I remember when I first told people my plans to design and launch a new watch.

The overall sentiment was people were impressed, yes there were some doubters and some just couldn’t grasp the logic and therefore they thought I had lost it. But mostly, my friends, family and colleagues (at the time) thought I could pull it off.

Then came the inevitable question, where was I making it? ‘China.’ I would respond.

Their confidence in my new venture would start to diminish in almost all cases. As disheartening as it was, it was a fair reaction in a way, they had not carried out the extensive research I had and so they could not possibly understand it from my angle and in a lot of cases they were clouded by the old misperceptions of Brand China.

After all, China still only makes cheap and poorly manufactured products that no sane person would buy, right?

I should probably get rid of my Ray-Ban’s, iPad, New Balance runners and IBM laptop before my Toc19 arrives.

There goes my Christmas presents ideas from Prada, Armani, and Ted Baker London. Lucky, as I cannot really afford them right now, but I think you can see my point. All these luxury brands manufacture some if not all their products in China. And there is no questioning their high quality.

The list goes on and on and after spending 5 days there myself, I have only good things to say about China.

From the moment I set foot in Hong Kong and then onward to mainland China, there was something special about the place. Life moved in a purposeful and efficient manner, from the Ferry direct from Hong Kong airport to Shenzhen, to the border checks and customs, to the taxi’s and transport network. It all worked and worked impressively well.

The following morning, we got a taxi to the manufacturer where we would spend 2 full days quality checking and prepping before shipping our watches.

From the moment we arrived to the moment we left, we realised they operated a well-oiled machine. Every process was thought out correctly and ran without hitch or delay.

The owner spent the day with us and took us on a tour of their factory before sitting us down to a meeting with the movement manufacturer, Seagull. They knew how we felt about quality and they understood the importance to us of getting it right the first time, so without telling us, they organised a senior director and senior engineer to meet with us. ‘Wow, this is going above and beyond.’ I thought to myself.

They then spent the latter part of the morning with us as we started to quality check each watch. As we wound every movement and went through our rigorous checklist, we quickly started to realise that our production watches surpassed all our expectations. Our adrenaline increased with each wind as our strict plan for manufacturing started to pay off. With every passing moment all the underlying nervousness about China disappeared and only excitement for the future remained. 

The 2nd day at the factory consisted of final checks before packing our envelopes and getting the boxes ready for our fulfilment partner.

We discussed our 2nd watch, the Pilgrim, and checked the prototypes they had produced for us. The case, dials and movements were flawless. Incredible precision and execution of our vision. We now only have to finalise our dial styles and colour options before we receive the finished prototypes.

Before our final goodbyes I took one last glance into their display cabinet. They were proud of the brands they worked with and so they should be, there were some well-known brands on display. We were happy to be now among them.

On the last day we met with our fulfilment partner and ran through the final processes with them to make sure each package received the care it should. Their expertise was undeniable, and we left with a spring in our step and with a few hours to spare.

Our remaining hours in Shenzhen were spent wondering their huge downtown shopping district. This was a massive city on a scale that beggar’s belief. It was clean, safe, beautiful and it didn’t need our money. They had plenty of money themselves and it was clear they had a sense of pride in their bustling city.

China itself, is more impressive than I ever imagined, and Brand China is stronger and more powerful than we even know. Their ability to produce top class and high-quality products for huge brands is clear.

After spending 5 days here, I know China will keep getting stronger and even more impressive and we will be definitely be back.


Will, Toc Watch

Leave a comment