Adrien Choux has an extensive background in the luxury industry having previously worked for industry giants such as L’Oreal and Officine Panerai. Two years ago this dashing Parisian decided to build his own brand, hence the birth of The Chinese Timekeeper, a luxury Hong Kong based watch brand based following in the footsteps of Su Song and six dynasties spanning a thousand years of Chinese Timekeepers.
Luxurious Magazine: Adrien, thank you for taking time out to do this interview, before we talk about The Chinese Timekeeper, let’s find out a little more about you. When did your fascination with watches and all things horological begin?
Adrien Choux: I must admit my passion for watches came quite recently. It all started when I joined the remarkable Panerai brand in HK 7 years ago… From that moment on I was hooked! I had had previous experience with important brand names but shamefully it was while practicing my Mandarin bargaining prices with shopkeepers in the various fake markets around Shanghai 12 years ago…
LM: You previously worked at one of the worlds foremost luxury companies, Officine Panerai. Has your time at this company influenced what you do?
AC: It has! To start with it created a fascination for timepieces that pushed me to launch my own brand. But it also tough me a lot in terms of product development and marketing. My time at Panerai in Asia was very fruitful as I encountered many successes and met great people who have now become my friends.
LM: Looking back, do you recall the moment when you decided ‘I’m going to create my own company’? And what what were your emotions when you knew that this was actually going to happen
AC: Very precisely! It was a day in December 2008 when I was casually chatting with a dear watchmaker friend of mine. We dreamt of building a watch … A watch brand for me (the marketer) and a watch with many complications for my friend (the watchmaker). The sparkle was ignited and the idea grew inside me, slowly at first until a conversation with my Father in September 2009 making me realise that it could not be just a ‘part-time’ idea. The next morning and for the next 6 months I was up and working at 6am to ‘create’ The Chinese Timekeeper…
LM: Starting a business in ones own country is complicated, how easy has it been to do it in Hong Kong?
AC: Hong Kong is a business-friendly place. It took me 2 years (alone) to create CTK on my own (little) savings. The same would have simply been impossible in Europe! The most welcoming feature of starting a business in Hong Kong is the positive attitudes of the people around you! There is a constant ‘Yes You Can’ attitude that’s helped me push upwards & forward everyday.
LM: The Chinese Timekeeper collections are as distinctive from the side as they are from the front, talk us through some of the major elements that distinguish your watches
AC: Through my research on Chinese timekeeping I came across Su Song. He was a most brilliant mind, astronomer and engineer at the court of the 7th emperor of the Song Dynasty. He built the world most renowned water-driven clock tower incorporating an escapement mechanism… 600 years before anything similar would appear in Europe.
That was it! Su Song became my muse, my inspiration and where I found the main design features for all the CTK watches. Two points come to mind:
– The sandwich case with 4 layers reflects the shape of a Chinese pagoda (used to display the time in the clock tower)
– The buckle inspired by the armillary sphere dominating the clock tower for the Chinese emperor to understand the positioning of the stars.
The Chinese Timekeeper is unique in every aspect and is today a timepiece with an unprecedented character appealing to a large audience.
LM: How has the reception for your watch collections been received in Hong Kong and further afield?
AC: The first collection and most definitely our second collection have been very well received. The design, the character of the watches, the details or even the jade collection are all elements that have been highly appreciated. But CTK is more that just a watch – it represents the passion and know-how of one nation. This was the hardest part of our message! Yes we are proudly crafted-in-China and Yes today we are the only brand (watch that is) proudly Chinese … However this has now become slowly more and more accepted.
LM: What kind of movements are you using and how do they compare with Swiss movements?
AC: The heart beat of our timepieces is indeed Chinese and where we had to be most careful when selecting our partners. We use simple complication movements (date/small second/automatic) because their accuracy, reliability and finishing is on par with standard ETA movements. We are, admittedly, not yet ready to have high complications in our timepieces. Today we use Tianjin Watch Company and Hangzhou Watch Company movements which we personalize and test carefully. They give us great satisfaction.
LM: I do like the brand logo, was this something you had in mind from the beginning and how easy was the final choice?
AC: It was somewhere in my mind but came to life with the help of a few talented designer friends of mine… The fine-tuning took quite a while as I wanted The Chinese Timekeeper’s logo to be one of the most memorable and remarkable in the matchmaking world! Today I think it has this potential.
LM: Do you find much of a difference between Eastern and Western watch collectors tastes?
AC: There is clear difference in taste but when it comes to CTK I’m please to say that we have appealed to both Asian and Caucasian… Our customers are all quite avant-garde and willing to try new things. They follow their passion for timekeeping and are now proud to own a piece of Chinese history on their wrist…
LM: Talk us through some of the limited editions you have produced and do you have a personal favourite among these?
AC: All our pieces are limited edition (yearly) but for the year of the dragon we created an 18 piece Special Edition Dragon Watch in Yellow Gold. Stunning! It’s also one more part of the Chinese culture we are happy to promote & share with our customers. People love it…
LM: Earlier this year you announced that Hong Kong actor Derek Ting was to be the first Chinese Time Keeper Brand Ambassador, I’ll forgive the oversight in not asking me! Tell us how this came about.
AC: Do you wanna be our second brand ambassador ;-) ?
Derek was introduced to me by a mutual friend and we clicked immediately. We share a common vision : quality, artistry & talent can be found in Hong Kong or China and be appreciated by the rest of the world! He is proving this in his great movie ($upercapitalist) and I hope I’m doing the same with CTK. We are only at the beginning of our work together and I hope it will lead to some great things!
LM: Adrien, I really like the collection and the traditions you have built the collections around, I’m sure that our readers would like to know more, so how can they get in contact with you and where can the watches be purchased from?
AC: Thank you Paul! We have opened our first boutique in Hong Kong in the heart of traditional Wanchai (82 Stone Nullah Lane). We are looking into other opportunities in Macau, Dalian, Shanghai, Amsterdam and California… I’ll keep you posted! I always take a lot of time to answer each individual questions from our customers so don’t be shy and shoot me a line: [email protected]
LM: Is there anything that you would like to add?
AC: Just to highlight 2 pieces within our latest collection that your readers maybe keen to discover. We have a Jade Automatic collection which is today the only pieces with grade A Burmese jade in the watch industry and they are truly beautiful (we sold 4 pieces in one night in Amsterdam with Ace Jewellers!). We also launched a traditional Chinese ‘timekeeper’ with the Chinese double hours… Again a very unique timepieces that collectors fall in love with quite easily!
If you listen to the latest Luxurious Magazine Podcast on the front page, you can hear the extensive audio interview we did with Adrien Choux.