Make time for success
by Wai Ting
Some people take years to discover their life's calling. Others are born into it. As a third-generation watchmaker, Roland Buser, managing director, Chopard Hong Kong Limited, belongs to the second group and he takes pride in offering unique contemporary design that follows the time honoured traditions of craftsmanship sought by serious collectors and global customers alike. "Craftsmanship isn't something that modern technology can replace," he says.
With watch making practically part of his genetic makeup, Mr Buser's career path was set. His profession soon took him around the world, giving him invaluable experiences in mainland China, the US, India, Thailand and Malaysia, where he worked mainly in production dealing with technical issues.
Consequently, he became involved in management responsibilities at a very early stage in his career. This, in turn, provided him with the necessary experience to move into senior positions at the large luxury-product groups he worked for in due course.
Few objects symbolise status and quality as well as a luxury watch made with Swiss precision and ingenuity. The fine craftsmanship and design required to produce an exquisite timepiece has turned the profession into big business.
In 1997, Mr Buser moved to Hong Kong, aiming to concentrate on the retail side of the luxury-watch business. Once again, he moved quickly through the ranks and was eventually offered the coveted opportunity to work for esteemed timepiece and jewellery manufacturer Chopard, managing its Greater China region. His initial goal was to build up this business area from nothing to a 200-strong team in six years.
An independent company, Chopard's customer service approach focuses particularly strongly on quality, while some larger groups are more focused on quantity, for example, by continuously expanding their number of stores. Chopard targets its products specifically at individual customers. Many large firms tend to outsource their production, so that employees end up having less "connection" with the products and therefore often more of a quantitative approach, says Mr Buser.
Tricks of the trade
Considering the glamorous image portrayed by internationally renowned luxury-watch companies and their customers plus the endorsements by famous sportspeople and celebrities, many young designers would give anything to secure a career future with them.
To work in the luxury-watch industry, contenders need experience, as well as a thorough knowledge of the trade in addition to sensitivity to global trends. The dynamics of different firms can vary greatly, but a passion for the product, integrity, and a positive attitude are universal requirements for making it in the industry, says Mr Buser, explaining that the latter means "coming to work happy, being happy to work, sharing and interacting with colleagues and then leaving work happy".
In line with its client-oriented approach, Chopard places a firm emphasis on training its employees on customer service and sales techniques, reveals Mr Buser, adding that the company is also investing in developing young talent and providing opportunities for them.
Since there are no tertiary institutions in Greater China that provides formal training or qualifying education for watchmakers or people wanting to work in related industries, the firm understands that it cannot only employ people who are already in the trade. Job candidates with a good educational background, the necessary interest in the field and the right attitude, who land a job with the company, will therefore also be provided with the necessary scope for growth.
There is no standard career path in the watchmaking sector. People from all walks of life, with different types of vocational, technical, cultural and geographical experience, enter the industry, Mr Buser points out.
The pace of career progression also varies from company to company, with different norms according to the organisation's "country of origin", business scope and structure.
However, the profession is quintessentially centred on products and people's relationship with those products, Mr Buser says. "A real passion for the trade therefore goes a long way and can ultimately be the force that propels people to the top of the field," he says.
Taken from Career Times 24 September 2010, B10
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