This is an ancient Dongfeng timepiece, manufactured in the early 1970s. When it was delivered to us, it was covered in dust and had ceased functioning. Our engineers conducted the necessary cleaning and reapplication of lubricants, reviving its vitality once more. With a daily deviation of merely 12 seconds, it comes as no surprise that, after more than four decades, it can maintain such a remarkable state.
We are all acquainted with the immensely classic Seagull 1963 aviation pilot wristwatch. The official Seagull website has recently unveiled the 60th-anniversary limited edition commemorative version of this timepiece. For more details, you may refer to the article about seagull 1963 we previously crafted. However, today, we shall delve into the tale of the Dongfeng brand, as it is not only the precursor of the Seagull 1963 but also the most emblematic historical artifact representing China's distinctive characteristics during the Cold War era.
First came Dongfeng, then came Seagull
The movement used in the first-generation Dongfeng watch sent for repair is the ST5. Enthusiasts familiar with Seagull watches would recognize that Seagull timepieces also bear movement codes beginning with "ST." Now, what is the connection between Dongfeng and Seagull watches? To provide a comprehensive understanding of the historical significance of this timepiece, we have meticulously outlined the legendary history as follows:
In March 1955, the predecessor of Tianjin Watch Factory, the Huawei Clock and Watch Factory, successfully developed China's first mechanical watch, which was an imitation of the Swiss Sindaco timepiece.
In 1956, the ST1 movement was born, a trial production modeled after the Swiss Titus FHF-28 movement, used in the first batch of Wuyi brand watches.
Between 1958 and 1960, under the guidance of Soviet experts, Tianjin Watch Factory further analyzed and improved the Swiss FHF-28 movement, leading to the creation of the ST2 movement.
From 1960 to 1963, continuous improvements were made to the ST2, and an anti-shock structure was added. In March 1965, the ST2 shock-resistant watch officially entered production, initially named "Zhonghua" and later changed to "Wuyi."
In 1965, Tianjin Watch Factory successfully developed the ST3 aviation chronograph watch (codenamed 304, which is the original name of the Seagull 1963).
In August 1966, Tianjin Watch Factory independently researched and successfully tested the ST5 movement, and timepieces using this movement were named "Dongfeng."
After 1970, upgraded movements such as ST5A, ST5B, ST5C, ST5-H6, and others were successively developed. After nearly 20 years of development, Dongfeng watches ceased production in 1987, and the "Seagull" brand became the flagship brand of Tianjin Watch Factory.
The ST5 is China's first independently developed movement
Based on the historical timeline of watch movements provided earlier, we can see that initially, the development of domestically produced watch movements in China was based on imitation and improvement. However, with accumulated experience and upgraded equipment, in January 1966, Tianjin Watch Factory established a design team and commenced the independent design and trial production of watch movements. On August 15 of the same year, they successfully designed a movement named ST5, with a diameter of 27mm, a thickness of 3.8mm, and a power reserve of 44 hours. This marked China's first independently designed and developed watch movement.
Apart from being the "first of China," the ST5 boasts several features that make Chinese people proud and esteemed:
Firstly, its timekeeping accuracy matches that of foreign counterparts. The first trial production had a frequency of 18,000 beats per hour, later increased to 21,600 beats per hour, achieving a timekeeping accuracy of ≤30 seconds per day.
Secondly, most watch movement components are domestically produced. Except for hairsprings and shock absorbers, which use imported parts, all other parts of the ST5 movement are manufactured domestically.
Thirdly, it exhibits excellent performance and was exported overseas. After mass production, market practices confirmed that the ST5 watch had reliable performance. It was officially put into production in 1969 and was exported in large quantities overseas from 1972 onwards. By 1978, approximately 12.96 million units were sold in foreign markets, earning China a substantial amount of foreign exchange.
Fourthly, the ST5 received numerous prestigious awards. In 1978, it was honored with the National Science Conference's Significant Contribution to Science and Technology Award. In 1986, it won the National Appearance Design Innovation First Prize and the Industrial Design Golden Dragon Soaring Third Prize. In 1988, it received the National Light Industry High-Quality Product Award. Moreover, in 1989, it was awarded the Gold Medal at the Beijing International Expo and the Light Industry Department's Enterprise Technological Progress Golden Dragon Soaring Award.
The beginning of China's independent research and development of watch movements
To ensure that every Chinese citizen could afford a wristwatch, China proposed an accelerated development of the domestic watch industry. In 1970, the Ministry of Light Industry formed a unified national movement design team, and in September 1971, the blueprint was finalized. Subsequently, various watch factories across China commenced the transition to the unified movement production.
Due to the ST5 movement's independent design and excellent quality, Tianjin Watch Factory's ST5 movement continued to coexist with the unified movement, but it also marked the beginning of continuous independent research and development of more advanced movements by Tianjin Watch Factory.
Over time, the unified movement gradually fell behind and was phased out, leading to the disappearance of many brands and watch factories that had adopted it. However, the Seagull brand of Tianjin Watch Factory not only survived but also continued to thrive due to its sustained efforts in independent movement research and development.
The politically charged "Dongfeng" watch.
The origin of the phrase "东风压倒西风" (The East Wind Prevails over the West Wind) also has a story.
The expression can be traced back to Chapter 82 of the Chinese classic novel "Dream of the Red Chamber." The phrase appears in the context of family matters, stating that either the "East Wind" overwhelms the "West Wind," or vice versa, implying the ever-changing dynamics of domestic affairs.
In 1957, during the Moscow Meeting of Communist and Workers' Parties, Mao Zedong, the then President of China, mentioned the international situation and put forward the famous concept of "东风压倒西风," meaning that the strength of socialism prevails over imperialism, signifying the dominant advantage of socialist forces against imperialist powers.
The naming of the "东风" (Dongfeng) watch and the use of Mao-style calligraphy in its logo indeed carry evident political significance, which is closely related to the historical background of the ST5 movement's birth. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, the world was during the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. China's Fourth Five-Year National Development Plan, starting in 1971, emphasized a focus on "military preparedness." Additionally, the influence of the Cultural Revolution resulted in the "东风" brand name being imbued with a strong sense of the era, making it one of the most representative historical artifacts of that time.
Moreover, it showcased China's light industry's pride and confidence in independently developing watch movements, bringing the craftsmanship of their timepieces closer to that of the world's leading brands.
Today, we have this Dongfeng watch from the early 1970s, an export version. After completing the repair, we carried out a special cleaning and polishing of its movement. The movement has been meticulously chamfered, resulting in a beautifully rounded and refined appearance. Let's appreciate its exquisite craftsmanship together.
To pay tribute to that special period of history and commemorate the engineers who worked hard to develop watches during the most challenging times, we are delighted to introduce the official reissue of the Dongfeng series - the limited edition "Dongfeng Watch - Serving the People."
This limited-edition timepiece is equipped with the ST2130 movement, which is Seagull Group's flagship movement. Designed with the purpose of creating an "affordable mechanical watch that meets international standards for the Chinese people," the movement has a diameter of 26mm and a total thickness of 4.8mm, offering exceptional product stability and cost-effectiveness. Its powerful heart beats at a frequency of 28,800 vibrations per hour, providing a power reserve of 39 hours, and it is adorned with 28 jewels.
The timepiece features a white retro sunburst dial, while the classic case is crafted from 316L stainless steel. At 3 o'clock, a practical and concise date window is presented, and at 6 o'clock, the phrase "Serving the People" is displayed with firm resolve. The classic large three hands, along with the red seconds hand, elegantly display the unchanging original intention. The timepiece is complemented by a curved sapphire crystal, forming a raised "dome" with the texture reminiscent of pebbles. This crystal is exceptionally clear, allowing the wearer to observe the exquisite dial and the graceful movement of the hands with utmost clarity. The transparent case back offers a view of the mechanical aesthetics in motion, adding to the visual allure of the timepiece.