Heritage via China | Seagull 1963 Chronograph | A Continuous Lean.

Heritage via China | Seagull 1963 Chronograph

Feb 17th, 2011 | Categories: Watches | by Michael Williams

While out in Vegas I was chatting with a designer friend and his watch happened to catch my eye. It was pretty classic looking, and upon further inspection, I noticed a red star and a few Chinese characters on its face. Intrigued, I needed to know more and inquired as to it. “It’s a reproduction Chinese pilot’s watch from the ’60s.” my friend said. I took a few photos and when I got home did a little investigating on the internets. Sure enough the watch is called the Seagull 1963 and it has been recently reissued. Seems like the heritage trend has even extended all the way to China.

More history from a Seagull reseller:

“In 1961 the Tianjin Watch Factory was assigned to manufacture the first Chinese aviation watch (chronograph) for the Air Force of the People’s Liberation Army. The code of the assignment was “304.”  The factory pre-manufactured three batches of the aviation watch by October 1962. In the end of the year 38 leaders and experts (industrial ministry, air command, and naval equipment supervisors) came together for the appraisal of the watch. After the meeting the Tianjin Watch Factory received permission to begin the mass production of the watch. In 1963 the factory completed and delivered 1400 aviation watches to the Chinese Air Force.”

The chrono has an automatic movement with a 40 hour power reserve, is made in China and retails for a cool $339 (or less — with a steel back, a little extra for a crystal back). I admit I like the styling and enjoy the novelty. Check it out here.

Comments: 55

55 Comments to “Heritage via China | Seagull 1963 Chronograph”

  1. Andrew B
    on Feb 17th, 2011
    @ 6:03 PM

    It is available for a significant discount at Watch Unique, but unfortunately without a sapphire crystal. I have the watch and I enjoy it a great deal. The strap must be replaced immediately. The strap is of poor quality and I found it uncomfortable. I recommend a nice leather strap in brown, or maybe ox blood.

    http://www.watchunique.com/featured/1963-air-force.html

  2. Michael Williams
    on Feb 17th, 2011
    @ 6:08 PM

    Thanks Andrew. I updated the post with the Watch Unique link.

  3. Fred
    on Feb 17th, 2011
    @ 6:24 PM

    Micheal,

    You have had quite a few watch posts of late. Are you familiar with Bozeman Watch Co. in Bozeman, Montana ?

    Pretty awesome timepieces and Made in the USA. The watchmaker is one of few (if not the only) Swiss Certified Watchmaker in the US. He typically makes very limited quanities of models (often around 100).

    http://www.bozemanwatch.com

    I’ll be paying him a visit next time I’m out that way.

    Fred

  4. BlueGoldBlues
    on Feb 17th, 2011
    @ 6:26 PM

    Nice, something very cool about this watch.. and very tempting at 169 euros ! Definitely agree about a brown strap, big look!

  5. Michael Williams
    on Feb 17th, 2011
    @ 6:27 PM

    Fred — yes I am familiar. I should add them to The American List

  6. E$
    on Feb 17th, 2011
    @ 7:55 PM

    It’s the internet not the internets.

    Those Bozeman watches are really nice.

  7. pilgrim
    on Feb 17th, 2011
    @ 8:27 PM

    No, E$, it really is “the internets.” It’s an expression.

    The Seagull sure is nice nice looking. It actually seems slightly pricey though, given it;s heritage.

  8. Tad
    on Feb 17th, 2011
    @ 8:59 PM

    Hella cool, I’ve wanted one for a while.

  9. MR
    on Feb 17th, 2011
    @ 9:19 PM

    “… vintage-style footwear that was once associated with youth rallies, Shaolin monks and Olympic teams of the ’70s—are back in vogue.”
    http://blogs.wsj.com/scene/2010/10/01/retro-gets-a-retread/

  10. Mike
    on Feb 17th, 2011
    @ 9:31 PM

    By the looks of the back I suspect it is a handwind- I like it!

  11. Michael
    on Feb 17th, 2011
    @ 9:53 PM

    It really reminds me of an inexpensive IWC Portuguese Chrono (the one with the gold markers and blue hands). And since I can’t afford $5k on a watch right now, I might have to snag one of these.

  12. E$
    on Feb 17th, 2011
    @ 10:00 PM

    pilgrim, its only an expression if you a blogger trying to be cool or George Bush

    “The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet Protocol Suite (TCP/IP) to serve billions of users worldwide. It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless and optical networking technologies.”

    Is there more than 1 internet..no.

  13. veritas
    on Feb 17th, 2011
    @ 10:04 PM

    @ Fred and anyone else on the site…avoid the Bozeman Watch Company like the plague…The IRS has a lien against the company, and the owner is a real charlatan Ponzi type…buyer beware

  14. Schizm
    on Feb 17th, 2011
    @ 11:49 PM

    $339?

    You can buy them direct from the factory for about half that. Find details on the watchuseek forums….

  15. Patrick
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 12:06 AM

    Just ordered one! I love the look and the price, my new travel watch!

  16. bork
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 12:53 AM

    As recently as 2008, these were retailing for $195 USD. Whether this is the weakness of the USD, strength of the RMB, inflation, or just increased demand, that’s a hefty little hike in the pricetag…

  17. Michael Williams
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 1:07 AM

    If you check the second link (as was pointed out by Andrew B) the price is about $195 at Watch Unique.

  18. Yulie
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 2:35 AM

    The watch from Watch Unique is a plexiglass version as opposed to a sapphire crystal version at Seagull1963.com.

  19. safra
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 2:55 AM

    this is interesting considering that Chinese references are such a big trend in womenswear fashion. it’s all interconnected.

  20. Fredd
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 5:29 AM

    E$ (Does E stand for English teacher?), “The internets” is a colloquialism.
    Colloquialism – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colloqualism

    Very cool watch. I will definitely have to cop that.

  21. Loopy
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 7:54 AM

    Nice looking watch, but I’m still not buying any Chinese made goods if I can help it. And no, I’m not a Tea Bagger, quite the opposite in fact.

  22. Michael Williams
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 9:10 AM

    Loopy — I’m sure you are buying a shit load, you just don’t realize / admit it. I also bet you drive a KIA.

  23. bakvul
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 10:06 AM

    Michael Williams – I’m korean. Actually, KIA is korean vehicle company, not Chinese. And I know KIA doesn’t make a extremly excellent vehicles. But, I also bet you use Samsung’s appliances. Samsung is korean appliance company.

  24. Joel
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 10:39 AM

    Being a Clevelander, I am surprised you have not featured any Ball watches. I agree with Loopy.

  25. mike
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 11:25 AM

    I hadn’t realized that buying american was a tea party plank, I thought their focus was on government spending. Maybe I’ll have to check the tea party out.

    Thanks for the heads up, Loopy.

  26. Loopy
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 11:45 AM

    Oh, clever Michael. But being literate, I can indeed read country of origin labels. I said “if I can help it”, which, sadly, is very difficult these days as you correctly point out. And no, I don’t drive a Kia, which by the way, is a Korean company, not Chinese, and which manufactures a great many of its cars in Georgia–the one next to Alabama, not the other one. But nice try, though.

  27. Kathryn
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 11:48 AM

    That’s a really cool timepiece, looks way more classy than it’s pricetag IMO. I will be bagging one of these for sure!

  28. atomist
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 12:43 PM

    Ironically, KIAs are made in Korea and the US. So, maybe does Loopy does drive one and just knows more than you.

  29. Michael Williams
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 12:51 PM

    I know, obviously, that Kia is Korean and that they assemble cars in the American South. That said, a Chinese heritage watch should be made in China. That is sort of the point. Kinda like traditional American things should be made in America. That’s all. One is not better than the other. And for the record, I drive a Ford.

  30. mrbutter
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 1:18 PM

    My name is also Michael, and I too drive a Ford, though I do not have a Chinese watch. It sure does look nice though.

  31. morafa4
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 2:42 PM

    Does anyone know anything about the movements in this baby? I’m not expecting any horological masterpiece inside it, but nonetheless am still interested. ETA maybe?

  32. WIsco
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 2:48 PM

    “It’s a reproduction Chinese pilot’s watch from the ’60s.”

    I’m not sure where to start… Chinese reproduction of a chinese watch is funny enough given the legacy of fakery and lack of respect for intellectual property so rampant in China. And then it gets funnier when you attach the tag “heritage” to it. Hipsters rejoice!

    If you want a great looking chronograph with some true heritage, this is at best cheap crap with a $0.59 movement inside. Paying more than $10 from a guy hawking this to tourists in Beijing is paying too much.

  33. Ivo
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 3:52 PM

    morafa4: The movement is a Sea Gull made handwinding chronograph movement with 21 jewels. It has been machined from Venus tooling sold to the Chinese by the Swiss in the early 60′s. It used to be a 19 jewel movement but has been improved over the years.

  34. Andrew B
    on Feb 18th, 2011
    @ 3:56 PM

    @WIsco This watch has a fairly interesting history which involves the Sino-Soviet split and the sale of the Venus 175 movement tools by the Swiss to the PRC. History doesn’t just happen in the West. I think $195 is a fair price for a new manufacture manual chronograph. I do wish mine had a sapphire crystal. I think Seagull makes reasonable quality movements for the price range in which they compete.

  35. m1bbb
    on Feb 19th, 2011
    @ 2:48 AM

    The watch from Watch Unique is 21 jewels version as opposed to 19 jewel version at Seagull1963.com.

    I wonder which one is the original one ? And I can’t find the watch in seagull web-site.

  36. jg
    on Feb 19th, 2011
    @ 7:22 AM

    It’s really cool and beautiful. Problem is it’s as nice as it’s fragile. I own one and offered two to friends, all three lasted little over a year. Repair cost is greater than purchase price, so IMHO it doesn’t really make much sense to buy one. Of course, other people may have had better luck with theirs and mileage may vary as they say…

  37. Tad
    on Feb 19th, 2011
    @ 6:49 PM

    @Wisco, $195 for a mechanical chrono is indeed a fair price – provided the watch is capable of lasting for a few years, which is likely. You’d pay $500-800 for a similar Japanese-made piece and $2k+ for a low-end Swiss piece.

    With regard to the intellectual property, this was a fair transaction. An obsolete Swiss movement from Venus was sold to the Chinese, much in the way Russia bought 1940′s Packard tooling in the 1950′s. That said, the commies have never been completely above boards with respect to intellectual property, but in this case it’s a respectable transaction.

    And really, wtf cares who drives what here? Most cars have global supply chains. Toyotas are assembled here, some Chevys have Chinese-cast engine blocks, and Buick is one of the most popular Chinese cars…

  38. Duncan
    on Feb 19th, 2011
    @ 7:22 PM

    This is an interesting post.

    I’ve read some of your replies back & forth to each other & MW’s opinion sits really well with my own stance.

    It is disappointing & disturbs me that “American” companies have sold out to exploit cheaper labor overseas. I’ve read many of the well articulated arguments, but my position still stands.

    I think Micheal is correct, a heritage product actually made in its country of origin is to my mind legit regardless of where it’s from.

    A similar example is I’m an enthusiastic home cook & have been wanting to experiment with a Chines vegetable cleaver. A company called Chef Knives to Go sells an authentic cleaver that is made in China w/an American custom made wood handle. This knife has received rave reviews & I will probably be buying one being fully aware that it’s a Chinese product that has roots to Chinese culture much in the same way that this watch also harbors the same attributes.

    Lastly, Michael I really think you have the “Gold Standard” of websites of this type. I really enjoy it tremendously. Thank you.

    Cheers.

  39. photoTristan
    on Feb 20th, 2011
    @ 2:57 PM

    Every time I see a cool watch and think about buying it I keep going back to my Omega Speedmaster and reminding myself, I need no other watch.

  40. Michael Williams
    on Feb 20th, 2011
    @ 3:52 PM

    I agree about the Speedmaster. It is a great looking watch.

  41. JohnDart
    on Feb 20th, 2011
    @ 7:44 PM

    The Speedmaster is a true classic, one which I wish I owned. Onecna find nice quality Swiss pieces for way under $2k. My last Revue cost $800 ish. My understanding on the movement for the chinese heritage watch was that it was actually a reverse engineered knock off of the old swiss movement. I don’t recall where i read it but it was a reputable site. I guess thats one of my main issues with Chinese made goods instead of engineering it themselves they “source” other companies IP and knock it off. The most obnoious proof example was the “Chinese Hummer”. I do like to avoid Chinese made items where possible. I don’t agree with many things the Gov’t does. I’m sorry so many of us americans don’t care much about the origin so long as one can save x% on an item they buy. ahh if only I could find an american made cell phone/computer/tv. Kind of ironic that the most high-tech items can’t be found with at least some Chinese internals if not all.

  42. tintin
    on Feb 21st, 2011
    @ 4:40 PM

    I could get a pair of jeans for $195!

    Bought a buddy of mine a Soviet pilots watch back in the mid ’90s for $75. It was slicker than goose shit but when I picked it up it felt kinda flimsy and cheap. But for $75 who cares. He told me it ran for almost a year but has never bothered to repair it.

  43. Brennan
    on Feb 21st, 2011
    @ 7:04 PM

    Great looking watch. Thanks for posting it, Michael. Interesting, and slightly ironic, compliment to my Hamilton Khaki. :-)

  44. Andrew
    on Feb 22nd, 2011
    @ 10:50 AM

    Hey Michael, great watch… and the price seems fair.

  45. Bogdan
    on Feb 22nd, 2011
    @ 11:55 PM

    Found one :

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Seagull-1963-Air-Force-Factory-SAPPHIRE-CRYSTAL-/130486740819?pt=Wristwatches&hash=item1e619da753

  46. pmg
    on Feb 24th, 2011
    @ 11:43 AM

    @duncan, et al.

    An interesting point. It’s true this watch is “heritage” since it’s a chinese watch made in china. But your analogy about the cleaver isn’t quite perfect, since China might have a history and reputation for better cleaver making, stemming from their culinary history. This is not true of watch making. No fine watch company resides in China, unfortunately. Again, this is a heritage piece in the strictest sense, but it almost seems out of coincidence, rather than by design.

  47. CRD
    on Feb 24th, 2011
    @ 1:01 PM

    Over here in Beijing you can find a good deal of old Chinese watches in second-hand stores and markets for fairly cheap… But yes, the vintage craze has hit the Chinese youth hard, so they’re starting to get bought up and redistributed at a higher price in boutiques catering to the new generation of yuppies.

    I picked up this Beijing Watch Factory piece (http://ozputera.blogspot.com/2010/08/beijing-szb-17j_01.html) at second-hand store here for about $13. The face is a little chipped, and the case a little scratched, but it’s run without problem for over a year now. I wind it once in the morning and once in the evening (though it’d go a couple of days without), and it even gets fast on me. I liked the look of the Shanghai watches a bit more, but I side with Beijing on the rivalry, so I decided to show my colors.

  48. CRD
    on Feb 24th, 2011
    @ 1:16 PM

    Post about the featured watch on the same site: http://ozputera.blogspot.com/2010/12/tianjin-st19-first-chinese-air-force.html

  49. Jamie
    on Feb 24th, 2011
    @ 1:48 PM

    If you are interested in vintage style watches, you shouldn’t miss out this US Brand MK II ( http://www.mkiiwatches.com ). I enjoyed their watches a lot…good quality, fair price.

  50. chazzz
    on Feb 25th, 2011
    @ 3:46 PM

    Speaking of Swiss watches, they don’t all cost an arm and a leg.

    Ollech & Wajs produces a wonderful line of vintage-military-inspired watches, designed and assembled in Switzerland, using ETA movements. I own their Cobra diver and wear it every day. It loses about 8 seconds per month, is finished beautifully and built like a tank, and costs about $400 new.

  51. Guy
    on Feb 25th, 2011
    @ 10:48 PM

    Few points.

    A) This particular watch has been a classic on the watchforums and -blogs for years. To the Swissophiles commenting here – please go back to your forum of choice and run a search on it. It’ll be there. Consider it vetted and legit by the people who geek out over such things.

    B) It’s been made in custom order runs for several shops over the years, in a variety of dial/caseback/glass combinations. Sea-Gull doesn’t sell the 1963 themselves, but it is assembled by them with a movement they produce – so it’s not assembled in some dusty shack out in rural China by 5 year old child labourers, as some people here seem to assume. As Sea-Gull also produces extreme high-end watches of original design (I’m talking double tourbillons etc, the kind of watches that cost $100k) in the factory, I’d assume they’re capable of building a few batches of relatively simple chronographs.

    C) Sea-Gull is the second largest producer of mechanical movements in the world, coming only after Swiss ETA. The ST-19, indeed based on the venerable Venus 175, is probably the only handwound, mechanical, column wheel based chronograph movement available these days. It’s also incredibly beautiful to look at. For this kind of money you won’t get Swiss finishing, but it is also not a piece of shit. Macro shot of my ST-19:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/guysie/5327472911/
    And a full mechanical teardown with pics:
    http://forums.watchuseek.com/f72/another-inside-look-seagull-1901-a-225110.html

    D) If you really, really, really want a cheap, mechanical Swiss movement chronograph watch… check out UHR. I might not like their designs much, but god knows I’ve never seen a watch with a Swiss 7750 movement for that little money before:
    http://www.uhr.info/en/Chronographs-from-UHR

  52. Duncan
    on Feb 26th, 2011
    @ 4:25 AM

    @pmg,

    Thank you for shedding some light on that & clarifying things for me.

    Granted, I’m a watch enthusiast, but am certainly not as knowledgeable as some of the blog members here are!

    Cheers,

    D

  53. Potato.
    on Mar 1st, 2011
    @ 11:26 AM

    I have one of these and it works fine. I’ll fill you in in a couple of years when it apparently is supposed to fall apart. Until then, I’m going to enjoy a nice, good-looking watch. Also, I have no reliance on atomic time, so a few seconds +/- per day isn’t going to hurt me.

  54. James
    on Mar 1st, 2011
    @ 9:10 PM

    Watch Unique doesn’t sell it with the leather band. Does anyone know where I could get a leather band to match this watch?

  55. seldom seen
    on Mar 2nd, 2011
    @ 3:53 PM

    Watch Unique does sell their version with a leather band…

    http://www.watchunique.com/seagull-1963/1963-air-force-leather.html