The 31st edition of the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair once again demonstrated the vastness of the event which is the biggest fair in the watchmaking world, of course, only considering its volume and not the horological importance. This year, the exhibition in Hong Kong had the record number of trade buyers present, and the survey conducted at the fair has shown that the majority of both manufacturers and retailers expect that the next year will bring improvements, or at least be as successful as this one. A view on the multitude of products that were exhibited reveals a great number of cheap quartz timekeepers, with more or less original designs, made by the brands from China and all over the world. Except for these low-end products, the visitors were also able to see some of more advanced Chinese watchmakers, with the most buzz being created by the tourbillon mechanical watches by Memorigin. The upper class of watch brands was once again displayed at the special section of the exhibition, named World Brand Piazza.
The Expectations of High Sales, but also of Higher Costs of Production
During the five day long exhibition in Hong Kong, there was a record amount of trade buyers present. With over 17,500 buyers, this number is larger than the one of the last year by 4.5 percent. Another notable trend was the growth of importance and a larger presence of buyers from emerging markets, such as Iran (up 32 percent), Chinese mainland (17 percent) and Russia, with the same increase percentage as in China. In order to evaluate the prevailing tendencies in the industry, the organizer of the event (Hong Kong Trade and Development Council), hired an independent agency, Actrium Solutions Ltd. The results of the survey that included the views of 349 exhibitors and 759 trade buyers show that the great majority of them views the next year optimistically and thinks that 2013 will bring the same or even better sales than this year. Three quarters of retailers and five percent less watchmakers are assessing the prospects for this year this way. At the same time, a large but slightly less percentage of both are expecting that the price of production and therefore the price of watches will rise next year, mainly due to the higher labor cost.
Success of the Small-Order Zone
One of the novelties introduced this year at the fair that featured about 720 watchmaking brands from 12 countries, was the introduction of the Small-Order Zone. This section of the event was organized in the accordance to the needs of most buyers. As it was noted that 70 percent of trade buyers tend to buy smaller amounts of products, with 1000 pieces or less, the organizers came up with the Small Order Zone which even allow purchases of less than 20 items. It turned out that this was a great idea, and the section attracted more than 6,500 buyer visits, which resulted in over 5,000 business enquires and agreements.
Interesting Quartz Timepieces at the Exhibition
As it has been mentioned, the most of the exhibited pieces at the fair were simple quartz watches of low cost. Some of them were quite original in styling, for example Hong-Kong produced Click Keypad timekeepers. These original looking digital watches replicate the appearance of a number key from a keyboard or a calculator, and have a pretty interesting “retro-tonics” or “geek-chic” style.
Another interesting quartz timepiece shown in Hong Kong is Peter Tanisman Carrousel timekeeper. Unlike the geeky digital watch, this one is Swiss-made to grace a wrist of a successful woman. It features a rectangular case and a rotating cylinder at the bottom of the face. Both case and cylinder are encrusted with diamonds, and the buyer also has an option to customize the movable carrousel with gemstones of her choice or even a miniature painting.
Chinese Mechanical Calibers
However, there were also some interesting watches with mechanical calibers. One example is CTK 14 timepiece by the Hong Kong-based watchmaker with an appropriate name The Chinese Timekeeper. The watch runs on a self-winding mechanical movement and has three hands. It also sports a bezel attached with four screws and a lovely silver-colored dial. On the dial are typical Chinese decorations: jade gemstones that serve as hour markers. There are ten green precious stones on the brushed steel dial, and the remaining two positions are reserved for the company’s logo and a recognizable cross sign that this timekeeper tends to incorporate in all of its designs. The case is made of stainless steel and has 44 mm in width, while the crystal is made from sapphire. It runs on a CTK 2189 – Hangzhou Caliber which beats at the frequency of 3 Hz and secures a power reserve of 36 hours.
Hong Kong Tourbillons, a Highly Complex Watches at a much lower Price
In our opinion, the most impressive products that were exhibited in Hong Kong fair are the timekeepers presented by the Chinese brand Memorigin which is the only watchmaker from Hong Kong that is specialized and dedicated solely to the production of tourbillon mechanical movements. This shows quite a leap for Chinese watchmakers since the level of execution is coming closer and closer to those that are Swiss-made. The Chinese tourbillon watches are still not as beautifully finished or as accurate as the Swiss ones, but the gap between them is becoming smaller and smaller.
Despite the approaching in quality, these types of timekeepers made in the most populated country in the world are still sold at much lower prices. While its Swiss counterparts are usually sold at the prices of at least $50,000 or more, most of the Chinese ones can be bought for less than $5,000. Despite the rising level of technical expertise and the execution of these watches, the Chinese brands still lack the recognizability, as well as a network of high-end retail shops that sell their tourbillons. Still, as the Chinese watchmaking continues to advance, it will be interesting to observe the influence that these cheaper tourbillons will have on the global level.
Memorigin Starlit Legend Tourbillon Timekeeper
Among the exhibited products by Memorigin, the most interesting one was probably Starlit Legend timepiece. Starlit Legend Tourbillon timekeeper by the Hong Kong watchmaker aims to replicate the appearance of a starry night sky on its 5-layer skeleton dial by using mother-of-pearl frames for some of its sub-dials. It includes a one-minute tourbillon whose carriage is visible at the top of the face, and also includes the remaining power reserve and a day/night indication. The watch runs on MO 1231 mechanical movement that beats on the high frequency of 4 Hz and incorporates 188 components and 21 jewels. The caliber includes twin mainspring barrels that enable the power reserve which lasts for about 70 hours.
The manufacturer offers the model in quite a few variations. Its 42 mm wide housing can be constructed of stainless steel, the same material with black PVD coating or with white or pink gold plating. The same options are available for the dial. As for the attachment, the manufacturer offers an alligator strap which is available in brown or black color.