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.