The Rise of Chinese Watchmaking: From Novelty to Prestige

by JUNJIE ZHANG on Jun 06, 2024

The rise of chinese watch making

The Rise of Chinese Watchmaking: From Novelty to Prestige

For decades, the Swiss watch industry has dominated the higher ends of watchmaking, with names like Rolex, Omega, and Patek Philippe commanding attention and respect. However, a new wave of Chinese watch brands is emerging, proving that fine watchmaking isn't just a European expertise. Brands like Atelier Wen, San Martin, and our own Aquatrident are showcasing the rising skills and quality from China's watchmakers.

San Martin Watches

Helping to push this movement forward are brands like San Martin, showcasing their homage watches with very high quality craftmanship and to rave reviews for buyers. Also Atelier Wen, an independent brand founded on a collaboration between French and Chinese talents. Their flagship Perception line demonstrates a remarkable fusion of Haute Horlogerie finishing with thoughtful Chinese artistic details. With intricate enamel and engraved dials created by Chinese artisans, the Perception watches blend centuries-old craftsmanship with modern, haute horology movements.

Atelier Wen Watches

This combination of respected watchmaking knowhow with unique Chinese design and decorative arts is a compelling proposition. It allows brands like Atelier Wen, San Martin and Aquatrident to deliver timepieces that are both technically impressive while offering distinctive cultural aesthetics. For watch collectors, it provides an opportunity to own something new and different from the traditional Swiss/German offerings. Some reviews online even claiming the quality of making is higher that the european counterpart.

Beyond just the artistic merits, there are signs that Chinese watchmaking as a whole is reaching promising new technical levels as well. The movements from brands are increasingly in-house manufactured to high standards. Companies are producing robust, reliable calibers that can credibly compete with entry-level Swiss movements.

Neptune Carbon Fiber Watch. White Dial/ Black Strap With Fiber. 40Mm. Aq-23009-06B

Aquatrident Neptune Watch a full Carbon Fiber Watch with an Automatic Swiss Movement

At Aquatrident, our founder, Rob, has spent over 15 years immersed in the world of watchmaking, honing his craft and gaining invaluable insights into the industry's inner workings while making watch parts for big name watch companies.

After years of learning the trade's nuances, navigating its mountains and pitfalls, Rob was ready to bring his own creations to life. With a office and factory at the heart of China's watchmaking epicenter, Aquatrident has established a state-of-the-art facility, where a team of over 20 talented individuals, and people from around the globe pour their expertise into every timepiece, aiming to build long lasting brands that are here to stay. With timepieces made from Carbon Fiber, Opal and Meteorite, Aquatrident is taking quality materials not often used and combining them to create uniquely exquisite watches that redefine luxury, craftsmanship and experience of the wearer.

Aquatrident Watch - Ocean Collection with Meteorite Dial

So what is driving this resurgence of Chinese watchmaking abilities and the subsequent rise in desirable Chinese watch brands? A confluence of factors has allowed it to flourish:

Investments in Talent and Technology

Over the past decade-plus, significant investments have been made in training horological experts, sourcing high-end machinery, and developing domestic technical capabilities within mainland China's watchmaking hubs like Hangzhou, Dongguan and Beijing. This concentrated effort is now bearing fruit with a new generation of skilled Chinese watchmakers.

Nationalism/Cultural Pride 

As mainland China's economic power and nationalism has grown, there is appetite for Chinese brands that can inspire cultural pride, especially in the luxury space traditionally dominated by European names. Authentic Chinese brands tapping into artistic heritage are one way to celebrate that pride of craft.

Disruption and Accessibility

Many Chinese watch brands are able to deliver incredible value propositions by vertically integrating and bypassing Swiss middlemen. This allows them to pack high-quality movements and finishings into relatively accessibly priced timepieces compared to equivalent European watches. 

Building Trust and Prestige

While Chinese watch engineering was once regarded as inferior, brands like ours and others are earning respect by adhering to prestigious watchmaking standards and traditions. By credibly delivering on horological craft and prowess, skepticism is being replaced by an appreciation for the capabilities of Chinese watchmaking.

Keeping an eye on the Chinese watchmaking scene is essential for those who appreciate the beauty and artistry of timepieces. It offers a glimpse into a rapidly evolving industry where passionate craftsmen are striving to create the best watches possible. As these underdogs continue to make their mark, they are reshaping the narrative of Chinese watchmaking and carving a place for themselves among the world's most respected watchmakers.