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Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair: trend review

The Hong Kong watch and clock fair presented minimalist styling and an improved global outlook. MARTIN FOSTER reviews industry trends from the event.

The Hong Kong Watch and Clock Fair (HKW&CF) is the biggest showcase of timepieces with more brands than any of the major watch and clock trade fairs – yes, larger than Baselworld and the Geneva Salon – and it comprehensively sets the pace for the global market in the lower to mid-range timepiece categories.

Opening on September 5, 2017 at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, the 36th HKW&CF attracted almost 21,000 buyers – up 4 per cent from the previous year – and included more than 820 exhibitors.

The five-day fair offered bling, dazzle and glitz aplenty, combined with variety and a full range of timepieces spanning various price-points.

One highlight was the gathering of around 150 prestigious watch brands and designer collections for the Salon de TE exhibition space.

Salon de TE featured five themed zones – World Brand Piazza, Chic & Trendy, Craft Treasure, Renaissance Moment and Wearable Tech – and a huge assortment of pricing, quality and fashion offerings could be found in these aptly named salons.

Jeweller’s 2016 HKW&CF report alluded to a feeling of nervousness deriving from declining watch exports published by the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry FH; however, it can now be reported that relief is in the air, as these market waves appear to have bottomed out.

Instabilities remain but with positive direction. Luxury group Richemont, for example, reported that sales for the five months ended August 31, 2017 increased 12 per cent at constant exchange rates and 10 per cent at actual exchange rates.

“The strong performance in Asia Pacific was supported by double digit increases in most markets, including China and Hong Kong,” a company statement read.

Swatch Group in its half-year report showed a sales rise of 2.9 per cent at constant exchange rates in the watches and jewellery segment, excluding production.

“Positive outlook for the second half of 2017 with many new product launches,” Swatch’s financial statement read. “Good development in production, which will mainly profit from the growth of the own brands, not only in value but also in volumes.”

These reports are important not just for the luxury segment because, although the market has fractured into distinct price-point segments over the past 30 years, the whole industry can be affected by market circumstances – a rising tide will lift all the boats but the reverse was very much the case just one year ago.


A wide range of attention-getters assailed visitors at the 2017 fair; however, two were head and shoulders above the rest.

Stylistically this year there has been a seismic shift to minimalism, a theme that was evident in almost every watchmaker’s product releases.

Readers may be aware of the fine German watchmaker Nomos Glashütte, which has a trademark of special brand elegance based on minimalism. The aesthetic spells truly elegant sophistication and it seems the rest of the world has now caught on.

The other outstanding news from the exclusive coterie of World Brand Piazza exhibitors was from Jacob & Co. This exclusive Swiss watchmaker exhibited the diamond-set Billionaire watch that sells for an eye-watering US$20.4 million (AU$25.7 m).

Never mind the beautiful skeletonised tourbillon movement, the Billionaire features 239 emerald-cut diamonds, including one single 3-carat stone, with the total weight amounting to 260 carats – very deep velvet pockets needed here.

Each year, Chinese watch production also shows an increasing understanding of how to be up there in the company of the best European luxury makers. What is evident year by year is a huge advance of the quality and finish that is now part of the established pattern of their high-end manufacture.

New wearables

Wearable Tech (WT) is the new name embracing smartwatches, which have evolved into something much broader than a timepiece with add-ons. Indeed for most WTs today, showing the time is a very minor part of the functionality. Apple Watch is now only one example of the expansive and clever spectrum of shrewd add-on providers defining the latest class of WTs.

WTs currently range from children’s toys through to a trackable children’s watch and on to full health reporting and communication functions. Whilst most rely on the smartphone for connectivity, the most recent iterations are even independent of this platform.

The Wearable Tech space at Salon de TE presented a vast selection of branded smartwatches with the latest technologies and functionalities.

Cupid Memory from Hong Kong brings its namesake collection, featuring a patented strap that is installed with near-field communication (NFC) technology as well as a QR code. Users can tap the watch with an NFC-enabled mobile phone or scan the QR code with the phone to read messages previously stored in its mobile application.

A combination of advances in artistic subtlety, quality of manufacture and technological prowess was certainly noted at the 2017 Hong Kong fair, providing an interesting outlook for the year ahead.

Next year’s HKW&CF will take place from September 4 to September 8.

Martin Foster FBHI attended the event courtesy of the organiser, Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).



Martin Foster

Martin Foster is a freelance journalist and Jeweller’s resident watch ‘guru’. Based in Sydney, Martin attends major international exhibitions covering the watch and timepieces categories.

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