9 March 2006
Changing Times(HKTDC Watch & Clock, Vol 02,2006)
Skytime Jewelry & Watch Co Ltd
|Skytime Jewelry & Watch Co Ltd produces silver, stainless steel and 18K gold watches in all shapes and sizes|
Time inevitably signifies movement, so it's not surprising that Skytime Jewelry & Watch Co Ltd had the foresight to take the bold step of changing from a watch-component manufacturer into a watchmaker in 2000.
"Our factory began operations 12 years ago and used to work on overseas OEM orders for watch components and parts," recalls general manager Danis Cheung.
"However, we found it increasingly difficult to survive among fierce competition on price, so we decided to diversify our operations into designing and manufacturing watches."
Obviously it was quite a challenge to venture into a new area, so Skytime kept its original OEM component business while exploring the new frontier through advertising in trade magazines, participating at trade shows and scanning the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's online database.
Today, with a kaleidoscope of silver, stainless steel and 18K gold watches in all shapes and sizes on display in Skytime's showroom, it's easy to see that the company's hard work has paid off handsomely.
"Our major products are silver watches and accessories in jewellery-look fashion styles targeted at more sophisticated customers above 30 years of age, so you'll find most of our designs enlivened by imported CZ stones and gemstones," Cheung explains.
Neatly tucked in their velvet showcase are a profusion of watches in bold shapes, many with colourful leather braids and embossed motifs, glittering prints or dangling charms.
According to Cheung, who now heads a four-strong design team, big watches are still in fashion but cost constraints mean prices haven't risen.
"Our design team creates a new series four times a year, producing 20 new ideas at a time, in order to attract buyers," boasts Cheung.
The team also designs separate collections for existing customers, mostly US and European importers who have their own signature styles, although some may provide their own design directions for further development.
Skytime's customer-first approach has helped the company achieve its smooth transition by evolving with market demand; beginning with alloy watches, then brass and now stainless steel, silver and karat-gold watches and accessories as staple items.
"Being specialised means we have to fulfil numerous requirements regarding product design and quality, which are very detailed and are often bound by demanding international standards," explains Cheung.
"Nevertheless, these have driven Skytime to invest in the essential facilities and advance technology required, thus empowering the company to build up its expertise."
Today, Skytime's 20,000-square-metre, 1,500-worker factory in Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland produces an average of 300,000 mid- to high-priced watches a month.
These timepieces feature imported movements from Japan and Europe, alloy from Australia, brass from Japan and stainless steel, silver and karat-gold from the UK and Finland.
Most materials are bought through Hong Kong agents to guarantee reliable quality. Meanwhile, delivery of finished products is promised 35-45 days after order confirmation.
"New technology is vital for manufacturing timepieces that are of good quality and attractively priced, so in addition to utilising conventional casting and stamping techniques and machinery to produce silver watches, we have also adopted the latest electro-forming technology," adds Cheung.
This produces silver watches that require two-thirds less raw materials and are lighter in weight, which means material and transportation cost savings for customers and therefore a more competitive price.
These advantages have also encouraged Skytime to invest in more electro-forming machinery to manufacture karat-gold watches.
Cheung notes that the lighter-weight watches are very popular among US customers, although some European buyers prefer a "full" metal movement for a more substantial, metallic feel.
He adds that silver watches and accessories have traditionally dominated the market, but stainless steel models are currently drawing the attention of overseas buyers and could become the new trendsetters.
"Silver watch designs are bound by cost but pure stainless steel, which used to have a rigid look, is gaining a new identity by being mixed and matched with other materials such as gold, gemstones or carbon fibre," says Cheung.
This also offers Skytime a hint for future product development and direction. "We will keep exploring new elements to create original designs that are accepted by the market, especially to further expand our European footholds," Cheung concludes.
WRITTEN BY WINNIE HUI
Skytime Jewelry & Watch Co Ltd
Unit 1901, Paul Y Centre,
51 Hung To Rd, Kwun Tong,
Kowloon, Hong Kong