Cindy Yeung’s childhood sounds like something imagined by Enid Blyton or Roald Dahl. “I was essentially born and raised in a watch shop,” she says with a laugh. “When I was growing up in the 1960s, we had a three-storey building on Shanghai Street in Kowloon. On the ground floor we had the shop, the second floor was my grandfather’s office, and on the third was our kitchen, living room and bedrooms.
We didn’t really have a lot of toys then so we would play with the watch trays. My siblings and I would help carry the heavy trays to the storage, not really knowing the value of the watches they held—then we sold mainly watches—and I remember to this day how heavy they felt on my small arms.”
In 1942, after many years of selling and repairing timepieces on the streets out of a worn-out suitcase, Cindy’s grandfather, Yeung Shing, opened the family’s first watch shop in Kowloon. Over the next half century, the modest watch business grew to become Emperor Watch & Jewellery, one of Hong Kong’s most prestigious retailers.
Cindy looks back on her childhood with immense fondness. “I remember being so fascinated, watching them dashing around working very hard,” she says. “As well as my grandparents and father, all my other relatives worked there—aunties, uncles, my father’s aunties.
And it was pretty amazing as a child, seeing them shuffle about all day. I recall being incredibly impressed at the kind of teamwork they had then. That really made a lasting impression on me. Another fond memory is that my father then had an abacus—there were no such things as calculators. So at the end of the day I would watch my father and my uncles calculate their earnings on it.”
As Cindy grew up, she inevitably learned the tricks of the trade, the family business shaping her mind and stimulating her commercial and creative skills. Still, even with this background, it was a few years before she began forging her own path in the world of watches and, in particular, jewellery. “I wasn’t really very interested when I was 17 or 18,” she says. “I suppose at that age you don’t really think of such things.