Why Chinese Watches?
If you like wristwatches, China is likely not the first country that comes to mind when you think about them. You might think of Switzerland, or Japan, or even the United States, but China does not usually come to the top of the list.
It might come as surprise to many readers, then, to discover that the Chinese built a water-powered clock back in 1088, and that many historians consider that to be the first mechanical clock ever built. In fact, the Chinese have been making timepieces for centuries, but they are admittedly a bit late to the current wristwatch market.
Part of this has to do with the country’s government, which viewed watches as a luxury item. The government looked upon luxury items with disdain, so for many years, Chinese manufacturing of watches lacked behind that of Japan.
This has changed in recent years, with the opening up of the Chinese economy. There are now more than 300 manufacturing companies in China that make watches. Many of them, such as Xiaomai, specialize in smartwatches, but there are also companies that specialize in making traditional mechanical watches.
The Beijing Watch Factory, founded in 1958, may be the best known of Chinese watch brands, though one cannot say that any brand from China is yet known to most people. Beijing Watch Factory specializes in making watches with automatic movements and also makes movements to be sold at wholesale to other manufacturers, who can then label the finished watches under their own name.
In recent years, Beijing Watch Factory has started to make tourbillon watches. A tourbillon is a mechanical component for watches that was developed by the Swiss more than 200 years ago. It was intended to make the watch more accurate, by allowing the escapement to rotate and thus counteract the force of gravity. A tourbillon is difficult to make and because of this, many Swiss watches that have one sell for more than U.S. $50,000.
Chinese manufacturers, such as Beijing Watch Company, now make them at much lower prices. That means that you can now own a watch with this elegant feature for less than $5000.
Another Chinese watch maker, Sea-Gull, also known as Tianjin Seagull Watch Group, was founded in 1955, and is now the world’s largest maker of watch movements. In fact, Sea-Gull now makes 25% of all of the watch movements in the world.
It is true that many watches made in China are not yet of good quality and are sold for low prices. That is not true of all of them, however. As time goes on and manufacturing improves, more companies are attempting to build high quality watches that can still be sold for far lower prices than you might pay for a Japanese, American or Swiss watch.
This blog was created to make readers aware of some of the newer watches coming from China, as well as to make them aware of some of the new brands that are making watches there. I will try to update the blog regularly as I find new information that might be of interest.