Industry News – China’s Relentless Progress in Exporting Mechanical Watches

Mainland China is home to around 20 makers of mechanical watches. Most suppliers are concentrated in the provinces of Liaoning, Tianjin, Shanghai and Zhejiang.

The mainland’s output reached 25.4 million units last year. Chinese manufacturers have said that they plan to cut prices by 5 percent to 10 percent in the next six months under strategies to maintain competitiveness.

These suppliers are concentrating more on development of midrange and high-end markets in order to boost revenue from overseas markets. In the past, the mainland exported only about 20 percent of its output of mechanical watches. Companies have announced plans to boost exports, with the United States and Europe as the major markets.

They are also boasting of big improvements in quality control. More specifically, the quality of movements, cases, bands and straps is being upgraded in order to compete with Japanese and Swiss makers.

As part of the upgrading campaign, mainland makers are developing multifunction mechanical movements. In the past, most models tended to have only date and day functions.

Retro styles are clearly favored, but the modern trend of larger cases is crossing over. Some new designs use a large classical streamlined rectangular watch case. These cases typically measure 42mm X 32mm X 10mm.

Alan Lam, watch designer and managing director of Million Smart (which produces over 600,000 watches a year), said the case size is often dictated by the large size of automatic mechanical movements. To compensate, the two sides of the rectangular cases are curved to soften the
large appearance. In order to strengthen the classical and antique style of watches various “old world” fonts are used. For example, Million Smart applies both big and small sizes of fonts for indexes on a dial to give vivid classical impression. Another automatic mechanical watch maker, King Brand, features Roman indexes on multifunctional versions.

Will one day Chinese mechanical watches be the equal, in quality & function, with the more revered Swiss and German companies?

What do you think?