2 Nov 2015
Smartwatches and Performance Bands Still Dominate Timepiece Sector
While high-tech offerings continued to intrigue many of the attendees at this this year's HKTDC Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair, there was still space for a number of classic timepieces, as well as for a variety of innovative hybrid offerings.
Recognised by exhibitors, buyers and suppliers alike as the biggest event of its kind in the world, the 34th edition of the HKTDC Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair (W&CF) played host to more than 780 exhibitors from 23 countries. This year the event had a particular focus on a number of sectors, notably smart watches and performance watches. There was, however, still plenty of interest to those who favour traditional watches and clocks or who were looking to source components.
One exhibitor to excite particular interest was Rebellion, an audacious, independent Swiss brand offering high-end luxury watches. This year, the company opted to showcase its enigmatic and strikingly beautiful T-1000 model. Overall, Rebellion's designs are notably refined, while also retaining a focus on quality and performance. Its watches are available only in extremely limited quantities, all with precision-engineered cases and exclusive movements. Many defining characteristics of Rebellion's watches, including the T-1000, are also embodied in its R-ONE car, which participated in the FIA World Endurance Championship under the Rebellion Racing team name.
Closer to home, Hong Kong-based Memorigin specialises in tourbillons that draw both on oriental sculpture and the highest levels of Western watchmaking know-how. The company only uses in-house movements, claiming to utilise the most skilled international professionals in order to ensure high standards of craftsmanship and quality.
Based in New York, Stuhrling's avowed philosophy is to make the highest quality available to as wide as possible an audience, a commitment reflected in its axiomatic tagline: "Everyone Deserves Luxury". Typically, the company sets out to achieve this goal through competitive pricing, while its commitment to research and design means its creations remain aesthetically appealing, while also enabling it to offer complications and additional luxury design features at accessible prices. Suitable for both aspiring individuals and connoisseurs alike, many of the marque's designs stood out at the event, with a notable example being its new, elegant "double tourbillon". This is an ambitious complication and offered at a price not only affordable by the wealthiest of collectors.
The market for performance watches, with accompanying applications continues to grow, as fitness and well-being are increasingly incorporated into contemporary lifestyles. Longitude, the licensee for New Balance in the Asia Pacific Region, is a key distributor for such products. With both recreational and professional runners in mind, New Balance has designed its EX² series to maximize training efficiency. Its light, sleek, and waterproof models come with cool casings and strap colours and many, including the EX² 915, can be connected to a dedicated chest strap/heart rate monitor, app support, calorie counter and built-in heart rate alert. The EX² 900 also has GPS, PC and chest strap/heart rate monitor compatibility.
As evidenced by popularity of the latest the innovations from Apple and Samsung, the smart device arena is hotly contested and shows huge potential for growth. Unsurprisingly there was no shortage of suppliers at this year's event. Shenzhen's Smart Care Technology, for instance, specialises in smart devices, with the company's aim being to produce items that interface seamlessly with end users.
Outlining its approach, Gary Bao, a spokesman for the company, said: "We manufacture smart products that are both sentient and utilitarian. The aesthetic design of our Smart Care range does not compromise the user experience. In fact, certain of our products, such as the Smart Watch Q – with its built in heart rate monitor – can be said to enhance the user's health status."
More of a hybrid approach was taken by Hong Kong-based Kairos Watches, particularly in the case of its T-Bands. By embedding smartwatch technology in watch bands, these models are designed to offer the best of smartwatch functionality, without some of the drawbacks of such tech, notably heavy battery usage. The T-Band variants on offer include: the fitness-friendly and classic T-Band Fit, designed to accommodate fitness tracking, sleep monitoring and electronic NFC payments, and the T-band Health, with its heart rate monitoring, ECG detection, pulse function and gesture control. The T-Band is compatible with most lug ends, modernising even the most classic of watches. The T-Bands also come with an adaptor, ensuring size compatibility with almost any watch. They also work with OS and Android devices.
Jacques Farel stood out at this year's show as one of the few companies offering high quality watches for children from the ages of four through to 14. The Hong Kong-based company's watches are all SGS tested, while it also produces titanium hypoallergenic models, as well as eco-friendly watches.
Explaining the company's approach, Joanne Nixon, its Director of Sales and Marketing, said: "We design watches around universal themes and construct them from quality materials that render our watches valuable and of sentimental value for wearers. Take, for instance, our crystal designs – these, we often find, introduce wearers both to watches and to Swarovski elements. Thus an heirloom is created."
Parts, Tools and Accessories
On the components side, Kowloon-based Mings Hardware trades in modern watchmaking equipment, as well as acting as a source for pushes, bars, watch crowns, screw bars, springs, and tools for watch parts. The company prides itself in being able to supply any style and size of product. Its products come in a range of metals including brass, aluminum, and stainless steel.
Meanwhile, Yiwu Olai Packing, established in 1996 in China's Zhejiang province, specialises in the development and production of packaging suitable for watches. The company currently employs more than 160 people, while its operations cover an area of more than 2,000 sqm. Yiwu boasts modern production equipment, as well as highly trained and experienced management, and offers a range of products in wood, leather, paper or plastic.
Another mainland company, Yugang Industry, specialises in all kinds of metal watchbands. Headquartered in Shenzhen, with a production facility in Jieyang, it has the capacity to produce up to 100,000 pieces per month. Depending on quantity and quality, its bands range from US$3-15 per piece.
From slightly further afield, Miyota, a Japanese company, was showcasing its extensive range of watch engines, said to provide off-the-shelf solutions for complying with almost any conceivable watch design. Toshiki Fukushima, a Senior Manger with the company, said: "The important parts in Miyota watch movements are made from metal, not plastic. This makes our movements highly durable."
The Guangzhou Panyu Pearl Clock and Watch Company has been manufacturing since 1992 and specialises in all kinds of clocks – LCD digital, LED, plastic, metal, wood and more. It claims to be China's largest manufacturer and exporter of quartz watch and clock movements, with trading partners all over the world. Pearl is based in an 80,000 square metre plant, equipped with the latest machinery and currently employs some 5,000 staff. It has a monthly production capacity in excess of 4,000,000 pieces.
The 34th edition of the HKTDC Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair (W&CF) ran from 8-12 September 2015 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Marvin Wallace, Special Correspondent, Hong Kong