First published in ELEQT on 3 March 2012.
Jasmine, Keely and I met up with Jerome's adventure racing teammate, Adrien, who isn't only up for a physically demanding challenge. He is the founder of the Chinese Timekeeper, the first luxury watch brand that is proudly Chinese, rooting from our very own little city, and building upon the rich heritage of our Chinese culture. As a French dude, why does he embrace the Chinese traditions so much that he wants to make a career out of it? Adrien gave us some interesting insights towards his view for the Chinese philosophy, and how he blended it with his expertise in watch-making.
Why did you decide to create a watch brand with a Chinese twist?
I have always been interested in the Chinese culture, having studied in Shanghai as well as worked in Taiwan and Hong Kong for almost 11 years. Having worked as a brand manager in a global luxury watch company has got me a great footing in the horological field, so when I looked into the Chinese market, a major supplier of watch mechanisms, I wondered, as the country that invented ancient timekeeping devices over centuries ago, how come China doesn't have its own luxury watch brands? That is why I decided to create a watch collection that embraces the Chinese history, and proudly proclaiming its made in China status, which, on contrary to the usual stigma, is filled with the traditional Chinese values of excellent craftsmanship.
What is so special about the Chinese Timekeeper's watches?
Our watches are auto mechanical and not quartz because we are interested in the engineering wonders we could play with in making mechanical watches. We are keen on putting small complications like small second in our designs, so that our creations have what it takes to be a part of the luxury watch sector, yet nothing like tourbillon yet, which might be a tad bit ambitious. We want to make sure we can still keep the technicalities under control, focusing on accuracy, reliability, water resistance, and power reserve, so that the precision is near perfect. After all, a large part about watches is the ability to tell time!
Our pieces, with its distinctively Chinese design, will definitely make a conversational piece. We have also tried to make the watches more distinctively the Chinese Timekeeper by standardising our watch crown at the two o'clock when the usual is at the three o'clock, and the small seconds dial on the five o'clock when it is typically set at the six o'clock. Even our leather straps are special, since watches generally have brown or black leather straps, we decided to offer grey calf straps for a subtly trendy variation.
What are the difficulties in starting your own brand?
Although it is lots of fun to build a brand and tremendous satisfaction when we see each watch sold, there were lots of difficulties in its initial start. Though our designs are daring yet subtle, and modern while traditional, they were created in limited quantities, which made it difficult to find factories to manufacture. It did take a lot of time to convince people that a China branded watch can be of awesome quality.
Any tips on picking out watches?
Watches are meant for wearing, so keeping it in the safe doesn't do its mechanism any good! Wear each watch regularly, and get it serviced every two years to keep it on tip top shape. Leather straps aren't meant for waterproof uses, so if it does accidentally touch water, you can just leave it in the shades to dry.
And what's new with you upcoming collection?
We are planning to launch a brand new series at the Basel World 2012 next month in March 2012 to commemorate the year of dragon, with lots of Chinese factors such as fusing gold and jade together. We are also planning to build our ladies watches selection, though I must say, most women nowadays are wearing men's watches with an awesome flair. Our collections are currently sold in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, and Amsterdam, so we do hope that when people think of watches, they will start thinking of China as a major player as well.
The Chinese Timekeeper
Available from their online shop and D|exclusive
Address: 206 Central Building, 1-3 Pedder Street, Central.
Telephone: 9533 1682