The 35th edition of the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair ended its five-day run (6-10 September) yesterday at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC). Jointly organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), Hong Kong Watch Manufacturers Association Ltd and The Federation of Hong Kong Watch Trades and Industries Ltd., the fair welcomed more than 20,000 buyers, up 2.4 per cent over the previous year. The fair saw good growth in buyer numbers from Asian markets such as India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, while growth from other regions including Australia, Sweden, Russia, Canada, the USA and Iran was also recorded.
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Smart and light-smart watches trending
“Amidst the economic downturn, demand for luxury watches and clocks remains weak. We can see that the industry is shifting from traditional luxury brands to more mid-market brands, independent brands and even new smart watches in the market,” said HKTDC Deputy Executive Director Benjamin Chau. “Since the smart and light-smart watch market is booming, more and more traditional watch companies are seeking to gain a share in the sector. I believe more varieties will be introduced into the market and offer more choices to buyers.”
To match market demand trends, the fair this year introduced a new OEM Smart Watches zone to showcase the latest OEM watch designs. One of the exhibitors, Montrichard (HK) Ltd, has switched from manufacturing traditional watches to light-smart watches by adding smart features to traditional products over the past two years. Christine Pan, Product Manager of the company, noticed that fair exhibitors offering smart watches attracted many potential buyers from Europe and Asia. She believes that light-smart watches will be popular in 2017 and user-friendliness will be a major consideration for customers.
The growing smart watch market attracted watch brands to develop that market segment. Matthieu Boileve, General Sales Manager of the local exhibitor Brasport HK Limited, said that in view of strong demand for smart watches and wearables, they had opened factories on the Chinese mainland and their sales of smart watch components doubled compared to two years ago and keeps growing fast. It is their second time to take part in the event. Mr Boileve believes that it is an international fair attended by buyers from all over the world, which helps to raise brand awareness and showcase their products. The company regards visitors to the fair as high-quality buyers, as about 60-70 per cent of their contacts are new.
On the other hand, buyers were also eager to source smart watches. Franck Boudrie, President of Nouveaux Bijoutiers, which represents 170 retailers from France, was particularly interested in the brand Ringclock, which was exhibited at Salon de TE, as well as branded watches and smart watches. He foresees that half of the French population will be using smart watches, especially quartz watches with smart features in the next five to 10 years.
International brands take advantage of the Hong Kong platform
As the world’s largest timepiece trade fair, the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair attracts buyers from all over the world every year. To match Asian customers’ demand for top-quality Swiss watch brands, the Swiss Eminence at Salon de TE returned to the fair to showcase six premium Swiss brands. The Swiss Independent Watchmaking Pavilion (SIWP) also brought seven watch brands with exceptional craftsmanship. In total, Salon de TE featured close to 40 Swiss brands this year.
Amarildo Pilo, President, Pilo & Co SA, and representative of SIWP, said that some of the brands offer value-for-money limited-edition watches with excellent quality, and it is important to set up SIWP to promote them. He was very happy to join the fair again this year where he could find potential new distributors. Despite recent global economic challenges and the potential impact on Swiss exports, he is not too concerned as he believes that buyers have a constant demand for Swiss watches, and business will pick up again as the economy stabilises over time. The SIWP brought seven Swiss brands to the fair this year, showcasing classic, elegant and sporty watches. Mr Pilo also said that he had met buyers from the Chinese mainland, Malaysia, Iran, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia, and would pursue negotiations with them.
Olivier Chlous, World Sales Manager of the Monaco exhibitor, Ciribelli, joined the fair for the first time. He said that, as the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair attracts a lot of buyers from all over the world, it provides an ideal platform for promotion. He believes that since consumers on the mainland appreciate high-quality watches, the mainland is a niche market for them to develop. During the fair, they had met with potential distributors from the mainland, Iran and Japan.
Orders from global buyers
A first-time trade buyer, Alfred Gleiberman, Brand Development Director of US company Sterling Time LLC, said that he had met with potential suppliers and planned to source brand products to expand the market. He expects to place orders of US$100,000 and was particularly interested in two brands exhibiting at Salon de TE. He thinks that the fair is a business platform that offers a great variety of choices to buyers.
Another first-time participant, Brian Kim, Manager-International Division of the Korean importer and distributor WOORIM FMG Ltd., met with brand suppliers from Denmark, Italy and Switzerland through the HKTDC’s business matching services. He was interested in their automatic watches and quartz watches and would enter into further negotiations after the fair.
Jacob Juul, CEO, Bulbul ApS, from Denmark, found five new suppliers at the fair and would place an order worth US$200,000 of analogue watches with one of the suppliers in Hong Kong. They will also explore the possibility of cooperating with smart watch suppliers.
Senthil Kumar.N, Manager – Procurement of Rivoli Group LLC from United Arab Emirates, said that sporty watches and fashion watches were selling well in GCC (Gulf Cooperation Countries) countries and each consumer had at least two to three watches to match clothing outfits. He visits the Watch & Clock Fair every year to look for new buyers and new brands, as it helps him monitor the industry and keep abreast of the latest technologies and design trends. He found three new suppliers at the fair and planned to place an order worth US$60,000-US$75,000.
Fashionable and casual watches have best potential
To understand fair visitors’ views on such issues as market outlook, product trends and Hong Kong suppliers, the HKTDC commissioned an independent research agency to conduct surveys on-site. The agency interviewed 834 buyers and exhibitors. The survey found that 58 per cent of respondents anticipate overall sales to remain unchanged in 2017, while 28 per cent anticipate an increase and 14 per cent expect a decrease. As for retail prices, 65 per cent of the respondents anticipate they will remain unchanged. Most of the responding industry players believe that the markets with growth prospects in the next two years are North America and Western Europe among the traditional markets, and the Chinese mainland and Middle East for emerging markets.
For product and market trends, the respondents think that the most popular product category in the coming year will be smart watch (31%), digital analogue (26%) and automatic watches (15%), while the product category with the most growth potential are fashion watches (44%), casual watches (39%) and smart watches (38%). On product development strategies, watches interactable with smart devices (54%), collections that align with seasonal fashion trends (39%) and wearable technology with time functions (24%) will be the most prevalent in 2017.
Fifty-eight per cent of responding buyers sourcing products from Hong Kong suppliers say they are most satisfied with compliance with safety regulations/standards, quality and function. Responding exhibitors, on the other hand, believe that the three strongest aspects of the Hong Kong watch and clock industry are quality, function and innovation.