As Chinese luxury spending soars overseas, along with the introduction of smart watches, can China’s leading high-end watchmaker compete?
Beijing Watch Factory, which was founded in 1958 and became the official watchmaker of the People’s Liberation Army, employs a staff of 700 that utilize Swiss tools and equipment along with state-of-the-art Chinese technology to create the company’s high-end timepieces at its factory in the Changping district of Beijing.
“This factory has manufactured tens of millions of watches and mechanical movements in the past fifty-plus years. The factory is capable of manufacturing mechnical movements. So strictly speaking, it’s a complete manufacturer of wristwatches,” said general manager of Beijing Watch Factory Miao Hongbo.
In 1995, the company developed its own Tourbillon mechanical movement, which is more accurate than traditional movements and puts the watchmaker on par with its Swiss counterparts. According to ECNS, a Beijing Watch Factory Tourbillon-movement watch costs between US$6,000 and $72,200 with the most expensive going for 1.98 million yuan.
“It’s one-of-a-kind and a work of art,” Miao said of the watch.
With the introduction of the Apple Watch in China, Beijing Watch Factory faces a new challenge in the market. A survey by Goldman Sachs found that 11 percent of current iPhone owners are “very likely” to buy the Apple Watch this year. Goldman Sachs expects 13.5 million Apple Watch units to be sold in 2015 and 23.8 million in 2016.
However, Miao is unconcerned, saying “I think Apple Watch is still a high-tech electronic product that’s different from traditional watches, which are enriched by our brands, history and tradition, design and so on. The breakthrough for Apple Watches is mostly in technology and functionality. So I don’t think it will make too much impact to our industry.”
image credit: beijing watch factory