BJA makes moves to become voice of UK watch biz

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Seiko signs up as British Jewellers’ Association moves into watches.

The British Jewellers’ Association (BJA) is making inroads into the UK watch industry by opening its membership to watch companies and has already signed up Seiko UK.

The BJA has historically mainly dealt with jewellery companies but new chief executive Simon Rainer is leading a widening of the association’s scope by inviting members of the British watch community to join. Rainer, who took over leadership of the BJA this summer, has a past history working in the watch industry for companies such as ICW, Burton McCall and Bulova.

“By default we’ve had companies that are involved in watches but what I’m aiming to do is create distinct trade categories for watches and clocks,” Rainer exclusively told Professional Jeweller.

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Rainer said that while there are a number of official bodies in the UK that look after the technical aspects of the watch trade, the BJA is seeking to work with watch retailers and watch distributors. He said that the BJA will aim to strengthen the UK watch industry by helping its watch members to run more efficiently by offering advice and assistance and campaigning on its behalf over legislative issues.

There are key areas that the BJA is focusing on: advising on auditing frequency and costs; costs and legislation associated with product certification; advice and help with product packaging; providing access to expert advice on restriction of hazardous substances (RoHS) and registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals (REACH) standards; keeping members abreast of changes and conditions of manufacturing in the Far East.

The BJA sits on the British Standards Institute’s (BSI) Jewellery and Horology committee and Rainer claims that this will give it a voice to influence decisions and put its members’ points of view to the institute. “All new European regulations come through BSI and then we as a group agree or disagree to modifications,” he said.

Rainer cited regulations for disposing of watch batteries as dictated by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) regulations as an example of an area of legislation that the BJA could help watch companies to deal with.

He added: “We have a presence on a number of EU legislative bodies and can perhaps ensure that when new legislation comes along, sense and sensibility is to the fore. There is a whole host of things we can get involved in but collectively we can work on [the UK watch industry’s] behalf. Companies can’t sit on regulatory bodies, they can’t get the access that we can.”

Funding for UK watch companies to attend international trade shows is another members’ benefit that Rainer is developing. The BJA has already negotiated with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to secure a small number of grants to help with funding for Baselworld 2011.

The BJA is part of the British Jewellery and Gift Federation, which Rainer described as having “a strong export section and links with the government” and he said the organisation can use this partnership to offer members export opportunities.

He added: “[The BJGF] gets funding and providing companies meet criteria they get funds towards a stand. Before they go out [to an international show] we would make sure that the product is right for the market.”

The BJA already runs an export division, called London Jewellery Exports, which supports London-based designers, and gives them financial aid to exhibit at international shows such as Kara in France and Inhorgenta in Germany. Whereas these expeditions have been a collective stand showing wares from a arrange of designers, Rainer said that the BJGF funding would provide costs towards a standalone stand for watch companies rather showing stock on a BJA stand.

Seiko has already signed up to become a member of the BJA, a major coup for the organisation. Seiko UK sales and marketing director David Harnby said: “For Seiko UK, it is the reassurances that the BJA can provide help and guidance on a wide range of industry-related issues. Their presence on a number of EU legislative bodies should help the watch and jewellery industry to have a clearer understanding of the implications of proposed legislation in advance of becoming law. It is good to know there is a body which can present a voice of authority on industry topics which ensures that relevant compliances are better understood.”
 

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