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The Clock Is Ticking!(HKTDC Watch & Clock, Vol 03,2006)

Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair


Adolfo Filarent is one of thousands of buyers and exhibitors who are keenly awaiting the latest edition of the world's leading watch and clock fair.

The president of Argentinian company Paddle S.A. has long known the value of the Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary from September 6-10 this year.

"We have attended every Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair since 1986, sourcing complete watches and clocks which we sell under our brand name Paddle Watch," he notes.

Filarent looks for new designs for his target customers who want "young, contemporary styles without being too flashy" and without too much decoration. "We always get a good idea of the trends from this fair and see the new styles that are being promoted," he says.

He won't be disappointed with this year's event, states Anne Chick, senior exhibitions manager for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (TDC), which is staging the show at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

"The 2006 fair boasts a line-up of more than 800 exhibitors who will be displaying an incredible variety of watches and clocks, parts and equipment, machinery, packaging products and publications," she explains.

"There will be something for every market segment at this year's fair, where creative ideas will range from plastic timepieces to high-end jewellery watches, and from sporty to elegant styles."

She is therefore confident that this year's event will attract the same kind of quality buyers as last year, noting that 16,294 key buyers from 96 countries and regions attended the show in 2005. "Some 43.7% of the buyers came from outside Hong Kong, which represented a 5.7% growth over the previous year and illustrates the ever-increasing importance of the Hong Kong fair," Chick says.

"The number of buyers from several key markets showed healthy increases, with the Chinese mainland total rising 12.2%, Japan 14.5%, the US 5.7%, and Europe 4%," Chick recalls. She adds that the number of buyers from Switzerland, Australia, Brazil and the Philippines also recorded double-digit growth.

The 2005 fair also attracted large numbers of buying missions from top companies worldwide. "For example, last year's fair welcomed 45 missions, comprising 1,589 people from 1,000 companies," Chick declares.

She says traders are drawn to the many special attractions, such as the highly-popular Brand Name Gallery that will be expanded to feature around 100 brands this year as the Hong Kong watch and clock industry continues its evolution towards the creation of individual brands.

"This is 13% more than last year, and illustrates how increasingly important this premium venue has become since it was introduced in 2000," Chick says, adding that exhibitors will come from 19 countries and regions - Hong Kong, Australia, the Chinese mainland, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, Jordan, Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Singapore, Switzerland, the UAE, the UK and the US.

"The expanded section is an excellent showcase to display the strong design capabilities of Hong Kong and overseas companies, and suits those buyers on the lookout for unique brands."

Besides viewing the wide spectrum of clocks and watches of different designs, functions and styles on offer, traders can attend the informative Asian Watch Industry Conference. "The conference is a key forum where the latest trends and forecasts in the timepiece trade are discussed and as such is an excellent source of vital market intelligence for exhibitors and buyers alike," Chick believes.

Running alongside the fair, the 23rd Hong Kong Watch and Clock Design Competition will continue to provide a platform for local design talents. "Hong Kong's increasing focus on ODM and brand-building is fuelling a simultaneous demand for quality design, some of the best of which can be seen in the winning pieces on show," Chick adds.

"We are committed to ensuring that the Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair remains not only the most important event of its kind in Asia, but also one of the leading international industry showcases for buyers and exhibitors alike," Chick concludes.

Inside Track

The Asian Watch Industry Conference gives visitors to the 25th Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair an insider's view of the latest market intelligence.

Last year, for example, keynote speaker Greg Thumm, Fossil Inc senior vice president, product development & design, told his audience the Hong Kong watch industry was on the brink of change.

"It's all about a change in mindset," Thumm explained. "Over the past five years importers have been demanding more branded merchandise and vendors have to become partners with their customers to help create the kind of merchandise that these companies want."

He maintained there are three important elements to any successful brand-building exercise: first, the details are all-important, second, the manufacturer has to stop saying yes when he really means no and third, it's vital that all parties follow a realistic production schedule.

"Brands have time-sensitive marketing and advertising plans," Thumm cautioned. "A gap in production could lead to the entire system of brand promotion collapsing."

Hong Kong Watch Manufacturers Association Ltd vice president Paul So described how the Hong Kong watch industry developed from its humble beginnings to become a multi-billion dollar industry.

"Industry players should be aware of the trends that have shaped our business and how we have evolved over the past three decades," he said. "By understanding how Hong Kong businesses have adapted in the past and how to play on our strengths we can see how best to position ourselves for future challenges."

He was followed by 2006 fair organising committee co-chairman William Chan, who discussed the current market and future development of the Hong Kong and Chinese mainland watch retail businesses.

Chan placed special emphasis on how to establish sales channels while offering valuable insight on how to manage a successful retail business. "Hong Kong's watch and clock businesses are keen to enter the Chinese mainland market," he observed.

Companies need to build brands and concentrate on design, but Chan emphasised the need for patience. "Promoting brands is a long-term business - you need to have a good- quality product, strong marketing, and be prepared for a long lead time before a brand takes off."