• Watch Manufacturers in China: A Complete Guide

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    Asia Import Platform: Watches

    Millions of watches are assembled in China every year, primarily in Shenzhen, Guangdong province. With hundreds of watch manufacturers to choose from, it can be somewhat tricky to find one capable to manufacture your watch design.

    In this article, we share our experience of China’s wristwatch industry and explain the factors that matter when selecting a manufacturer. We also explain what importers must know about design customization, and how this has a direct impact on pricing and minimum order quantity requirements.

    This is covered:

    • The role of the Watch manufacturer
    • Materials and Components
    • Design Customization
    • Heavy metals, phthalates, and other restricted substances
    • Product Packaging
    • MOQ Requirement
    • How do I know if the supplier can make my watch design?
    • List of Watch Manufacturers in Shenzhen

    watch factory in shenzhen

    The role of the Watch manufacturer

    The truth is that a ‘Watch manufacturer’ doesn’t really manufacture the watches. They assemble the watches and procure all individual components. The Watchcase, crown, hands, clock face, and even the indexing are all produced by specialized subcontractors.

    This also applies to movements, which are often procured directly from Miyota, Seiko or Ronda.

    The Watch supplier is essentially managing these subcontractors, and assemble the final products. In general, all Watch suppliers have access to the same subcontractors. As they don’t invest much in R&D, this means that all suppliers in the industry have access to the same materials and components.

    Does that mean that all suppliers are equal? Definitely not. Watch manufacturers differ on the following factors:

    a. Product compliance: Most suppliers are not aware of EU and US product regulations,  such as REACH and RoHS. Hence, they may supply a product with excessive amounts of lead and other restricted substances.

    b. Quality management: Managing a large number of subcontractors is not an easy task. At a minimum, the supplier must have established procedures for checking incoming materials and components – and checkpoints on the assembly line.

    c. Management: Some people are just better at taking care of their customers and running businesses than others. This is also how it works in China’s watch industry.

    So, what about pricing? The price difference between two different suppliers is normally small, assuming you get quoted based on the same product specification. As mentioned, the suppliers are buying materials and components from the same network of subcontractors.

    Materials and Components

    Chinese Watch manufacturers are accustomed to producing goods in part, or entirely, according to the buyer’s product specifications.

    A product specification is any piece of information that defines the design, functions, and durability of a product. Below follows a short list of specifications applicable to watches:

    • Case Material: e.g. Zinc alloy or 316L Stainless Steel
    • Case Plating: e.g. IP Rose Gold
    • Movement: e.g. Miyota IL22
    • Water retardance: e.g., 3 ATM or 5 ATM
    • Glass: e.g. Mineral glass or Sapphire glass
    • Strap: e.g. Italian calf leather

    That’s not the full list of specifications you need to cover, but I think the point has been made. As Chinese manufacturers are accustomed to this “make to order” approach, they will not manage the product development for you.

    They are manufacturers, and offering a free of charge design service would force them to increase their prices, which in turn would result in most buyers taking their (free) designs to the next manufacturer.

    Note: Watch suppliers normally create a 2D rendering of the Watch, effectively illustrating the final product from all angles. However, the rendering is based entirely on specifications provided by the customer. Do not expect any creative input from the manufacturer, as this is outside their business scope.

    watch cases
    Watch cases in a factory in Bao’an district, Shenzhen

    Design Customization

    While you shouldn’t expect free product development services from any manufacturer, most are able to realize your customized watch designs.

    The major component is the watch case, which requires an injection mold. This can easily be made by the supplier or subcontracted, assuming you have a CAD design, detailed images, drawings, or reference sample.

    However, the case design must be based on the actual components (e.g. movement and dial) that you intend to use. There are also limits to how far you should go when designing a wristwatch.

    You can custom design any component, including the hands, crown, and indexing. That said, all OEM (custom designed) components require tooling, which costs more time and extends the product development time. it can also affect the MOQ requirement.

    If you are about to launch your first product, you may want to consider using ODM (factory standard) parts to the extent possible.

    On the contrary, the watch case, clock face, and straps are easier to customize. For most small businesses, it makes sense to strike a balance somewhere in between and mix between custom designed components, and “factory standard” components.

    Most Watch manufacturers keep high volume components in stock. These components are assembled on most models, which allows the supplier to offer a fairly modest MOQ requirement per watch design.

    The best way to simplify the product development process is by first asking the supplier to send PDF or Excel files listing the standardized components they can offer, and then adjust your watch case design accordingly.

    Importers in the United States and the European Union should also note that specific labeling requirements apply to wristwatches. Never make the assumption that your manufacturer ‘should know’ how your watch should be labeled, according to regulations in your country.

    The labeling information (e.g. Country of Origin markings) shall be part of the artwork files, and not left out as a gap for the supplier to fill.

    Heavy metals, phthalates, and other restricted substances

    Compliance with labeling requirements is relatively easy, not barely related to the manufacturers’ expertise. As long as you get the artwork files right, things rarely go wrong in this aspect.

    I wish I could say the same thing about compliance with substance regulations (e.g. REACH in the European Union, and California Proposition 65 in the United States).

    Importers in the US and EU are required to ensure compliance with all applicable product regulations. This should, at least in theory, be quite simple.

    But the reality is very different

    I know from personal experience that most Watch manufacturers are unable to provide test reports or other compliance documents, showing that their products don’t contain excessive amounts of restricted chemicals (e.g. lead, cadmium and phthalates).

    Indeed, it is possible to submit a sample to a testing company such as Asiainspection or SGS, but this is only of use if you can ensure that the very same components are used on the sample, as on the final product. Replace a material, color, or coating, and the watch may be rendered as non-compliant.

    This issue stems from a lack of control of incoming materials and components, from the manufacturers’ subcontractors. As a watch is made of a large number of components, these are not all made under the same roof, but purchased from specialized manufacturers.

    Combine this with the general lack of transparency and knowledge of substance regulations in other countries, and you got a potent – and dangerous – mix.

    Compliance is essential when selecting a supplier

    It’s therefore critical that you select a Watch manufacturer that is able to prove extensive, previous, compliance with European and American substance regulations.

    That is, however, only the first step, as previous compliance is a mere indication of capability, rather than a guarantee for future compliance.

    Buyers are therefore wise to submit batch samples for compliance testing on a regular basis, to minimize the risk of non-compliant, and thereby illegal, products from entering the market. Importing non-compliant products is illegal, and may result in a forced recall and heavy fines.

    Also note that it’s always the importer that is held responsible, not the foreign, in this case, Chinese, manufacturer.

    shenzhen baoan
    Most watch factories are based in Shenzhen, Guangdong

    Product Packaging

    Watch manufacturers subcontract the making of their product packaging to specialized packaging producers. The majority can also offer a number of standardized models, offered in fairly low quantities.

    Branding is also possible but may result in a slight MOQ and price increase.

    Making a custom designed packaging is another alternative, but requires certain packaging design expertise, as it must be based on the design and dimensions of the watch.

    Relying on the supplier to apply the final adjustment is rarely a wise choice, and may result in a large number of useless packages.

    MOQ Requirement

    The Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) Requirement is the minimum number of products a supplier is willing to sell a certain item. Watch manufacturers generally set an MOQ of around 300 to 500 pieces per model.

    The definition of a model is, to most manufacturers, the watch case. The MOQ requirement is therefore multiplied based on the number of different watch cases you intend to purchase.

    Small buyers are therefore advised to find other ways to differentiate the product, rather than buying several watch case designs, which quickly adds up to an MOQ of thousands of units.

    As touched upon previously in this guide, the MOQ requirement is greatly affected by the design customization. Certain components and design aspects have a higher impact on the MOQ requirement than others.

    Below follows an overview of various components, and to what degree they are likely to affect the MOQ set by the manufacturer:

    • Leather / Nylon straps: Low
    • Case Material: Low
    • Case Plating: Low
    • Custom Logo: Medium
    • Custom Dial: Medium
    • Custom Case: Medium
    • Custom Glass: High
    • Custom Hands (Minute / Hour): High
    • Custom Indexing (Clock face): High

    The MOQ per case plating is often as low as 100 pcs. Assuming that the total order MOQ is 500 pcs, you can then create 5 different cases in the same order.

    Watch MOQ Examples

    • Order MOQ: 500 pcs
    • Watch Case MOQ: 500 pcs
    • Watch Case Plating MOQ: 100 – 200 pcs
    • Dial MOQ: 100 – 200 pcs
    • ODM Strap MOQ: 100 – 200 pcs
    • OEM Strap MOQ: 500 pcs

    How do I know if the supplier can make my watch design?

    All watch manufacturers use the same supplier base for procuring materials and components. As mentioned, the watch manufacturer is more of an administrator, than a proper factory.

    The watch manufacturer assembles the watch parts, while another workshop makes the clock face, while another one makes the hands.

    As such, there is no proper difference between suppliers when it comes to product quality. All watch manufacturers make products based on the spec sheet.

    What you get is what you specify.

    In theory, you’d get the exact same product from two different suppliers, as long as the spec sheet is the same.

    There are no suppliers that can provide fancy movements, or space station grade alloys. They simply don’t exist.

    In reality, there are some differences though:

    1. Some suppliers focus on stainless steel watches, while others focus more on wood or zinc alloy watches. Or even plastic watches. Make sure you go to a watch factory that is specialized in your type of watch.

    2. All suppliers in this industry are relatively sloppy. However, there’s a big difference between suppliers that can keep a 1% defect rate and those that run with a 30% (or higher) defect rate.

    List of Watch Manufacturers in Shenzhen

    Shenzhen is known as an electronics manufacturing powerhouse but is also the world’s largest industrial base for watch manufacturers. A few years ago I was told there are more than 3000 companies, both watch factories, and component suppliers, in Shenzhen’s Bao’An district alone.

    Listed Companies

    • Shenzhen City Yonghao Clock And Watch
    • Shenzhen Cocean Timepiece Technology
    • Shenzhen Aiers Watch
    • Shenzhen City Yongda Clock And Watch
    • Shenzhen Kastar Timepieces
    • Window’s Clock & Watch
    • Shenzhen Zhongshi Watch

    Note that all listed suppliers require that you provide a clear product specification for your watch, complete with design files, bill of materials, and logo design.

    Product Scope

    While these companies all make watches, they are also specialized in certain types and materials. Here are a few examples:

    • Stainless steel watches
    • Zinc alloy watches
    • Plastic watches
    • Wooden watches
    • Digital watches

    Disclaimer

    We are not exclusive partners or affiliated with any of the companies listed in this guide. We have selected these companies based on their claimed product scope, history, certification, and capabilities.

    Shenzhen Yonghao Watch & Clock

    Shenzhen Yonghao Watch & Clock was founded in 2005, specializing in manufacturing watches with their own in-house design. The company also accepts OEM orders and provides product manufacturability consulting, designing, sampling, and promotion assistance services for the private labels and other buyers.

    Up to 100 employees work in the manufacturing facility of Shenzhen Yonghao Watch & Clock, which occupies an area of over 1800 square meters. Also, the company has a production capacity of about 40,000 pieces per month.

    Shenzhen Yonghao Watch & Clock offers full customization and design consultation services for every part and element of the watch to match up the market expectation of the clients. Customizable elements include the dial, crown, hand, case, dial, lugs, bezel, pusher, sundial, and hour maker.

    For example, the dial and bezel of the dress watch can be unornamented, or slightly patterned and use cold tones such as white, black, or metallic faces in order to cater to the sense of business formality or dignity of the occasion.

    Main Products

    • Bluetooth smartwatches
    • Stainless steel watches
    • Alloy watches
    • Bangle watches
    • Rubber watches
    • Ceramic watches
    • Pocket watches

    Summary

    • Certification: ISO 9001
    • Compliance: Not mentioned
    • MOQ: Not mentioned
    • Samples offered: Yes

    Location: 3/F, East Wing, Building 1, Qiyu Industrial Zone, Gongle Tiezai Road, Xixiang, Bao’An District, Shenzhen, Guangdong

    Shenzhen Cocean Timepiece Technology

    Shenzhen Cocean Timepiece Technology is a watch manufacturer located in Shenzhen, offering ODM and OEM services for private labels, retailers, wholesalers, and distributors.

    The products manufactured by Shenzhen Cocean Timepiece Technology include stainless steel watches, alloy watches, sports watches, blood pressure monitoring watches, dress watches, business watches, ceramic watches, couples watches, gift watches, and souvenir watches.

    Currently, the company has exported its watches to more than 50 countries including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, and Russia.

    Main Products

    • Diamond watches
    • Leather watches
    • Sport watches
    • Blood pressure monitoring watches
    • Ceramic watches
    • Stainless steel mesh watches

    Summary

    • Certification: ISO 9001
    • Compliance: FCC
    • MOQ: Not mentioned
    • Samples offered: Not mentioned

    Location: 2nd Floor, Building C, No. 8 Dishannan Road, Xinsheng Community, Longgang District, Shenzhen, Guangdong

    Shenzhen Aiers Watch

    Shenzhen Aiers Watch is a watch designer and manufacturer based in Shenzhen. The company offers ODM and OEM services for wrist watch importers, retailers, and wholesalers.

    Shenzhen Aiers Watch has designed more than 100 models of hybrid digital watches, quartz watches, dive watches, chronograph tourbillon watches, luminous pilot watches, dress watches, and other types of watches of different functions and for various occasions.

    These products are available in materials like stainless steel, bronze, titanium, carbon fiber, Damascus steel, sapphire, and 18K gold. The manufacturing center of Aiers Watch in Shenzhen employs up to  200 people and is equipped with more than 50 sets of CNC cutting machines and 6 sets of NC machines.

    Main Products

    • Automatic watches
    • Quartz watches
    • Hybrid digital watches
    • Chronograph tourbillon watches
    • Dive watches
    • Stainless steel watches
    • Leather watches
    • Bronze watches

    Summary

    • Certification: ISO 9001
    • Compliance: RoHS
    • MOQ: Not mentioned
    • Samples offered: Yes

    Location: D building 4 floor, Huawan Industrial Zone, Bao’An Road, Gushu, Xixiang, Bao’An, Shenzhen, Guangdong

    Shenzhen City Yongda Clock & Watch

    Shenzhen City Yongda Clock & Watch was founded in 2001, as a watch manufacturing factory providing services, mainly for small-scale watch startups and individual buyers. The company supplies hundreds of model watches, including dress watches, pocket watches, sports watches, dive watches, and more.

    The monthly capacity of Shenzhen City Yongda Clock & Watch is close to 500,000 units, with over 50 percent of them delivered to North America and Europe.

    Main Products

    • Quartz watches
    • Dive watches
    • Stainless steel watches
    • Leather watches
    • Bronze watches
    • Ceramic watches

    Summary

    • Certification: ISO 9001
    • Compliance: Not mentioned
    • MOQ: Not mentioned
    • Samples offered: Yes

    Location: B. Building, No. 4, East District Shangxue Technology City, Bantian, Longgang District, Shenzhen, Guangdong

    Shenzhen Kastar Timepieces

    Shenzhen Kastar Timepieces was established in 2011 as a professional OEM and ODM watchmaker, mainly serving supermarkets, chain store brands, and other retailers.

    Shenzhen Kastar Timepieces offers services for start-up companies who are looking for a quick way to expand the market. At the same time, the company also has its own designer team, which launches close to 40 new models per month.

    The company has expertise in producing a variety of watches with different elements and parts, such as quartz, sport, fashion, classic, stainless steel, alloy, and jewelry. Currently, the claimed production capacity of the company is close to 300,000 pcs per month.

    Main Products

    • Chronograph watches
    • Quartz watches
    • Mechanical watches
    • Bluetooth fitness watches
    • Digital compass watches
    • Children’s watches

    Summary

    • Certification: ISO 9001
    • Compliance: Not mentioned
    • MOQ: Not mentioned
    • Samples offered: Yes

    Location: 5th Floor, Building B7, 3rd Fenghuanggang Industrial Zone, Xixiang, Bao’An Industrial Area, Shenzhen, Guangdong

    Window’s Clock & Watch

    Window’s Clock & Watch was founded in the 1990s in Shenzhen City, as a leading professional OEM and ODM watch manufacturer.

    Window’s Clock & Watch owns a 2,500 square meters factory, equipped with state-of-art inspection equipment, such as the water resistance testing machines, band tensile testing machines, movement testing instruments. Currently, the production capacity of Window’s Clock & Watch is over 300,000 pieces per month.

    According to the information published on its website, over the past decade, Window’s Clock & Watch has provided contract manufacturing services for some reputable clients in the watch industry, such as Swatch, Daniel Wellington, Hello Kitty, Vero Moda, Forever 21, and Image.

    Main Products

    • Chronograph sports watches
    • Waterproof watches
    • 30M dive watches
    • Luxury crystal rhinestone watches
    • Pocket watches
    • Scratch-resistant sapphire crystal watches
    • Fabric strap watches
    • Wooden strap watches

    Summary

    • Certification: ISO 9001, BSCI
    • Compliance: RoHS
    • MOQ: Not mentioned
    • Samples offered: Yes

    Location: B4/F, Building, Xingyi Industrial Centre, Fuyong Town, Bao’An District, Shenzhen City, Guangdong

    Shenzhen Zhongshi Watch

    Shenzhen Zhongshi Watch is a factory established in 2006, specialized in producing wooden and bamboo watches, wooden sunglasses, and wooden belts.

    The company has its original brand named BEWELL, which offers more than 70 models of wooden and bamboo watches, designed and developed by the in-house professional watch designer and technician team.

    Customers can choose the overall shape, materials, colors, embellishments, and other elements of the watch according to their original design to cater to the targeted market.

    In general, most of the models are lightweight and broad-paneled with simple and natural designs, which are suitable to be worn as the style of business casual, filed, rustic, and leisurely. Customers can also choose between traditional chronograph style or electronic style.

    Main Products

    • Wooden watches
    • Bamboo watches
    • Stainless steel watches

    Summary

    • Certification: Not mentioned
    • Compliance: Not mentioned
    • MOQ: Not mentioned
    • Samples offered: Not mentioned

    Location: No.8, Weiliang Road 1, Xialu Village, Zhongtang Town, Dongguan, Guangdong

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