Hong Kong's luxury watch market continues to boom because many wealthy mainlanders come to the city to buy their favourite timepieces, a leading industry player says. Joseph Chu Kai-to, executive director of Prince Jewellery and Watch, said the industry excelled last year as 70 to 90 per cent of customers came from the mainland. The weakening of the United States dollar and strengthening of the yuan were behind the mainland buying spree, and there were buyers from other developing countries, he added. 'In the past there was an oversupply of luxury watches, resulting in cheaper prices. But the situation has now changed,' said Mr Chu. 'As more people are pursuing famous watch brands, the discount offered is much lower. The special rate for stronger brands has been fixed by the retailers to protect their 5 per cent profit margin.' He said the setting of standard prices would eradicate the underground watch market which sold second-hand and counterfeit watches. At the Basel watch fair in Switzerland last month, to which Mr Chu is a regular visitor, he saw watch prices had risen at least 30 to 40 per cent due to more expensive metal prices. Mr Chu said most luxury watch buyers were collectors interested in limited edition timepieces. 'It's just like buying a specific kind of car, they don't mind waiting and would only buy when their real favourites are available. They are proud of owning a rare watch.' Timepieces with tourbillon and chronograph functions are the most popular with male customers followed by sporty watches. The more functions and longer power reserve a watch has, the more attractive it is to these buyers. Prices for tourbillon watches range from HK$500,000 to several million dollars. But for collectors with a smaller budget, some luxury watches without diamonds can be below HK$100,000. Mr Chu said most women customers liked diamond watches and not many were interested in those with mechanical complications, although this traditional preference was gradually changing. Frank Wang, boutique manager of Elegant Watch & Jewellery, said most customers and end-users of luxury watches were wealthy and socialites. 'Many are successful businessmen or businesswomen over 40 years old. Some buy watches as gifts for friends,' he said. 'High average income means many Hong Kong people can afford luxury watches. Our high rate of luxury watch ownership enables us to maintain an important market for top-class watches. Either for self use or as investment, luxury watches bring people joy and rewards, both psychologically and financially,' he said. Mr Wang said that Hong Kong was Asia's shopping paradise and had excellent resources for developing tourist and service industries. Many prestigious luxury watch brands listed Hong Kong as their first and one of the most important links into the growing Asia market. 'Customers used to focus on the few big mainstream brands. But the communication revolution that the internet has brought about, means that customers are well informed and have started looking for brands that could better express their individuality.'