AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10th

AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10th

Postby AlbertaTime » July 1st 2014, 11:18am

More catching up, and June 10th was my 63rd birthday...

I'm back in Beijing now (it's just after 2AM, July 2nd here) for my last few days in China this trip, and it's been a whirlwind of activity since my last post...about 6 hours of sleep (maybe) most nights, and so much information that I'm kinda boggled by it all.

Time to make posts? I'm begging your understanding but it's been hard to find time to even sit down (I am so damn fortunate...truly blessed...)

So, today's post will cover June 10th,just one day. It might give you an idea of the pace of things on this trip for me ;-)

LiWei asked me to meet him at 9:00 AM outside the location of the old Beijing Watch Factory flagship store in Beijing's Sanlitun SOHO area because (1) he knew I could find it ;-) and (2) because both Longio and Koncise have stores very nearby.

The day started right on time with a re-visit to the Longio store...

I've spoken about Longio's impressive line before and visited their store last year, but the return was a friendly treat. I was introduced this time to the store Manager, Mr. LuiZheng (instead, meeting the owner later in Shenzhen) and I was again shown their line of very solid and modern tourbillon and non-tourbillon watches.

Longio *gets* that the western market demands something more than dress watches and they have built-like-tank divers, pilots and field watches in their line along with dressier pieces. As I've noted before, even some of their tourbillons are modern heavy-metal designs. They also understand the expectations of some higher-end customers and have chosen Swiss movements for a number of their higher-end (read: pricier) models.

Any prices shown are RMB with 1000 RMB equaling about $162 USD, so the pilots list at about $2000.00. These aren't at all cheap Chinese watches, and they're built to fairly compete with serious stuff from anywhere. (Note: so many watch and jewelry display cases are lit for glitter and not cameras, so please excuse crappy colour at times...)

Here's some of the photos taken at the Longio store...

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...(I'm pretty sure I have better photos taken during the Shenzhen days of the Longio auto tourbillon in the heavy-metal case, so I'll leave it till then.)

Also, seen in these photos, apart from other people named, is Boey Mei (a very friendly WatchuSeek contributor from Malaysia I was fortunate enough to meet face-to-face during this trip) and Mr. Wang Kaihao, the Xinhua news reporter who was along with us this day). It's not all about watches; the human side of these trips is always what |I find the most rewarding.

By the way, Boey, another store visitor, and I all tried on the very hefty curved case Longio models with the roman numerals to see how the curve fit differing wrists...and the result was we all found it fit well. Don't know how they did that, but... :-)

Anyways, next stop was the Koncise (Beijing) International Watch Co., Ltd. flagship store.

Here's what I understood of the story of this company and its very impressive roots:

I was met at the store by the Koncise Watch Company Chairman, Mr. Kong Lingjun. His family traces its history back 67 generations to Confucious.

The Koncise Company's enamel dials are produced by some of the world's most prestigious masters and by people trained by them, and the Company's enamel is arguably the highest grade enamel available anywhere, made by anyone. The watch case design is made to resemble old scrolls and the idea is to produce a modern but historically respectful -- and very, very high quality -- watch for horological connoisseurs.

So, first, some photos from the shop...and then the first great surprise of the day that followed...

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I tried a number of shots, but I couldn't even come close to capturing the subtle but startling beauty of this dial...

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The classic Koncise case design is very inventive. All the watch dials and interior cases double as wrist or pocket watches, beng placed securely in either respective outer case...

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Koncise is very proud that its watches have been honoured with the inclusion of an example at the Musee International D'Horlogerie in La Choux-de-Fonds...

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Before leaving Boey and I were both asked to write something for the Koncise records, a task we were both happy to perform. I'll say this: Boey is an eloquent writer. Me, I think not so much.

(next shots courtesy LiWei)

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And here's a shot of Company Chairman Kong Lingjun watching me try my best to do his watches at least some justice.

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Here's what Koncise had to say about our visit.

Then followed the day's first surprise, a trip to the very small village outside Beijing where the dials are produced and where the Xiong family of craftsmen holds many of its incredible treasures.

I was taken to the village to:

1) gain an appreciation for history behind these treasures,
2) to gain a much deeper understanding of what makes good or great as opposed to merely pedestrian enamel,
3) to meet an enamel master whose family enamel and cloisonne production expertise directly dates back to family enamel masters resident at the Imperial Palace from 1644, the beginning of the Qing dynasty, to a short time after the turn of the last century, and
4) to enjoy a meal (mostly grown in the village) at the Xiong family table (and people sometimes still wonder why I consider my life spectacularly blessed???) Image

No shots of the village because...well, because I was too shell-shocked. I only thought about photos once I was inside.

Here, have a look: both older technique and new technique pieces (the newest technique developed by Master Xiong)...and I can tell the difference now :-)

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A couple of examples of materials ground for colours/pigments...

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At the table...

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...and what you've maybe been waiting for...

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...and being from Alberta (cowboy country) it was fun checking out this not-so-traditional belt buckle...

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...and here I am proudly with the enamel vase I was given as a most generous birthday gift from mr. Xiong personally :-)

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Seriously, the day couldn't get better, but it was only early afternoon and it stayed just as good the rest of the day.

Next stop, the venerable Beijing Watch Factory (BJWAF)...so, next shot, courtesy LiWei, a photo of Boey and I outside the factory itself...

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...and a couple by me, outside...

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...and Boey showing off his Beijing watch inside (look close, mine's on my wrist, too)...

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More photos of BJWAF...photos from the museum inside, after a first shot of a monster tourbillon in the entrance...

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Incredibly rare...

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Early movements...

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Boey drooling...

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...and more Beijing Watch Factory museum shots...

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Now some shots of the factory floors...

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Spotted on a worker's wrist...

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What a birthday!! And, next...a delicious dinner starting at dusk at a huge man-made lakeside restaurant about a half-hour's drive from the factory, with the General Manager of Beijing Watch Factory, Mr. Miao Hong Bo.

One photo I took...

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...One LiWei took...

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...and a shot of me with Mr. Miao...

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Well...all good days have to end and this birthday had been perfect, but LiWei mentioned we were going to go back for coffee at the Touch Woman Cafe, which turned out to be the last surprise of the day...

Mr. Kong (descendant of Confucious, remember?) and LiWei had very generously arranged a private birthday party for me with our crew, so this is how the day ended, complete with goofy birthday hat:

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:-) :-) :-)

And that was just. one. day.

I know I can't can't say thanks enough for the kindnesses shown to me by everyone. I'm hope everyone reading understands, though, that I'll be very, very grateful every day of my life for the wonders I'm being shown and the opportunities I've been presented. Obviously, a huge thanks goes to my incredible friend, LiWei...but everyone mentioned has shown me invaluable friendship and courtesy.

More to come...
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby abduksion » July 1st 2014, 5:38pm

Were those green cheery's on that cake?
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby Airframer » July 1st 2014, 6:18pm

Wow - Awesome as always! I mean, those enamel dials alone.... beautiful. Your friends must think very highly of you to treat you to such a far-reaching adventure. Happy Birthday, as well, AT!
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby AlbertaTime » July 1st 2014, 7:12pm

abduksion wrote:Were those green cheery's on that cake?


Yellowish, if I recall correctly...but delicious. There's lots of food here I'm unfamiliar with (but it's all good :D ).
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby AlbertaTime » July 1st 2014, 7:13pm

Airframer wrote:Wow - Awesome as always! I mean, those enamel dials alone.... beautiful. Your friends must think very highly of you to treat you to such a far-reaching adventure. Happy Birthday, as well, AT!


Thanks for the birthday wish. And...I'm amazed every single day at how I'm treated here.
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby conjurer » July 1st 2014, 7:33pm

Happy Birthday, A-T! As usual, excellent work with the report and fantastic pics. Honestly, I know of no one on the various fora who contribute to the history and art of horology than you. Vast kudos!
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby jason_recliner » July 1st 2014, 7:58pm

It would be interesting to know how many of the high end Chinese watches are sold. Of all the Chinese guys (and women) I know who have dropped significant money on watches, they are interested in Omega, Panerai, AP, Cartier and Rolex (with Rolex, interestingly, considered to be fading and less appealing than Omega :shock: ). Similarly, their clothes and accessories are Gucci, LV, and probably some others I don't pay attention to (a lot of my Chinese friends are pretty cashed up). Brands are important to them when it comes to luxury goods, and I can't imagine any of them spending more than a couple hundred bucks on a Chinese watch, and then only be out of curiosity. A couple of the guys who aren't into watches in a big way wear Seiko and Citizen.
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby AlbertaTime » July 1st 2014, 8:04pm

conjurer wrote:Happy Birthday, A-T! As usual, excellent work with the report and fantastic pics. Honestly, I know of no one on the various fora who contribute to the history and art of horology than you. Vast kudos!


哪裡|哪里 nà li nà li ...

When faced with such an exceptional compliment, I'm very pleased my visits to China have provided me a means to express, along with my gratitude, that my efforts are only among many who have done much more. Very generous of you, Conjurer. Thank you.
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby conjurer » July 1st 2014, 8:06pm

jason_recliner wrote:It would be interesting to know how many of the high end Chinese watches are sold. Of all the Chinese guys (and women) I know who have dropped significant money on watches, they are interested in Omega, Panerai, AP, Cartier and Rolex (with Rolex, interestingly, considered to be fading and less appealing than Omega :shock: ). Similarly, their clothes and accessories are Gucci, LV, and probably some others I don't pay attention to (a lot of my Chinese friends are pretty cashed up). Brands are important to them when it comes to luxury goods, and I can't imagine any of them spending more than a couple hundred bucks on a Chinese watch, and then only be out of curiosity. A couple of the guys who aren't into watches in a big way wear Seiko and Citizen.


An interesting story that was related to me by somebody In The Know a couple of years ago:

Apparently there are tons of Chinese tourists who vacation in Switzerland--which ain't surprising, considering how much money they're sitting on. Anyway, one of the biggest jewelry stores in Lucerne is Bucherer, where, according to my source, a large part of the main watch sales area is devoted to these very high end Chinese watches. And who are the buyers? The Chinese tourists! I certainly don't know how much this contributes to the high-end Chinese watch sales, but I don't doubt my source at all.
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby jason_recliner » July 1st 2014, 8:12pm

conjurer wrote:An interesting story that was related to me by somebody In The Know a couple of years ago:

Apparently there are tons of Chinese tourists who vacation in Switzerland--which ain't surprising, considering how much money they're sitting on. Anyway, one of the biggest jewelry stores in Lucerne is Bucherer, where, according to my source, a large part of the main watch sales area is devoted to these very high end Chinese watches. And who are the buyers? The Chinese tourists! I certainly don't know how much this contributes to the high-end Chinese watch sales, but I don't doubt my source at all.


That IS interesting. Thanks, John - I learnt something about watches today!
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby AlbertaTime » July 1st 2014, 8:18pm

jason_recliner wrote:It would be interesting to know how many of the high end Chinese watches are sold. Of all the Chinese guys (and women) I know who have dropped significant money on watches, they are interested in Omega, Panerai, AP, Cartier and Rolex (with Rolex, interestingly, considered to be fading and less appealing than Omega :shock: ). Similarly, their clothes and accessories are Gucci, LV, and probably some others I don't pay attention to (a lot of my Chinese friends are pretty cashed up). Brands are important to them when it comes to luxury goods, and I can't imagine any of them spending more than a couple hundred bucks on a Chinese watch, and then only be out of curiosity. A couple of the guys who aren't into watches in a big way wear Seiko and Citizen.


I can't answer your question, but I do know that about 20% of the world's population lives in China, and only some of the companies I mention are State enterprises. My understanding is that, for examples, Longio and Koncise are not State owned and they have to be profitable to survive.

Even a small domestic market would be enough to float a fair bit of what I've seen, and many of the folks I visited (and I'll be showing some of their personal non-Chinese collections in other posts) own Lange, Patek, VC, Rolex, Omega, etc., etc. as well as Chinese pieces in their collections.

And the low-mid to high-mid market here in China is *huge*, and certainly enough to support the smaller runs of higher end pieces anyways. Swiss and German watches still have the bulk of the high end market in China just due to provenance and prestige, but many of the cream of the Chinese high end watch community support their own country with Chinese purchases along with other stuff they buy.
Last edited by AlbertaTime on July 1st 2014, 8:26pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby AlbertaTime » July 1st 2014, 8:25pm

Just for fun...teasers from just one collection I saw...

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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby jason_recliner » July 1st 2014, 8:28pm

AlbertaTime wrote:Even a small domestic market would be enough to float a fair bit of what I've seen, and many of the folks I visited (and I'll be showing some of their personal non-Chinese collections in other posts) own Lange, Patek, VC, Rolex, Omega, etc., etc. as well as Chinese pieces in their collections.


Thanks Ron, this is really what I was curious about. If the guys with Patek, Lange etc are also supporting the domestic industry, then Beijing and others can probably sell a handful of gyro-tourbillons and the like. Realistically, all of those high end pieces sell in very limited numbers anyway, regardless of the brand.
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby Racer-X » July 1st 2014, 8:35pm

These posts are fascinating to me. Traveling to a far away land, enjoying your hobby, being welcomed in such a way and then sharing it all with those who have the same hobby. Generous and impressive. Thank you.
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby abduksion » July 1st 2014, 8:43pm

AlbertaTime wrote:
abduksion wrote:Were those green cheery's on that cake?


Yellowish, if I recall correctly...but delicious. There's lots of food here I'm unfamiliar with (but it's all good :D ).


I'm color blind so please except my deepest apologize :D
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby AlbertaTime » July 1st 2014, 8:57pm

abduksion wrote:
AlbertaTime wrote:
abduksion wrote:Were those green cheery's on that cake?


Yellowish, if I recall correctly...but delicious. There's lots of food here I'm unfamiliar with (but it's all good :D ).


I'm color blind so please except my deepest apologize :D


**laugh**
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby abduksion » July 2nd 2014, 1:40am

Happy BD BTW.
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby kevco » July 2nd 2014, 7:29am

Incredible.
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby AlbertaTime » July 2nd 2014, 7:38am

abduksion wrote:Happy BD BTW.


Thanks! :-)

kevco wrote:Incredible.


Wouldn't have believed it myself if someone five or so years ago had told me my life would turn this way.
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby hcharles » July 2nd 2014, 9:05am

The photos are amazing. The craftsmanship of the enamelware and cloisonné pieces is exquisite. Thanks for your photo log showing the country of China and its people. Happy birthday, sounds like it was a grand experience.
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Re: AlbertaTime in China, China visit #3, Post #2 - June 10t

Postby AlbertaTime » July 2nd 2014, 7:38pm

hcharles wrote:The photos are amazing. The craftsmanship of the enamelware and cloisonné pieces is exquisite. Thanks for your photo log showing the country of China and its people. Happy birthday, sounds like it was a grand experience.


First, thanks for the birthday wish. Appreciated Image

The education I received at the enamel village was far more nuanced (and also far more friendly) than I had any reason to expect. As is usual, the more I found out, the more I realize I don't know, but at least I can be a somewhat informed buyer now should I ever have the urge...and the wallet :D
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