The Emerging Market for Chinese Made Luxury Goods

Chinese Shopper Go On a Luxury Clothing Shopping Spree


by John Sealander  

When Chinese Manufacturers Stop Copying and Start Innovating

China became a global manufacturing powerhouse largely by copying the ideas of others. The Chinese became experts at creating knock-offs of popular brands and the copies became so good that the luxury labels they copied began manufacturing their own products in China as well. Now, practically every major brand manufacturers many of their products in China.

The tremendous demand for China’s ability to manufacture almost anything less expensively than their competitors in other countries has created a large and increasingly wealthy Chinese middle class. These newly affluent Chinese quickly developed an appetite for luxury and began buying the most popular high-end labels from around the world. As Chinese sophistication and buying power continued to increase, some Chinese designers began wondering why China couldn’t create their own high quality luxury goods.

Chinese pride, a booming economy, and the rise of Chinese creativity, has created a growing demand for products that are not only manufactured in China, but designed there as well. Chinese fashionistas are no longer flocking to the West for the latest trends. They are turning to exciting original collections by a new generation of emerging Chinese designers instead. Designers like Uma Wang have already been profiled in Italian Vogue. Chinese designer Qiu Hao was a recent Woolmark Prize winner, a prize that was previously reserved for European luminaries like Karl Lagerfeld and Yves Saint Laurent.

Chinese Develop Luxury Taste Buds

Everywhere you look, the Chinese are making the transition from fashion followers to emerging tastemakers. The huge changes in tastes and attitudes of the growing Chinese middle class has created opportunities for a new generation of talented Chinese designers who are extremely proud of the “made in China” label. These designers are not satisfied with creating knock-offs. They are determined to be the best on the world stage.

“My heritage is full of beautiful craftsmanship and history with a strong understanding of femininity and luxury,” says influential Chinese designer Huishan Zhang. “It is only a matter of time before the avant-garde taste for individuality in China further evolves into a ‘Made in China,’ homegrown style that will be applauded at home and abroad.”

Luxury Watch Manufacturing in China

Chinese watchmakers were quick to recognize the almost insatiable demand for tourbillon movements by their Chinese customers. About 15 years ago, they decided to meet this demand by manufacturing their own tourbillons. As their expertise in manufacturing tourbillon movements grew, the reputation of their intricate timepieces grew among the world’s watch aficionados. Now, the demand for a Chinese made tourbillon timepiece is almost as high outside China as it is among the Chinese.

High quality Chinese-designed watches and clothing are relatively new to the global market but are growing in importance every day. The Chinese have become self-aware and are proud of their heritage and skills. They no longer are satisfied to make economical goods for the rest of the world. They are determined to design and create the world’s best products and have customers comes to them.

China Produces Its Own Luxury Watch Brands

The Chinese love wristwatches and Chinese watch manufactures have already made the transition to producing high quality luxury products of their own. Although every major watch manufacturer has manufacturing facilities in China, the Chinese are doing something that none of them expected. They are no longer satisfied with copying and are starting to produce their own high quality timepieces filled with genuine homegrown innovation.

The Chinese Fiyta Spacemaster timepiece is prized by collectors around the world and has a reputation that puts it in the same league with popular Fortis and Omega space watches. The limited edition Spacemaster features a superb mechanical moment of Chinese design and includes innovations like an anti-clockwise locking crown to prevent accidental crown release and a unique 8-hour rotating bezel that serves as a life support indicator for the Chinese Feitian EVA spacesuit. Chinese Taikonauts wear this watch on space missions and a growing number of sophisticated collectors are starting to wear them as well.

The Future of China’s Growing Luxury Market

The emergence of Chinese creativity and a new appreciation for Chinese excellence has implications for every manufacturer of luxury goods. The world has already seen the power of the Chinese economy. When the Chinese turn their energies to producing top-quality, original designs, the world better watch out. The Chinese are already learning, as the Europeans and Americans did before them, that creativity is the key to homegrown success. Combine China’s emerging appreciation for the role of creativity with China’s proven manufacturing prowess and you’ve got the recipe for a true luxury powerhouse.

Will “China made” eventually replace “Swiss made” on the dial of your favorite timepiece? Only time will tell.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupGevril Group, watchmaker and wholesale watch distributor, is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury and Swiss watches and trendy fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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Is Gucci Losing Its Luster?

Gucci, New York City


by John Sealander  

When luxury logos lose their luster, can the kings of bling survive?

GucciWhen the economy imploded in 2008, luxury goods seemed relatively immune to the carnage that the ensuing economic downturn created. Analysts speculated that even though the economy was weak, companies like Ralph Lauren, Tiffany, Coach, and Gucci would thrive because even after the downturn, the rich still had plenty of money left to buy all their favorite luxury items.

All that may be changing however. There are growing signs that luxury logos are losing their luster. While the ultra-rich can still afford their yachts and Ferrari automobiles, a growing group of “affordable luxury” companies are beginning to suffer.

The latest luxury brand to falter is Gucci, the flagship label of Paris based Kering SA. Gucci profits fell dramatically during the fourth quarter of 2013 to 50 million Euros, down from 1.05 billion Euros a year earlier. Kering CEO François-Henri Pinault in a recent CNBC interview said he was unconcerned about the slowdown, but many financial analysts think that Gucci’s stagnating sales growth signals a change in the way consumers view luxury goods.

Luxury Industry Slowdown

The slowdown in luxury sales has been well documented. Around the world, and particularly in China, well-known luxury brands are suffering from what many call “logo fatigue.” As recently as a few years ago, the Chinese couldn’t get enough bling. If it was gaudy and gold, they had to have it. Now, discriminating Chinese shoppers seem to prefer understated luxury and are buying less flashy labels.

A slowing global economy is causing many to change their priorities. Paul Lejuez, a New York-based analyst at Wells Fargo & Co. calls this phenomenon “wallet-share shift.” Instead of buying Hermes scarves and diamond bracelets, they are spending their money on practical items like cars, electronics and home furnishings.

Survival of the Grandest?

It remains to be seen whether this trend will continue. If the economy improves, luxury retailers like Gucci could quickly return to their former glory. If conditions continue to deteriorate, all bets are off. In a declining economy, there will still be rich people, just not as many of them. Luxury companies will be forced to focus their efforts on a much more targeted audience, which will create winners and losers. “The whole ship isn’t sinking,” says Aurora Investment Counsel president David Yucius, “It’s a matter of which brand is winning the fashion trend of the moment.”

Will Gucci and the luxury industry recover in 2014? With the top 2% of Chinese earners accounting for fully one third of all global luxury sales, the fortunes of a very few people could make a big difference. Whatever happens, one thing is certain: customers will continue to evolve, and successful companies will need to reflect their changing needs in the products they sell.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupWatchmaker and wholesale watch distributor Gevril Group is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury, Swiss and fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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Signet Jewelers to Buy Zales

Zales Store


by John Sealander  

Who benefits most when two jewelry juggernauts join forces?

When Signet Jewelers, the parent company of familiar names like Kay Jewelers and Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, acquired the giant Zales Corporation with its well-known Zales and Gordons brands, a jewelry juggernaut was created. Signet and Zales were already the two largest jewelers in the United States before this historic merger. Together, they have the opportunity to become an unstoppable powerhouse that virtually controls the US retail jewelry market.

Jared Galleria of Jewelry Store Kay Jewelers Store
Jared Galleria of Jewelry Store Kay Jewelers Store
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Investors have already benefited from this sale, with shares of Zales surging 40% on the merger news. Signet shares also rose 12% to a record 52-week high. The jury is still out on whether this monumental merger will offer the same sort of benefits for customers. Consolidation in other industries has shown mixed benefits. The economies of scale that a larger organization brings often result in lower prices for consumers. These savings come at a price however. A large organization must streamline their supply chain to maintain profitability targets, and smaller vendors are often eliminated. This means that although prices are typically good, consumers often have fewer choices.

Michael BarnesAccording to Signet CEO Michael Barnes, “the addition of Zale to the Signet family is consistent with our long-term growth strategy and leverages our combined operating expertise to create better choices for our customers, new opportunities for our employees and makes us a more attractive partner to our vendors.”

Based on what Michael Barnes has already accomplished with his Signet brands, this means big changes for the Zales Corporation in the years ahead. Signet has already completed a multi-year turnaround program that has returned the corporation to profitability. They will almost certainly use the same strategies to return their newly acquired Zales and Gordons brands to profitability as well.

A Retail Jewelry Powerhouse

The combined companies from this monumental $1.4 billion dollar transaction will operate more than 3,600 stores in the United States, in addition to each brands’ online retail operations. It is estimated that this new jewelry powerhouse will generate annual sales in excess of $6 billion. The company will employ nearly 30,000 people.

The merger, which will be financed by bank debt, other debt financing and the securitization of a significant portion of Signet’s accounts receivable portfolio, is still subject to the approval of Zale’s stockholders and must meet regulatory requirements. Industry insiders expect that the sale will go through however, and the transaction is expected to close later this year.

Since all of the brands involved sell watches, the merger will have definite implications for the watch industry. Consolidation is already a fact of life within the luxury industry, so there will probably be no surprises. Some brands will grow stronger through improved access to a larger customer base. Other fringe brands may be hurt, especially if they are eliminated as a Signet vendor.

One thing is certain. With $6 billion in projected sales, there will still be a lot of people buying fine jewelry and luxury watches.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupWatchmaker and wholesale watch distributor Gevril Group is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury, Swiss and fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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Welcome to the Gevril Outlet


by John Sealander  

If you keep your watches in a glass case, this message will not interest you. But if you actually wear the watches you buy, you’re going to want to visit the Gevril Outlet immediately.

What’s the first thing that happens when you buy a new watch? It’s almost inevitable that you scratch it. Most of these tiny scratches are inconsequential and they don’t detract in the least from wearing the timepieces we love. Truthfully, just about the only way you can avoid these small blemishes is to put the watch in a drawer and never wear it.

What if you could buy a brand new watch at a very steep discount just because it already had a tiny cosmetic imperfection? You can at the Gevril Outlet Store! The Gevril Outlet sells brand new, unused luxury watches that are guaranteed to be in 100% perfect working order, shipped in the original box with full documentation and the manufacturers full warranty*. The only differences between these fine timepieces and other watches that Gevril sells are a few almost invisible imperfections.

Some of the Watches on Sale at the Gevril Outlet

The watches pictured here and more than one hundred others are available online at the Gevril Outlet at the time of this writing.

Gevril Group has always been extremely meticulous about the watches that leave our warehouse. If these fine timepieces aren’t 100% perfect, we send them to our Gevril Outlet and pass the savings on to you. The tiny scuffs or nicks which occasionally occur during shipping, or while the watch is on display in our showrooms are identical to the blemishes your watch will inevitably receive when you start wearing it. Why go through the stress of wondering when you are going to get the first scratch on your new watch, when you could be enjoying wearing it at a huge discount instead?

New Brand Name Watches Deeply Discounted

Every timepiece available for purchase at the Gevril Outlet is a brand new watch. These luxury watches have never been worn and are fully guaranteed to be in 100% working order. Each watch is shipped in the original packaging with complete documentation and a full manufacturer’s warranty*. Any imperfections are clearly detailed on the Gevril Outlet website, so there will be no surprises.

Savvy shoppers have already discovered that buying a watch at the Gevril Outlet is a win/win proposition. They have a unique opportunity to obtain their favorite timepieces at a significant discount, while eliminating the stress of wondering when they’re going to get that inevitable first scratch. If you want a blemish free watch, you’re going to have to keep it in a glass case. In the real world, watches get scratched and cars get dinged in shopping center parking lots. To start enjoying the next watch you wear, just go to the Gevril Outlet at http://stores.ebay.com/gevril-outlet and start shopping today.

*Unless otherwise indicated.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupWatchmaker and wholesale watch distributor Gevril Group is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury, Swiss and fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie 2014 Recap

SIHH 2014 Entrance


By Roberta Naas

What Really Goes on in Geneva Doesn’t Stay in Geneva

Every year the watch industry celebrates newness and invention at two very important Swiss events: the Salon International de la Haute Horlogerie (SIHH) held in January in Geneva; BaselWorld (held in March in – you guessed it – Basel). Having just returned from Geneva, I have to take a few minutes to reflect on the show.

SIHH 24th Edition 2014 InvitationIt was the 24th edition of the SIHH and it has certainly changed over the years. I was there for the first one – when the Richemont Group organized it and a host of non-Richemont Group brands participated. It has since evolved. Now, the Richemont Group is King — with every one of its 12 watch brands represented in grand glory. Also exhibiting are several other key brands, including Audemars Piguet, Greubel Forsey, Parmigiani Fleurier, Richard Mille and Ralph Lauren (which has a partnership with the Group for the production of its watches). Needless to say, this is ultra- high-end watchmaking at its best.

Over the years, though, many other brands have capitalized on the fact that thousands of journalists and retailers descend on the city to see the newest watch treasures that will be making trend headlines for the coming year. Those brands piggy-back on the SIHH –- exhibiting in hotel suites, boutiques and other places around the city. In short, what has happened is the luxury of SIHH is now offset with the dutiful job of running around the city of Geneva for appointment after appointment to see and report on all the other brands, as well. On this trip, which spanned six full days in Geneva, I explored the new timepieces from no fewer than 35 brands. It was an enriching and enlightening experience –- as always.

Outside SIHH 2014 in Geneva Attendees at SIHH 2014
Outside SIHH 2014 in Geneva Attendees at SIHH 2014
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So, what were the highlights of the trip? From the fun to the fantastic -– several experiences stand out.

Oxygen Oasis

SIHH 2014 Roberta Naas Braving the Breva Hyperbaric ChamberAt one of the top hotels in the city, a haute-horological brand named Breva was exhibiting its two collections of timepieces. Both revolve around tracking weather and atmospheric pressures via barometers and other instruments.

Since the weather in the hotel room was not changing, and because I wanted to actually see the watch work (ever the inquisitive journalist), I braved the hyperbaric chamber that the brand had on hand for demonstration purposes. I am told that for the entire week the brand exhibited there, just two journalists opted to enter the chamber. (Really? Aren’t we there to see the watch work?!).

So, in a surreal experience, I entered into the small chamber, allowed them to zipper me in tightly, waited while the oxygen loudly hissed in, and –- voila — pressed the button on the watch and witnessed a working indicator. Fabulous. (Though I will admit, it got hot in that chamber and I did panic just slightly at the end as they seemed to struggle with one of the zippers.)

Celebrity City

Every year at the SIHH, several brands bring in their brand ambassadors and celebrity friends to share star-studded dinners with attendees. Sometimes these stars are available for interviews, and usually I don’t bother to take too many up on their 15-minute gesture. This year, however, I jumped at the chance to interview screen legend Susan Sarandon. I found Susan to be charming, sincere, eloquent and interesting as she reflected on what time means to her. I was glad I took the 15 minute spot, even though it wreaked havoc with my crazy schedule.

Mishmash Meals

Kudos to Roger Dubuis, a brand that focused this year on blending the tradition of Swiss watchmaking with the turn-of-the-century Steam Punk inspirations and its visionary view of timepieces. Dinner with the brand was held in a steam punk-style building (now converted into a museum) built in the late 1800’s. The room was transformed by the very brilliant design director of Roger Dubuis into a turn-of-the-century marvel –- with chandeliers, china and stemware all flown in from Paris for the event. In fact, the stemware was original from the era and added a delightful twist to the evening. With the theme of looking back, while looking ahead, the room also housed some innovative photography (of people then and now in exactly the same spot as photographed while young), and some unusual sculptures. It was intriguing and inviting.

Roger Dubuis Booth at SIHH 2014 IWC Booth at SIHH 2014
Roger Dubuis Booth at SIHH 2014 IWC Booth at SIHH 2014
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This year I did not receive the usual half-dozen invitations to other luxe brand dinners (was I forsaken or blessed?), but I was able to spend some real quality time with brand execs at smaller dinners — thank you to Montblanc, Greubel Forsey and Jaeger-LeCoultre for those wonderful evenings (a big shout out to Roberto’s for amazing food). Thank you, too, to Hublot for one of those great nights to recap and relax. As to breakfast and lunch, there was rarely ever time, so thank you to all of the brands that kept me so busy I was able to lose a few pounds on this trip.

Terrific Timepieces

Lest we get all nostalgic over the exhibition spaces, the food, and the fun -– let’s remember why we are there at all: the product. This year did not disappoint! I witnessed some of the most stunning and technically advanced watchmaking. Key trends included amazingly artistic watch dials for women — complete with unusual gemstone treatments, dials made of rose petals –- Cartier stands out here, incomparable enamel and other innovative treatments.

Cartier Watches at SIHH 2014 A. Lange and Söhne Celestial Watch
Cartier Watches at SIHH 2014 A. Lange and Söhne Celestial Styled Watch at SIHH 2014
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Ultra-Thin Watch Piaget Ultra-Thin Watch
Ultra-Thin Watch at SIHH 2014 Piaget Ultra-Thin Watch at SIHH 2014
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The skies were calling this year, as well, with so many brands unveiling astronomical, celestial and moon-inspired pieces. The highlight: Van Cleef & Arpels, which actually managed to put the planets in 3D onto the watch dial. Unusual mechanics bloomed anew with brands such as Piaget reinterpreting the typical watch movement and building it into the case (the 900P caliber) to achieve an incredibly ultra-thin timepiece. In fact, the race was on among the brands to break records regarding the thinnest watch in the world.

Indeed, many of the timepieces unveiled this January that will make their way to the individual markets around the world in another six to nine months, stole my breath. But that’s another story.

About Roberta Naas

Roberta Naas is a 30-year veteran award-winning watch journalist. She is the founder of ATimelyPerspective.com and author of five books on timepieces. Roberta travels the world bringing behind-the-scenes news and cutting-edge products to the forefront.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupWatchmaker and wholesale watch distributor Gevril Group is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury, Swiss and fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

Join the conversation! Follow Gevril Group on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Please subscribe to the Gevril Group newsletter and blog digest.

In Memoriam: Raymond Weil

Raymond Weil


by John Sealander  

Watchmaking Pioneer Raymond Weil Dies at 87

On January 26, 2014 one of the true pioneers of the Swiss watch industry passed away peacefully. Born in Geneva, Switzerland in 1926, Raymond Weil was the first in the industry to make luxury watches accessible to people who weren’t born with a personal fortune. This self-made man had the vision and courage to start what has become a beloved and world-renowned brand at a time when the entire Swiss watch industry was in crisis. In 1976, when Raymond Weil’s self-named company was launched, it was a widely held view that inexpensive quartz watches would destroy the Swiss watchmaking industry.

Weil had a different vision, and watch enthusiasts, amateurs and connoisseurs alike immediately praised his beautiful and surprisingly affordable creations. This kind, affable, and generous man was influential in keeping the Swiss watch industry alive at a critical point in its history. As Raymond Weil traveled the world putting together the international network that eventually made his timepieces a familiar favorite around the world, he almost singlehandedly became an exceptional ambassador for the city of Geneva and for Switzerland as well.

Weil’s ongoing love for Switzerland and it’s watchmaking industry led him to serve as president of the Geneva Watchmaker Union, as vice president of the Watchmaking Industry Training Centre, and as a member of the Watchmaking Federation. He also served as president of the Baselworld Exhibitors Committee until 1995.

Raymond Weil’s love of classical music and contemporary art often influenced the watches that his company produced. Over the years, many popular Raymond Weil timepieces, including the well-known Amadeus, Fidelio, Toccata, Fantasia and Parsifal Collections were inspired by the music and composers that Raymond loved.

To this day, the self-named company that this watchmaking pioneer founded remains one of the last independent, family-owned watchmakers in Switzerland. The brand continues to remain in the family, with Weil’s son-in-law Olivier Bernheim holding the position of CEO, Olivier’s elder son Elie, serving as marketing director, and his younger son Pierre as sales director. It is with great sadness that the Weil family announced the passing of their patriarch and founder on Sunday, January 26. They, and the entire Swiss watch industry can take comfort that the brand Raymond Weil launched in 1976 will continue to keep his memory alive for many years to come.

About Gevril Group

Gevril GroupWatchmaker and wholesale watch distributor Gevril Group is the exclusive U.S. agent for exquisitely designed and crafted European luxury and fashion watch brands, distributing and servicing some of the best affordable luxury, Swiss and fashion watches. Gevril Group also operates a full-service watch repair, staffed by master Swiss watchmakers. Contact Gevril Group by email or by calling 845-425-9882.

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Please subscribe to the Gevril Group newsletter and blog digest.