“调好手表,走向世界” / “If You’re Going Global, Adjust Your Watch”

“调好手表,走向世界”

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。

奢侈品的范畴定义方法各有不同。例如,上述大多数报告都没有包括私人飞机和游艇在内,重点多放在高级时装、佩饰、手表、珠宝、书写工具和名酒等产品上。

但在中国,有一类产品却是大家公认的奢侈品,那就是手表。凡是了解中国文化的人,无论是古代文化还是现代文化,对此都不会感到意外。

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。

1979年改革开放之初,一家外国品牌【精工(Seiko)】钟表店在王府井开张营业的消息登上了世界各国媒体的头条,释放出中国在停摆30年之后开始有选择地恢复进口商品市场的信号。

我初到香港的时候,我的中国老板宅心仁厚,循循善诱,我上班没多久就送给我一块手表。那时我还没有戴表的习惯,但他说这可不行,原因有两个。第一,不戴手表开会可能会迟到。第二,有身份的中国人宁死也不能不戴手表,假如我不戴的话就会贻笑大方。

香港零售业的朋友告诉我,经验老到的香港精品店售货员会特别留意每位进店客人佩戴的手表品牌,以此作为判断他们消费能力的关键线索。

所以,如今世界高档手表制造商无不将中国视作全球手表市场的大鱼,也就不足为奇了。现在,富裕的中国消费者已经对很多欧洲高端名表品牌,至少是它们(短而易记)的中文品牌耳熟能详。

正如我在新博客的开篇介绍中所述,全球化让世界变得更小,也让生活和工作的节奏变得更快。讲求效率的全球商务人士不仅要按自己的模式思考问题,还要设身处地替生活在世界另一端的人们着想。

时区象征着遥远的距离和不同的人种,也是人们跳出本土环境和价值观去思考问题的根本出发点。

手上戴着这个星球上的某款名表,怀揣全球理想的中国人已经做好准备,在冲出时区的征途上迈出了微小但却重要的一步。

“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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