July 8, 2018
by Ariel Adams
A love of watches is alive and well in Hong Kong – traditionally one of the most important places in the world to buy (and sell) a watch. Hong Kong was a traditional portal to China for the West. It naturally became a hub for Asian luxury watch sales, as the port city was responsible for a great number of goods entering China. Today, Hong Kong remains a special economic zone and is one of the most vibrant consumer cities on the planet (most of my top 10 consumer cities would be in Asia including Tokyo, Bangkok, and Singapore among others). Hong Kong is a place to buy things direct from manufacturers and that is why so many people have wanted to do business here and why trading is such an essential part of the culture.
Home-grown fashion is something you don’t see too much of in Hong Kong I’m told, as the community likes to borrow heavily from other “fashionable” places around the world. I think the ultra-efficient society there simply feels it is easier and probably a lot faster to adopt high-fashion from those quaint “old world” towns that continue to produce it. Time is on everyone’s mind in Hong Kong, which further expounds why the wristwatch is such an important part of the local costume.
UNDONE is a modern watchmaker born of people in the forward industry of internet commerce as well as those who are passionately addicted to the artistic appeal of fine timepieces. UNDONE’s co-founder Michael Young made a name for himself by repairing and restoring vintage Rolex watches, later becoming one of the world’s great watch restoration specialists. UNDONE is part of his vision to bring good watch design in hip styles at affordable prices to modern, young audiences. Barry Cheung, who leads marketing, is also a determined watch aficionado who has applied his interests to this very entrepreneurial endeavor. UNDONE happens to be one of those interesting crowdfunding success stories that made it to the next level. Simply fulfilling the original order of watches from a successful crowdfunding campaign is challenging enough to topple most young brands. UNDONE has been able to become a real company despite the odds being against them.
I think UNDONE’s secret is that its leaders all grew up as watch lovers on the Rolex-paved streets of Hong Kong. That and seeing a vibrant, high-energy city culture with loads of people trying to differentiate themselves through fashion is, in my opinion, what it takes to get a satisfying product done well. UNDONE will also legitimately customize design details on their watches for pretty much any client who pays the super reasonable price. I don’t know of any other places where you can get a high-quality in-house printed, totally unique dial design made for something like $200 as an added service. Between their online configurator and what the UNDONE team is willing to do for clients (at these prices), it only makes sense that this company has become increasingly popular with watch lovers.
UNDONE is by no means the first to offer a bespoke/personalized watchmaking service (and they won’t be the last). Until recently I found that a lot of these services may have offered choice, but not a huge amount of quality or fashion appeal. More recently brands like UNDONE are combining online configurators with new, low production volume manufacturing techniques, which finally allow for small batches of products to be made at less than exorbitant costs. Small-batch manufacturing is one of the most compelling and heavily-invested areas of watchmaking’s future and it has already started with brands like UNDONE.
The downside to an UNDONE watch is the artistic commitment buyers will need to make. Of course, UNDONE offers a number of preset design options but it is challenging to resist “building your own.” Ever since Dell computers and its contemporaries offered us the ability to configure a computer online, an entire generation of people have increasingly come to expect some degree of personalization in their “tools.” Making your watch “your own” is going to increasingly become part of the buying experience in the future.
I should mention that arriving in Hong Kong to visit UNDONE was an adventure we had planned since December 2017, when we had a giveaway to send one lucky aBlogtoWatch audience member with me to Hong Kong in order to design their very own watch. The winner was Max from Germany, who in my opinion designed a very cool watch for himself allowing him to know the times in cities where his friends lived. Max was also a guest at an aBlogtoWatch audience invitation event at the UNDONE Headquarters located in Kowloon. It was a real pleasure to meet local Hong Kong aBlogtoWatch community members, see what they had on their wrists, and perspire outside on UNDONE’s nice deck on a hot and humid Hong Kong night. Thanks to everyone who came – it was great to spend the evening with you all.
UNDONE made a nice little video to recap the event which I’ve placed above. I’m sure they want me reminding you about where you can customize their watches on the UNDONE.watch website.