What are the best Chinese movements? Need help picking samples for timing study
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  1. #1
    Member Purple Hayz's Avatar
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    What are the best Chinese movements? Need help picking samples for timing study

    Howdy f72 gurus,

    In response to feedback I've been receiving on my recently launched timing study (posted here in F2), I'm in the process of broadening my collection to help increase the representativeness of my study sample. Quick recap for those of you who aren't overly fond of posts with graphs word counts in the 1000s--I systematically and repeatedly tested a dozen watches for precision, accuracy, and movement health. The Swiss (ETA) watches dominated, the Japanese (Seikos and Orient) were adequate/ok, and the Chinese were, with one exception (described below), terrible. Of the groups tested, however, the Chinese were most disadvantaged by "sample composition," i.e. the overall quality of the watches I included in the study. The Swiss watches were all brand new, ETA-powered timepieces with (heavily discounted) purchase prices in the $300-400 range. The Japanese sample had some lower priced wares, but still included watches in the $400 range. The Chinese watches, by contrast, consisted of two fashion watches and a pair of throwaway tongjis that cost <~15 apiece. An "apples to apples" comparison this was not. It is this imbalance I hope to correct by sampling some higher quality Chinese movements.

    The problem is that I know next to nothing about Chinese watchmaking history, quality (perceived or actual), or reputation beyond what little I've gleaned on WUS (this is my first visit to the Chinese forum). From what I have seen, Chinese watches generate some rather "enthusiastic" debate around here, including a fair bit of vitriol by those who put a premium on concepts like intellectual property and originality. For the purposes of this project (and hence this post), I will respectfully ignore these concerns.

    [Aside alert! please skip to next paragraph to resume discussion about watches) Not that I don't appreciate people's positions (even passions) on the matter. My views are just a bit more nuanced, and for purposes of this post, irrelevant. Yes, a disproportionate share of the world's copies, knock-offs, homages, etc. come from China. I suppose their watches are no different than their cars, purses, or cellphones in this regard. But the Chinese watchmakers are not the only industry guilty of this particular sin, no? I suspect it is the sheer prevalence of the practice in China (vs. other places) that folks seem to find so distasteful, though I cannot help but notice a tinge of other sentiments (e.g. ethnocentrism) that might give rise to the vilification of our Sino neighbors and their "copy & paste" economy (from a recent post here). More importantly, I find much of the reasoning behind the China-bashing to be somewhat contradictory, even naive. On one hand, we Westerners have been instrumental in shaping/pushing/cheering every shift in the Chinese political economy toward Capitalism (and away from that other "C" word), and yet when the Chinese (modernizing but still poor by Western standards) dutifully carry out that most Capitalist of behaviors--supplying what the market demands--we cry foul!? Reminds me in a way of the hypocrisy of those who bemoan Chinese labor practices (which are often terrible, but that's besides the point) while decrying anything north of Walmart/Target prices as too expensive. So we want it all on the cheap AND we want it to not be made in a sweatshop? How, exactly, does that work? [aside over]

    My introduction to Chinese movements happened by accident. My first autowinding watch was a fashion watch--a $60 Kenneth Cole skeleton with what I now believe to be a Sea-Gull 2807 movement. I bought it because it looked interesting and because I wanted to see what this "automatic" watch business was about (at the time, I assumed most "real" watches had batteries, !.Q!). Two years and over a dozen new mechanical watches later, this lowly fashion watch remains my personal favorite. Not just because it set me on this wonderful, terrible, time-consuming mechanical watch "hobby," but because it's actually a fine performing watch in its own right. Here is a short blurb from my write -up:

    Quote Originally Posted by Purple Hayz View Post
    Which brings me at last to the Kenneth Cole, my first auto and the last one I'll discuss before wrapping up. Though the KC will get a puff piece of its own someday, for now I will say only that I've read enough on this site to know how little regard a watch like this typically receives. I understand the reasons and don't necessarily disagree with (all of) them. But no matter how numerous the KC's shortcomings, precision is not among them. In fact, when fully wound. this lowly fashion watch lays waste to all comers. including the Hamilton and the Vicky. It even manages to "tie" the (seemingly immortal) Visodate's variance figures, at least when rounding to the nearest whole number (a mathematically correct, but conservative choice here). like the Seiko SNK, the KC degrades significantly as it unwinds, yet so good are its baseline numbers, that even when down on power, its variance stats still beat nearly every Japanese watch. In addition, no watch, not even the superb Visodate delivers more consistent timekeeping across the three daily rate measures. This would be fine, if not exceptional, performance from most any timepiece, much less a two year old "mall watch" with apparent health issues (highest beat error by a large margin).
    Many of those who read my timing study pointed out that Sea-Gull--who I'm pretty sure makes the 2807 in my Kenneth Cole--is a quality movement maker, and may even save its best movements (or batches thereof) for their own in-house (branded) timepieces. Given how well my used, seemingly disposable KC performed, I would love a Sea-Gull or two to my collection. To that end, I am leaning toward purchasing one of their Seamaster "tributes" (yes, I know, but is this Seiko SARX really any less "inspired" by the Omega???), and I also find this aged-look military chrono with moonphase to be quite distinctive looking (if not downright attractive), which suggests that not all Chinese watches are just remakes of other designs.

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    Is this a good timepiece? Good movement? Is $370 a good price for this piece?

    What are the differences between the Sea-Gulls on Amazon (like this one) and the ones ordered straight from China? Are there other Sea-Gulls (or brands) I should be looking at? Any feedback from folks who know these watches would be much appreciated.
    Last edited by Purple Hayz; July 11th, 2016 at 00:16.

  2. #2
    Mod. Russian, China Mech. Chascomm's Avatar
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    Re: What are the best Chinese movements? Need help picking samples for timing study

    So for further clarification; you are looking specifically for the "best" generic Chinese mechanical watch movements i.e. the sort that may be supplied to other manufacturers (as opposed to those reserved for in-house use e.g. dual-axis tourbillons etc).

    On that basis, and going by what has been reported here, I'd recommend the Beijing B18 hand-winder and the Sea-Gull ST18 automatic. And I'll let others advise as to the best watch to get with either of those.


    ...and steer clear of the Tongjis unless it is a vintage from one of the reputable makers.
    Purple Hayz and BlueWings077 like this.
    Chascomm
    Moderator, Russian Watches & Chinese Mechanical Watches Forums
    (no, I am not going to list all my watches here)

  3. #3
    Member Purple Hayz's Avatar
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    Re: What are the best Chinese movements? Need help picking samples for timing study

    Quote Originally Posted by Chascomm View Post
    So for further clarification; you are looking specifically for the "best" generic Chinese mechanical watch movements i.e. the sort that may be supplied to other manufacturers (as opposed to those reserved for in-house use e.g. dual-axis tourbillons etc).

    On that basis, and going by what has been reported here, I'd recommend the Beijing B18 hand-winder and the Sea-Gull ST18 automatic. And I'll let others advise as to the best watch to get with either of those.


    ...and steer clear of the Tongjis unless it is a vintage from one of the reputable makers.
    Thanks for the suggestions. Indeed, I bought the tongjis strictly for tinkering and experimentation. Once a add a few more respectable Chinese movements to the sample, I will drop the tongjis entirely. As for the former, my (very limited) understanding is that Sea-Gull reserves the top graded movements from each "batch" or production run for its own watches, and then sells the rest off to other manufacturers. Is that your impression as well? If so, I would definitely be interested in sampling one of the better graded ST18 you reference. I'll wait to hear from other folks on which watches they would recommend.

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  5. #4
    Member LCheapo's Avatar
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    Re: What are the best Chinese movements? Need help picking samples for timing study

    How about something with the large ST3600 in it? The size might give it a stability advantage. I must admit it is a long time since I timed any of my watches, and I don't remember the outcome anymore.
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    Re: What are the best Chinese movements? Need help picking samples for timing study

    st2130, Sea-gull's 2824 clone. They use it more than st18 and 2130 watches are a lot cheaper.

    This comparison is worth a look, Comparison: Sea-Gull ST2130, ETA 2824-2, Peacock SL3000 | Watch Guy

    Sea-Gull, -SeaGull USA

  7. #6
    Member BlueWings077's Avatar
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    Re: What are the best Chinese movements? Need help picking samples for timing study

    Hello CHASCOMM,
    I figured I'd pick your brain since I'm still new in the world of Chinese watches. I only own one Chinese watch which I bought... from *TaoBao* several years ago ~> manual wind with the Asian Unitas 6497/6498 and to this day still working; unfortunately, not getting enough usage as it's buried in the deep recess of my nightstand drawer.


    Earlier this morning, I stumbled into some interesting SeaGull timepieces and started to familiarize myself with the different movements {e.g., ST1701, ST19, ST2130, ST2553, ST3600, etc.... Forgive me for my naivette, is the higher numeric designation like the ST2553 or ST3600 (for manual wind) reserved for the higher-priced SeaGulls? I noticed that the entry-level Seagulls had the ST16xx//ST17xx movements. Just seeking expert guidance.

    I saw a couple of postings here @WUS about the SEAGULL military green model with ST2553 movement. This is my first choice.
    I'd like to hear your comments and/or complaints about this specific model before I pull the trigger.


    From what I have read so far, this particular watch is made in the TIANJIN SEAGULL factory.

    Currently, this watch is advertised at USD259 in the authorized SEAGULL-USA website. However, I have seen other watch sellers with a much LOWER price points. Times International [AKA-GoodStuffs.Com] and SeaGull-WatchStore in Hong Kong are both offering SeaGulls and other Chinese watches for sale at very competitive prices. Do they sell GENUINE ORIGINAL SEAGULL watches, or are they basically clones or replicas assembled in various sweatshops in China//HK??? It's a known fact that cheap labor is synonymous to inferior quality control and sloppy craftsmanship.



    I am also considering the *M222S* in a similar price range.




















    Quote Originally Posted by Chascomm View Post
    So for further clarification; you are looking specifically for the "best" generic Chinese mechanical watch movements i.e. the sort that may be supplied to other manufacturers (as opposed to those reserved for in-house use e.g. dual-axis tourbillons etc).

    On that basis, and going by what has been reported here, I'd recommend the Beijing B18 hand-winder and the Sea-Gull ST18 automatic. And I'll let others advise as to the best watch to get with either of those.


    ...and steer clear of the Tongjis unless it is a vintage from one of the reputable makers.
    Condition:New with tags
    Brand: Sea-Gull
    Model: D813.581
    Gender: Men's
    Movement: Sea-Gull Automatic ST2553
    Case: Premium 316L Stainless Steel
    Dimension: 44 x 13 mm
    Crystal: Sapphire
    Water Resistance: 5ATM(50M)
    Band: Green Canvass
    Feature: Automatic , Date
    Warranty: 1 Year

  8. #7
    Mod. Russian, China Mech. Chascomm's Avatar
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    Re: What are the best Chinese movements? Need help picking samples for timing study

    Quote Originally Posted by BlueWings077 View Post
    [I]Hello CHASCOMM,
    I figured I'd pick your brain since I'm still new in the world of Chinese watches....
    People, please don't feel like you need to wait for me to answer if you've got some info of use to BlueWings077
    Earlier this morning, I stumbled into some interesting SeaGull timepieces and started to familiarize myself with the different movements {e.g., ST1701, ST19, ST2130, ST2553, ST3600, etc.... Forgive me for my naivette, is the higher numeric designation like the ST2553 or ST3600 (for manual wind) reserved for the higher-priced SeaGulls? I noticed that the entry-level Seagulls had the ST16xx//ST17xx movements. Just seeking expert guidance.
    The numeric sequence was initially related to when the movement was first introduced, up until the ST17. After that it has become a bit random, complicated further by ongoing development over long periods of time e.g. the ST6 continues to be the basis for new entry-level designs.

    I saw a couple of postings here @WUS about the SEAGULL military green model with ST2553 movement. This is my first choice.
    I'd like to hear your comments and/or complaints about this specific model before I pull the trigger.
    I don't own one so you'd benefit more from the experience of the several owners here on this forum. The ST25 is a decent movement, but it's height makes for a thick watch. There tends to be a bit of rotor noise too. It doesn't bother me on my forum project ST2528 but others have complained.

    [I]Currently, this watch is advertised at USD259 in the authorized SEAGULL-USA website. However, I have seen other watch sellers with a much LOWER price points. Times International [AKA-GoodStuffs.Com] and SeaGull-WatchStore in Hong Kong are both offering SeaGulls and other Chinese watches for sale at very competitive prices. Do they sell GENUINE ORIGINAL SEAGULL watches, or are they basically clones or replicas assembled in various sweatshops in China//HK???
    Times International has generally good reputation on this forum, but there has been diverse views expressed. There are a few old threads that you can search for.
    I am also considering the *M222S* in a similar price range.
    A simple and solid watch by all accounts, but you have a Unitas-style hand-winder already so the military automatic might be a more interesting choice for you.
    Chascomm
    Moderator, Russian Watches & Chinese Mechanical Watches Forums
    (no, I am not going to list all my watches here)

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