To understand the scale and global influence of the watch industry in Far East Asia, the 2018 edition of the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair—opening on September 4 and which runs until September 8—provides an essential venue from where a clear picture can emerge. And a key factor here is the setting itself.
Hong Kong is a global leader in both importation and exportation of watches. Latest figures from the Federation of Swiss Watch Industry show that, at the beginning of this decade, Hong Kong had already overtaken the US as the top export destination for Swiss watches in terms of value, or CHF3.185 billion for the former to the latter’s CHF1.677-billion take. This is quite a reversal from exactly a decade earlier—in 2000 Hong Kong took in CHF1.423 billion in exports while the US ordered CHF1.847 billion. Though exports to the US recovered in 2017 at CHF2.049 billion, still Hong Kong managed CHF2.521 billion. Certainly, exports do not mean actual sales. But what the figures do point out is that Hong Kong is the largest hub from where some markets can source Swiss-made watches.
Notably, Hong Kong is the second-biggest exporter of watches, next to Switzerland in terms of value, and coming after China in terms of number of units. According to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC), Hong Kong’s largest markets for its watches are presently China, the US, some EU economies (the biggest being Germany and the UK), Switzerland and Japan. Besides complete watches, which comprise the bulk of the exports at nearly 70 percent, also included in the shipments are watch parts and other components, as well as straps. Among the complete watches, almost half of the export items are battery-powered timepieces. As of March 2017, there were 90 Hong Kong establishments involved in manufacturing watches, and 1,440 companies engaged in exporting these.
The significance of the annual Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair, first held in 1982, in the global watch-making industry is not be ignored then. The fair is organized by HKTDC, Hong Kong Watch Manufacturers Association, and The Federation of Hong Kong Watch Traders and Industries. Setting up shop at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center this year are around 800 exhibitors displaying a variety of watches (ranging from smartwatches to those which could qualify for haute horlogerie status) and clocks, watch-making machinery, tools, and a selection of parts, components and straps. Just as important, several outfits can provide sourcing platforms for watch companies operating elsewhere in the world. The organizers are correct to point out the show connects industry players from across the globe while also promoting Hong Kong-made produce.
Among the highlights of the fair are the Brand Name Gallery that displays fashion watches; the Salon de TE, in which some 150 prestigious brands (mostly local) are featured; and the Pageant of Eternity, which gathers high-end, low-volume, show-stopping timepieces. Clearly, the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair—like Hong Kong itself—commands its place in the horologic industry.