Technically an Apple Watch Strap is not a particularly complicated product: it consists of a band part – in our case usually made of leather – as well as a clasp and an adapter.
The clasp and leather strap are components that already look back on more than 200 years of history. Because we at BandWerk work with a complex and traditional process, we are convinced that we have already achieved perfection for these components. A claim that we always want to fulfill.
The Third Component
The third component, the Apple Watch Adapter, was developed and launched just three years ago. Therefore, as a very young technology, it is constantly maturing and being optimized.
Of course, we also strive for perfection for this component:
Firstly, the perfect adapter must be mechanically locked, if possible without gaps in the case of the Watch, secondly it should match the color and finish of the Apple Watch and, thirdly, it should guarantee perfect grip when worn.
So far we have cooperated with many different suppliers in order to get as close to our perfection as possible. But it was never enough for us: sometimes the adapters were visually perfect, but mechanically they had a bit too much play in the case. Other adapters were visually and mechanically fine, but we found corrosion on the adapter material in our tests . A disqualifier.
Lost in Translation
Often it was communication problems with suppliers that prevented further optimization of the products. The center for goods of this kind is Shenzhen in China. The special economic zone in the southeast of the People’s Republic borders Hong Kong directly and is one of the country’s most important industrial centers.
In order to clarify: Yes, our adapter components are from China. Of course, 100% of the production of the core element of our products – the leather strap itself – takes place in Germany.
Because we were now at a point where we realized that we could not improve the adapter quality by e-mail and on the phone, we (my colleague Jonas and myself – Vincent) decided to travel personally to China to take the matter in our own hands. A three-week trip – mid-May to early June – was planned.
Our Stay in China
Starting point and base camp of our trip was Hong Kong. Just a few kilometers south of Shenzhen, the metropolis and Special Administrative Region has the advantage for European tourists and business travelers that visas are not required for entry. As we later discovered (or had to), the two cities of Shenzhen and Hong Kong are very different culturally and especially with respect to their traditional cuisine.
A visa for the Guangzhou region is obtained directly on the border between Hong Kong and Mainland China, for five days at a time.
As we wanted to spend the weekends in Hong Kong anyways, this was a perfect solution. Since neither of us are Chinese-speaking and English is rarely spoken in China, we had to rely completely on our interpreter, Gloria. Also culturally Gloria had to bring us closer to some things with which we still had our issues.
No matter where you would like to eat something in Shenzhen, you will always find your dishes wrapped in plastic packaging. Maybe not very environmentally friendly, but at least the plates are clean – you should think: before eating, all the plates and cups are washed again – with tea!
We got a bit clumsy cleaning the dishes and spilled half of the tea on the restaurant table, but fortunately we got away with it.
Our Quality Standards
Back to the quest for the perfect adapter: We got the first important insight on the first day in Shenzhen: The search would take some time. The distances between the factories are long and the whole region in Guangzhou is a never-ending big city plastered with skyscrapers.
Usually, we were able to visit about two or three factories on a 12-hour day.
The second insight that we were able to get was more decisive: The adapter production can be divided into two quality categories: In one variant, metal parts are stamped from a stainless steel plate and then pressed into shape, rolled and drilled.
The other method uses a CNC machine to precisely mill the adapter from a solid block of stainless steel. The latter method is much more expensive, but promises a much better fit.
So we had already decided on a production method. Yet the problem with colors and finishes remained. Ultimately, the adapter should fit not only mechanically but also optically to the case of the respective watch.
Chinese Working Morale
After we had found a supplier who was able to produce mechanically perfectly fitting adapters using the CNC process, the problem with looks remained in the room. Equipped with every variant of the Apple Watch, we worked with experts to perfect the finish and color of the adapters.
At this point, I would like to eulogize the Chinese work ethic: If we left the factory at 9 o’clock in the evening, we were often able to examine the color-optimized product samples the next day at 8 o’clock in the morning. A few days later we reached what we had been working on for the past two years from Munich: We had found the perfect adapter.
Besides the unique diligence, it was also the Chinese hospitality that impressed us. Hardly a factory visit where we would not have been invited for lunch or dinner. Although we were always asked if we would like to go to a restaurant for western food, we refused by courtesy and were often surprised with specialties, to which our European palate had to get used first.
German Palate meets chinese cuisine
Chinese meals are heavily based on meat and often a bit tougher than we are used to in Europe. Apparently, it is also a sign of quality, if you can see very well which part of the animal you are eating. A pig’s leg, for example, or whole fish, including the head and fins.
Then there is my personal favorite: A chicken that is initially prepared in its individual parts, but is then completely reassembled and looks as if it went west right on the serving plate.
Unfortunately, I can not remember the term for the dish, I call it “Frankenstein’s chicken”
European food in China is less recommended. We once tried something that looked like a pizza, but had more in common with a Cheesecake taste-wise – a cheesecake with ham and mushrooms.
Of course, we made the obligatory visit to sing karaoke. Jonas and I tried classics like Wonderwall and Hotel California. Our hosts knew how to flatter us with roaring applause, despite our rather so-so performance at the microphone.
To conclude, during our stay in China, we were able to achieve exactly what we had originally planned: to find the ideal adapter that meets our requirements while building long-term business relationships in order to be prepared for the future.
Detailed pictures of some of the new adapters can be found below: