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Thread: A few thoughts on collecting vintage Chinese pieces...

  1. #1

    A few thoughts on collecting vintage Chinese pieces...

    On Sun Oct 03, abraxas posted a link to a very neat Europa Star article on the Tianjin Sea-Gull Watch company. The article brought what I'm about to write to my mind, but I didn't want to hijack abraxas' thread since the focus of this post is different than just Tianjin/Sea-Gull. (It's worth reading the article, including the entertaining 2008 "Basel scandal".)

    With that, here's what I'm trying to say in this thread...

    In watch collecting, the usual realms of:

    * historic country and company first issues
    * prototypes and trial pieces
    * watch company internal limited promotional or award editions,
    * historically issued military pieces,
    * high jewel
    * "fully in-house" decorated movements and watches, and especially...
    * being able to own a lineage of a historic company's in-house movements

    are often out of reach of many collector's budgets. Mine for example.

    But with Chinese and especially Chinese vintage watches, every category listed above can still be well explored at under $100/piece and the available watches--beside meeting the above categories--are cosmetically and mechanically sound, attractive, reliable and capable of excellent, sometimes even chronometer like, accuracy. And many of the current and new designs from the historically experienced companies are just plain cool 8)

    From a historical point of view, in just over 60 years China has gone from putting a half dozen watchmakers in one single room to a situation where just a single one of its many companies now supplies a full one-quarter of the world's mechanical and automatic movements, on its own.

    From a collector's point of view (or at least "me") it's my opinion/impression that prices for vintage Chinese watches on Ebay and on Taobao have gone up by maybe 35% over the time I've been collecting (two years), and the supply of a number of pieces is getting scarce. But right now I still think most of the very good stuff is around and available--and well worth having if you're on a budget but you still want to have historically significant pieces. After all, it's highly unlikely the Chinese are going to just fade away out of the watch business :shock:

    Anyways, just sayin...

    And because "a thread is useless without pictures", a few from the AMCH/PR

    Prices are not "for sale" prices--I'm not a seller. The prices are just what I paid for 'em on Taobao (delivery included) to give you a general idea of prices these days...

    1979 Jixing "for military" marked---issued (on a much plainer strap) during China's 1979 war with VietNam (Sino-Vietnamese War)
    Wonderful examples are available for roughly $20 CDN) and the aesthetics of these watches is a million miles from the look of any "western" military watch, but it absolutely is an issued military use "working soldier's" watch.



    1960s DongFeng ST5...the very first 100% Chinese designed and built wristwatch (19 jewels, including jewels for the mainspring barrel)...pristine: $180, but excellent only around $40 CDN: (Dongfeng was the second "brand" name for Tianjin---now Sea-Gull---watches)



    1970s Beijing Shuangling 40 zuan SZB-1C (high jewel) -- roughly $60 CDN



    2005-2006 model Shanghai 35 jewel automatic on stock strap: $60 CDN on Taobao




  2. #2

    Re: A few thoughts on collecting vintage Chinese pieces...

    Definitely worth a punt from a financial pov; it's a global market place now and China is a huuge place - just takes a small percentile interest going after a few rare pieces and Roberts you dads brother.

    The aesthetics are a bit challenging, it's like Arabic art, it just looks different to our western eyes but the more you dig around the more interesting they do become in their own right, bit like Russian watches.

  3. #3

    Re: A few thoughts on collecting vintage Chinese pieces...

    I'd love to buy these things, but I can't. I spent an hour looking at Taobao there and I was completely defeated.

  4. #4

    Re: A few thoughts on collecting vintage Chinese pieces...

    Quote Originally Posted by barneygumble
    I'd love to buy these things, but I can't. I spent an hour looking at Taobao there and I was completely defeated.
    There are two methods that work. One is very easy, and that's to use a Taobao Agent (like TaobaoNow or TaobaoDirect). The other is how I do it which takes more time, but saves some money and often (easily most of the time) establishes a nice relationship with sellers for future deals.

    Mind you, more and more of these watches are turning up on Ebay at decent prices, too.

    Good hunting!

    (and I'm always happy to help/enable... :D )

  5. #5

    Re: A few thoughts on collecting vintage Chinese pieces...

    Nice post and even nicer Chinese watches :D I have a vintage Seagull now myself although its well worn, but will definitely have some more in the future as they are cheap and I like how the look, but I will be after ones in nice condition. :D

  6. #6
    Master
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    Re: A few thoughts on collecting vintage Chinese pieces...

    I had a few vintage Sea-Gulls but sold them all on SC. Great watches and very under-rated. :)

  7. #7
    Grand Master abraxas's Avatar
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    Re: A few thoughts on collecting vintage Chinese pieces...

    .
    It's always a pleasure reading your threads AlbertaTime.

    Quote Originally Posted by andy111s
    Definitely worth a punt from a financial pov; it's a global market place now and China is a huuge place - just takes a small percentile interest going after a few rare pieces and Roberts you dads brother.

    The aesthetics are a bit challenging, it's like Arabic art, it just looks different to our western eyes but the more you dig around the more interesting they do become in their own right, bit like Russian watches.
    Yes, very much so. But in a bigger scale than the Russian output.

    john

  8. #8
    Master
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    Re: A few thoughts on collecting vintage Chinese pieces...

    Can anyone recommend where to source these from in China itself?

    Mr brother is living in Shanghai for the forseeable but he's no WIS so "please go and find me some vintage Seagull's & DongFeng's" isn't going to cut it. Maybe time for a visit? :)

  9. #9

    Re: A few thoughts on collecting vintage Chinese pieces...

    Quote Originally Posted by paulpsz008
    Can anyone recommend where to source these from in China itself?

    Mr brother is living in Shanghai for the forseeable but he's no WIS so "please go and find me some vintage Seagull's & DongFeng's" isn't going to cut it. Maybe time for a visit? :)
    In a word: Taobao http://www.taobao.com :-)

    Also, this WUS post will be helpful, courtesy of "Back".

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