1 Dec 2000
Full Function On A Wrist(HKTDC Watch & Clock, Vol 04,2000)
Vol 4 2000
Full Function On A Wrist
Alloy Success ahead
TRENDY unisex watches that look sporty and use the latest technology combining LCD and quartz analog are a specialty of Wing On Cheong Watch Industries Int'l Ltd.
"These ana-digit watches are the future because you can have more information by combining LCD with analog," says the company's managing director Peter Li.
Established in 1984 as part of the Wing On Cheong Group, the company began with a 50-worker assembly line and 15 office staff, all in Hong Kong.
"At the time, you could say it was not a small company. We were always dedicated to making watches," says Li.
Wing On Cheong has moved its production to Dongguan in mainland China, where its 7,000-square-metre factory has 500 workers.
"When we started, our products were premiums priced from US$0.70 to $4. Since then, the products have changed, and our prices now range from US$0.70 to $45," says Li.
The company's new models not only tell time and the date, but also feature temperature sensors, dot-matrix displays, telephone memos and 100-year calendars.
"Our five-member design team creates two collections of watches each year," says Li. Team members are working on combining LCD and analog to create even more functions.
"LCD can provide more features and function than analog. It's very popular in Japan, and I believe Western countries will begin to accept this trend of LCD-analog," says Li.
Europe is Wing On Cheong's main market, but the company aims to expand sales to Japan and the US. Its high-profile clients include Fossil Far East, McDonald's, Pepsi, Philip Morris and Walt Disney.
As in many industries, the company caters to teenagers. "You know teenagers are the majority market, and these sporty watches appeal to them," says Li.
The watches, which are large and chunky, have two shapes: round or tank. Straps come in canvas, plastic, metal or leather. The watch faces are something else -- using a digital display in grey or bright blue, one can check the calendar, data bank and thermometer by pressing a few buttons. Time is read the old-fashioned way by checking two hands on top of the LCD.
Japan supplies LCDs while the quartz analog is from Japan and Switzerland. Other electronic components come from Taiwan.
"Our product quality is high -- ISO standard -- and clients don't mind paying more for a good product," says Li. The company is working on ODM projects with Seiko Instruments and Pioneer.
To outpace competitors, Wing On Cheong sends its 12-member sales team around the world for up to six months each year to maintain clients and meet potential new ones. "We take into account clients' opinions and suggestions in trying to create something new," says Li.
To discourage copycats, the company not only produces new designs and technology, but also comes up with new machines to make the watches. "Our policy is that once our watches are copied, we drop our prices and come up with something new. Since we make our own machines for manufacturing, it can be hard to copy us," says Li.
Vowing that Wing On Cheong will "keep running" to stay ahead, he cautions all rivals to "watch out"!
FEMININE watches resembling bracelets appeal to many women. Style is what these buyers want, rather than multi-feature technology.
Longwick Industries Ltd makes decorative watches, combining alloy and shell to create unique, pretty watch-straps.
Founded 11 years ago, Longwick began as a maker of belt buckles and zippers. It operates a 1,000-worker factory in Dongguan, mainland China, and has about 30 staff in Hong Kong.
"We started making watches two years ago. Since we had a lot of technical expertise using alloy, we believed watches were a good idea for new products," says marketing officer Eddie Cheung.
The company's alloy and shell watch-straps in silver and gold come in various shapes, including heart, teardrop and oval, and are exceptionally attractive, a source of pride to Cheung. "These are a special design. I don't think I've seen it anywhere before," he says.
The company's two designers generate 10 new designs a month. "Because we have many machines for working with alloy, we can develop a lot of different styles. Our experience with the material makes it easy for us to solve technical and design problems," Cheung says.
Longwick is working on different finishes for the alloy. One creates an antique look. These watch-straps have a filigree design and burnished finish that makes them look gothic.
The company has devised the concept of do-it-yourself, or DIY, watches. "People can choose the strap they want and put whatever they want on it, including letters," says Cheung.
The watch faces come plain or with pictures, and the letters are in silver and gold. Movements are from Japan, the shell is from Australia and the alloy from mainland China.
Aside from wrist-watches, Longwick offers watches attached to snap hooks to wear on belt loops, bags or key-chains. Other models can be pinned to clothing.
"Our target market is 25- to 40-year-olds," say Cheung. The company anticipates expanding its exports to the US, its main market, along with Australia and Canada. Its FOB Hong Kong prices are typically about US$2.80, with the minimum order at 500 pieces.
"We plan to develop different products for the European and Asian markets because our existing designs appeal mostly to US tastes," says Cheung. The company's new designs will target teenagers.
With Longwick's alloy expertise and its willingness to experiment with new materials and different finishes, the company is bound to become a serious contender in the timepiece industry.
WRITTEN BY MELISSA WESTCOTT
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