This is second part of my haphazard look at Chinese watches, no real structure to the series just ideas that come up as I peruse their offerings, learning as I go. The first part was a quick intro to Chinese watches and included potential watches I might be getting. Though as you might have seen that didn't quite go to plan with the Sugess Tourbillion Master, sending me through a whirlwind of emotions, as Leonard Cohen said, never mind.
In jumping head first down the Chinese rabbit hole, I discovered a whole lot more about the companies and watches on offer, and mixed feelings I have that are in line with much of the watch community I think. I also got hooked and reeled in for the purchase on a micro-rotor Chinese watch by Lobinni, hmm interesting, more on that when/if it arrives and if it works...but yea, have a look at that, you may have seen the movement in the micro-brand offerings Baltic MR01 and Solas Starlight - holy shit is right - there's a steel and white dial which is the one I went for.
Before we go any further I have a watch-snob confession, but it comes from a good place. I really have issues with the names of these Chinese brands/companies. To be fair the reason behind this is because I want them to be accepted (+ acceptable for me to wear) and I guess more 'cool'. I think the names are often off-putting and if they were a little more considered, would be more easily accepted. Sugess has grown on me, but Lobinni is terrible considering what they offer (that one watch anyway). Sea-Gull is odd, but I guess it works for divers watches, kind of, as does Seakors. It's a case of different cultures and motivations too, they could mean something in Chinese languages, or they aren't too bothered about brand identity on a global scale, as they likely do well enough. A few of those names seen on Aliexpress and Amazon;
Cadisen / Lobinni / Didun / Pladen / FNGEEN / Forsining / Reef Tiger / Binger / Tevise / Agelocer / Hazeal / Giv / Paulares / Onola / Pagnres / Biden.
These are seemingly just something to put on the dial, and I think I'm looking at it from the wrong angle. I have to accept what these watches are and the differing dynamics of the Chinese market. So, it's not about the names, though I would like some that are a bit cooler, what I'm really after are brands that have a story, a mission, an actual identity. And in the immensity of Aliexpress and the Chinese market, those hard to spot, but they are out there - the dilution is evident and obvious when you think about it. Binger though, that works for me, I definitely am one.
But maybe I care more than they do, maybe these brands, other than Sea-Gull, Seakors, and Sugess aren't supposed to be anything other than what they are, nameless, soulless clones. And so I need to look elsewhere and I did, coming across a few interesting brands, namely, Atelier Wen, Maison Celadon, Beijing Watch Co., Golgen and FIYTA. Surely there are more out there but these caught my attention, snippets of each below.
First, for the best name for a watch in the world, if it had the 'y' on the end I would have bought one, though maybe it's better as it is, click here.
A brand born of French and Chinese influence - a nice combo - the founding team have a history in the industry and produce a limited but very classy range of watches. They have been featured in a number of mags over the last couple of year, a line from their site, "Atelier Wen was born out of a passion for horology and deep understanding of China’s pivotal role in today's global watchmaking industry." They had limited runs and are entirely sold out at the moment with an email waiting list, they are well priced so it's not surprising, at £500 - £1000 / EUR600-1200 / USD650-1400.
'Made in China with Pride' - that says it all really doesn't it. Founded in 2012, by a Singaporean native with Chinese ancestry, this brands signature is high quality visually stunning dials in striking colours often with Guilloche patterns. They show a serious attention to detail in design and in a mission to put Chinese watchmaking on the map. A slightly higher price point, around £1500 / EUR1800 / USD2100.
One of the first and most prestigious watchmakers in China, founded in 1958 and still going strong. They are also known as BWAF (Beijing Watch Factory), their movements are well regarded and used by other brands. They make a wide range of watches at different price points including the below Bladelegant flying tourbillion.
These watches were seemingly born in 2015 from the collaboration with the first manned deep-sea Pacific Ocean dive to 5,057 meters, a project from 2011. I couldn't find much on them at all which is a shame, they might even be discontinued. But the few watches I did find were pretty decent looking with some interesting design and technical notes. For instance, the pictured 6111 has an internally rotating bezel, 200m water resistance, and a helium escape valve, seriously! Definite JLC Polaris vibes going on here but they have added their own style and detail which is pretty damn nice, a well balanced and considered timepiece. I'll be getting the 200m one I think, now how to test that valve...
Pronounced FEE-YA-TA, and founded in Shenzhen in December 1987, they have become a popular brand in China and I believe are affiliated with the Chinese space program, it's the moonwatch thing. There are some decent watches at various price ranges, a proper identity, and a few unique designs like the 3D seen here, with its regular dial and then side mounted single point/hand dial.
Link in footer for more information on some these brands.
What's next for my Chinese watch journey
I previously said I was going to grab the Sugess Chrono Panda, but I think I'm going to go old school and opt for the 1963. It's unlike anything I have already (looks wise) and it's 'the' iconic Chinese watch. It's well respected, and there's not much to dislike really. As mentioned the, ahem, Lobinni is hopefully on the way, I have a cheap Swiss watch on the way too to keep me from straying too far from Le Locle and the wonders of the Jura Valley.
The End, or the Beginning.
I hope it's the beginning of some interesting discoveries for you, and that you are as enthusiastic about these watches as I am. The idea of quality Chinese watches is old hat now, but like I said the vast number of Chinese watches out there can make it difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff, I hope this helps and thanks to those articles that helped me out too, links below. I guess it is risky but with research you can mitigate certain risks. I guess I'm 1-1 at the moment, 1 point for Chinese watch stereotype, with the Tourbillion fail and 1 point against the stereotype with the Moonphase win.
There are obviously Chinese artisans, engineers and crafters of the highest horological standards out there, and while those will be a step removed (just as the Independents are anywhere), having the knowledge that they exist gives a boost to the watch scenes of their particular countries. In between them and the Bingers there are those as mentioned above, and more, all waiting to be discovered. Maybe I'll cover independent watch makers in the next part. The more I look into it the more interesting the Chinese watch scene becomes, and hence the global watch scene becomes more wondrous. The irrational nonsensical journey continues...
East Watch Review - a great source for Chinese watch info and ongoings.
GOLGEN - Aliexpress