Most of the companies in China that make watches are trying to become the next big thing and get the attention of the world by building watches with amazing features, elaborate complications or loads of jewels and diamonds.
That is one possible approach. Many companies believe that if you want to get the attention of a market that has been collecting wristwatches for more than one hundred years, you need to think big. That is why so many Chinese watch companies offer at least one watch with a tourbillon. They want to attract attention and, of course, be able to justify asking higher prices for their watches.
You do not, however, have to build something bigger and better to get the attention of the marketplace. Yes, you do have to build a good watch, and if it is fairly priced in the marketplace, that is even better. What you can also do, though, is to build a watch that is simply different from everything else that is out there for sale.
If your product is different enough from everything else, people will notice it, even if it doesn’t have a tourbillon or a minute repeater or 88 diamonds around the bezel.
That is the approach that Temporis watches, based in Hong Kong, is taking. Right on their Website, it says, “Temporis watches are designed for stylish youngsters.”
Right there, they tell you. They are looking for the youth market, and they are looking for buyers who are interested in style, or, to put it differently, they are interested in buyers who are interested in how a watch looks.
Yes, they need to make a watch that works and works well, and Temporis watches do that. Their watches are available in both quartz and mechanical models and from what I can tell, all of the movements used in Temporis watches are Japanese in origin, rather than Chinese.
There are some good Chinese movements, but if you are buying from a Japanese company, such as Miyota, you know that you are getting a time-tested movement that will be accurate and reliable.
After that, you can go on and work on the design, which is where Temporis watches shine. At the moment, they offer five different collections:
- Armour Collection – influenced by a heroic armour of the mysterious universe.
- Sentiment Collection – A love-based collection of colorful watches with an open heart on the face that shows the escapement.
- Nature Collection – A collection of watches based on the notion of simplicity.
- Military Collection – Rugged chronographs with tough, all-business looks
- Musical Note Collection – Fun, whimsical watches with a music theme and Swarovski crystals
Temporis watches are fun and colorful, but also well made. They have leather bands in a variety of colors, and stainless steel cases. They have mineral crystal protecting the face and models for men and women. Best of all is the price – these watches all seem to be priced at less than $200, and some models are even available for under $100.
No, Temporis watches are not going to attract people who might otherwise want to buy a Piaget or a Tissot. But they very likely will attract people who otherwise might not buy a watch at all.
That is a good thing.
There are hundreds of companies in China that manufacture watches; they are not particularly rare. What is unusual, however, are Chinese watches that are distinctive.
This is not to criticize the Chinese watch industry, however. The industry is relatively new and the Chinese have not been making watches for nearly as long as the Japanese, the Americans, or the Swiss. Because of this, one should not be surprised to see that many Chinese watch manufacturers are simply copying the work of other companies. That’s usually how any new industry in any country gets its start.
Not all companies in China are doing this, however. FIYTA watches, for example, are surprisingly advanced for the product of a relatively new company. FIYTA was founded in 1987, which is relatively recently for a watch company, especially one that manufactures mechanical watches.
They specialize in high quality mechanical watches, many of which have elaborate designs and complications. Their most famous watch is likely their Space Watch, which has actually flown in space. Their latest series to attract attention is their “extreme” series, which was highlighted in the 2009 and 2010 Dakar motorcycle rally.
FIYTA watches are now so well known that the company was not only allowed to exhibit their watches at the annual Baselworld watch fair, but they were actually located in the main exhibition hall, rather than one of the smaller, secondary halls.
FIYTA has worked constantly to come up with new and innovative styles and materials for their watches. Their patented ATiC (Advanced Titanium Carbide) material is used in some of their watch cases. It is harder and lighter than either steel or titanium.
Like many Chinese watch companies, FIYTA makes models with a tourbillon, though in this case, the tourbillon is made and designed in-house, rather than being sourced from another manufacturer. Perhaps their most famous watch model is the People’s Republic of China 65th Birthday limited edition tourbillon model.
This model, which was limited in production to only 65 pieces, was created to celebrate China’s 65th anniversary. The watch featured an 18k gold case and the tourbillon itself was surrounded by a ring featuring 40 diamonds.
The face of the watch had a large 65 on it to signify the anniversary, and the bezel itself was surrounded by 86 additional diamonds.
While this watch made use of cutting-edge 21st century manufacturing techniques and materials, there is no mistaking the design for one that is uniquely Chinese in origin. That’s one of the things that FIYTA works to do – make watches that are unique and which have styling that no one will confuse for the work of any other company.
While the company does make watches that are very expensive (the gold anniversary watch mentioned above retailed for U.S. $17,000) they also make watches that are very affordable, with many models priced to sell at under U.S. $100.
They also make watches that have more traditional styling. While FIYTA wants you to remember their unique designs, they also know that many buyers would like a more traditional style for their watches.
With FIYTA watches, you can have cutting edge styling or traditional. It is up to you.
The better-known Chinese watchmaking companies usually engage in mass production, and sell to both the public and to other watchmaking companies. Seagull, also known as Sea-Gull, for instance, produces one quarter of all of the watch movements made in the world.
While many of the mass-produced movements go into inexpensive, mass-market watches, a few of the companies that offer movements on an OEM basis also work with small shops that produce limited edition, high quality watches.
Perpetual Watch is one such company. This Chinese watchmaker is small, and has only four employees. With such a small company, they do not design their own movements. Instead, they buy high quality movements from other manufacturers and install them in watches of their own design.
This way, they can offer a quality watch in limited editions at a fair price without the high overhead that comes with designing movements in-house.
The company tests all of their movements thoroughly, and those that do not meet the minimum acceptable standard of being accurate to +/- 15 seconds per day are discarded.
Though they are a small company, Perpetual Watch is able to offer mechanical watches with an automatic movement, sapphire crystal, and 30 meters of water resistance, complete with free shipping, at prices that would shock most buyers who are accustomed to seeing sky-high price tags on the popular Swiss watches.
The SC-01, for instance, includes an automatic movement, a case made from 316L stainless steel, sapphire crystal and even a transparent case back. All of this is offered for less than U.S. $200, which is quite a low price.
The watches sold by Perpetual Watch are limited editions and they do sell out. They also require that you preorder, as the watches are likely manufactured on an as-needed basis.
Recent models included the PR-01, an automatic watch with a power reserve indicator, which quickly sold out.
Other current models include a chronograph that also has a moon phase indicator as well as a small seconds dial and the date.
Perpetual Watch also has made several models that include a tourbillon, which has now become something that Chinese watch companies feel that they have to include in their product line. That they make a watch with a tourbillon is not unusual. What is unusual is that they make one that sells for only $1500 or so.
That particular model includes sapphire crystal, a 41mm 316L stainless steel case, and a 25 jewel manually wound mechanical movement.
Perpetual Watch also provides a two year warranty and a 7 day money back guarantee.
It’s nice to see some small companies entering the watch market from China that are making some good quality mechanical watches. Most of the Chinese watches that the public sees are low-quality quartz models that sell for just a few dollars.
Those watches are just fine, for what they are, but when you see so many inexpensive plastic watches on the market, it is easy to forget that there are also companies that work hard to produce a good quality watch at a reasonable price.
Many Chinese watch brands set out to compete with well-established Swiss brands. That’s a lofty goal, and while it’s certainly possible for Chinese manufacturers to create a quality watch that can compete with the Swiss, it’s unlikely that the public is going to change their buying habits anytime soon.
A better move is to create a quality watch that no one will mistake for a Swiss watch. That way, if someone likes what you’re making, they can make an active choice to buy it instead.
This seems to be the approach taken by Longio Watch, a company founded in the mid-1990s in China by designer Mi Changhong. For a dozen years or so, Longio Watch made watches for other companies, but in 2009, Changhong decided that it was time to set out on his own and show the world what he could do.
The results are pretty amazing, as these watches look nothing like what you might expect when you’re looking for a luxury watch. OK, some of them do; the company makes a few chronographs that are attractive and would not attract undue attention.
Other timepieces, however, do attract attention and in a good way. The Zhuke series of watches, for instance, have cases crafted from bronze, and as far as I know, no one else is doing that. The Zhuke Auto Green, for example, has a bronze case, a date complication, and automatic movement, and a 65 hour power reserve. It’s a limited edition of 200 pieces, and sells for roughly $3000.
Like many other Chinese watchmakers, Longio Watch makes a few models with a tourbillon. These days, it seems like a rite of passage to include at least one in your product list. The Volcan Tourbillon is a striking example with a titanium case and a distinctive blue glow. Limited to 1000 pieces, the Volcan sells for $12,000 or so.
It’s the Asmara series, however, that truly stands out. Named after a city in Africa, the Asmara series is a limited edition group of watches that currently includes some 18 models. Some include a tourbillon with extreme Art Deco influences. Others have skulls or animals on their faces. Colors are odd for this series, with many using pastel pinks and blue-green hues. Others have bold yellows. As the models vary quite a bit, so does the pricing, which ranges from roughly $2500 to $20,000.
While Longio Watch produces some amazing watches, they still do OEM work; if you need a company that can design a watch from the ground up to your specifications, they’re apparently still willing to do that sort of thing. I guess good business is where you find it, and even if you’re doing well selling your own unique product, you shouldn’t turn down opportunities to pay the rent in less obvious ways.
If you’re looking for a watch that’s well built, you can find one of those just anywhere. If you’re looking for one with some truly unique looks that will catch attention anytime you wear it, then you might want to have a look at Longio Watch’s offerings. It’s pretty much a given that you will be the only one wearing one the next time you have it on at a party.
Shanghai Watch Company
While millions of watches have been produced in China, that production is largely a recent development. Prior to the mid-1950s, there was no watch production in China to speak of. What little there was consisted of local companies buying pre-made movements from foreign sources and putting them in locally made cases.
By the mid-1950s, sources of foreign movements were drying up, so the state created the Shanghai Watch Company to produce Chinese-made watches. Their first factory opened in 1958, and for the next 40 years, they produced some adequate, though not technically impressive watches.
In 1999, the company was turned into a publicly traded company, and the new company began to develop movements in-house and began trying to produce innovative watches that the public would want to buy, offered to the public at a reasonable price.
The company has largely succeeded, and today, they offer dozens of watches for men and women direct for sale from their own sites, one of which is in English and the other in Chinese.
Unlike other companies, which try to be everything to everyone, the Shanghai Watch Company makes mechanical watches exclusively.
They do, however, make a wide variety of mechanical watches. They produce both manually wound models as well as automatic ones. They produce a number of skeleton watches, where the works of the movement are visible through the watch face, and of course, at least one model that features a tourbillon, which seems to be standard practice for any Chinese watch manufacturer who wants to get noticed.
Shanghai Watch also makes a few limited edition models. They two they are currently offering are quite interesting. One is a recreation of a watch worn by former Zhou En Lai. This watch was not originally offered to the public, but Zhou wore it in public for years as a show of loyalty to Chinese manufacturing. It’s a simple, but attractive time-only watch that the site describes as “Ancient Design!”
The other limited edition watch offered by Shanghai is a bit more up to date – the Space Movement 2992 commemorates the first spacewalk by a Chinese astronaut, performed by Zhai Zhigang in 2008.
This watch is a chronograph that also includes a day/date/month calendar, a 24 hour hand, and the phases of the moon.
Compared with other mechanical watches from Swiss manufacturers, watches from Shanghai Watch Company are quite reasonably priced. They start at about U.S. $229 and go up to about U.S. $6999 for the tourbillon model.
They all feature good water resistance, and the site has a good graphical indicator about what each rating (3 ATM, 5 ATM, 10 ATM, etc.) means. That way, there will be no confusion about whether you can wash your hands, swim, or go diving while wearing a particular watch.
For the most part, the watches from Shanghai Watch are all stainless steel. The company has not yet started making watches with precious metals or gemstones. That may come in time, as that will likely be the next step when it comes to competing with Swiss manufacturers.
For now, consumers can be content to know that they are buying a quality steel watch that works well, looks good and comes at an affordable price.