29 Nov 2005
Keep On Ticking(HKTDC Watch & Clock, Vol 01,2006)
Keep On Ticking
Right On Time
High-quality, wood watch-winder boxes are a specialty of ERS, which caters to a growing number of automatic watch collectors worldwide
"Our watch-winder boxes keep automatic watches wound to their ideal level using a small custom-engineered motor and a computer chip that runs on fuzzy logic," explains managing director Raymond Louie. "This enables the winder movement to change depending on the program selected."
The company's basic model has three winding directions: clockwise, counter-clockwise and alternating. "Many watches, such as a Rolex, can be wound in any direction, but others, such as specialist Swiss watches, can only be wound one way," explains Louie, adding that the three functions provide 680 turns per day. "For specific collectors who need to match their watch's winding capacity, we have six or 12 functions to select the required turns per day."
This precision engineering is enclosed in beautifully crafted, solid-oak wood boxes, hand-polished to piano-gloss sheen and manufactured by some 250 workers at the company's 3,000-square-metre factory in Guangzhou on the Chinese mainland.
"Although labour-intensive, hand polishing provides a much finer finish than machine," Louie claims, adding that "mahogany and cherry are our most popular finishes but we also offer burlwood, black and white."
ERS moved into this specialist market from humble origins manufacturing plastic boxes and wrappings in the 1980s. "We began producing wood boxes in 1990 and later expanded into watch-winder boxes," he explains.
In 1999, the company became the first in Asia to make a watch-winder with a wood case, claims Louie, a move that was to become the beginning of many "firsts".
"The following year we were the first to make a watch-winding bowl with wood and use a one-knob program control for easy function dialling," he asserts. "In 2001 we were the first to produce a wood cabinet with an angled-front glass window, and three years later introduced a 24-function, LCD panel, digital control watch-winder."
This innovative digital control panel is patented in the US, Hong Kong and the mainland, where the company also has patents on the watch-winder box spring cushion that holds the watch in place.
The cushion, which sits neatly in the box's faux-suede or leather option interior, automatically spring-adjusts to any sized watchstrap. "ERS was the first in the world to introduce this spring mechanism in watch-winders in 2004," states Louie.
The same year saw ERS brand its winders to target specific market sectors: SmartWinder became the company's high-end digital display control winder, Techwinder its multifunction analogue winder, ERS the three-function basic analogue winder, and WinderOne the single watch-winder. "All these trademarks are registered in Hong Kong, the US and the mainland," Louie notes.
The analogue models can cater for six winder categories: two functions for one watch, three functions for two watches, and six, 12 and 24 functions for 2-8 watches. "Our LCD digital models are available with six, 12 and 24 functions and have the advantage of a convenient digital display panel showing the function selected as well as the mode," notes Louie. "Our latest digital model also shows the time left until the next running system."
While watch-winders account for "a good proportion" of the company's business, the remainder utilises the same high quality piano-standard, hand-polishing for wood boxes for watches, jewellery, pens and retail displays.
ERS has seen its markets grow around the world with distributors covering the US, Europe, Japan, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore and the Middle East, as well as Russia, Croatia, South and Central America, the mainland, Korea and Southeast Asia. "We target any area where there is an affluent market of watch collectors," Louie adds.
He says the company's business continues "steady double-digit" annual growth, but admits competition from the mainland and Europe keeps ERS on its toes. "Copyright infringement is a serious concern as our own designs make up some 90% of our business," says Louie.
He acknowledges that ERS can only stay ahead with continual technological and design innovations. "We have been working on a new watch-winder to be launched in 2006, which will be another world-first in the way it operates," says Louie, "and we are also targeting to be the number-one producer of watch-winders in Hong Kong that same year."
WRITTEN BY SANDRA JENNER
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