Despite there having been dips in the overall market growth of the country, the Chinese watch market is growing. There is an ever-increasing number of younger Chinese individuals who possess disposable income and are tapping into the world of luxury watches. However, it is not only national markets that some of these brands are looking at, but international ones too.
An array of high-end watches, such as Seagull and Peacock, are made in China. And to support the fact that this global economic powerhouse of a country has watchmaking skills and traditions of its own is the fact that between 25 and 30% of all watches globally are produced in China.
Other international brands have looked at the untapped market in China and opted to try and get a piece of the market share. However, there are already, as seen, timepiece manufacturers in China who are creating high-end luxury watches of their own. And which they are selling locally and to other countries.
Luxury Watches Made In China
Although China has a reputation for creating cheap knock-offs in high quantity, there are undoubtedly high-end luxury brands that also come out of China. And they are enough to rival some of the other big international players in the market. One such example is at the top of our list, and they happen to be Seagull, a traditional Chinese brand founded in the 1950s.
In Chinese watchmaking history, the Tianjin watch factory has been around since the beginning of high-end watchmaking in China. However, Seagull (or sometimes Sea-gull) watches were part of the beginnings of drawing eyes and fame to the Chinese high-end watch market, and they came into being in 1992.
Currently, the Tianjin Seagull Corporation is one of, if not the largest, watch movement producers worldwide. This is a remarkable feat, and along with fitting their own timepieces with their calibers, their components are also used by various global brands such as Stührling.
Additionally, on top of producing more straightforward movement and the likes of the renaissance of the luxury watch industry, they have also put their horological prowess on the showcase and utilized it. In 2005, their first tourbillon was released, and then the following year, a double tourbillon. They also offer minute repeaters, alarm watches, and perpetual calendars.
2. Peacock Watches
The Liaoning Peacock Watch Company, which is found in the Liaoning Province, is one more particularly modern watch manufacturer. It was one of the initial eight such established in the 1950s.
Initially, what they did was produce countless movements; however, with this being said, they were all based on either the Swiss or Russian calibers. Only later in the 1980s would they improve on the Chinese Standard Movement. These calibers, which had been upgraded, were then fitted into the watches to be marketed under the Peacock brand.
The Peacock Watch Company has recently moved into higher complications such as the tourbillons. Believe it or not, these tourbillon movements proved to be of substantial enough quality that Swiss Made approved their use. The Swiss brand Cecil Purnell reportedly used them in one of the model lines.
3. Atelier Wen
This brand name translates to “culture workshop.” This is one of the most exhilarating horological propositions that have come out of China in quite some time. What is remarkable about this brand is that, unlike others who begrudge the label, Atelier Wen touts their timepieces as being “proudly made in China,” bold and impressive.
The brand’s first forays were Ji and Hao. They aligned the company with luxury brands and were an immediate success. The dials of the watches were of crisp porcelain ceramic in complementary white and blue. The design elements were inspired by Chinese culture, and these two particular pieces were not only flattering but inevitably sold out in the end.
The latest release, Perception, arrived in April of 2022. The brand was applauded for breaking new ground with its latest editions. They opted to go with a popular style which integrated a bracelet with stainless steel sports watches. They also incorporated the Peacock’s automatic movement beating and imbued Chinese heritage throughout the exterior design.
Although not technically a Chinese company, Memorigin is based in Hong Kong and concentrates on manufacturing tourbillon movements in-house. And adding to the cause for adding them to this list is that they hold over 40 years of experience. Beyond that, they have been known to supply an array of well-renowned international brands with the complication.
To add further merit to their reputation, they are regarded as one of the few who design and produce their own tourbillons. Often, brands will instead opt to purchase than manufacture their own due to not wanting to spend R&D on the production.
Also, it is interesting that Memorigin uses parts that are not exclusively Chinese, so they are open to integrating components from elsewhere. Still, they are constantly devoted to improving this area to develop their own technical limitations.
5. Ciga Design
This company, much like Atelier Wen, is a younger brand. They have brought new and exciting propositions to the market, which some competitors have yet to consider or create. Other companies stick to traditional and long-standing production methods, while Ciga is willing to break the mold.
Their approach has been to go after the younger watch collectors and even individuals. They may previously never have even had any interest in mechanical timepieces. So they are tapping into markets that were previously thought to be irrelevant. They are modern and innovative in their approach, and some have even gone so far as to label them as a tad unorthodox.
Interestingly, they are not going for high-end markets but rather the perception thereof, as their watches are not particularly exclusive or expensive. However, they have cemented themselves amidst the younger demographic and set incredible sales records on various models.
High End Watches And China’s Involvement
As you are now aware, as most watch enthusiasts know, a fair portion of watches and watch, movements are produced in China or Hong Kong. To give you some insight, China alone produces roughly 656 million watches annually. The estimated figures sit between a quarter to almost a third of all watches manufactured globally.
Of these watches, there is an immense disparity in branding and quality. The exports leaving China vary from brand-name knock-offs to white-label watches and then, finally, some, which are genuine luxury timepieces.
One other thing that is most definitely worth noting is that although many perceive Swiss watches to be the epitome of luxury and high-end watches, it is high time that we reexamine that notion. Suppose you are the owner of an elegant piece of Swiss craftsmanship. In that case, you will be surprised to discover that as of 2017, watches only need to contain 60% of their net product assembly in Switzerland.
Resultantly, this means that the remainder of the base production of the watch can take place in the likes of China and still warrant the use of the Swiss Madeseal. According to these rulings, there is no stipulation regarding where the remainder of the production process must occur.
Also, the bracelets and straps are not defined as being officially part of the watch, and this means they are already excluded from the mandatory 60%. As a result of this, many well-established Swiss brands use components that come from the Far East. This has caused people to label certain watches as “Swiss Made in China.”
For decades China has been one of the world’s leading watch producers and exporters; however, they constantly fall behind the likes of Swiss manufacturers. Despite the ever-improving quality of Chinese technology. With time though, they may come to rival the expertise of the traditional Swiss brands. All said, China does offer a fair number of high-end watches to look out for.