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Celebration Time!(HKTDC Watch & Clock, Vol 01,2007)

Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair



The buyer for one of the Middle East's largest importers, distributors and retailers of luxury international brand-name watches neatly summarises why the world's premier watch and clock fair has prospered and flourished for 25 years.

"This is definitely the best one-stop shop for watches," claims U.V. Ramachandran, senior manager - procurement for the Rivoli Group of the UAE.

Ramachandran should know as his company represents more than 150 high-end international brands, owns and operates nearly 200 retail outlets and employs more than 600 staff.

"I've been coming here for more than 18 years looking for brands and components," he reveals. "There are two important fairs - Basel for brands and the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair for brands and components."

Novotime S.A. Argentina director Frederico A. Cohen echoes these sentiments. "We always find new designs here," he says. "I give this fair 10 out of 10 for its organisation - it's very good."

His company has been importing watches into Argentina for 10 years and he has been attending the fair for many years. "The main reason is to build and maintain solid relationships with our suppliers, mainly Hong Kong companies," he explains. "We find they fully understand the needs of their customers and they can provide superior designs, especially for ODM."

This year, Cohen and Ramachandran were joined by more than 16,000 buyers from 96 countries and regions, who packed the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from September 6-10, 2006 to help the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair mark its 25th anniversary.

"Buyer numbers included 50 overseas missions, representing 1,104 companies or 1,702 people from 41 countries and regions," notes Anne Chick, senior exhibitions manager for fair organiser, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC). "All together, the 2006 fair was visited by 16,348 buyers from around the world."

Buyers were lured by 819 exhibitors from 19 countries and regions, including group pavilions from the Chinese mainland, Korea, Taiwan, France, Italy, Switzerland, the UAE, India, Singapore, the UK, the US and Canada.

Their impressive displays of complete timepieces, components, equipment, machinery and packaging products were a fitting testament to the industry's continuing support of the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair, maintains co-chairman of the Fair Organising Committee Peter Lee.

"The fair has become a 'must-come' trade event for buyers to source new products, conduct business and gather latest industry information," Lee says.

"Meanwhile, industry players have increased their competitiveness and maintained their international reputation for quick response and reasonably priced products."

The global industry's strength is reflected by the performance of Hong Kong's total watch and clock exports, which reached US$3.73bn in the first eight months of 2006, reaffirming Hong Kong's position as one of the world's leading exporters of watches and clocks.

Sales to the EU, which accounted for nearly a quarter of Hong Kong's total watches and clocks exports, increased by 2% in the first eight months of 2006; while exports to Italy leapt 13% and Switzerland's 8% expansion comprised mainly parts and components.

Nowhere was the creative state of the Hong Kong and global watch industry more evident than at the seventh prestigious Brand Name Gallery, which once again showcased the best fine-fashion labels, licensed and original brands.

"The Brand Name Gallery is one of the focal points of the fair, having registered a solid 12% increase from 86 brands in 2005 to 96 brands from 16 countries and regions this year," Chick observes. "It has expanded rapidly since its inception in 2000, illustrating the success of our efforts to promote brands and encourage design innovation."

She claims that buyers were drawn to the Brand Name Gallery to meet the demands of today's discerning consumers, who seek brand-name items and high-quality products that stand out from the crowd.

The fair also promoted Hong Kong's own design capabilities by showcasing the winning designs of the 23rd Hong Kong Watch and Clock Design Competition.

"These designers represent the future of the Hong Kong industry and this year's competition once again demonstrated that it is in safe hands when it comes to creating original and innovative timepieces," Chick explains.

Another of the fair's highlights was the Asian Watch Conference, where industry expert Philippe Charriol, president and CEO of Philippe Charriol International Ltd, shared his insights on market trends.

The French entrepreneur shared his experiences on what makes a product concept unique and the ways to build a global brand, and also explained the unique opportunities on the Chinese mainland.

"The tremendous success of the 2006 event augurs well for the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair 2007, which will be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre from September 5-9, 2007," Chick concludes.


Insider Knowledge

Both buyers and exhibitors are positive about market prospects in 2007, according to a survey commissioned by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC).

The Oracle Added Value review showed that Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair 2006 exhibitors and buyers are positive about market prospects for 2007, with over half of the 408 exhibitors and 701 buyers interviewed expecting stronger business next year.

Exhibitors believe major retail growth will come from the Chinese mainland (42%), Western Europe (32%) and the US (26%).

"Multifunction watches are expected to remain popular - particularly those with health- or sports-related functions or the ability to play MP3 files," TDC senior exhibitions manager Anne Chick notes.

Quartz analogue, automatic and mechanical watches are expected to be the most desirable timepieces in the coming year, while metal and precious stones will be the most popular dial materials.

"Made-in-Hong Kong watches are perceived to be middle-class by more than half of the traders, confirming the local industry's ongoing evolution from a low-priced assembly centre into a manufacturer of high quality, branded items," Chick adds.

The survey also found that environmentally-friendly manufacturing is becoming increasingly important, with many of the exhibitors (80%) and buyers (74%) currently selling to the EU taking measures to comply with environmental protection requirements such as WEEE and RoHS.

"Most of them will better select and manage their suppliers and adopt environmentally-friendly packaging," Chick explains. "Around 30% of traders believe these measures will increase orders from the EU by 12%-14%."

However, buyers are having difficulty sourcing RoHS-compliant watches. "Some 54% of buyers currently selling to the EU believe that Hong Kong companies are as capable as the Swiss or the Japanese when it comes to making RoHS-compliant watches," Chick adds.