2 Dec 2004
Right On Target(HKTDC Watch & Clock,2004)
Arrow Timepiece Ltd
|High quality solid brass timepieces are a specialty of Arrow Timepiece Ltd|
Excellence may have its price, but it is one worth paying in the opinion of Alan Chan, manager of Arrow Timepiece Ltd, a versatile Hong Kong-based manufacturer of watches and clocks.
Chan lovingly picks up an elegantly designed brass carriage clock that is fitted with glass panels to display the movement, one of a number of classically influenced high quality timepieces from the company's Jens Olsen brand range.
"Here's my name on the movement - I designed it," says Chan proudly. "This cost US$77,000 to design and put into production, so it was expensive - but worth it."
Pointing to some more carriage clocks, he draws attention to the intricate artwork on their faces. "These are all hand-painted," he stresses. "People like the hand-painted faces because they realise that a clock can be an individual work of art, and these clocks emphasise that."
Chan has always loved timepieces, starting with the watches that he learned to make in Hong Kong before establishing Arrow almost two decades ago.
Although those were initially the company's specialty, he soon saw opportunities for diversification, with the obvious demand for a range of different timepiece designs in the gifts and premiums market.
The challenge appealed to both his commercial and his creative instincts. "We started with watches in 1986, but I changed the product line towards doing more clocks because there was more opportunity to do different designs," Chan explains.
He believes that clocks can go far beyond simply telling the time. "These can be very beautiful objects, or just fun," he maintains. "You can have clocks which are very simple or very complicated."
Like most Hong Kong timepiece manufacturers, Arrow maintains a 200-worker factory on the Chinese mainland, although there is also an 11-strong team in Hong Kong.
Chan remains closely involved with the design of Arrow's own timepieces, whether for the Jens Olsen line or the company's numerous OEM clients. A further 10 designers are also employed by the company, and several hundred designs feature in the Arrow portfolio.
"Our output depends on which models are in production, but on average we can produce about 100,000 timepieces per month," Chan reveals. "We have several hundred models and every month I have 50 new models to design."
Arrow's success is based on its versatility as much as its meticulous attention to fine detail. The company produces table and desk clocks, travel clocks, analogue quartz watches, designer watches and promotional watches, although its specialty remains high quality solid brass timepieces.
"Some 70% are my own designs, or designs on which I've had the help of my team, while others are customer designs," Chan observes. "Our major markets are Europe, the US and Canada."
Arrow mostly uses its own mainland mechanical movements for its timepieces, but also employs mechanical or electronic movements from Japan or Switzerland.
FOB Hong Kong prices range from about US$5 for simple clocks or watches to as much as US$200 for the more intricate and substantial models, and delivery can generally be made within three months of order confirmation. "It can take that long, because we have very strict quality control and refuse to compromise our quality," Chan adds.
Arrow's designs span the range from the sharply contemporary to the classic designs that clearly inspire Chan - for example, the company makes clocks modelled on old boxed compasses and a range of attractive pocket watches inspired by the timepieces of more than a century ago.
His contemporary creations include an attractive and highly functional watch in the shape of a lipstick holder, whose casing protects the face of the timepiece when it is carried with the countless other items that rattle around in handbags. "It's important to know ladies' preferences," he smiles. "This sells well."
Other timepieces the company makes for the gifts and premiums market take the form of motorcycles, aircraft, golf balls or the heads of golf clubs, and even a letter opener with a watch built into the handle.
"The golf-related timepieces are very popular, because they reflect people's lifestyles," Chan says, adding that consumers like the pocket watches too. "There are certain classic or old-fashioned designs that people enjoy, as well as newer trendier things."
Arrow's creativity is founded on Chan's longstanding fascination with both the mechanics and aesthetics of timepieces, which remain his passion as well as his business and keep Arrow right on target.
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Arrow Timepiece Ltd
Unit 19, 19/F,
World Wide Industrial Centre,
43-47 Shan Mei St, Fo Tan,
New Territories, Hong Kong
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