While no journalists, bloggers, and mega-watch personalities tend to write about this massive trade fair, I can completely understand why - it does not have the glamour, haute horology, champagne toasts, or brand sponsored hotels and dinners.

Hong Kong Watch Fair is like a sausage factory, while we enjoy eating sausage, no one wants to go behind the scene and witness making of that sausage.  It is a good thing since all the Swiss and German watch brands you and I know, do not want you to witness this sausage-making either.  They would rather you not visit this show and see them negotiate hard with their Asian parts suppliers or OEM manufacturers.

This is actually quiet alright.  We live in a globalized economy and it will be foolish for us to think that parts can be manufactured cheaper in Switzerland or Germany.  China has now been manufacturing these parts for a number of years and the quality has improved significantly.  Moreover, there is a very strict quality control, and in some cases, modifications conducted by the brands in their respective workshops.

There are also a large number of micro brands working very diligently to produce their watches and accessories.  This show is a boon for them.  I met with few of these micro brands at Watchuseek get together dinner in Hong Kong. Brands like Lew & Huey, Aevig, and HKEd are making some very cool watches at a price which I can afford without a guilty feeling after a several-thousand-dollar purchase. In the current economic climate, micro brands make for a better proposition than over-priced, rebadged, mass-produced, low-quality Chinese watches flooding internet and grey markets.

If you want to witness upcoming trends, this is where it happens first.  Brands execute their designs, albeit behinds the closed doors.  Asian manufacturers showcase their new movements, cases, and crude designs that are perfected over time.  I saw Peacock brand showcase their 3-day power reserve Panerai-like movement.  Few OEM manufactures had already modified this movement and cased it in a pretty impressive watch.  You will definitely see watches showcased in Basel 2017 or 2018 with this movement.  Mind you I am not debating the ethics here; I am simply stating the facts.

There are also honest Chinese brands like Shanghai Watch Co, Annapassa, and many others showcasing their latest releases.  When I discussed these brands with another journalist visiting here for past 15 years, he stated that in his opinion they are in the same league as the Swiss.  Their market remains in China; hence there is very little exposure outside of Asia.  It is a pity that they cannot harness the power of internet and social media to effectively market themselves.

I do have to state that foot traffic and number of suppliers seemed low this year to me.  Perhaps consolidation and liquidation of brands has had a downstream effect on the suppliers.  I believe that softening of watch industry has only just begun, so let’s see what 2017 brings to Hong Kong watch fair.