Benjamin Li
Feb 6, 2012

PROFILE: City Chain's Joseph Wong on the power of lasting relationships

HONG KONG - As Valentine’s Day approaches, Joseph Wong, chairman and chief executive officer of Stelux Holdings, which owns the City Chain network of luxury watch stores, says the brand’s attitude of romance and focus on celebrating lasting relationships remains the same two decades on.

Jospeh Wong, chairman of Stelux Holdings International
Jospeh Wong, chairman of Stelux Holdings International

City Chain's latest Solvil et Titus ad campaign 'Time is love', is the most recent reinforcement of this message, Wong told Campaign. Created by McCann Worldgroup Hong Kong, the campaign follows a love story between an antique shopkeeper in Shanghai and his customer.

Wong (pictured) said the complicated story demanded that the TVC cover a lot of emotions within the limited time available. But it also marks a return to the luxury watch brand by Hong Kong creatives David Tsui and Spencer Wong. The pair directed all Solvil et Titus TVCs in the 1980s, creating a number of iconic commercials that are still talked about in Hong Kong.

Joseph Wong said that 23 years later, the team is even more refined in its storytelling. "I was touched that the attitude of romance remains the same," he said.

Nowadays, he noted, people tend to look for speed and efficiency, but in terms of love, they still want a long-lasting relationship. For this reason, the brand's ad campaigns from 1988 to today maintain the same essence, though City Chain has updated its slogan from "Doesn't matter about eternal love, but only the love that was lost," to “Time is love”.

Wong said he joined the family business in 1984, rather than pursue further study. 

In the Hong Kong marketing industry at that time, many people were creating "brand awareness" rather than creating "brand character and values," he said. But City Chain wanted to do more than just create brand awareness for its Solvil et Titus watch collection.

The company did a pilot test with Mike Chu of Synergy Advertising, who came up with the concept of epic love stories, such as Gone with the Wind. "Although the '80s was quite a stable era with World War Two being far behind, a love story in war time was still a test," he said.

Initially the ad campaigns were illustrations of western models who portrayed the glamour in a decadent time, and the feedback was very good, but Wong said that the business did not feel any emotional bonding or resonance.

"I liked the touching story, but we needed to use an Asian face in the campaign," Wong said. "Without any hesitation we used Cantopop diva Anita Mui, and she became the first Asian person to be in our Solvil et Titus ad campaign in 1988."

Mui played the wife of a German officer, waiting at a train station for her husband to return from the war. Another TVC starring Chow Yun-Fat, was inspired by former Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai’s overseas study in France, where he trained as a pilot.

"Our ad campaigns received the blessing in the ad industry for which I feel very fortunate," Wong said, noting that technology-wise, watches should be extinct as they are no longer a necessity. "However, a watch has more sentimental value from family and friends, and like clothing, it also reflects your mood of the day."

Wong said his relationships with ad agencies over the past two decades have always been amicable, and he has met lots of talented creative and production talents. "The Hong Kong advertising industry is second to none in the Chinese-speaking world," he said.

Besides work, Wong said one of his hobbies is to rear nishikigoi (a type of Japanese pet fish) and he has been joining Nishikigoi competitons for over 20 years. "I am often the first runner up in these competitons, as different from other winners who are employed as professional fishermen," he said, noting that other competitors will buy the most expensive and biggest fish and grow them up in short period of time, "whilst I prefer to nurture them from when they are small".

This attitude resonates in Wong's family business career, as well as his relationship with the advertising industry in Hong Kong: They are relationships cultivated over a long period of time, rather than for short-term gain.

Campaign China

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