17 June 2004
Watch The Bands(HKTDC Watch & Clock, Vol 03,2004)
Vol 3, 2004
Watch The Bands
Yuen Sang Hardware Co (1988) Ltd
One of the industry's most successful component suppliers, Yuen Sang Hardware Co (1988) Ltd has manufactured high quality stainless steel watch bracelets since 1947
Most people spend hours deciding which watch they want to buy but few spare a thought for the style or origin of the humble watchband. Timepiece manufacturers, however, see things differently and household names the world over know exactly why they choose bracelets from Yuen Sang Hardware Co (1988) Ltd.
Yuen Sang has long been one of the industry's most successful component suppliers, having specialised in making high quality stainless steel watch bracelets since it was established in 1947.
Acquired in 1988 by the Chuang's Group of Companies, Yuen Sang is committed to addressing new ideas and markets and building a product range that extends from simple functional steel-link bracelets to the kind of band that makes or breaks the look of a high-value watch.
Thanks to the current popularity of leather straps with ornate buckles, the company has opened a new area in its factory devoted exclusively to producing the kind of elegant, but functional and resilient, buckles that watch manufacturers worldwide are now demanding.
"Separate buckles are a new speciality for us," explains marketing manager Molly Suen. "Leather strap models with diamonds and other stones have become popular recently, so we have had a lot of orders for buckles for bracelets, and we're also selling a lot of jewellery-type bracelets to Italian customers."
The company supplies watch companies in Southeast Asia, the Chinese mainland, Korea, Japan, Australia, Europe and North and South America.
Like many Hong Kong companies Yuen Sang moved its manufacturing operations to the mainland in the early 1990s, establishing a factory in Dan Shui near Shenzhen.
The four-storey building, which covers an area of about 65,000 square feet and employs more than 500 workers, has its own power generator to ensure that production runs are not affected by electricity cuts.
"The factory has four floors but we only use half that area at the moment," Suen reveals. "We can expand easily in the same building should demand call for it."
The company produces more than 900 different designs, both original and clients' own creations, which are handled by dedicated departments - folded, semi-solid and solid bracelets.
According to Suen solid bracelets offer an elegant classical look, semi-solid bracelets provide good quality at a reduced cost and highly polished folded bracelets represent an attractive combination of quality and affordable price.
"We normally ask for minimum orders of 500 pieces, which is much lower than a few years ago when we were asking for 2,000 or 3,000," Suen explains, adding prices are also lower than in previous years. "First orders usually take about 40 days but we can do repeat orders where no sample testing or approval is needed in 25-30 days."
Economically troubled times in recent years have affected the watch business in Asia and Yuen Sang's profit margins have also been hit by the high cost of its principal raw material, stainless steel, which it sources from Japan, Taiwan and Finland.
Demand for watches has been sluggish, but Suen is confident however that 2004 sees the industry on the road to recovery and Yuen Sang correspondingly well positioned to benefit.
"Last year was the worst for some time, but starting from Chinese New Year this year, business has been steady," she notes. "Orders keep coming in and our headache is how to speed up delivery to meet client demand, but I don't think we are the only company experiencing that difficulty."
Notwithstanding its diversification into the buckle business, she is adamant that Yuen Sang will continue focusing on what it does best. "Some watch manufacturers are adding lines of jewellery and we've even had requests for rings - but it's not what we do," Suen insists. "Demand is rising once again for our core speciality, with orders of up to 16,000 bracelets for some customers."
Now Yuen Sang is working towards extending its presence in several of the major international markets in which it feels it has hitherto been under-represented. "We'd like to sell more in Europe - they look for quality there and that's what we deliver," concludes Suen.
WRITTEN BY ROBERT PIERCE
Yuen Sang Hardware Co (1988) Ltd
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