Can China really produce high quality watches?
Perception is a powerful thing. It guides and influences our decisions every day. But what if the decision maker’s perception is skewed?
When Toc decided to design a watch and create a new brand, there were many decisions that had to be made; one of the biggest was where to manufacturer the watch, Switzerland or China.
The ensuing research threw up some very interesting facts and very quickly my incorrect perceptions changed. I had Swiss watchmaking on a pedestal (like many of us do) but this opinion changed after some research and it made me realise how brand China was more relevant and appealing than ever.
What does “Swiss Made” actual mean?
Before Jan 2017, for a watch to be "Swiss Made," the movement had to be Swiss and it had to be assembled and "inspected" by the manufacturer in Switzerland.
Digging a little further, I realised that if at least 50% of the movement’s value (excluding cost for assembly) has been realised in Switzerland then it is in fact considered Swiss Made.
What this means in reality is that a brand can produce a watch with all Asian parts such as the case, dial, hands, crystals and strap but have the movement come from a Swiss supplier (or in fact even take an Asian movement adding some Swiss parts in Switzerland) case up the movement and still get to put the “luxurious” “Swiss Made” stamp on the dial.
So Swiss Made does not actually always mean 100% Swiss made. Thankfully it is now getting stricter after a new law* was passed, but the main change is that from this year 60% of the movement’s value will have to be realised in Switzerland.
There are many brilliant Swiss watch manufacturers, some with incredible heritage and impeccable quality such as Patek Philippe and Jaeger-LeCoultre and even some new brands rapidly proving themselves as special and flawless such as BRELLUM.
We all must make an informed design before buying any watch and we shouldn’t fall for the usual misperceptions out there and that also goes for brand China, brand Germany etc.
Why manufacture in China?
When we decided to go with a Chinese manufacturer, it was in part because of the above findings but mostly it was because it made more sense to us for a variety of reasons.
For a start-up, an unknown, unproven brand,China has more to offer, a lot more in fact. The most obvious is cost. Yes it’s cheaper but critically you must do your research when choosing who to partner with as there are many high quality manufacturers, but there are also many low quality ones too. With the lower cost of production, comes a higher minimum order quantity so you must be prepared to take some extra risk when starting off too.
Lower cost of production does not have to mean lower quality. You need to understand the materials available to you and make sure that each component is of the highest possible standard. This can only really be done by choosing wisely and continuously quality-testing as you go.
Service is actually much better in China, especially for a start-up like Toc. We did initially try to get prices from certain movement manufacturers in Switzerland but we barely got past their receptionists as they just aren’t bothered working with you unless you are a well-known brand. It’s only now that we look back happily at this.
Let’s not forget that some of the most luxurious and expensive products we own are manufactured in China and we are more than willing to pay a stiff premium for them, due mostly to the strength of their brand names. Yes the products are, in most of the cases, a very high standard.
OK, it took us a while to find the right manufacturer that ticked all the boxes, none more important than communication skills, but now that we have them on board we have found that with their willingness to accommodate all our requests and our sometimes over the top attention to detail, we couldn’t be happier. Each communication and update only reassures us that brand China was in fact the way to go.
Toc was set up to design and build a brand that will stand up to our strict principals of high quality, top class materials and customer service, as well as value for money. I am sure we might make some mistakes along the way and I welcome these, as without challenges, you cannot truly hit your real potential.
Choosing China was definitely the right move, we only ask you to let us prove it to you when we launch our first watch this summer.
Written by Will, Toc Watch.
*More can be found on "Swiss Made" here.