Shanghai Watch Factory
The Shanghai Watch Factory is one of China's oldest and most renowned watch makers. They have more than 50 years experience in the manufacture of watch movements and complete watches. Their current products include hand-winding and automatic watches, a great variety of calendar and dual-time complications, automatic chronographs, open-heart movements and tourbillons.
Prior to 1955, watch manufacturing in China consisted of importing complete movements and installing them in locally made cases. This activity was largely confined to the city of Shanghai . With external sources of movements disappearing after the revolution , the Shanghai Light Industry Bureau and the Shanghai Watch Industry Association organized 58 enterprises to participate in a project to develop an entirely Chinese-made watch. Trial production occurred between 1955 and 1957 until the quality was adequate to justify full production. The 17 jewel, centre-second design was based on the Swiss AS 1187, and these first trial watches bore the names He Ping (Peace) and Dong Fang Hong (The East is Red). China's first watch factory, the Shanghai Watch Factory was completed in 1958, and production commenced of the A581 watch, introducing the brand Shanghai . The logo was the Chinese characters for Shanghai rendered as a stylized block.
The A581 continued in production until 1968, supplemented by the shockproof A611 from 1961. Other variants of this basic design were trialled during this period. A date version A623 never entered full production but was worn by Premier Zhou Enlai . More advanced designs were also prototyped and the factory also offered technical support to Qingdao and other watch factories. In 1968, the Shanghai Watch Factory's production capacity was greatly increased by the installation of temporary mezzanine levels. These were to remain in place for 20 years. At this time the Shanghai Watch Factory was China's biggest watch producer. The block-style Shanghai logo was replaced by a new calligraphic style logo in about 1970.
From 1968, the A581/A611 design was heavily revised as the SS1 . Several completely new models followed; the SS2 high-grade automatic for high-ranking military officers, SS3 woman's watch, SS4 automatic for mid-ranking officers and SS5 mid-sized watch. Production of the SS1 was also distributed to the newly-created Shanghai 2nd and 3rd Watch Factories. An upgrade of the escapement from 18,000 bph to 21,600 was designated SS1A-K.
With the successful development of the Chinese Standard Movement and its trial production by Shanghai No. 2 Watch Factory , production commenced of a 19-jewel Standard design by the Shanghai Watch Factory, bearing the familiar Shanghai brand. In addition, an export-focussed brand, Budlet (Chunlei) , was created. The factory's earliest Standard movements were signed with the Chunlei or, much more rarely, the Sea Gull logo on the train bridge, although the movement's designation, SS7, can be seen on the main plate under the balance wheel. Not long after the SS7 designation was inscribed on the train bridge where the brand logos had appeared. These early SS7 movements were of a higher quality than later Shanghai Watch Factory Standard movements which, beginning partway through 1979, were given a new designation, ZSH. Calendar and automatic versions followed.
In 1982, in partnership with Shanghai No. 4 Watch Factory , the 25.6x3.75mm SB-1 movement was developed for as series of more modern, much thinner watches. Much later an automatic version entered production, which is still made today. To meet the growing challenge of quartz watches, the Shanghai Watch Factory was also working on the DSE3 quartz movement with a thickness of only 2.56mm, which entered production in 1983. Mechanical watches remained the primary product, however. By 1990, the factory's cumulative total production was 67 million with the Standard movement, 40 million women's watches, 3.4 million of the SB-1 thin men's watches and 3.5 million quartz analogue watches.
In spite of these apparently successful figures, the state-run watch factories were not able to operate competitively in the new market economy. In 1999, the Shanghai Watch Industry was wound up. The Shanghai Watch Factory Company was reborn as a public company, while the rest of the city's watchmaking capacity was bundled into the Shanghai New Century Watch Company and progressively reorganized, closed down or sold off. For a short time, the Shanghai Watch Factory used the brand Shanghai 2000 for their products, before working to rebuild market awareness of the old Shanghai brand, which they now lease from the Shanghai Mosta Enterprise Developing Company. The original block-type logo was resurrected for the 50th anniversary of the factory.
In 1999, SHANGHAI Watch was reconstructed. In 2000, the company went public. On 20 November 2019, with the establishment of Fosun Watch Group by the publicly listed Yuyuan Inc. under the leadership of Fosun, Shanghai Watch Industries Co. Ltd. and Tianjin Seagull Watches Group formed a south-north partnership to promote the revival of China’s watch-making industry. Fosun Group is a Chinese multinational consortium that owns a variety of disparate companies, including Club Med. In 2021, the annual sales of the “SHANGHAI” brand regained its position in the billion club of domestic watch brands.
Current Shanghai watch movements
Shanghai's version of the Chinese Standard movement continues to be made, both in its original ZSH form, as well as skeleton and auto-winding versions.
The somewhat higher quality Shanghai B movement, developed originally with Shanghai No. 4, is now only made in auto-winding versions. A GMT option (independent 24 hour hand) is available.
Shanghai make a wide variety of modules for unusual calendar layouts, big-date, dual-time, bi- and tri-retrograde second hands. These modules seem to be compatible with both the Standard and B movements.
A skeleton version of the SS5 women's watch movement was supplied to Slava Design, Moscow, in the early 2000s, but it is unknown whether production continues.
Shanghai's premium movements start with the 2L open-heart series, with a variety of calendar complications.
The 3L automatic chronograph is built to a high standard, and has even been adapted for use in space. The movement is a near-clone of the ETA 7750.
At the top of the range are Shanghai's tourbillons, starting with the 'Classic Tourbillon' and progressing through various degrees of complication to the 'Orbital Tourbillon' in which the tourbillon escapement orbits the dial.
The orbital complication has been combined with the simpler open-heart of the 2L series in a new orbital open-heart movement from 2010.
From 2011 the US-based Stolas Watch Company started using a movement identified as from the 'Shanghai Movement Company' (SMC), but it is uncertain whether this is the Shanghai Watch Factory or another Shanghai watch enterprise. The movement in question is a reputedly high quality clone of the ETA 2824-2.
- 东方红 (Dongfanghong)
- Sea Gull
- 和平 (Heping)
- Shanghai 2000