Manufacturing

A Journey from Pendulum to Smart Watches

Here's how modern innovations transformed the clock manufacturing industry
A Journey from Pendulum to Smart Watches
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Managing Director and CEO of Sonam Clock Ltd
7 min read
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When looking at the modern-day clock and trying to understand the way we value time, it is important to examine the root of our modern timepieces. From the olden days, royal maharajas using the pocket watches to the current next-gen using smartwatches and techno wearable devices, some Indian brands are attempting to take over international look & feel while retaining the age-old charm. Let’s look at who is keeping time in the country.

Time and tide wait for none, goes the proverb. The adage fits well for the wall clock manufacturing industry. In an era dominated by fancy gadgets such as mobile phones and computing devices that also tell time, clock makers have turned to offer customised designer products amidst dwindling sales.

With an abundance of time-telling devices available, wall clocks have been able to retain their popularity by maintaining the utility value and basic efficiency. Traditional wall clock manufacturers have been forced to tweak the products and offer the same as the designer and attractive pieces with aesthetic value in homes, offices and other premises. The move says industry sources, is also a result of a shift in consumer preferences for such products. Modified products in the form of wooden and metal-built designer wall clocks, at times encrusted with gems and jewellery, are in demand from customers. Customers consider such kind of wall clocks as adornments or décor pieces for their homes and offices and not just time telling machines.

Demand for usual design wall clocks has fallen significantly by 65per cent in the last couple of years. In order to maintain the clock business, all major players are now focusing on designer clocks even as demand for decorative wall clocks has gradually improved worldwide. The consumer perception of designer clocks is that people prefer to buy expensive looking clocks but at affordable prices. So, companies must design such decorative pieces consequently. When you look at your treasured timepiece – or perhaps its price tag – it’s easy to recognize that it must have taken quite a bit of effort to produce. Below is the process which makes your timepieces more valuable and precious.  

Concept and Design: Before a company can start producing a watch, they need to come up with an idea; a concept that can be transformed into an actual design. Today, most watch manufacturers use advanced CAD (Computer Aided Design) systems to design watches and all their components. A couple of brands use 3D printing techniques to look at patterns based on these computer designs. Others use real stainless steel for prototypes, sometimes with dummy movements or just basic calibres that fit. Do not underrate the role of research and development at this stage either. In some companies, it is all under one roof to make sure that a watch or movement design is achievable. Everything must perfectly correspond together, especially since the room for error in watch manufacturing is tiny.

Production: Once a company is certain about how a watch should look and which designs it should have, the production can begin. The production process consists of several parallel processes. The case making department or third party, for example, does not have to wait until the movement is finished or the dial receives its final colour or finish.

Movements: A good manufacturer start their journey with raw pieces of brass, stainless steel, and other alloys used for the movement. CNC (Computerized Numerical Control) machines do the initial cutting, drilling, and milling of all the parts. Once this is finished, the parts pass through a chain of small steps, to either (hand-) finish certain parts or to add gears and trains until there is a working movement. Step-by-step, the movement gets finished and assembled by watchmakers. When the movement is finished and ready to be the case, it is often checked for accuracy.

Dial and Hands: The dial and hands, or face of the watch, are very essential. This is what you will look at many times each day. These features need to be magnificent and flawless. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but perfectionism puts little room for understanding. Like (hand-) finishing movements, finishing is important for the dial and hands of a watch. 

Assembly: Before the movement is cased and the dials and hands are added to it, a lot of visual checks take place. Sometimes, pieces must go all the way back to the production process to be fixed. Hands are sometimes automatically applied to the dial, but in many cases, this is still done by hand. More visual checks take place to see whether the hands are perfectly aligned. The crown is of course also added and tested to see if all the hands move correctly and whether the winding system works. Once the movement is cased, the dial is added, and everything is fully functional. When this is complete and a watch has passed all tests, it goes into the final stage of the assembly and production process. Some watches (case backs) are (laser) engraved in this stage, while other manufacturers do this a bit earlier during case production. If so, the strap or bracelet is added, and the watch is ready.

Your Watch: So, there’s your watch on your wrist. It most likely underwent several of the steps, depending on the type of movement, material, and level of it has.

 According to Ken Research in India, the mass segment of watches contributes the highest to the market in terms of volume. On the other hand, in terms of value, each of the mass and the mid-price segments contribute about 37 per cent-38 per cent to the total wristwatch market in India. The rest is contributed by the premium segment, which constitutes around 25 per cent of the wristwatch industry in India. As the size of the population with high disposable income has increased significantly over the past years, the demand for luxury goods has substantially increased in the country. The premium segment wristwatch market in India can be further subdivided into three price categories. In value terms, the affordable luxury wristwatch segment has the highest market share of about 44 per cent in the premium wristwatch market in India. The main consumers of this segment of watches are the rising urban population with higher spending capacity. This segment is expected to more than double in FY2018 by experiencing a high growth at a CAGR of 23.3 per cent in the period FY2014-FY2018. 

If we go by the olden times, earlier the watches were only needed to track time, but with the growing demand, today consumers want more than just a normal watch. Technology is playing a bigger role in the watch industry. Traditionally, the smartwatches were a fad with fitness enthusiasts and athletes who focused on keeping a track of their health and workouts. Gradually, the acceptance among the Indian audience has stepped up with a category of consumers who demand more than just functionality. Catering to this category means infusing a sense of desirability into the products. The aim is to offer a product that is complete and makes a strong statement when worn. Acceptability of these can be further pushed with advancements in product features. The consumer demands the usability of a fitness tracker to go beyond his gym or yoga class. The need of the hour is to offer appealing timepieces that become an ingrained piece of one’s lifestyle.

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