14 March 2007
Slim Sells(HKTDC Watch & Clock, Vol 02,2007)
Unilux Time (HK) Ltd
|Unilux Time (HK) Ltd manufactures slimline stainless steel watches for sale in South America, Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East|
Lam stresses that slim watches are the company's speciality, but it originally specialised in high-volume business in low-end timepieces before evolving to higher-end and higher-value production with a focus on quality rather than quantity.
"The company was officially set up in 1985, but we have experience in the Hong Kong watch business going back to the 1970s," says Lam, noting that Unilux's main markets are South America, Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. "Before we did business with North America, but that was low-end and our direction is now upward."
Unilux used to be a self-contained timepiece manufacturer, making its own parts as well as assembling finished watches, but it became apparent that the size of the company's workforce and its wide-ranging operations were inhibiting the R&D that would move it up the quality chain.
The decision was therefore taken to get out of the parts manufacturing business, and to focus on design and assembly under rigorous quality-controlled conditions.
As a result, Unilux's factory in Shenzhen on the Chinese mainland employs only around 50 people and produces a much smaller number of watches that are of much higher quality and command prices reflecting that fact.
Rather than slug it out with numerous competitors in the highly cost-competitive North American market, Unilux has chosen to address quality-conscious niche markets and build relationships with regular customers.
"We don't do mass production - we export about 30,000 watches per month," Lam reveals, adding that Unilux's average FOB unit price is about US$14.
However, the company also makes diamond watches, so sometimes the case can cost US$200 or more. "Leather band watches start at about US$10 each, and the main range models go up to around US$20 or US$30."
Sourcing parts on the mainland reduces overheads, although the company uses mostly Swiss components or Swiss parts and Japanese movements, and has switched to stainless steel for better quality.
"The OEM/ODM watches we make for ourselves and our major customers are slimline - ladies' bracelet and leather strap models and metal band watches," Lam explains. "We are not very strong in sports models, although we do OEM in that range."
OEM and ODM orders account for most of the company's business, although it does have its own brands, available in some markets. "Our brands are selling mostly in South America aand the Middle East - Raymond Renee and D'Mario, which are both slimline models," Lam observes.
It's the company's advanced design capability and commitment to customer service that has built its current client base, according to Lam, explaining that three designers work with overseas customers to come up with classic rather than trendy designs.
"We probably introduce around four or five new designs per month, but we don't use the designs for more than one customer in the same area," he insists.
Unilux accepts orders of 500 or more watches and delivery for repeat orders is usually within three months of confirmation. "Our production is made to order - we don't keep stock so we only produce the models when we receive the order," Lam affirms. "Each month on average we may be processing around 100 models."
The company's markets are generally less in thrall to big international brand names and less trend-conscious, which has allowed the company's designers to develop their own signature style.
"Many markets have been going for bigger sizes but we are in markets for smaller watches," Lam says. "The slimmer the movement the more costly it is - that's one way the collection tells the market about its quality."
Unilux, he says, believes in working on a long-term basis with customers to help them develop their collections of watches. "We are not aggressively going into new areas because we have some very stable customers and there is still lots of room for us to grow in our existing markets," Lam concludes.
"We won't go back to mass production as it's not cost-effective - we'd rather spend more resources on understanding market needs and improving our service and our quality."
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Unilux Time (HK) Ltd