About Chinese Watches

China has a long history of creativity and innovation.  Some of their inventions that contributed to the world’s economy were gunpowder, paper making, printing and the compass.  These early inventions were a significant contribution to the world’s economy.  China is also one of the world’s oldest civilizations, and has a rich classical arts history.  China is well known for painting, architecture, sculpture, and poetry. 

Today, China is growing to become a global economic superpower.  The world is becoming increasingly aware of some outstanding examples of Chinese engineering achievements that demonstrate extraordinary skill and expertise.  Industrial accomplishments such as their high-speed rail links, electric power generation and transmission systems, water distribution and management and their infrastructure projects are now becoming that of legend.

In addition, in 2013 China became only the third country to achieve a soft landing on the moon after Russia and the United States.  Their space program plans include a permanent space station in 2020 and expeditions to the moon and mars. 

However, while China is well known for their proficiency at producing large quantities of low-priced, entry-level watches and watch components, few are aware that China also has advanced ‘micro’ engineering expertise and capabilities in the area of horology, producing a range of high-quality, mid-class and high-end timepieces.

Despite the common misconception that all Chinese watches fall into the one, low-tier category, the reality is there is an extremely wide range of watch grades produced in China.  Watches made in China range from ultra-low-tier eBay watches selling at a few dollars to ‘extraordinarily intricate’ and ‘exquisite’ high-end timepieces made with precious metals and extremely complicated movements that sell for many tens of thousands of dollars.

Sea-Gull watchmaker circa 1950sFig1. Sea-Gull watchmaker circa 1950s

Built on nearly sixty years of watch manufacturing heritage and tradition, a small but elite group of fine watchmaking companies from mainland China, such as Sea-Gull, Fiyta and Beijing Watch Factory, are quietly producing a range of high-quality, world class timepieces.  While not widely known outside their home markets, this select group of companies are increasingly becoming acknowledged around the globe for their quality, craftsmanship and horological expertise, positioning them alongside other world class manufacturers from Switzerland, Germany, Japan and the United States.

Many of these companies have collections that include complex and sophisticated mechanical watch ’complications’ such as tourbillons, minute repeaters, split-second chronographs and perpetual calendars, demonstrating exceptional, fine watchmaking capability and master craftsmanship.  China is one of only a small group of countries to master the production of some of these complications.

First Chinese Watch 1955 Tianjin (Sea-Gull) Watch FactoryFig2. First Chinese Watch - 1955 Tianjin (Sea-Gull) Watch Factory

Napoleon Bonaparte’s famous quote “China is a sleeping giant. Let her sleep, for when she wakes she will move the world” is now becoming reality.  The Chinese horology industry is no exception.  The Chinese are designing and producing some of the most sophisticated time pieces in the world.

A perfect example of Chinese watchmaking ingenuity is the advent of the Chinese tourbillon.  First developed around 1795 by the famous French-Swiss watchmaker Abraham-Louis Breguet, the tourbillon has long been the exclusive domain of the ultra-high-end Swiss watchmakers.  The tourbillion is a highly complex addition to a mechanical watch that was originally designed to compensate for the differences in rate observed when a watch is held in different positions.  The modern day tourbillon now stands as the ultimate expression of ‘haut de gamme’ watchmaking.

However, master watchmakers from several elite Chinese manufacturers have now developed their own interpretations of this little micro-mechanical marvel.   Variations such as the flying tourbillon, carrousel tourbillon, double tourbillon, dual-axis tourbillon and the orbital tourbillon are now being produced by several leading Chinese manufacturers.

These, along with other high-end complications such as the minute repeater and perpetual calendar, now form part of the exquisite repertoires of their fine watch collections.  The top-tier Chinese watchmakers are also well known and regarded for their timepieces with ornamental enamel dials and their use of precious metals in many of their high-end models.

These manufacturers also produce a range of outstanding timepieces using materials such as 18-karat gold, rose gold, titanium, ceramic, DLC (diamond-like coating), precious stones and other luxurious materials.

Chinese ink and wash painting artFig3. Chinese ink and wash painting art - Beijing Watch Factory

While no one disputes the distinguished, leading position held by the top end Swiss and German watchmakers, this group of Chinese manufactures are becoming renowned for their craftsmanship, knowledge and expertise.  Rather, these eminent Chinese watchmakers tend to see the prestigious Swiss and German manufacturers as a source of inspiration.  The Chinese look to their Swiss and German counterparts for aspiration in their own pursuit for quality and excellence.

The top echelon of Chinese watch brands and manufacturers from mainland China now produce a range of high quality timepieces, from their fine, high-end collections through to a wide variety of affordable mid-class timepieces.

They also continue to product a range of stunning timepieces with unique and distinctly Chinese characteristics including their exquisite enamel dial watches and timepieces exhibiting distinctive Chinese symbolism and caricature.

Chinese watch with dragon elementFig4. Chinese watch with dragon element - Beijing Watch Factory

Watch movements and other advanced technologies powering the fine, high-end timepieces of the elite Chinese manufacturers presented on this website include:

Beijing Watch Factory

  • TB01-2 - flying carrousel tourbillon
  • TB02 - double carrousel-tourbillon with an exclusive differential mechanism
  • TB03 – tourbillon with eight-day power-reserve
  • TB04 - dual-axis orbital tourbillon
  • MRB1 - tourbillon with minute-repeater
  • B24 – (2008) a world-first double power wheel and escapement movement, offering power reserve over 100h. (Ru gamma watch)
  • Tai Ji – (2009) double-axis stereoscopic tourbillon
  • Wu Ji – (2013) double-axis stereoscopic bi-tourbillon

FIYTA

  • FIYTA designed tourbillon movement
  • 60th founding anniversary of People's Republic of China tourbillon
  • Known for their use of advanced technologies such as the patent material ATiC (Advanced Titanium Carbide) – a light, scratch-proof and corrosion resistant material that is harder than normal steel or titanium
  • Known for their famous Aeronautics “Space” watches and Extreme Collection “Dakar Rally” watches

Sea-Gull

  • ST2590 - perpetual calendar
  • ST80 - Blancpain-style flying caroussel-tourbillon.
  • ST8080 – double tourbillon, one caroussel and one common axis
  • ST8080-2 – double eccentric tourbillon
  • ST82 - common axis tourbillon
  • ST8320 – coaxial tourbillon
  • ST84 – common axis tourbillon, narrow movement suitable for women's watches
  • ST85 - multi-axis tourbillon
  • ST90 - quarter-repeater
  • ST91 - minute-repeater
  • ST9150 - minute repeater with perpetual calendar
  • ST9250 - minute repeater with tourbillon and perpetual calendar

 

This elite group of Chinese watchmakers are also regular exhibitors at the prestigious Baselworld international watch fair held each year in Switzerland.

Sea-Gull ST9250GFig5. Sea-Gull ST9250G Minute Repeater Perpetual Calendar Tourbillon Watch

 

Sea-Gull ST8080GKFig6. Sea-Gull ST8080GK Double Tourbillon Skeleton Rose Gold Watch

 

Please wait...