--BY AASHIYANA ADHIKARI
The increasing use of mobile phones has shrunk the market for watches in recent years. However, watches have always been a symbol of status and pride for wearers. Watches of well recognised global brands not only are just timepieces but are also statements of style and fashion. Nepal too is a lucrative wrist watch market as seen in the growing attraction of Nepali consumers to established brands.
A decade back, brands like Seiko, Casio and Citizen ruled the Nepali wrist watch market. “But people have now shifted towards Swiss brands,” says Pankaj Jhunjhunwala, CEO of Swiss International located in Durbar Marg. Hethinks, “People have already started opting for Swiss watches because of their reliability, accuracy and superior quality. They are ready to invest in good quality watches rather than buying cheep ones.” According to him, Nepalis have become more brand conscious with the changing times. There are plenty of world renowned brands in the Nepali Market which provide very good service as well as quality. “Brands such as Rolex, Rado and Casio have always been popular here in the high end range whereas budget buyers prefer Titan and Citizen,” says Jhunjhunwala.
The trend of watches has evolved with time and so has the taste and preferences of people. “The 80s was ruled by brands like Seiko and Citizen whereas the 90s was powered by Swiss brands like Rado and Omega. Meanwhile, after 2000s many new brands have entered into the market and it is tough to tell which one is the leader,” says Satish Shrestha, CEO of Pinki International, the authorized distributor of Seiko in Nepal.
Watches nowadays have become a statement through which people express themselves. The youths prefer watches that are bold and sporty whereas mature customers prefer quality products and choose classy and elegant watches which can go along with their formal wear as well as casual wear. “There are still some people who prefer price over quality,” mentions Jhunjhunwala.
“Businessmen usually prefer Titan over watches like Sonata and Timex,” says Rajiv Nepali, Executive Manager of Nepal Trade Network, the authorized distributor and representative of Titan Group of Watches in Nepal. “The youths usually prefer Fastrack due to affordable price range and appealing designs.”
Meanwhile, sales of smart watches and watches with smart functions such as camera, internet connectivity and health sensors have also gathered some pace in the domestic market. Though the full-scale reliability and user friendliness of such watches is yet to be established globally, Nepali buyers are buying such products which are the latest technological innovations of international tech giants such as Samsung, Apple and LG along with other regional manufacturers.
The Nepali market houses globally famed brands to local Chinese watches. “The popularity of watches is still the same as it was 10 years ago,” a local vendor who sells watches on the streets of New Road says. “But nowadays people prefer digital watches over analogue ones.”
Sellers say that the Nepali watch market after witnessing a sharp fall during last year’s earthquake and economic blockade, has been recovering gradually in the recent months.
“People have the misconception that smart phones have taken over the watch market,” says Nepali. “Watches are as popular as it was before the invention of smartphones,” he adds.
According to distributors, the Nepali watch market has three categories of customers. First are the youths who opt for design rather than. The second category is affluent Nepali buyers who prefer quality and have been wearing globally renowned brands for a long time. And thirdly, foreigners who are into both brands and designs. Seiko, Casio, Rado, Police, Titan are market favourite watches right now.
Festive seasons play a very important role in the sales of watches in Nepal. Usually Dashain, Tihar and New Yearare the main seasons when most of the watches are imported. Nepal mainly imports watches from Switzerland, India, Japan and China. Brands such as Omega, Rolex, Tag Heuer, Victorinox, Tissot, Titoni, Rado, Swiss Army and Movado are the major imports from Switzerland. Casio is one of the leading watch brands imported from Japan and has been for more than two decades. Similarly, watches from Indian manufacturers Titan and Timex are favoured in Nepal. Over the past one decade, watches from Japanese manufacturers are mostly imported from China as the world’s second largest economy has become a major production hub for Japanese brands.
Nevertheless, inconsistency in sales is holding back import orders. “Sometimes we import watches and they are unsold for 3-4 years. And sometimes we don’t have any stock left. This is mainly due to the unpredictability of the market,” says Jhunjhunwala.
Establishing the authenticity of the products has been the major challenge for authorised distributors of watches here. The same design of watch that is sold in a high end store can be found across unauthorized outlets. The authentic watch brands issue genuine warranty cards that differentiates the products from counterfeit ones. Nevertheless, sales of counterfeit watches have increased to such an extent that dealers selling such products have started to issue warranty cards as well. Therefore, selecting genuine watches from the counterfeit ones has become a major challenge to buyers as well.
The trend of parallel import is massively increasing. “Along with the authorized import of branded watches, the unauthorised imports have grown rapidly,” says Pinki International CEO Shrestha, adding, “The illegal importers bring in a massive amount of dumped watches into the country, which is directly or indirectly impacting the economy.”
“The business of original watches has declined to a certain extent due to the widespread sales of counterfeit watches,” mentions Nepali of the Nepal Trade Network. “Until and unless the government implements strict policies regarding the sales of duplicate watches, authorised distributors cannot do anything on their own.”
Distributors say that the lack of proper trademark laws in the country promotes such illegal trading. “The government should implement strict copyright laws to stop the sales of counterfeit watches,” stresses Jhunjhunwala.
“Trading of counterfeit watches is a huge challenge for us”