In some respects, the Chinese people are a lot more honest than their western counterparts. This is especially noticeable in the way they wish you something. The western world tries to hide their desire for wealth from their public discourses and wishes. This openness in the Chinese culture was quite visible in the toast at the reception of the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair, “wishes everyone a successful fair and to make good business!” For the Chinese people, their success in their chosen career is something very valuable in the society. The Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair (HKWCF) does not pretend that it is an attempt to create business. They look at it as a money-making venture and you get to see people making deals out there in the open and transporting goods. As ‘civilized’ westerners we tend to avoid the money making aspect of business from the public domain. As such, we are averse to wish someone good luck in making lots of money. It could be that we are pretending that we are after something much more than money or material goods. But, this is not a genuine thought. When it comes to the production and consumption of watches, Asia in general and China in particular are the leaders in each of these aspects. The Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair does its share to expand the horizons of watch makers from around the globe and increase the financial prowess of this multibillion dollar global industry. European businessmen and women tend to push this aspect of these tradeshows under the carpet and pretend that they are more artistic in nature.
As I have a lot of experience dealing with the watch industry through the years, I can completely understand the difference between the attitudes shown by the Europeans and the Chinese. Each of these groups of people needs the services and products from the other category. Still, they differ significantly on the business aspects where they give stress. The creativity and aesthetics of the watches are provided by the Europeans while the Chinese are able to mass produce them at a much cheaper rate and faster pace than the Europeans. Here the Europeans act like the brain and the Chinese act as the hands. Europe is constantly looking for cheap goods coming out of China in a similar manner to the Chinese looking for luxury goods coming from Europe. They differ in the philosophies they follow in their lives, but can’t avoid the services provided by each other.
When it comes to the watch industry, the East and the West engages in predefined manner. But, this is oblivious to the eyes of the average consumer. Many parts that go in to the Swiss watches are in fact made in China. European crafted watch designs are usually copied and mass produced by the Chinese for the global market. The story has been the same for many years now. The Chinese are very creative by nature; but not in designing. They are very good in administering and producing goods; but not in creating something new. The Watch Fair floor is full of watches that are created by copying from similar designs. Here, you can find watches that are very close to the most luxurious watches of the planet that are unlikely to be ever seen or touched by most people on the planet. The Baselworld Fair has a unique identity with the unique designs, whereas the Hong Kong Fair is following other successful designs only. This business model is suitable for the tastes and ability of the Chinese people. Choose a well-known brand, copy the design and make it at a much lower budget. Through this copying process, the most coveted designs from the world end up as the average Joe’s choice of watch models that have almost no actual relationship with their original creator.
Unlike Baselworld or SIHH that targets the elite, HKWCF is targeting the average Joes of the world. Of course, occasionally you will find a couple of high end watches. But, most are created with a mass audience in mind. This way, the typical feeling that comes in to your mind about the viability of the watches at European fairs is nonexistent here. Here, the engineering aspects of watch making take precedence over the artistic and designing aspects. These engineers are striving hard to make another million watches of a model and sell it to generate profits for the firm. The lack of the European marketing finesse and photoshopping skills at this venue is a welcome experience. The Chinese look at watch making from a factory view point while the Europeans look at it with a salon angle. Both systems can overwhelm you and you would really wish to see a middle path among the two.
Most participants at the Hong Kong Watch Fair avoid getting their merchandise photographed, or are not very keen on them getting photographed. Usually, you expect to the contrary. But, here the circumstances are quite different. As copy right laws and intellectual property rights are not honored here, the wariness on the part of the businessmen and women in getting photographed with their products is quite understandable. As they are aware of the legal implications of this theft, they are trying to prevent their activities from getting recorded. Your persuasive power can be used to get permission for photographing the merchandise. The fact that you are from the press, the exposure the product may get through the published article, the useless nature of publishing an article on the Hong Kong Fair without images and promises that the images are not going to identify the business etc. can be used to get the necessary permissions. After a lot of persuasion, you may get the necessary permission or an outright refusal. In either case, you will have to move on to the next brand and gauge its potential or lack of potential! Some of the watches are created with the dumbest names. What the watches lack in their design can be easily compensated through the drive of the people who are behind them. The creative changes they incorporate in to the designs to fit the budget, alter colors, alter the design purposes etc. are some things that are worth enjoying. The available selection of watch colors is something that is never seen in the western world. Women would certainly love the huge watch selection to perfectly gel with any dress item that they may be having in their wardrobe. Watch making in the traditional form is not visible here.
Many among you may have the misconception that the Chinese consumers prefer classic watches with smaller diameters. In fact, they are following the trends in the Western markets closely. There are some classic designs at the fair. But, they are far too few among the large number of modern, colorful, huge size and sporty watches available in large numbers. All time classic watch models from Rolex, Rado, Seiko, Casio etc. got their fair share of replicas shown at the fair. It looks like the big, macho watch is here to stay in the Chinese market and also throughout the world market.
Once you browse through the hall that features the higher end brands, you will notice the creative energy in the hall. This section showcases watches from countries like Italy, Japan, Germany, Switzerland and many other places, and is much more professionally organized. The exhibitors from these countries are looking for local retailers to sell their watches. The best watches among them were produced in China, even while they were designed abroad! O.D.M. is one of the nice Hong Kong brands that stood out among its peers. As the practical minded Asian business men and women are aware of the ground realities existing in the region, they are more interested in adding flair and color to the watches. As watches are not an essential commodity, their appeal is the most likely aspect that would persuade someone to buy it. A German watch named Neolog was one of the best watches showcased at the fair.
As I am pampered and spoiled by nature, I did not get carried away by the designs at the fair. There are some very reasonably priced watch designs that impressed me. The change of heart of the Chinese towards mechanical watches in a short span of time impressed me a lot. During the last couple of years, they have improved the quality of these watches by leaps and bounds. Watch aficionados from the western hemisphere would be stunned by the amazing variety of watches available here that they have never heard about before. I was more amazed by the potential of these brands than any particular models that they have in display. Unlike the past, the Tourbillon is no more an exclusive domain of the Swiss. A vast array of Chinese Tourbillons with exquisite features is available at the fair. The Chinese businesses make it possible for the average Joes also to at least have the equivalents of the watches worn by the Kardashians and the like on red carpet. If you wish to customize a watch, the Chinese always encourage you and assist you in your venture. Even those of you with a limited budget can use the help of these business men and women to make your dream watch projects in to reality. Here, almost anyone can make their dream business ventures in to a reality. In the closeted business environment of the European countries, this can be quite hard to accomplish. The only problem is that your design could be replicated and made to use by many Chinese as well as worldwide players without paying you anything.
The open forum meeting conducted as part of the fair discussed the concerns of the market leaders from the region. They talked about the problems watch industry faced during the last one year and the prospects of growth in the near future. Aspects like legal problems, labor issues, new tariffs imposed on the industry and new laws that affect them are discussed in great detail. The participants in the discussion were not trying to fight it out among them and were very cordial in finding solutions to the common problems that they faced. This is not something unique to the Chinese watch industry. The European watch industry does have its share of discussion forums. But, they will never allow media to be a part of it. The Chinese watch makers invited media to be a part of the discussion. This once again proves the point that the Western watch industry is manipulative and closeted in nature. Does that mean that the Asians are all for transparency and fair play? The truth can be somewhere in the middle. It is always a good feeling to interact more with business interests from other parts of the world and learn more about them.
From participating in the show, you can understand the ease of mass production of the watches and the reduction in prices of the materials and the technology used. The large number of sport watches with GPS functionality available at the fair is a good pointer in this direction. There are a huge number of ceramic watches available at the fair. Many watches similar to the luxury Swiss watches are available in the show at much lower prices. But, the perfection that is known to the Swiss stable is still not seen here in China. This is true in the mass produced range of watches and the Chinese have still a distance to go before they can get hold of the technology.
It is a great experience to be a part of the coveted Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair 2012 and is something that is even cherished by people with significant knowledge and exposure to the watch industry. A few of the watches available at the fair are only available here in Asia and can’t be found even in the USA. For watch aficionados, Hong Kong is a true paradise. As a person who is hard to please, it stuck me to take note of the mass produced watches and their ability to provide good results. As these watches are worn by a huge majority of the world population, the tiny percentage of people who use the high end watches are a negligible minority only. You have to look out for the needs of both categories of these people.
Is Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair for you? Watch makers who sell cheaper models must visit this fair. Those of you getting in to the business of watch making must visit the fair and improve your ability to source the parts and acquire technology. If you are trying to sell technology or parts to the industry, then you must participate in the fair. In addition to the people from mainland China and Hong Kong, people from all over the planet visit the fair in large numbers. The business deals and decisions made at the fair are going to affect the watch industry for many years to come. Once you visit the fair once, you will really wish to come back here many more times, and see the sight of watches raining here in Hong Kong!