Luxury product development exclusively for the Chinese market

Rotonde de Cartier, limited edition watch exclusively available in Hong Kong

Cartier is among the latest international luxury brands to develop products exclusively for the Chinese market. Cartier has recently unveiled two new Rotonde de Cartier limited-edition watches, available only in Hong Kong. Each timepiece features a motif of the number eight—considered the most lucky in Asian cultures—in Chinese characters, and is available in Cartier boutiques across the city. The watches’ 42mm case houses a caliber 9602MC mechanical movement, and the guilloché and silvered dial, plus a crown set with a sapphire cabochon, make for truly stunning creations. The white gold version is limited to 38 pieces (US$24,700), while the pink gold version is limited to just 18 (US$23,000).

In March this year, luxury watchmaker Blancpain presented a world-exclusive version of the first wristwatch equipped with a traditional Chinese calendar. The Traditional Chinese Calendar watch by Blancpain is based on fundamental principles established for millennia and profoundly rooted in Chinese tradition. On its exceptional dial, the hours, minutes and the Gregorian calendar rub shoulders with the main indications of the Chinese calendar: traditional double-hour indication, day, month with indication of leap months, signs of the zodiac, as well as the five elements and the 10 celestial stems. The combination of the latter with the 12 animals of the zodiac that represent the terrestrial branches follows the sixty-year cycle that is central to Chinese culture.

Luxury fountain pen and accessories brand Montblanc has been developing products exclusively for the Chinese market since 2000, with several limited edition pens: 2000 Year of the Golden Dragon, 2001 Sakura Limited Edition 333, 2002 Qing Dynasty. The Montblanc Limited Edition Qing Dynasty is a tribute to the great masters of the art of jade carving in the second half of the last millennium. Their art provided both the inspiration and the challenge for Montblanc’s master craftsmen.

International luxury car-makers have also been developing limited edition cars targetted at the Chinese market: Rolls-Royce Year of the Dragon Phantom model launched early this year, commemorates 2012, the year of the Dragon;  Porsche celebrated last year, its 10th anniversary in China with a limited edition Porsche 911 Turbo S ; Jaguar launched earlier this month at the Chengdu Motor Show its XF and XJ all-wheel drive sedans adapted to the Chinese market, with upgraded entertainment systems, improved comfort and smaller turbocharged engines (Jaguar XJ four seat priced at half million dollars in China).

Luxury hotel chains are also tapping in on the potential of the Chinese market. Peninsula Hotels has recently introduced a new initiative, called the Lifestyle Academy, will be implemented in the group’s Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing properties. It will teach guests the finer points of menu selection, dinner party hosting, and table etiquette. Another program, called The Very Best of America by The Peninsula, is installed at the New York, Beverly Hills, and Chicago hotels. This enables Chinese tourists to have the quintessential American experience in comfortable environs. It is especially popular among families touring American colleges. It provides limousine rides to campuses and translators, but the interest isn’t solely academic: The Very Best of America offers guests tickets to Broadway shows and sporting events and even Chinese breakfasts. To anticipate the needs and demands of the Chinese clientele, St Regis Hotels has been implementing an exchange program, with teams from international St Regis properties travelling to St Regis properties in China, to exchange ideas with fellow hospitality professionals from China.

As early as last week, State owned BTG (Beijing Tourism Group) and Kempinski Hotels unveiled in Beijing, NUO, the first Chinese luxury hotel brand, created in China using international standards and targetting Chinese travellers. ”NUO aims to serve the lifestyle and attitudes of modern China while honoring its cultural heritage as well as supporting contemporary art and culture”, said Michael Henssler, president of Kempinski China operations. He also added: ”NUO brand stands on four pillars: Chinese heritage, luxury, contemporary feel and a “green” approach”.

Duan Qiang, Chairman of the BTG Group said with the occasion of the launch: “I’m an fan of travel and I guess I’m the only chairman who doesn’t read company’s financial report. No computer, no driving and no English as well”. Along with the anticipated opening of its flagship hotel in Beijing in 2015, NUO will also open a Shanghai property and several other landmark properties in different Chinese cities. Each Nuo hotel will feature an authentic Chinese experience – in Beijing, the hotel will feature Ming Dynasty culture and style, while in Shenyang, it will have Qing Dynasty  attributes; in Hangzhou, it will have a Southern Song Dynasty feel to reflect the city’s status as the dynasty’s capital.

To conclude whether such product development initiatives are appropriate, one Peninsula executive recently said: ”There is a fine line between being Chinese-friendly and becoming too Chinese”. This applies to all luxury sectors and to all product categories.