tries to recapture the spirit of the past with its quality brass, aluminium and stainless steel pocket watches.
The 15-year-old firm maintains more than 500 models in its inventory, most with antique designs stamped onto the flip-open covers. Several new designs are added each month.
Company owner Wilson Lam began his business by making wristwatches, but soon switched to a less competitive product. "He went to Germany to study how pocket watches were made," says E&C marketing manager Margaret Ho.
E&C proceeded to stake out a mid-price niche. Now the company's 200 workers produce more than 20,000 pocket watches per month at its factory in Shenzhen, in mainland China. Buyers from the US purchase 70% of its exports, with Europe, Japan and other countries accounting for the remainder.
Acid-plated (gold-coloured) or PNP-plated (stainless steel-coloured) brass watches, priced from US$8 to $10 per piece without covers, and US$12 to $20 with covers, are the most popular items. All prices quoted are ex-factory Hong Kong.
Some models have extra decoration in the form of one-micron-thick rose gold. Buyers can also choose between Arabic and Roman numerals.
"Europeans like Roman numerals while Americans prefer Arabic," Ho says.
Men's watches are available in three diameters: 42mm, 47mm and 50mm. Pendant pocket watches for women measure 24.5mm to 26mm and sell for US$8 per piece without covers, and US$10 to $11 with covers.
Two years ago the company introduced colourful, trendy aluminium versions with large numbers and chronograph functions. "The aluminium makes them lighter in weight. Americans like these," Ho says. Prices start at US$18 per piece.
E&C's newest line, stainless steel pocket watches, was prompted by EU restrictions this year on the use of nickel. The watches start at US$15.50 per piece.
Movements for the pocket-watch models come from several countries. "We mostly use the Ronda Far East quartz movements [Swiss parts assembled in Asia], but we also have Japanese or Swiss movements, plus mechanical and skeleton movements from [mainland] China," says Ho.
OEM and private label orders constitute most E&C sales, but the company recently entered a new domain by establishing its own Regent Louis brand. "Now we want to see if customers are satisfied with our brand name," Ho adds.
The company's sales so far this year are up 20% on the same period in 1999. Recently, E&C actively developed a market for its products in Spain.
Asia is another potential market, although Ho believes the lack of a pocket-watch tradition there might pose a challenge. "In Asia, people are always in a rush to tell time. It is not the Asian practice to pull a watch from a pocket to see what time it is," she says.
In all markets, the company aims to continue following a few simple rules: "We want to offer good products and good services, while keeping our customers satisfied."
DREAMS and determined pursuit of goals throughout the past 22 years have carried Sweda Ltd and company founder Paul So to an increasingly successful reality.
When So established Sweda Ltd in 1978, light-emitting diode (LED) watches were all the rage. His small company jumped into the business. "We sold LEDs for about US$6 per piece then," So recalls.
After the LED craze came liquid crystal display (LCD) watches, and the company again profited. With OEM and private-label watches as its bread and butter (today's prices range from US$8 to $20), Sweda grew steadily. "Every year, our sales rose 10% or more," says So.
In 1982, Sweda diversified into timepiece premiums ranging from US$1 to US$11. In 1989, the company relocated its production from Hong Kong to Shenzhen, in mainland China. ISO 9000 certification followed in 1993.
Even as orders rolled in, So contemplated a bigger prize, Sweda's own watch brand -- a goal achieved in 1999 with the creation of o.d.m., standing for original, dynamic, minimal. Sleek-looking and trendy, the watches sell for US$10 to $30 ex-factory per piece and feature numerous user-friendly digital functions.
"We wanted the watches to have a young, sporty look and be innovative," says So. The target market is 15- to 30-year-olds.
The newest o.d.m. model, dubbed Mysterious, features a slim bracelet and rectangular casing. A special digital mechanism provides alternating screens showing time or date through a simple wrist movement.
"Our vision is to build our own brand through innovation, design and service," says So.
Sweda exports to Europe and Japan, and plans to open o.d.m. retail outlets on the mainland before expanding into the US.
So's zeal for innovation is reflected in the company's six designers and 20-member R&D department. The team has devised such novelties as a watch outfitted with a tiny, TV remote control. No need to turn a room upside down looking for that misplaced handset.
Another innovation is the anadigit model, allowing wearers to check time in both analog and digital numbers. Tired of the same watch? Sweda's three-in-one interchangeable watch may be the answer. A single pop-out watch module comes with three sets of casings and straps.
"Watches today must not only tell time," So says. "They have to add value. They need new features or functions."
The o.d.m. brand accounts for 20% of the 800,000 to one million watches the company's 700 workers produce monthly at its 100,000-square-foot factory. Another 100 employees work in Hong Kong.
Premiums represent 40% of the business, and OEM/private label orders another 40%. Sweda products are exported globally.
"Of course, I would like 100% of production to be our own brand," So says, his eyes dancing at the prospect, "but I expect it to be 50% to 60% within three years."
He believes strongly in branding as a quality-related concept helping to define a company and establish its reputation. That sentiment led him to put the PSL label, for Paul So Ltd, on Sweda's premium products.
"When people see that brand, we want them to know it means quality," he says.
So's ambition is to have an office or agent for Sweda watches in every country. Although he is close to achieving that, doing so will not satisfy him.
"We still have a long way to go. Every time I set a goal and we reach it, I set another one," he says.
WRITTEN BY ANDREA PAWLYNA
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