THE increase in the price of Hongkong watches in China, being fuelled by the yuan devaluation, has given watches from other sources a momentary advantage. ''The price increases have shifted mainlanders' consumption towards upmarket brands from abroad,'' said Hongkong Watch Manufacturers Association vice-president Eddie Leung Wai-ho. However, Mr Leung predicted that mainland consumers soon would grow accustomed to the new prices of Hongkong watches, which are still the biggest sellers in the country. He urged Hongkong watch makers in China to increase the quality of their products, establishing acclaimed brand names. This would help in bargaining for rights to domestic sales, he said. Mr Leung said: ''Many Hongkong watch makers want to develop China's retail market. ''But as this is normally not allowed, a lot do it through backdoor means, striking a joint venture with existing retailers.'' About 60 per cent of Hongkong watch manufacturers in China are in Shenzhen, and mainly involved in joint ventures. Prices of Hongkong watches average between 200 to 300 yuan, he noted. About 70 per cent of watches sold in China and priced at more than 200 yuan are made in Shenzhen, Mr Leung said. Quartz watches are taking over in popularity from mechanical pieces, he said, noting that 70 per cent of the population in larger cities wear the quartz variety. Mr Leung said Hongkong watch makers, who had created many new brands in China, had made significant contributions to Shenzhen's fast-growing industry. Shenzhen Watchmakers Association chief secretary Zhu Shunhua predicted that China's entry into the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) would not hurt sales of Hongkong or Chinese watches. ''After China has become a GATT member, many foreign brands will sell in the country. However, given China's fast economic growth, the consumption market will also expand to absorb more products,'' said Mr Zhu. ''Also, incoming foreign brands will also need some time to get their products accepted by Chinese,'' he added. The problem of copying was still serious although authorities handled complaints immediately and seriously, Mr Zhu said. Mr Leung and Mr Zhu said watch makers from Hongkong and China could improve their product quality and production technique through participation in international exhibitions and seminars. The fourth Shenzhen International Watch, Clock and Jewellery Exposition will be held May 19 to 23 at the Shenzhen International Exhibition Centre. It will display the latest styles and designs of watches and clocks from Hongkong, China, Taiwan and other countries.