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The Remarkable Chinese Mechanical Chronograph You Need to Know About

Posted on February 17 2021

Seagull 1963 Mechanical Chronograph

It’s bold to describe a watch as a ‘must have’.

But if I narrow it down a little, the description fits this watch.

If you’re interested in Chinese watches, then this stunning chronograph is a must-have. It’s where you should start with Chinese watch brands.

Why? Because it’s a reissue of an iconic Chinese military watch and is amazing value for money. Nobody else is building mechanical chronographs of this quality at such an affordable price.

Let’s take a closer look at this famous Chinese watch, and afterwards, I’ll give you the brand’s backstory.

Seagull 1963 Chronograph Watch

Seagull 1963 Chronograph

  • 40mm Diameter
  • 13.5mm Thick
  • 20mm Lug Width
  • Stainless Steel
  • ST1901 Handwinding Movement
  • Domed Mineral Crystal

 


It’s refreshing to see an exciting Chinese watch. A watch that has traditional Chinese script on the dial and a prominent red star.

This watch doesn’t hide its origin - it does the opposite. It proudly references Chinese military history.

The fact that it’s also one of the most affordable mechanical chronographs is a bonus. But we’ll come back to that. First, let’s have a look at the design.

This is a remake of the watch issued to the People’s Liberation Army Air Force. Seagull has faithfully recreated this 1960s piece - albeit with a larger case than the original. They’ve taken an iconic aviation watch - a model issued to pilots - and recreated it down to the smallest details.

It’s a distinctive design. Clearly Chinese, but with some classic vintage chronograph elements. The straightforward round case and simple pushers are typical of the period.

Where the design wins, is in the dial.

The cream dial is authentically vintage and cleverly uses colour to separate the different functions. The numbers and indices are gold, the hour hands blue and the chronograph hand is red.

The effect is stunning and strengthened by the domed acrylic crystal. This isn't as scratch-proof as sapphire but it is true to the original watch. And that’s why you need this watch and I describe it as a ‘must have’.

It’s a piece of history on your wrist.

This might seem crazy, but the back of the watch may be better than the front.

The movement is an in-house Seagull hand-winding calibre - the ST19. It’s visible through the clear case back and is an eye-catching feature. It’s complex, ornate and unlike anything else available at this price-point. Again, the back of the case features Hanzi script.

This is a very popular timepiece with watch geeks. It ticks so many boxes.

  • Authentic vintage styling
  • Exotic Chinese design
  • Great value for money
  • An attractive hand-winding movement

There are a few variations, but this is my recommendation. The 40mm version with the vintage acrylic crystal. It’s sized perfectly for today’s market, but everything else is from China circa 1963.


More About Seagull Watches


Major Chinese watch manufacturing is a relatively new business. Certainly, if you’re comparing it to the Swiss. It has a very different background too. The Swiss brands tend to originate with individual watchmakers. This setup morphing into a family-run business.

The Chinese watch industry is unique - or at least matched only by Soviet Russia’s entry into the trade. It was a large, state-run enterprise.

Beginning in the mid-1950s, China began to build watches based on Swiss designs. Out of this, emerged the ‘big three’ factories - Beijing, Shanghai and Tianjin.

Seagull traces its roots back to the creation of those first factories in the 1950s and is one of the ‘big three’.
By volume, Seagull’s Tianjin factory is the largest watch manufacturer in China. It was in this factory that the first complete Chinese watch was designed and built. They’ve since ditched quartz models and have produced mechanical watches exclusively since 1997.

They now release a wide selection of watches.

Many are uninspiring fashion pieces, but there are also some excellent watches. I’m especially taken with the military remakes and dive watches. There are also a couple of very nice homage models and a successful Bauhaus-inspired design.

Conclusion


The Seagull 1963 Chronograph is a bargain.

It’s a modern remake of a classic Chinese military watch. It has the vintage charm of the original, but with a couple of sensible updates.

Trust me when I say that this is a must-have.

There are very few watches that have the stunning mechanical movement of the 1963. It’s a complex hand-winding movement - authentic to the watch and very attractive. Arguably, this watch looks just as good from the back as the front.

If you have your doubts about Chinese watches - and there is a lot of rubbish out there - start here.


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