7 March 2008
Ticking Over(HKTDC Enterprise, Vol 03,2008)
Dubai Int'l Watch & Clock Fair
Demand is growing in the Middle East for mid-priced watches
The Dubai International Watch and Clock Fair (IWCF) 2007 in December was heavily influenced by increasing demand in the Middle East for mid-priced timepieces.
The Fair is becoming increasingly popular because it offers manufacturers and exporters the rare opportunity to network with regional and even global retail businesses.
The latest event attracted retailers, importers, exporters, distributors, wholesalers, dealers, trade agencies and manufacturers who navigated six main segments:
- brand name watches and clocks
- complete watches and clocks
- parts and components/equipment
- trade services and publications
The 2007 IWCF offered an opportunity for top designers and manufacturers to highlight the latest trends in watch fashion to Middle East markets, with designers keen to point out that the priorities of today's consumers differ significantly from those of their grandparents.
Timepieces are no longer mass-market items, with accuracy and reliability being the highest priority - today, styling and reasonable prices are important considerations, leading manufacturers and designers to broaden the choice of materials used for casings, housings and wristbands.
Though modern electronic devices such as MP3 players, mobile phones and PDAs are replacing clocks and watches for timekeeping, the demand for watches that make a strong fashion statement is climbing year after year.
The 2007/2008 fashion jewellery and watch collections show a continuing demand for mother-of-pearl watch settings, but perhaps the most desirable material for the discerning female shopper is diamonds.
Designers have seen an opportunity to tap into this market and are producing alternatives that capture the sparkle of diamonds at a much lower price.
Encrusted watches offer the same glamour at a fraction of the cost, and square-faced, art deco-style watches with baguette-cut crystals and diamante accents are hot fashion "must-haves" that can cost as little as US$150 each, making them more attainable for those on a budget.
Colour trends see the 1970s look making a comeback, with watches highlighted in a two-toned gold-and-silver finish with funky designs predicted to become hot items in 2008.
However, style is not the sole motivation for the more exotic materials used in watch design as EU initiatives to reduce or eliminate the use of toxic metals such as nickel are also influencing the watch and jewellery industry.
Contemporary clock and watch designs are also being shaped by an increasingly hi-tech consumer base, with the industry eagerly embracing such esoteric features as voice announcement, EL flashing/illumination, electronic compass, calendar, chronograph, incoming call alert for mobile phones and even global positioning systems.
Niche markets, such as sports watches, are calling for more dual-purpose lines that can combine features such as altimeter and depth meter in one device.
Consummate gamers haven't been forgotten either, with some watch companies adding game functions that allow wearers to communicate and play interactively with each other.
Taking this idea one step further, some watches now come equipped with the ability to access the Internet and transmit data to computers and other mobile devices.
The future may see digital watches that are equipped with cameras and mobile phones, the only limitation for this technology being the prohibitive cost for most consumer markets.
The integration of MP3 players and voice recorders in digital watch design is more likely in the near future, as are the radio-controlled watches and clocks that have seen steady growth as technology continues to become more affordable.
Countries adopting radio technology include the US, Germany, the UK and Japan, where radio stations emit signals to ensure perfect time synchronisation.
Novelty designs and cartoon themes continue to see strong demand within the clock market as well as multifunction alarm clocks and traveller clocks with GTLS (mini gas lights).
Premiums consumers put great emphasis on unusual designs and materials, and manufacturers have attempted to increase value-added appeal with enhanced functions such as digital diaries, calculators, currency converters and AM/FM radios.
TEXT BY RAMON BALTAZAR