Alhambra Watch (平安表行)

York Lo: Alhambra Watch (平安表行)

Alhambra Watch Image 1 York Lo

Left: Chiu Chun-fai (left) and Luk Ying-tai at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Shanghai Street store of Alhambra Watch in 1958 (WKYP, 1958-8-17); Right: Omtis’ congratulatory ad to Alhambra Watch on the opening of its Tai Po Road store in 1963 (WKYP, 1963-4-28)

Operated by Chiu Chun-fai (招振輝) and his family, Alhambra Watch is one of the oldest watch retailers in Kowloon. While the Chinese name of the firm means peace (and the firm likely derived its name from Alhambra Theatre as they shared both English and Chinese names), the retailer has been touched by many robberies over the years.

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Scene from the opening of Alhambra Watch at 192 Tai Po Road in 1963. Left to right: Chiu Chun-fai, Mrs. Chiu, Fung Wong Nui, Yee Kwong. (WKYP, 1963-4-28)

The original store of Alhambra Watch was located at 324 Nathan Road. When the Nathan Road location was being torn down for re-development in 1958, Alhambra moved to 147 Shanghai Street in Yaumatei and the opening ceremony was attended by famous figures in the HK watch industry at the time including Federation of Watch Merchants chairman Luk Ying-tai (陸應泰), Lun Tin-lok (倫天樂) of Edward Keller & Co and Chong Ching-um of Chung Nam (father in law of Li Ka-shing). The new store featured electronic watch testing equipment to test the accuracy of watches. (WKYP, 1958-8-16) In December 1960, the Shanghai Street location was renovated and the actress Lam Tsui was guest of honor at the re-opening. (WKYP, 1960-12-22)

In 1963, Alhambra Watch opened its main store on the ground floor of Penta House (五聯大廈, Chiu Chun-fai served as chairman of the owners association of the building as a result) at 192 Tai Po Road in Sham Shui Po. The actresses Fung Wong Nui and Yee Kwong were present at the opening ceremony.

In June 1965, a 21 years old thief by the name of Chan Kwok-keung stole a $310 watch from the Shanghai Street branch but was chased down by a staff across several streets and sentenced to three months imprisonment. (WKYP, 1965-7-1)

In July 1979, a thief pretended to be a customer and asked to look at a watch at the Tai Po Road store. While the staff was not looking, the thief grabbed three expensive watches worth over HK$15000 from the tray and ran off with his accomplice waiting on a runaway bicycle outside. (WKYP, 1979-7-21)

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Article about the robbery of Alhambra’s Tai Po Road store in 1983 (TKP, 1983-2-1)

1980 was a particularly bad year for Alhambra as it encountered four cases of robberies. In April, burglars visited the 147 Shanghai Street branch while staff were busy serving customers and took four luxury watches worth over HK$64000 with them. (WKYP, 1980-4-5) In June, three robbers in their 20s stormed into the Tai Po Road store with a gun and axes while Chiu’s wife and son were present and took over 100 watches worth over $300,000 and fired two shots before they left (WKYP, 1980-6-27) In November 1980, a 18 year old thief took a $9000 watch at the 750 Nathan Road branch but was caught by the police a few blocks away (WKYP, 1980-11-3). In December 1980, four robbers robbed 64 watches worth over $380,000 from the Nathan Road branch with a home-made bomb and axes and one of the six staff was injured. (WKYP, 1980-12-31)

In January 1983, four robbers robbed the Tai Po road store of 60 watches and police fired three shots, two of which hit the robbers’ getaway van but the burglars still managed to get away.

In November 1987, two masked robbers with guns stormed into the Alhambra branch on Nathan Road (by then known as Pioneer Centre) and took 39 Baume & Mercier watches and 35 Rolex watches worth a total of $1.5 million.  (WKYP, 1987-11-21)

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Left: Chiu Chun-fai (second from right) receiving a gift from Chow Kwan-lim of Chow Sang Sang (second from left) and other members of the Sham Shui Po Pier district committee celebrating his receipt ofMedal of Honor from the Queen in 1981 (WKYP, 1981-1-17); Right: Chiu Ying-cheung

A native of Foshn, Chiu was the son in law of famous Chinese doctor Lee Kwong-hoi (李广海, 1894-1972). Outside of the watch business, he was active in community affairs, having served on various committees in Sham Shui Po for which he was awarded a medal of honor from the Queen in 1981. He co-founded the HK Chiu Clan Association and helped to acquire its premise in 1983.

Chiu Chun-fai was succeeded at Alhambra by his son Chiu Ying-cheung (招應璋). He has served as chairman of the HK Chiu Clan Association and in 2009 established a fund in the name of his father which has supported many charitable his native causes in Foshan and HK.

Sources (other than those cited above):

This article was first posted on 28th September 2020.

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  3. Shui Hwa Watch (瑞華表行)
  4. K.K. Lam (林君傑) – the Rise and Fall of a Watch Band Merchant turned Speculator 
  5. William S.T. Lee & Co (曉莊貿易) – the firm which brought Montblanc pens, Rodenstock glasses, Seiko watches, Ricoh cameras and Kenwood stereos to HK
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One comment

  • Freddy Chiu

    Hello York,

    I’m so impressed and would like to say a thank you on behalf of my family.

    Freddy Chiu
    Son of Frederick
    Grandson of Frank Chiu Chun Fai

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