Hong Kong's watch manufacturing industry continues to go through evolution and expansion.
In the past, mainly because of inadequate experience and technology, businesses focused on OEM. When the industry started to gain momentum, ODM businesses sprouted, offering greater autonomy over product design and profit margins. Looking ahead, the key to success is now considered to be brand development involving a more integrated business model.
"Backed up by the large number of production lines, we are able to design, develop and produce a range of branded watches at any time of our choice," says C C Lee, product development manager of EganaGoldpfeil (Holdings) Limited (EganaGoldpfeil).
As can be expected, a typical product development process for a timepiece starts with the design, Mr Lee explains. "Our brands are designed by leading design offices in Europe, mainly Switzerland, which is known for its expertise in watchmaking," he adds. Once satisfactory samples are perfected, the next step in the process is the actual manufacturing, followed by distribution and marketing.
Specifically, brand management plays a crucial part in all stages of product development, and this is what product development managers need to focus on. As Mr Lee points out, before a timepiece reaches the design stage, much information must be collected and analysed such as the latest market trends, the pricing and the delivery time. During the manufacturing process, product development managers must monitor quality control on the production line. They then become highly involved in distribution, marketing or, if necessary, licensing before the watches are ready to go on sale.
"As EganaGoldpfeil provides complete product development packages to its customers, I have the chane to contribute my understanding of the timepiece philosophy," he remarks. "For instance, watchstraps made of dense interlocking segments are more likely to trap hair on the wearer's wrist. Product development managers should therefore pay attention to the comfort level of wearers when they come across designs using such watchstraps."
Apart from the basic technical know-how, creativity is one of the significant elements product development managers should possess. "Competition is keen in this business. Consumers are looking for innovative designs and new materials. Thus, this is where we can demonstrate innovative ideas so as to be prepared for different possibilities in every aspect of brand management," Mr Lee adds.
Product development managers also fill the roles of facilitator, coordinator and organiser. Therefore, they must be good team players in order to foster close relationships with different people including clients and vendors, and colleagues from the company's engineering, purchasing and quality control sections.
"Product development is hard work, but that doesn't mean working long hours," Mr Lee says. "It is a challenge to take an active role and go the extra miles when situations arise. You'll also need to have a commitment to achieving the best results in every aspect. If you can achieve that, you'll have great satisfaction."
To foster talents in product development, EganaGoldpfeil offers a comprehensive induction programme to its trainees. "We target university graduates or higher diploma holders with basic knowledge of the timepiece industry," says Mr Lee. In the one-year course of on-the-job training, trainees are allocated to different departments on a rotation basis. This gives them an in-depth appreciation of the company's culture, and leads to stronger bonding among staff members. "The trainees get to know all their colleagues in the various sections as well as learning how each department interfaces with the others. These widespread connections enhance future cooperation.
"Through such hands-on training, the newcomers gain practical work experience with the help of designated mentors so that in a single year, trainees get the equivalent of five or six years' worth of knowledge in the profession. "Our training programmes are the accumulation of extensive experience in the industry. With some fine-tuning, we can now tailor-make programmes for our trainees in order to pass on to the next generation the skills and knowledge of the watch industry," he says.
Mr Lee believes that the company's trainees are fortunate since now is a good time to enter the industry, with the global economy generally strong — as are prospects for the hi-end watch market. "Starting work now with one of the leading luxury product manufacturers with a well-balanced portfolio of timepiece brands will provide a gainful career path for those who take up the challenges of this business," says Mr Lee. "Good times lie ahead."
- Brand development a key to business success
- Information on latest market trends, pricing and delivery time collected and analysed prior to reaching design stage
- Product development managers monitor quality control on the production line, involved in distribution, marketing and, if necessary, licensing
- Trainees receive comprehensive training and inherit consolidated skills and knowledge