The asian watch market
Stefan Sebök, last updated on 11/07/2019

Most of the time, real Watch fans know their way around the American and European market well. But what about Asia? Anyone who believes that they are only dealing with cheap counterfeits and unknown local production sites is mistaken. The Asians are really crazy about watches and have a lot to offer. Whether America, Europe or Asia: According to an evaluation from 2018, Rolex has secured its throne in all markets when it comes to the most sought-after watch brand. Behind them are also familiar faces – Patek Philippe and Omega collect silver and bronze. This makes it clear that Asian watch fans are not (only) throwing themselves into some domestic production, but also appreciate globally recognized craftsmanship at its finest. Panerai, IWC Schaffhausen, TAG Heuer, Cartier, Audemars Piguet, Hublot and Breitling have also managed to arouse great interest for their products on the Asian market. And renowned manufacturers should definitely be able to do that – after all, Asia is now known for its lively and enthusiastic watch fans.

Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair

The Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair is the Asian counterpart to Baselworld: an annual watch fair at which all the new products, trends and other highlights of the watch world are presented. It takes place in Hong Kong and is organised by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council, the Hong Kong Watch Manufacturers Association Ltd. and the Federation of Hong Kong Watch Trades and Industries Ltd. The Hong Kong Conversation and Exhibition Centre, where the fair will be held, is located in the Wan Chai business park. From the huge halls on several floors of the approx. 29,000 sqm site you have a view of Victoria Harbour. This year there were 9,000 exhibitors to marvel at. This makes the Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair the biggest watch event, even though Baselworld and SIHH, which take place in Switzerland, are still the most important for manufacturers. In addition to the global highlights, the fair will also present what the “interior” has to offer. The local watch industry in Asia has been developing faster than anywhere else for a few years now. Unique local productions are becoming increasingly popular. The new Asian brands are mostly young, creative and bring out innovative and modern new creations. However, there are also factories that have existed since the 1950s and have a remarkable history to tell.

All fake?

As soon as it comes to Asian goods, a cliché is usually not long in coming: theft and counterfeiting. The stereotype of “thieving” Asia has been around for many years now. No one can resent concerns about quality control because of various stories, but that has long since ceased to be what Asia really is. Numerous watch manufacturers from Switzerland and other parts of the world work closely with Asian suppliers and partners. Well-known brands in this country use such cooperation for various parts and works of all kinds. And this is completely legal, because in order to be allowed to use the “Swiss Made” label on a watch, only 60 percent of the product value must come from Switzerland. In most cases, these are mainly costs for design, assembly, etc., while a considerable amount of the watch parts are purchased from Asia. If one considers this, it becomes clear that Asia can not only produce “scrap”, but is also capable of building great timepieces. In addition to the high-quality “support” of the European favourites, there are also top Chinese brands that are quite impressive. China, for example, has some great smartwatches on the market. Among them is Lemfo, a brand that offers cheap and powerful alternatives to the hyped (and cost-intensive) Apple Watch. Curious? The model “Lemfo Lem1” belongs with a price between 70 and 80 Euro in Asia even to the more expensive Smartwatches, but for our taste this is a real bargain. The Chinese version of the Apple Watch convinces with all sensible functions and an appealing look. The unisex watch is made of stainless steel and comes with a brown or black leather strap. In addition, you can choose from the color variants silver, gold and black.

China gains international importance

Although Apple actually occupies first place worldwide in the Smartwatches and Asia itself is also primarily interested in the LTE version of the watch, an Asian company is already in second place here: Xiaomi from China offers not only smart shoes, children’s watches and fitness bracelets, but also inexpensive smartwatches. Hong Kong and China in particular are increasingly becoming the global epicentre of watchmaking and demand. Watches from Asian brands like Curren, Shark, Megir, Weide etc. are gaining more and more reputation, because they combine low prices and technical refinement, and are very reliable. In addition, they often specialize in a certain type of timepiece, so that the perfect focus creates a true treasure. “Asian” or “Chinese” is therefore no longer synonymous with “junk”. Asia therefore has more and more influence on industry and plays an important role in production and innovation. Hong Kong is indeed the world’s leading exporter of Swiss watches, even though the city is home to only 0.1 percent of the world’s population and is geographically practically tiny. This shows how watch-mad Asians really are and how strongly jewellery is anchored in their culture. The enormous importance of Asia for the global watch market can no longer be denied.

This is what you wear on Asian wrists

The popularity of Rolex and Patek Philippe shows that Asians value elegance and status. But even modern sports watches are by no means out of place with them, as can be seen from the demand for TAG Heuer and Panerai. Panerai’s Italian watches are even more popular in Asia than anywhere else in the world. Even though flying is probably not one of the favourite hobbies of most Asians, Breitling also has its fans there. No wonder, considering that Asians have always had a soft spot for innovative developments: Breitling built the world’s first chronograph in which the pusher was no longer integrated into the crown. The company was thus apparently able to score strongly. But it’s not just about the brand and model, it’s also about the statement you want to make with your timepiece. For some years now, the partner look has been particularly popular in Asia. It’s about capturing special moments with your loved ones with the help of a certain watch and never forgetting the special time in this way. No matter whether the wedding, the birth of the first child, or the graduation of the son or daughter: partner watches serve as a personal symbol for what you have experienced together. However, the two watches do not necessarily have to be identical, there is plenty of scope for personal development.

This post is also available in: German

About the author
Stefan Sebök

During my school days I worked in the warehouse of an auction house and that was when I first came into contact with exclusive, mechanical watches. The fascination was born from that moment and has not let go of me to this day. So it was clear to me very early on that I wanted to learn more about the history and price development of watches - and of course I wanted to own an automatic watch at some point. (My absolute dream, unfortunately far away, was a Rolex GMT Master with the blue and red Pepsi bezel). During my studies, I took my first steps in trading used watches via various online marketplaces and was then able to afford a used Breitling Colt.