大约在去年，媒体对中国奢侈品市场的大幅增长进行了连篇累牍的报道。全球几大管理咨询公司【如麦肯锡（McKinsey）、贝恩（Bain）、波士顿咨询（Boston Consulting Group）】纷纷发布了研究报告，详细分析了奢侈品销量与日俱增的现象，并对该市场各层面的未来走势进行了预测。
北京故宫（the Forbidden City）有一间专门的陈列室，在那里人们可以欣赏到许多从君主时代就流传下来的精美时钟，中国人对计时古已有之的痴迷从中可见一斑。
在中国，除了上年纪的人以外，很少有人知道在1949年以后乃至1966年文化大革命（the Cultural Revolution）开始之前，手表是人们能在北京王府井商业区亨得利钟表店等地方买到的为数不多的进口商品之一。
“If You’re Going Global, Adjust Your Watch”
There has been a lot of media coverage during the past year or so about the phenomenal growth of the luxury market in China. Several of the top global management consulting firms (McKinsey, Bain, Boston Consulting Group) have published research reports detailing the meteoric rise in luxury product sales and forecasting various aspects of this important segment’s future trajectory.
The scope of the luxury goods category can be defined in various different ways. For example, private airplanes and yachts are excluded from most of these reports, which tend to focus more on high-end fashion, accessories, watches, jewelry, writing instruments, fine wine, etc.
One category that is included in everyone’s definition of the luxury product segment in China is wristwatches. This should come as no surprise to anyone who is familiar with Chinese culture, modern or ancient.
Beautiful, elaborate timepieces dating from the imperial era can be seen in a dedicated display hall in the Forbidden City in Beijing, showing the historical fascination with timekeeping in Chinese society.
It is also a little known fact, except to older Chinese people, that watches were one of the few categories of imported Western consumer goods which remained available after 1949 even up to the beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1966, at shops like Hengdeli in Beijing’s Wangfujing shopping district.
In 1979, during the earliest days of the Open Door and Reform policy, the opening of a foreign branded watch shop (Seiko) in Wangfujing made headline news around the world as a clear sign that China was selectively re-opening its market to imported consumer goods after a 30-year hiatus.
When I first arrived in Hong Kong, my Chinese boss, who was a kind and patient mentor, gave me a watch soon after I reported for duty. I was not in the habit of wearing a watch, which he said was not acceptable for two reasons. First, I might be late for meetings. Second, no respectable Chinese executive would be caught dead without a wristwatch, and I would look foolish without one.
Friends in Hong Kong retailing told me how experienced retail sales staff in Hong Kong’s upmarket shops would pay careful attention to what brand of watch an incoming customer was wearing. This was an important clue as to their spending ability.
So it comes as no surprise that any premium watchmaker in the world today sees China as the big whale of global timepiece markets. Affluent Chinese consumers are adept at pronouncing the names of many super high-end European watch brands, at least the Chinese versions of their brand names (which are shorter and easier to remember).
As the introduction to my new blog suggests, globalization has made the world smaller, and the pace of life and work much faster. Effective global business people need to think not only in their own frame of reference, but to be able to put themselves in the shoes of people on the other side of the world.
Time zones are symbolic of great distances and human diversity. They are a very basic starting point for thinking outside of one’s local context and values.
Wearing some of the best watches available on the planet, Chinese people with global ambitions are well equipped to take one small but important step on the road to thinking outside their own time zone.
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