In the world of watch collecting, international brands like Patek Philippe, Vacheron Constantin, Rolex, and Jaeger-LeCoultre hold significant importance in the eyes of collectors. However, in the eyes of some seasoned collectors overseas, there is a Chinese watch that holds a very special place. This watch is a classic timepiece in the Chinese watch industry and is hailed by foreign collectors as the "best Chinese watch." It is none other than the Seagull 1963. On the occasion of its 60th anniversary, this iconic watch has welcomed a brand new reissue version known as the "1963 Times Edition Chronograph."
The traditional value of watch collecting often stems from aspects like rarity or unique craftsmanship, movements, and technological innovations. However, for the Seagull 1963, its greatest collectible value lies in its one-of-a-kind history.
It is the first domestically developed chronograph in China, known as "Air Force Number One," and it achieved a breakthrough for Chinese Air Force chronographs. To this day, the history of the Seagull 1963's birth continues to be widely circulated.
In the early 1960s, China's watchmaking industry was just starting to develop, thus the Air Force relied mainly on imports for aviation watches. In order to break free from this dependence on imports and improve China's manufacturing capabilities and watchmaking technology, Ministry of Light Industry of People’s Republic of China issued a top-secret national mission in April 1961, code named "Project 304," which aimed to develop chronographs exclusively for the use of the Chinese Air Force.
After receiving this task, the Seagull Watch Factory mobilized the collective wisdom and technical expertise of the entire factory. After two years of hard work, they successfully developed the first domestically produced Air Force chronograph in 1963.
Despite being in the early stages of the country's development, facing numerous challenges and material shortages, the product's precision, timing, resistance to high and low temperatures, shock resistance, antimagnetic properties, moisture resistance, adjustment of the hour and minute hands, start quality of the winding crown, and impact resistance all met the required standards, subsequently gaining approval for mass production.
As the first domestically produced chronograph equipped by the Chinese Air Force, it was given the name "1963" due to its birth year of 1963.
This unique historical artifact, born during a special period in history, with its one-of-a-kind brand story, has bestowed upon the "1963" chronograph its distinct collectible value. The original equipment that only frontline combat pilots could possess back then has seen well-preserved versions on some platforms selling for thousands of dollars. Even the numbered reissue versions have exceeded several bucks of dollars.
The newly launched Seagull 1963 Times Edition Chronograph faithfully reproduces the original design sketches from 1963. It incorporates exquisite watchmaking craftsmanship and unique elements, thus its return to the market has garnered enthusiastic attention from watch enthusiasts and collectors alike. Some industry insiders have expressed that the Seagull 1963 Times Edition Chronograph is not only a tribute to the classic and an homage to the era but also a reflection of the continuous advancement of Chinese manufacturing.
In the past, China has taken pride in its list of nationally and internationally acclaimed engineering marvels such as high-speed trains, tunnel boring machines, and space stations. However, the strength of a nation's manufacturing capabilities is not solely reflected in these "Mega Projects." It also requires entities like Seagull, the "Smaller Players," which dedicate themselves to specialized areas and contribute to build a manufacturing power. This diversified approach enriches our national identity.
In the watchmaking industry, Seagull possesses a core technology - the manufacturing of movement, which only a few companies worldwide have the expertise on it. In the context of watches, this component is akin to an engine in a car. Seagull has achieved independent research and development of these movements, and their quality has gained recognition globally. According to statistics, Seagull currently supplies 40% of the world market's movement needs.
Seagull's accomplishments have not only earned praise from industry professionals but have also attracted attention from global collectors. In an online forum called "time you seek," dedicated to collectors, many international collectors even seek assistance from Chinese collectors to acquire domestically produced Chinese watches.
The 1963 Times Edition Chronograph encapsulates 60 years of trials and tribulations within its timekeeping mechanism, bearing witness to China's journey in manufacturing. China's manufacturing industry needs more companies like Seagull to be companions of time, partners in technology, and allies in quality, collectively driving Chinese manufacturing towards global prominence.