My love / hate relationship with Sea-gull movements
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    Member aratron's Avatar
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    My love / hate relationship with Sea-gull movements

    Recently I have some thoughts on the nature of many popular Sea-gull movements that is commonly seen. In another post these thoughts sort of flew out of my mind but the previous thread was already crowded enough as it is. So here I am reposting them and start a new discussion.

    This is what I wrote

    What I had in mind in terms of original was more towards workhorse everyday movements. I think from a horological point of view, the progression of improvements on an original design is what I find highly respectable. We see it alot in the popular VCMs, such as Shanghai 581 evolved to 611 ~ 1120 etc. Or Beijing's BS-2 that evolved into BS-5. Later, we even see Tonji evolved and became the even more refined Shanghai B. In all those examples, Chinese manufacturer started with one design and modified, simplified or improved on those well tested models. By copying other popular Swiss and Japanese designs in their modern offerings, Sea-gull has gain exposure and popularity in the West. But it may be impossible to shake off that impostor image in the foreseeable future. It saddens me to see such fate on this historical and truly beloved VCM brand.

    MHe225 kindly shared this link and its contents (correction -originally posted on Chinese Watch Industry Wiki )

    The Origin of Clone Movements


    Although some current Chinese watch movements originate from foreign designs, these likely have not been developed specifically to build fakes. Development and manufacture of mechanical watch movements are only within the means of major, established enterprises with too much to lose if caught building counterfeit watches. However, clones of popular Swiss and Japanese movements seem to have been developed primarily to accommodate demand from 3rd party OEM makers. Some of these manufacturers sell quantities of 'cleanskin' watches, which of course may easily be converted into fakes. Similar market forces drive the development of 'look-alike modules' i.e. generic movements with enhancements to produce a dial layout similar to a famous Swiss watch.


    It is a myth that 'Asian ETA/Valjoux/Unitas' movements are made by Chinese companies using ETA tooling. A careful examination of ETA movements alongside their Chinese equivalents reveals some subtle differences. The Chinese designs appear to be adapted to simplify manufacturing and assembly and to enhance durability. There are other differences that are simply...different. Sea-Gull, Hangzhou, Liaoning, and Shanghai watch factories have all had to create their own tooling to produce these movements.


    Common Swiss Movements and their Clones


    ETA 2824-2 - ETA's basic automatic winding, twenty-five (25) jewel movement which traces its roots back to the 1950's.

    » Near-exact copies of the 2824-2 are produced by Sellita (the SW200) in Switzerland and by Hangzhou (the 6300), Sea-Gull (the ST21) and Shanghai Watch Factory (designation unknown) in China. The Valanvron watch company in Switzerland assemble and finish ST21 ebauches as legally 'Swiss Made' movements, designated Valanvron 24.


    Detailed comparison: How do Seagull and Hangzhou compare to a ETA: An in-depth look...


    ETA 2836-2 - The day/date variant of the 2824-2

    » Near-exact copies of the 2836-2 are the Swiss Sellita SW220, Chinese Hangzhou 6311 and a Sea-Gull ST21 variant. The Valanvron 36 is based on a Sea-Gull ebauche.


    ETA 2892.A2 - ETA's more upscale 2892 is an automatic winding, twenty-one (21) jewel movement fitted with top quality components, with its design dating to the 1970's. Owing to it's relatively slim height of 3.60mm, the 2892.A2 provides a good platform on which to add or build a chronograph complication.

    » The Sea-Gull ST18 is a near copy of the 2892. Valanvron assemble and finish ST18 ebauches as Swiss Made movements, designated Valanvron 92.


    Detailed comparison: An ST18 and an ETA 2892-2, a review


    Valjoux 7750 - The ETA/Valjoux 7750 is a widely used automatic winding, twenty-five (25) jewel chronograph movement, which can be fitted with a variety of features including the triple date (day, date, month and moon phase) or a variety of two and three register models with totalizers or counters for minutes, seconds and hours.

    » Various Chinese clones of the 7750 are manufactured by the Liaoning Watch Factory and the Shanghai Watch Factory. Non-Chinese clones include the Swiss Sellita SW500 and Russian Maktime 30664.


    Unitas 6497-1 - The ETA/Unitas 6497 is a large, manual winding, seventeen (17) jewel movement, often fitted with a subsidiary (small) seconds complication in the 9 o'clock position. Originally intended for pocket watches, the 6497 has seen a recent resurgence in popularity due to its association with Officine Panerai wristwatches and homages.
    » Hangzhou's 9000 series is a near copy of an earlier version of the 6497/6498, whereas the Sea-Gull ST36 is closer to the current ETA version. Both Hangzhou and Sea-Gull versions are available in skeleton versions that stylistically differ from the ETA version.


    Venus 175 - A hand-winding movement with column-wheel controlled chronograph with 30 minute totalizer, no hour totalizer. Production ceased in the early 1960s.

    » Strictly speaking, the Sea-Gull ST19 is not a 'clone' of the Venus 175, as it is descended directly from a movement built on the same tool-set as the original Venus, transfered to the Tianjin Watch Factory in the 1960s for production of a watch exclusively for the Chinese air force. This ancient design was resurrected in the 21st century, and subtly but extensively upgraded to become the ST19. Due to its use in fake Omega Speedmasters, it is occasionally (and very incorrectly) referred to as a 'Lemania clone'.


    From time to time, luxury Swiss watches are offered featuring refurbished vintage Swiss movements, including the Venus 175, however examples have emerged where Swiss companies have used the ST19 and claimed to use a vintage 175. Any such watch featuring more than 19 jewels and an escapement 'upgraded' to 21,600bph should be assumed to be a mis-labelled Sea-Gull ST19.

    Note: A thorough comparison of Sea-Gull's clone movements and their ETA counterparts can be found on the TZ-UK forum (edit: link is broken)



    Common Japanese Movements and their Clones


    Miyota 8205/8215 - The Japanese made Citizen/Miyota 8205/8215 and 82S and 8N series variants are among the most popular off-the-shelf automatic movements used worldwide by OEM and proprietory watch manufacturers due to their robust nature and low cost. These movements are able to hand wind, but auto-wind in only one direction and lack a hacking (seconds stopping) function. The escapement beats at 21,600bph (6 beats per second).


    » Chinese-made clones include the Dixmont Guangzhou DG28/38 series and near identical Nanning NN28/38 series. In their basic form these movements exactly match the dimensions of the Miyota movement, enabling them to compete directly for some of Miyota's established clients. Their most significant difference from the Miyota is the wide range of functional enhancements available on these movements, which gives the Chinese manufacturers a competitive edge in the marketplace. For example - the ability to offer a watch assembler both a day/date and a GMT complication compatable with the same case dimensions. Unlike the Miyota, the DG and NN movements have a hacking function. Fujitime is an example of a watch company that has switched from Miyota 8205/8215 to DG28. The DG/NN design may be visually distinguished from the Miyota by a stepped top plate with prominently chamfered holes for the jewels on the edge of the step.


    Fujita offer a basic version of the DG/NN design, possibly finished from a bought-in ebauche. Qingdao Zixin have also produced some variants of the Miyota clone. The Beijing Watch Factory make a version of this same design, distingishable by a different shockproofing device, and usually a very high quality of finish. Elaborately decorated skeleton versions are produced, along with many unique calendar and dual-time functions.


    » The Sea-Gull ST16 is also greatly influenced by the Miyota design, but with significant differences in the auto-winding mechanism, which is based on the Seiko system. Like the DG and NN movements, the basic ST16 is also dimensionally compatible with the Miyota, but also hacks. The revised ST17 positions the 4th wheel at 6 o'clock to better suit a seconds sub-dial, while retaining the Miyota dimensions. Both the ST16 and ST17 have a separate plate for the auto-winding module, making them easy to distinguish from a Miyota movement.


    The excellent reputation of Miyota automatic movements has led to some on-line sellers claiming a 'Miyota' movement in watches using the DG or NN movements. The Croton watch company even goes so far as to designate the the DG28 used in their watches as 'Japanese CR8215 movement' and their sellers claim it is a 'modified Miyota'. The rotor is marked 'Japan', even though the DG logo is clearly visible below the balance wheel. Similarly, their day/date 'Japanese CR8205 movement' is in fact the Sea-Gull ST16.


    Seiko 7009 - The classic 7009 movement is one of the most produced movement calibers in the world. Developed from earlier Seiko movements featuring the patented 'Magic Lever' winding system, the 7009 has the winding mechanism mounted directly on the top plate of the base movement, with the pawl on an off-set wheel engaging the rotor.


    » Hangzhou's 2000 series of movements are based on the Seiko 7009. Hangzhou offers many complications for this movement series, most of which were never available from Seiko. The use of these movements in some counterfeit Seiko watches has led some to claim these movements were designed specifically for that purpose. However, given the costs associated with designing and tooling up for production of an all new movement, and the many un-Seiko-like enhancements also offered, it is far more likely that the movement was created for more general use, but its similar appearance to the Seiko 7s26 makes it attractive to fakers.


    Orient 469 - Developed in parallel with the Seiko 7009, the base movement is almost identical, however the auto-winding uses the original Seiko arrangement of a rotor mounted on a bridge, with the 'Magic Lever' pawl attached directly to the rotor hub.


    » A clone of unknown origin enjoys extensive use at the budget end of the market, especially short-lived brands from Shenzhen. An early client for this movement was Orion, Moscow. The Orient-clone is available in solid or skeleton, with date, day/date and day/date/24-hour options. The plates are often decorated with an etched and polished stripe pattern. Quality is generally lower than the Hangzhou 2000. Some sources state a Shanghai origin for these movements, and Golden Time seem likely, but firm evidence is lacking. Some on-line parts catalogues list these movements with the prefix 'SP'


    » Fujita offer a basic day/date movement of similar design to the Orient clone described above, but with a differently-shaped auto bridge and a flange on one finger of the pawl. Standard of finish is poor. No other manufacturer is known to produce this design so it is probably an in-house design. Like the Hangzhou 2000, some of these Fujita movements have appeared in fake Seikos.
    Last edited by aratron; August 17th, 2014 at 14:08.
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  2. #2
    Member aratron's Avatar
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    Re: My love / hate relationship with Sea-gull movements

    After reading the above article. What is your general feeling towards Sea-gull?

    It is true that many Chinese maker offers near copies of Japanese & Swiss movement designs. Nangning, Diximont Gongzhou, Hanzhou, Liaoning, etc. But it seems to me that Sea-gull dedicate almost their entire product line to this process. Why not retain one or two Chinese original like the ST5?

    Another important point that was raised was the fact that, although these movements are near copies. Certain aspect of the manufacturing process was simplified to suite the Chinese maker. There are also functional add-ons that was retrofitted to give them an edge on the market.

    It is true that no movement came out of thin air. ETA & Seiko all based their current design off other historical models. But there are certain things you learn on the way when one go through such evolving process. Let us take ST16, one of the first Sea-gull copy movement for example. It suffers from high amplitude issues. These problems gets passed consequently to its other movements that is based off the ST16. ST25 has loud rotor noise, perhaps due to the large rotor weight, there are even reports of the rotor separating at the bearing after just some short term of use. As I mentioned in another thread, ST19's click spring is prong to breakage resulting in a manual watch you can not wind. Sea-gull did recall a batch in the past and probably already have improved the said click-spring design. Don't get me wrong, the problems are rather minor and Sea-gull's QC is very decent. I just wish that Sea-gull spend more time, as they historically have, on truly evolving a competent design instead of going for low hanging fruits, copying what is commercially successful.
    monsieurxu and Ric Capucho like this.
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    Re: My love / hate relationship with Sea-gull movements

    Thanks for such an interesting and thought-provoking post.

    Although I have several Sea-Gull watches and watches with Sea-Gull movements (and I like them a lot) in general I think that you are right to raise questions about their overall record and strategy.

    The efficient manufacture of different clones is one thing; building a reputation for fine watch manufacture and high-quality and innovative movement designs that are backed up with service and maintenance over the long-term is another.

    Is it possible to ride both horses? After all Seiko has managed something like that - though perhaps not without limiting the appeal of its top-end by its across the market strategy.

    Or is Sea-Gull is going to have to choose the direction it wants to go in, sooner or later?

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    Re: My love / hate relationship with Sea-gull movements

    Lots of good information. I don't get the title and the intention of the posting, though.

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    Member Mediocre's Avatar
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    Re: My love / hate relationship with Sea-gull movements

    R&D costs loads of money. Their goal is to make money.
    Do something exceptionally mediocre today

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    Re: My love / hate relationship with Sea-gull movements

    Quote Originally Posted by Mediocre View Post
    R&D costs loads of money. Their goal is to make money.
    There are many ways of making money...
    keep the costs low, the price low, sell in large volumes
    make the cost very low, the price medium, sell in smaller volumes
    let the costs evolve, set the price a bit above, sell in large volumes
    have large costs, much larger prices, don't care about the volume.

    Sea-Gull seems to have positioned itself, at the moment, on the first case, setting a very low price and then keeping the costs lower. So, indeed, they don't go into too much R&D except on the outside look of watches (not very costly, allows to boost volumes). However, the could progressively see the possibilities in developing a new, better mid-range movement that could compete on the world market with the potential replacement of the 2824-2 as the go-to calibre for mid-range auto watches, like the SW200 (clone, but Swiss), the Miyota 90xx, and the like...

    It's not necessarily that costly to develop a new calibre that can bring something new, both in terms of industrialization and horology. Christopher Ward seems to have done so, and they're not that big a company. Nor that much higher compared to Sea-Gull...
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    Re: My love / hate relationship with Sea-gull movements

    Quote Originally Posted by Pakz View Post
    However, the could progressively see the possibilities in developing a new, better mid-range movement that could compete on the world market with the potential replacement of the 2824-2 as the go-to calibre for mid-range auto watches, like the SW200 (clone, but Swiss), the Miyota 90xx, and the like...
    Why would they do that? They already have an excellent clone of 2824 - ST2130. They also have ST25xx, with all sorts of complications, and ST18, clone of the ETA 2892. So far, they have all bases covered, so to speak.

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    Re: My love / hate relationship with Sea-gull movements

    You do realize that Koimaster cut-and-pasted that entire article verbatim from the (currently defunct) Chinese Watch Industry Wiki to his own forum site?


    As the the question of 'disappointment' with clones; I don't think the act of reverse-engineering a public domain design is the end of the story.

    For example, Hangzhou watch factory cloned a popular Seiko design but then added a very diverse range of optional enhancements to produce movements that are unlike anything else on the market. Their most popular variant of the 2-series is the 2089 which (being a skeleton) is clearly meeting a different niche to a Seiko 7s26 or variant thereof. Similarly the bread-and-butter of Guangzhou Five Goats company is a Miyota clone (DG2813), but some of the many variant models are even more creative than those of the Hangzhou 2-series. There is even one which uses a combination of open-heart and off-set sub-dials to produce the visual illusion of two movements. Clearly that is more than 'just a clone'. And then there is the thinned-down DG48 series that will fit cases designed for the ETA 2824, and the even thinner DG69 (some plate redesign was required to achieve this) that is of comparable dimensions to the ETA 2892, but also comes in a handwinding-only variant. Returning to Sea-Gull, the ST19 is obviously an update of the ST3 which itself was cloned from the Venus 175 (via the original Swiss tooling), but it is now available as an automatic (ST1940) which would have been unthinkable back when Venus originally designed the 175.

    So for what it's worth, there's another way of looking at the clone thing. Although I agree that it is a bit disappointing that the Chinese watch industry has lately seen much greater prominence given to watch movements that look obviously like copies (especially of the ETA 2824) as this does tend to encourage an attitude already embedded in the minds of many consumers to see a Chinese product and look for what it was copied from.
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    Member Oldheritage's Avatar
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    Re: My love / hate relationship with Sea-gull movements

    The funny thing is that rarely is the Sellita sw200 criticized for being a clone, but if it's a Chinese company building the clone then it's unacceptable.
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    Re: My love / hate relationship with Sea-gull movements

    Quote Originally Posted by Newbear View Post
    Thanks for such an interesting and thought-provoking post.

    Although I have several Sea-Gull watches and watches with Sea-Gull movements (and I like them a lot) in general I think that you are right to raise questions about their overall record and strategy.

    The efficient manufacture of different clones is one thing; building a reputation for fine watch manufacture and high-quality and innovative movement designs that are backed up with service and maintenance over the long-term is another.

    Is it possible to ride both horses? After all Seiko has managed something like that - though perhaps not without limiting the appeal of its top-end by its across the market strategy.

    Or is Sea-Gull is going to have to choose the direction it wants to go in, sooner or later?

    I think sea-gull has been trying to make that ultra luxury appeal with the announcement of their double tourbillion, minute repeaters and such. And if I remember correctly, some of their most exclusive watches come with free servicing for lifetime. I don't think these across the market strategy works, at least not in the West. Using cars as an analogy. Toyota and Honda each has to create sub brands to target the luxury segment. Although for their domestic market, the Japanese were without a Lexus for the longest time.


    Quote Originally Posted by PhantomACE View Post
    Lots of good information. I don't get the title and the intention of the posting, though.

    My intention was just to offer my personal reasons why I love and hate Sea-gull movements. And wondering what are some general feelings towards them, after knowing a significant portion of their business rides on other companies designs.
    Rolex Explorer II, Rolex Sub 16610, Rolex Speedking, Omega Planet Ocean, Omega 1930s Deco, Breitling Avenger, Girard-Perregaux Gyromatic, PAM 111, Movado WWII Bumper, Gruen 1930s Tonneau, Poljot Mechanical Alarm Caliber 2612, & Chrono 3133, Tudor Prince Oysterdate, Debaufre GMT Ocean 2893-2, Movado Kingmatic, Sea-gull 1963 Re-issue, Marathon GSAR, Tissot T-Touch, Steinhart SAWLE, Sea-gull ST8000SK Skeleton, Seiko 7002, Parnis Portuguese ST25, Orient Worldtimer, Orient Retro Camera, Orient Mako, Omega Speedmaster, Rolex Airking, Vostok Amphibia, Tudor Submariner, Sea-gull M199S, Seagull ST5 Export, Bulova Accutron Spaceview 214, Omega Constellation Pie Pan, Beijing Galaxy GMT

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