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People's Daily Online>>China Business

Watchmakers seize the hour in China

By Xu Junqian (China Daily)

14:28, January 30, 2012

A visitor passes a booth at the BaselWorld watch and jewelry fair in Switzerland in early 2011. Some European watchmakers have started to fret about the luxury watch market tilting dramatically toward emerging markets, including China.(Photo/China Daily)

HANGZHOU - The robust growth of the Chinese luxury market has seen high-end brands expanding their territory in the fashion industry to keep enticing consumers.

The watch and jewelry sector, which has generally been defined as "hard luxuries", has become a new growth area for brands such as PPR SA's Gucci unit and Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH) SA that have not traditionally specialized in the field.

"It's a very interesting and, of course, important market in China," said Michele Sofisti, the newly appointed CEO of Gucci's Global Timepieces & Jewelry business, in Hangzhou, the capital of Zhejiang province.

Switzerland-based Sofisti was in what he described as the "beautiful ancient city" known for its majestic West Lake to kick off a music fund with China Soong Ching Ling Foundation that is intended to help young Chinese talent. China is the second country after the United States to receive support of this kind from Gucci.

"There are lots of opportunities for hardworking young people, and they are the real driving force here," said Sofisti, who worked for Swatch Group, Fred Jewellers and Christian Dior SA watches at LVMH before arriving at Gucci. "We believe that, like music, watches have a timeless and international appeal."

Statistics from the global advisor Bain & Co show that watches and jewelry have taken the place of perfume and cosmetics, becoming bestsellers in China since 2010, leading the market with an annual output of 20 billion yuan ($3 billion) in 2010.

Unsurprisingly, Gucci, one of the top three "most desirable brands" in China, as ranked by Bain, has seen a similarly promising increase in sales, with "double-digit growth" in its watch and jewelry sector every year in China, according to Sofisti.

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