Shanghai A581 - a Chinese reissue
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  1. #1
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    Shanghai A581 - a Chinese reissue

    Hi all!

    Today I have a pleasure of presenting to you an inexpensive Chinese mechanical watch - the Shanghai A581.
    At first I'd like to say I hesitated for a long time before I finally bought it, as my previous experience with cheap Shanghai watch is rather bad. I used to have a cheap 'submariner' homage that was only interesting because it never occured to me before a watch could be THAT crappy :)
    So today's subject, the A581 is not that new - it's been around for a while, but it's just today it finally arrived to me.
    Yes, today, so it's a 'first impression' sort of review, but I think it's a simple watch for a simple description, so despite the obvious flaw of such approach (namely - I've only known it for a few hours now) I believe t still can be accurate.

    Here goes...

    The A581 is a re-issue of Shainghai's very first model, the A581 itself (yes, I know how it sounds when I say the A581 is a remake of A581, but that's just how it actually is :) ). The model was first issued in 1958, so it's been some time.
    And so it's time to say that unlike most modern remakes (and remakes of 'legendary' models are now quite common among various makers from all around the world), this is NOT a modernized, super-sized, 'awesomed' version of the A581. In this case, we have an exact copy of the first model, made using the same technologies and of the same size. Some will find it an advantage, some will call such idea crazy.

    After unpacking the box, I found this...

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    A red paper box with (badly made - with missing spots) Shanghai logo in gold letters.
    Telling by a metal plate in the lid, the box used to have a magnetic lock...

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    ...but the magnet turned out strong :)
    You might as well remember when last time I got a BeiHai watch with scratched caseback and fingerprint on one hand - this time I got a bad box.
    I wondered if the box was to be damaged during initial opening, buty I find this unlikely. I think Chinese sellers (or at least this one) do not care much about such 'minor' issues, like a scratched back or bad box in a 'brand new' watch.
    Now the box is a better option, especially that it's not very good (still - nor as bad as Vostok's plastic crap they use for cheapest Amphibians) and I need it not.

    Inside the box...

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    ..there is a Chinese manual (English card added to the package) and the watch itself, wrapped around an ugly pillow made of some plastic, that smells toxic. No kidding, it STINKS! I'm sure it's not good for your health as well, but at least it's just the pillow you can simply discard.

    Now - the watch itself...

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    So sixties! It really looks like a 1960 NOS watch.
    The dial is embossed and has the old logo of the factory.
    It's actually very well made and covered with glossy, white to silverish paint that looks even better in half dimmed room.
    The hands are gold and the second hand has a red tip.

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    The embossed numerals are well made and have sharp edges.
    The case is made of stainless steel and has a crown with logo and has a low dome plastic crystal:

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    All surfaces are polished. The caseback is screwed-down and also resembles the original design.

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    So far so good. The case is very well made as well. Flawless.

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    The size is - like I mentioned - 1960-small, ideal for my thin wrist, but well below today's fashion

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    Getting on to the movement - this is the main difference compared to the original A581.
    In place of a Swiss clone, Shanghai used their current model, the well known Chinese 'standard caliber' developed in 1970s.
    It's very simple and - thus - reliable and parts are easy to obtain in case they're needed.
    The accuracy of these movements depend on the quality of the very piece, I'll wear this one for some time and see.

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    Lovely watch as it is, this Shanghai has one major flaw - the winding mechanism seems not oiled correctly and the crown has a lot of resistance, and a 'grinding' feel while winding. Some say you always have to add initial servicing to the price of a new Chinese watch and there might as well be some truth in it.
    Still - for $90 (including shipping) this is a very nice watch (and similar A611 is even cheaper). It's perfectly made and has a remarkable, vintage look and feel, still being a new piece made for wearing.
    I always say vintage watches are either too bad or too good to wear, so maybe this could be a nice alternative for wearing a true vintage.
    If you like the style - A581 is worth getting. It's just very good for the money they ask..
    Last edited by pmwas; November 22nd, 2017 at 18:59.
    KROG, cuthbert, iroh and 1 others like this.
    Have a great day!!!

  2. #2
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    Re: Shanghai A581 - a Chinese reissue

    beautiful watch. great review

  3. #3
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    Re: Shanghai A581 - a Chinese reissue

    Pretty, chromed case or SS?
    .

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  5. #4
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    Re: Shanghai A581 - a Chinese reissue

    All steel :)
    Or so I assumed. If that's chromed I'll be very disappointed...
    Have a great day!!!

  6. #5
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    Re: Shanghai A581 - a Chinese reissue

    That is a nicely designed watch, may I ask where/which site did you buy it from?

  7. #6
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    Re: Shanghai A581 - a Chinese reissue

    Times International (good-stuffs.com). They also say it's all steel case, so hopefully it is.
    I've timed it - it's around +5s horizontally and up to -30s vertically depending on positions.
    Not very good, but not bad as well.
    iroh likes this.
    Have a great day!!!

  8. #7
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    Re: Shanghai A581 - a Chinese reissue

    thank you for the excellent review!

  9. #8
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    Re: Shanghai A581 - a Chinese reissue

    Thanks for the review. I´m also thinking about buying it :)
    I bought some Shanghais on eBay, none is good to wind :(

  10. #9
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    Re: Shanghai A581 - a Chinese reissue

    As for the winding issue... today while I was winding it, I felt sudden resistacnce and then a snap and... the watch no longer works.
    And I've worn it not too many times - it's almost new...

    I thought the winding issue would be a badly lubricated, jamming clutch lever, but now it turned out to be more.
    It did sound like a breaking mainspring, but ever sice when you turn the crown, there is no clicking.
    Neither the ratchet in one direction, nor the castle gear in the other. No resistance of the mainspring as well. Setting works all right, though.

    So it's either that the ratchet wheel came loose (but nothing's ratling in the case) or the entire barrel bridge somehow.
    I think it's a ratchet wheel or barrel bridge issue, because in case of a broken mainspring you'd stilll hear the normal clicking, while a winding pinion issue would not unwind the mainspring.

    Sadly, I won't have a chance until sunday to find out :) Will post update ASAP!
    Have a great day!!!

  11. #10
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    Re: Shanghai A581 - a Chinese reissue

    Have a great day!!!

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