Suzhou Watch Factory

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Suzhou Watch Factory, in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, was a major producer of watches in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Founded in 1973 to produce Suzhou brand mechanical watches, it became well-known in the 1980s and 1990s for its Dengyue brand quartz electronic watches.

History

Suzhou's first wristwatches were produced on February 23, 1959 when the Lianxi workshop of Suzhou Clock Factory finished two trial watches, using an imitation of an Enicar movement. They were given a brand name, Weixing (satellite). The next year Suzhou Clock Factory made six trial Beita (North Pagoda) brand watches, using a copy of the Shanghai A581 movement. Neither of these two models was mass produced.

A third attempt was made in August 1970, when the factory, now named Suzhou Clock & Watch Components Factory, produced 6 watches containing imitation SS1 movements. Of its 135 parts, the factory produced only 23, including all 17 jewels and shock protection. Most of the other parts came from Shanghai. Mass production soon followed. In 1971, 1004 were manufactured, and in 1972, 2228. Most of the watches produced in these years were test marketed internally. In August 1973, Suzhou Watch Factory was established, using personnel and equipment from Suzhou Clock & Watch Components Factory and Suzhou No. 2 Clock & Watch Components Factory. In the following two years the factory produced tens of thousands of 17-jewel SS1 watches. Models using 19 and 21 jewels were made there too, but probably in very small numbers.

Production of Chinese Standard Movement watches began in the the second half of 1975. Given the designation ZSZ, they were assessed a quality level of grade 2. The factory's production increased, assisted by a number of new factories which had been constructed, beginning in 1970, to manufacture watch parts. By the beginning of the 1980s, a completely local supply chain had been put in place.

In 1978, Suzhou produced its first analogue quartz electronic movement, the SZR, used in Tianwen (Astronomical) brand watches. In October of the next year, Suzhou Electronic Watch Factory was established to produce quartz watches with a new brand name, Dengyue. Suzhou Watch Factory developed its first mechanical calendar model and a 19-jewel women's watch movement in 1979. In 1981 more than one million watches were produced.

In 1985 Suzhou Watch Factory and Suzhou Electronic Watch Factory merged. Mechanical watch production declined in the next few years while quartz production increased, and Dengyue brand watches were advertised relatively widely. The Chinese climbers of the famous 1988 China-Japan-Nepal Friendship Expedition to climb Mount Everest, which appeared on live television worldwide, all wore Dengyue brand quartz watches. It was reported that the watches kept accurate time.

In the 1990s Suzhou Watch Factory's production declined. Bankruptcy was finalised in 2003, and the factory was demolished in 2005.

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