It’s no joke. 31 year old Frenchman Adrien Choux has successfully turned an obsession into a profession. 14 months ago he launched his own line of luxury Chinese watches in Hong Kong – The Chinese Timekeeper.
From Panerai Marketing Manager
Based in the Far East for 11 years, the past six of them in Hong Kong, Adrien worked for five years as a Marketing Manager for Panerai, launching boutiques and new watches in Hong Kong, Macau and Taipei.
But selling watches for someone else, even as illustrious and iconic a brand as Panerai, simply wasn’t enough. Adrien wanted to sell his own line of watches, and explore a route to market that steeps itself in China’s rich cultural heritage and ancient timekeeping prowess.
With spells in Shanghai and Taipei, Adrien mastered the not at all easy to learn language of Mandarin. Working for Panerai – or more accurately Richemont in Hong Kong, gave him his passion for watches.
To Chinese Timekeeper
Combining the two, he has created The Chinese Timekeeper – or CTK for short, his own watch brand with a uniquely Chinese heritage.
As Adrien observes, China is already manufacturing parts for the likes of Omega, Dior and Franck Muller. And he passionately believes that The Chinese Timekeeper can become a successful international luxury watch brand with the watches wholly manufactured in China.
“China has the largest and fastest growing market for luxury watch brands. It also has an incredible history of timekeeping development. As I started to dig deeper into China’s long heritage of timekeeping, I discovered that a Chinese monk created the first water driven escapement mechanism. The Chinese invented a water powered clock tower five or six centuries before Europe.”
Adrien Choux, owner The Chinese Timekeeper
In 2009, the Chinese luxury watch market was worth RMB15.5 billion and is growing at 35% annually, according to a Bain & Co. report. It is dominated by five brands: Cartier, Longines, Omega, Rolex and Tudor.
To set himself apart from the crowded foreign brands, Adrien's CTK brand is embracing China’s history in a watch collection which consists of six models simply known as CTK01 - 06.
A 100% Chinese made luxury watch brand
While China’s horological history may be ancient Adrien’s watch brand CTK: “Is brand new, I don’t claim that my great, great grandfather was a Chinese watchmaker, but my watches are inspired by centuries of Chinese heritage.”
The watches are made from brushed and polished stainless steel, with or without PVD coating. Each watch is a limited edition, either of 38/28 or just 18 pieces. Each watch shares the same 44mm casing, styled on the architecture of a Chinese pagoda. Each step of the design is meticulously recreated based on the clock tower and is highly symbolic. It’s a sandwich case made of four layers and held together with structural screws.
The dial of each watch features the signature Chinese symbol for ten, appropriately at ten o’ clock, while the noted Chinese statesman, astronomer, cartographer, horologist, pharmacologist, mineralogist, zoologist, botanist, engineer, poet, antiquarian and all round good egg Su Song at 12 o’ clock is the brand’s logo. It’s a tribute to the man who developed the Chinese water clock in Kaifend in the 11th century.
The movements are sourced from the Hangzhou Watch factory and the Tianjin Watch Company, “They are really good watch movements" explains Adrien, "they are accurate, reliable and with 30 hours of power reserve."
The watches range in price from US$2,294 in stainless steel to US$2,680 for the black PVD models.
However, Adrien acknowledges, the more demanding complications such as the tourbillion and moon phase are still a work in progress with regards to Chinese movements and are not yet at the same rarefied levels of a Vacheron Constantin or a Patek Philippe.
Monsieur Choux launched The Chinese Timekeeper on a suitably auspicious day: 10/10/10 – a perfect and complete number in Chinese beliefs. And he did so with only a tenth of the budget of a typical Swiss brand. His plan is to explore further China’s rich heritage and reflect it in the DNA of his watches with the use of materials such as jade and enamel.
The CTK Limited Edition Year of the Dragon watch
CTK’s special edition Year of the Dragon watch, with the case made of 24k yellow gold and the dragon and hands with gold plate, is limited to just 18 pieces with a price tag of US$8,096. But while Adrien’s brand is entirely Chinese in its DNA, he feels some brands are merely jumping on the Chinese bandwagon: “All brands are suddenly Chinese enough to have a dragon watch” he observes.
Basel and a boutique
The next major steps for the fledgling brand is a boutique opening in Hong Kong just off Queen’s Road East in February and a stand at Basel, the watch world's premier exhibition in Switzerland in March, where the second collection will be presented with a view to international distribution deals. No sneak previews available for the new collection just yet, but we will show them as soon as they are available.
“Producing the second collection is taking ALL my money” explains Adrien “but the feedback I get from customers makes it all worthwhile. They tell me what a great talking point their watch is – and when all is said and done, that’s the reaction you really long for from the watch you wear.”
The Chinese Timekeeper watches are available online at Adrien’s site www.thechinesetimekeeper.com and exclusively through Ace Jewelers in Europe.