According to the China Horologe Association, the watch and clock industry in 2018 was affected by the general economic situation, and production and sales weakened. Despite this, according to Euromonitor, overall sales of watches still rose by 7.3% to top RMB75.3 billion in 2018.
According to a survey of mainland middle-class consumers conducted by HKTDC Research in 2016, the top reasons that consumers wear watches are: ‘to bring out one’s personal taste and image’ (50%), ‘a liking for watches’ (49%), ‘as an accessory’ (48%) and ‘time telling’ (40%). A considerable number of respondents agreed that ‘wearing a watch would give an impression of maturity, stability and punctuality to others’, or that ‘wearing a watch would give a better image on business occasions’. Respondents also cited ‘rewarding oneself/making oneself happy’ (59%) and ‘attending special functions’ (40%) as major reasons for buying watches.
The HKTDC survey revealed that, on average, mainland consumers have three watches. Among male consumers, ownership of business watches was highest (69%), followed by casual fashionable watches (69%) and smartwatches (55%). For female consumers, ownership of casual fashionable watches was highest (83%), followed by smartwatches (55%) and business watches (51%). When buying watches, men are generally concerned with brands while women are concerned with style and design.
Distinctive style/design is a main factor luring consumers into buying a watch. The HKTDC survey showed that if a new watch brand was launched in the mainland market, 66% of consumers would be attracted by ‘distinctive styles/designs’, 63% would give more weight to ‘novel technology/function designs’, while 56% said that ‘suitable prices’ would be the most important factor in deciding whether to buy. Factors like ‘brand origin’ (43%) and ‘historical and cultural legacy’ (33%) also influenced consumers’ desire to purchase.
As mainland consumers develop more discerning tastes, they become more demanding of watches. Watches have gradually evolved from traditional timepieces with practical functions into trendy, decorative consumer items offering brand value. Watches mainly fall into four categories: work/business watches, casual fashionable watches, sports watches and smartwatches.
Work/business watches: Consumers mainly wear these to work or to attend important functions, but may also wear them during leisure hours. They have become a kind of status symbol in the eyes of high-income male consumers.
Casual fashionable watches: Fashionable in design, these watches mainly serve ornamental purposes, like necklaces and bracelets. They are popular with young female consumers and are mostly worn during leisure hours. Sometimes they are also worn to match business outfits.
Sports watches: Students and sports enthusiasts are the main consumers of sports watches.
Smartwatches: These watches have built-in intelligent systems and can perform different functions, such as voice calls, receiving and sending messages and emails, and playing music, using Bluetooth.
Other types of watches include antique watches, multi-function watches and cartoon watches.
Watch makers have been developing new watches with functions such as mobile payment, health monitoring, and voice call, to tap the growing smart wearable devices trend. For instance, Apple has developed the Apple Watch which features an electrical heart rate sensor and fall detection function. The Golf GPS Watch launched by Garmin has the functions of automatic tracking of strokes and shot distance positioning.
Sales of smartwatches for children have also been growing in recent years. Parents are beginning to use smartwatches to monitor their children’s safety. Besides normal time display, these watches have GPS, voice call and SOS alarm functions. Parents welcome these products because they can use these functions to locate their children and find out if they are safe. A report of the International Data Corporation (IDC) reveals that 21.67 million children’s watches were sold in China in 2018, up 16.6% year-on-year. Of these, 4G-enabled smartwatches account for 38%. It is expected that 4G smartwatches will be the future trend in the children’s watches market.
According to the Consumption Report of China’s High-end Watch Market 2019, the mainland high-end watch market was valued at RMB19.4 billion in 2018, an increase of 20.9% over 2017. The post-1980s and post-1990s generations are the major consumers of high-end watches. More than 50% of those who have a watch priced over RMB5,000 are aged 26-35. In addition, the percentage of males having a high-end watch is 6% more than females. Mainland consumers buy high-end watches mainly to bring out one’s personal taste and image.
About 74.4% of imported watches are from Switzerland, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore, with Switzerland accounting for the largest share.
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