Models and brands that tell an interesting story, are popular. If then still an attractive price/performance ratio is almost nothing in the way to stand seems the success of a model. If you believe the extensive forums-discussions gives, seems both on the reissue of the Aviator chronograph prototypes of the Chinese air force from the 60s to apply-the Seagull in 1963 by the Tianjin Seagull watch group.
I also could not resist 1963 the hymns on the historic Seagull in various forums, so I succumbed to myProjects will-Reflex-at a cost of less than €300 also not quite so much hurt the press of the buy button.
Reason enough to grab the opportunity to expand my horizons and to check my first mechanical watch from Chinese production in detail through its paces. This detailed test shows whether the common prejudice against made in China even at the Seagull 1963 apply or whether this is a real Price-performance blockbuster.
Background and history to the Seagull 1963 pilot chronograph
The history of the Tianjin watch factory (today: Tianjin Seagull watch group) tradition manufacturers such as E.g. Longines (1832), is not as long as some Swiss has but already a few decades on the hump: 1955, the Chinese Government decided to make independent imports out of Switzerland and the Soviet Union with an own watchmaking. The foundation stone for the Tianjin watch factory and Shanghai watch factory were laid even if the beginnings were rather modest: four clockmakers were employed to startup in the port city of Tianjin, South of Beijing.
Since the Tianjin watch factory could score points based on their experience with the production of the first Chinese wristwatch ever (Tianjin WuYi) and was renamed not far away from the Government in Beijing, the company was awarded the contract shortly afterwards for the production of Chronographs for the air force of the Chinese people’s Liberation Army PLA (code name Project 304).
As chance would have, was looking back in the same period the Swiss raw works manufacturer Venus a buyer for the plants of elaborate switching wheel chronograph caliber Venus 175to clear capital for further developments [sidenote: lot didn’t-Venus went bankrupt in 1966 and was purchased by Valjoux (today ETA)].
The Tianjin watch factory did not miss is the purchase of production equipment, made some improvements to the plant and built between 1961 and 1965 over a hundred prototypes ordered air force chronograph for the people’s Liberation Army. These were reviewed by several departments of the Chinese military with strict views and tested. Predicate: 良好!
Then the series production was launched shortly thereafter. The dough was sitting in the Chinese military but apparently not too cool: the Flieger Chronograph was built only four years (until 1969) – approx. 1400 units were delivered to the Chinese air force (other sources speak of 1700 pieces).
Nice-to-know: Today the Tianjin Seagull watch group ETA, Seiko and Miyota is one of the largest manufacturers of mechanical movements worldwide. 3000 employees and 3.7 million produced mechanical watches per year (as of 2010) are a real announcement. For comparison: Miyota (citizen group) builds approximately 1.8 million mechanical movements per year, ETA (Swatch Group) comes on about 5 million mechanical movements per year (as of 2011).
The Seagull in 1963 in the here tested version 37, 5 mm diameter and Perspex (acrylic) is the official replica of the prototypes the air force watch from the 60s. However, there are still some other variants, which sit on the models from the series production or are more or less freely interpreted. So there is the Seagull in 1963 in variants…
- Diameter 42mm, mineral glass, and cremfarbenem, black or black and white (Panda) dial,.
- 37, 5 mm diameter, sapphire glass and cream-coloured dial,
- 37, 5 mm diameter, acrylic, andcomplete other dial,
- 37, 5 mm diameter, acrylic, andBlack body coating.
Poljot24 and Watchunique you can see the available models pretty quickly (more on this later).
Seagull 1963: Flieger Chronograph with vintage charm in the test
37.5 mm diameter – This is actually too small. There’s that 1963 although as above can be seen in one of these Seagull 42 mm variant, however only has installed (tempered) mineral glass . For me due to various experiences unfortunately a no-go and the attraction of Arched acrylic glass also I can not resist. In short, I found it easy to buckle the most classic of all variations around the wrist charming…
A little chubby , the Seagull works in 1963 with the relation of right great height (14mm) and relatively small diameter (exactly 37, 5 mm) already on the wrist-especially on the NATO band that the height also increases. The chronograph has on the other hand despite the nominally small size relatively present on the wrist:
The processing of the all-around polished housing and the handle/Crown is surprisingly good and can easily keep up with other models in the price range (and beyond). The insides of the horns and the narrow edge of the caseback, who had to tolerate some extra attention when editing are only little Downer . Since this is hardly visible-water under the bridge.
Dial and hands
Naming the number is rather unusual stones hand lift work in a prominent place, where usually a brand logo emblazoned. The caption says 19 Zuan, so 19 stones, here: this is the historically correct number of stones in the 1963 revised variant of the Venus 175 of switch wheel chronograph caliber (more on this below). De facto there are 21 stones in the market today reissues but. 19 Zuan is only for historical reasons on the dial:
In previous versions of the Seagull 1963 there is still a second line with Chinese characters on the dial, which simply “(Made in?)” Mean China”. This variant is sold still seem to be – in addition to the second line with Chinese characters at the dealer Watchunique , here however, the lettering is 21 Zuan, so naming the correct number stones in the turning wheel caliber.
For bean counters: historical 100% correct actually is the two-line version with lettering 19 Zuan (here a picture of the original prototype) – also this version of new edition seems and seemed to exist, but is not dealer known to me more available.
For a military watch, the Seagull has a surprising Grace1963 air force chronograph: Aesthetically, the unite Golden, patch (!) Digits with the antique cream dial, whose soft Farbtöne are particularly well to the fore through the Plexiglas. In addition, contrasting blued hands emphasize the elegant look.
But an end to the romantic whispers. To bring it to the point: the optics of the Seagull Dresser 1963 is strongly towards and distinguishes them from the uniformity of the military chronograph. It has made me rarely as fun, photos of a clock to make – the chronograph in all situations good looks simple. Great!
Tianjin Seagull has in the 60s the production equipment of the Swiss raw works manufacturer bought Venus, which it essentially identical with the Venus 175 switch wheel caliber is, which was used for example in theBreitling Navitimer. Tianjin Seagull made however some modifications to improve the turning wheel chronograph movement: as was the factory equipped with a shock absorber and the power reserve increased from 38 to 40 hours. Today is the correct internal designation of the caliber Seagull ST19.
An caliber of ratchet wheel is considerably more complex in the making as common chronograph caliber with so-called setting control, why such works be – installed anymore and if it does, usually at very high-priced models, E.g. by Patek Philippe.
The basis for the Seagull-caliber ST19 can see so and might be actually quite reliable, or? In various (German and international) fora, to read but occasionally problems with the plant. I just lean out the window and saying that it is primarily in the quality control, which experience shows that something is a neglected stepchild in China. Some bad luck so can a Monday product advised. The order from a dealer in Germany or the EU is all the more commendable but, so that nothing in the way of possible warranty processing (more on this in the last section).
However, you have to hold that Seagull with delivers the best quality among the Chinese suppliers of mechanical works. Also, if I can share (yet) no long-term experiences in this test with the Seagull-caliber ST19, the work makes a very good impression: the chronograph pushers turn crisp and above all very smoothly, i.e. with hardly noticeable mechanical resistance-which owes the Seagull 1963 Schaltrad technology.
The accuracy is Near perfect + 1 second per day for my model. However, one reads in relevant forums of much larger variations in the range of + 10 to + 15 seconds per day. This is no big deal, but of course nothing for obtained fetishists.
However, a disadvantage of the plant is the missing seconds stop, i.e. when applying Crown, the second hand continues to run. This makes it difficult a precise setting of the time.
Visually the caliber ST19 for quite makes what therefore why I strongly advise to the version with glass bottom-that is alone worth to see the wheel in action when you press the trigger.
The Seagull in 1963 from Poljot24 came with the standard NATO in military green and as an extra addition with a black NATO and a calf leather strap (each of Rios 1931). You can choose from red, Brown and black the latter at Poljot24 in the colors (Note: the Red has the only no crocodile embossing).
The military green (Seagull) NATO and the black (Rios) NATO are good quality, although the quality of NATO bands by Miro’s time in my opinion easily has the nose front.
Box and contents
A very simple box that feels like pressing cardboard and snippets of a paper providing clues to the Rios bracelet that looks like it just fell out of a fortune cookie. That of it. Because my watch boxes, regardless of which manufacturer, decorative somewhere in the far corner of the basement end up, which though not particularly touches me. So continue to the conclusion…
Bottom line, assessment & value for money to the Seagull 1963
With the Seagull in 1963, the largest Chinese producer of mechanical movements, proves that the Chinese can get far more than only replicas build. The design of the prototypes in 1963 was very authentic hit and processing (in particular case and the dial) is above average for a watch in a price range. In particular, one must emphasise also lavishly produced Schaltrad-caliber, which one needs not only looking in the price range of a Swiss or German manufacturer. Whether the work of my model over a longer period of reliably doing his service, must show up however —to sue a reason I hadn’t previously but still.
Also at the price there is nothing to bleating: at the Seagull in 1963 it is necessary (other than at many reprints of classics, such as the Oris divers sixty-five) to plunder the account, fill with a new guest to the watch box.
All in all you get with the Seagull 1963 a round package with a very good value for money. It certainly not difficult for me personally, to befriend me watch with this made in China– similar to expensive and even more expensive Swiss made and made in Germany the Seagull have 1963 anyway, not hiding from colleagues in my PM box. Chapeau!
Seagull 1963 buy: dealer overview
The cheapest available of the Seagull 1963 there the Dutch distributor Watchunique: from €180 + shipping costs the classic Variant can be there with Caseback (see-through: €30 surcharge) order. Only the military-green standard NATO is provided.
I have the Seagull in 1963 but the Munich distributor bought Poljot24. Actually, I wanted to save a few bucks and order at Watchunique, I’ve read but good things about the service of Poljot24 a lot – which is given not to despise any shortcomings in the movement (see above). The Rios-tapes (over € 30) are a nice addition, what has moved me then to pay slightly more.
In the English-speaking Watchuseek Forum I became also (user hked) aware of a Distributor, which sent the Seagull 1963 directly from Hong Kong. Here is an informal contact via E-Mail (firstname.lastname@example.org). The following variants are (as of December 2016) in the offer:
- 37, 5 mm version with cream-coloured dial, acrylic and glass floor (marked 19 Zuan)
- 42 mm version with cream-coloured dial, hardened mineral glass and glass floor (marked 21 Zuan)
- 42 mm version with black dial (and white Subdials), hardened mineral glass and glass floor (marked 21 Zuan)
- 42 mm version with White Dial (and black Subdials, so-called Panda dial), hardened mineral glass and glass floor (marked 21 Zuan)
The price is even something higher than at Watchuniquewith 260 US dollars including shipping (stand December 2016, about 1 month delivery time) for all versions however. Should be an availability of the desired variant at Poljot24 or Watchunique, you should order better there – alone, to accept warranty claims if necessary according to German and European legislation to complete. At the end of this article, I’ve lit closer the subject of guarantee and warranty: warranty and guarantee when ordering by micro-fire watches abroad.
The alternative to the Seagull 1963 comes out… Russia!
A historical chronograph vintage-style with column wheel movement for well under €1000? It can be found only with the Russians: The caliber 3017 is the only switch wheel chronograph caliber, which was built in mother Russia. Here, the Russians have slammed mid of 50s when the Swiss has hawked tube mill manufacturer Venus its facilities for the caliber of Venus 150 (predecessor of the Venus 175).
Alexey Arkhipovich Leonov in 1965 was the first astronaut who was in the free space – for, after all, about 12 minutes. Belted had he with a chronograph from the Russian House of Strela Melara Schaltrad 3017.
There are models with calibre 3017 in the Vintage corner here and there but only for ebay for around €600 (of Strela and Poljot, Sekonda). Replaced it was namely in the 70s by the still very popular calibre 3133 Poljot.Here, for example a popular vintage variation of Strela caliber 3017:
The New Edition of Strela 38 mm diameter, caliber 3133 for just under € 600 are also available at Poljot24. It is 1963 visually very similar to the Seagull, but unfortunately only hardened mineral glass is installed.
I would like to lead by Russian space watches finally even to the Bulova Moonwatch, which although comes with a movement that is much less elaborate (UHF quartz), for it but also an exciting (space) story and offers a good value for money. Go to the review including detailed background history:
How to choose a watch in timepiece.