17 June 2004
Crystal Clear(HKTDC Watch & Clock, Vol 03,2004)
Vol 3, 2004
Watch The Bands
Crystal Jewellery & Watches Ltd
Crystal Jewellery & Watches Ltd specialises in quality brass bracelet watches, 925 sterling silver watches and fashion strap watches
International interest in dress watches is picking up briskly after a brief lull, according to Crystal Jewellery & Watches Ltd marketing manager Fiona Lai, who recently returned from Baselword.
"The response was extremely good," says Lai, who maintains interest at Basel was "at least 20% up" on last September's Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair. "A lot of people were very interested in the watches - in fact, it was only on the last two days that I had time for lunch."
These are exciting times for Crystal, which is expanding its range to include more silver watches and timepieces with leather straps while simultaneously broadening its customer base beyond its traditional focus on the Middle East.
"The Middle East accounts for about 45% of our business - our styles are popular there, and not only for evening wear as people wear dress watches casually as well," Lai observes. "The US and Asia make up about 20% of our business, and the European market is about 15%."
Crystal was established in 1991 primarily to address the strong markets in Dubai, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and this influenced the design of its watches accordingly.
It specialises in quality brass bracelet watches, 925 sterling silver watches and fashion strap watches, using mostly Japanese movements.
However, Lai notes that the company's signature ornate style has now become popular elsewhere. "In the last five years we have been expanding into different areas and the response has been very good," he maintains. "We have been in the US market for 10 years, while Asia has grown very fast over the past 3-4 years."
The company is also looking to establish a presence in the rapidly growing Chinese mainland market and take maximum advantage of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) between the mainland and Hong Kong.
Although much of its business is in OEM and ODM work the company has also built the profile of its own Crystal brand name, and is now looking to establish a second brand to exploit opportunities on the mainland.
"With CEPA, we see that as the way to go forward, as there is a lot of potential all over the country," observes Lai. "In the south people are very concerned with established brand names, but further north they are much more open to different ideas."
Crystal has focused on growth from the beginning, developing from a company employing 40 staff in 1991 to a current headcount of 250. Today its Chinese mainland factory produces about 50,000 watches per month and the company is aiming to increase production to approximately 80,000 per month this year.
Lai believes a high standard of design and manufacturing has been fundamental to Crystal's success. "We're very focused on design, and have six designers on the mainland," he insists.
"Our designers visit our markets to see what is new and make sure we keep ahead of the trends, so we know we offer what customers need."
The company supplements its market research and in-house design skills with freelance talent and also commissions designs from students at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, which Lai believes keeps it on the leading edge of fashion and in touch with young, fresh thinking.
The timepieces that result from this concerted approach cost US$10-30 FOB Hong Kong, not allowing for the additional cost of precious or semiprecious stones for the firm's jewellery watches.
"The stone setting line is more expensive, and it's one of the things we're most proud of developing," Lai comments. "It's a niche market and the watches are beautiful."
Crystal accepts minimum orders of 100 watches that generally take between 45-60 days from confirmation to delivery, though its single largest order to date took the whole of one month's current production capacity and provided another incentive for the company to expand into different markets.
"The challenge is to find out what customers' needs are in different areas," Lai admits. "Our strategy right now is to listen to customers, understand their needs and fulfil them, because we want happy customers."
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Crystal Jewellery & Watches Ltd
|Hong Kong Buyers Request Form||Overseas Buyers Request Form||More Publications|