Today, I am going to do a simple but special review of a tourbillon wristwatch. For some reason, tourbillon has become extremely popular. There were probably less than 1,000 tourbillon wristwatches in the world before the 1970s, but now almost everyone has heard of the term. Personally, I am not that interested in tourbillon mainly because it is pretty useless in a wristwatch. The mechanism is mainly for decorative purposes or novelty in wristwatches. The biggest issue is the price tag. A Swiss luxury brand tourbillon watch typically costs more than fifty thousand US dollars. Even though TAG Heuer just released a more affordable tourbillon, but it still costs around US$ 15,000. Nevertheless, tourbillon is slowly losing its prestige aura. The recent price reduction trend is likely due to the competition among the Swiss watchmakers, and, probably, Chinese made tourbillons.

I am more interested in pocket watches, but antique pocket watches with tourbillon are usually sold for more than US$ 30,000 at auctions. I never thought I could afford a tourbillon until I saw that the price of a Chinese made tourbillon wristwatch can be less than a thousand. I was very intrigued by this new “specie.” The general impression of Chinese made watches are cheap, poorly made or fakes. Not many reviews on Chinese watches can be found on the media. However, most Chinese tourbillon reviews I found have been positive, but almost none of them tested the watch on the timing machine (except one). Out of curiosity, I decided to buy one to try it out myself.

I intentionally picked an unbranded, skeleton design. There are several Chinese watchmakers that are capable of making tourbillon movements, and I think the one I chose was made by Shanghai Watch Company. The whole ordering process went very smoothly, and the seller shipped the watch promptly. However, I was stunned when I received it, because the tourbillon was still in motion when I opened the package. Tourbillon is a rather fragile mechanism that can break easily upon impact, especially when rotating. Of course, I understand the seller was being cautious and tested the watch beforehand, so the watch went straight into the package after the inspection. I do not know if the delivery guy kicked the package like soccer, but throwing the package around during the transit would probably be the daily routine. Fortunately, the seller packed the watch pretty well, so the watch looks unharmed. Once, my friend and I were joking that watch magazines should really do a review on how durable tourbillon watches are by dropping Swiss and Chinese made tourbillon watches onto the floor. Obviously, this Chinese tourbillon passed the first test, and that was a great first impression.

The first thing would be putting the watch onto a timing machine to see if it is still operating normally after the bumpy ride. I would be a happy man if the watch can still maintain its discrepancy less than 20 seconds a day. However, the result really amazed me. Except the 6 o'clock position (about 11 seconds), the error margin is less than 5 seconds in the remaining five positions. The tourbillon were also pretty stable according to the graph. Interestingly, we had a Vacheron Constantin tourbillon watch beside us, so we put it onto the timing machine to do a comparison, and the Chinese tourbillon was even more accurate than the Vacheron Constantin one.

I will not comment too much on the appearance and finishing of the watch because it has more to do with person tastes. I intentionally picked a skeleton style of movement, and I think this watch is great for the purpose of observing the tourbillon. There is no second hand on the watch, but there is a sharp point on the tourbillon wheel. Since the tourbillon rotates once every minute, so the tourbillon wheel itself can be treated as a second hand. The design of the case is rather old fashioned and the strap is probably cheaply made, plastic fake leather, but I do not worry about those too much as they are easily replaceable. Most parts were stamped out, and that is expected. The quality of the coating looks nice but remains to be seen. The pictures say them all, so I will not go into the detail. The only complaint I have is those fake blue steel hands and screws. I would prefer the original metal color than the poorly dyed blue color.

I really feel this tourbillon worth every penny of its price. Again, I will emphasize that this is not an imitation but a real tourbillon. It is one of the most affordable tourbillons on the market, and you get exactly that. When compared with an ordinary model of a luxury brand, this watch offers way more for the price. It costs less than one fiftieth of a Swiss tourbillon, so virtually everyone can afford it. More importantly, the Swiss watchmakers definitely will feel the pressure from those strongly performing but affordable Chinese tourbillons.

Personally, I think Chinese watchmakers are capable of making quality tourbillons; what they need are better overall designs, quality control and attention to details. However, that does not mean Chinese watch brands can challenge Swiss brands, at least for now. Take automobile as an example, even if Toyota is capable of making a car that is better than Mercedes-Benz in term of performance and specification, in the end, it is still a Toyota. Even though this Chinese tourbillon outperformed the mentioned Vacheron Constantin, the Swiss tourbillon represents more than just accuracy and design. The owner of the Vacheron Constantin is showing his wealth, the history of the brand, and even a high-class, elegant impression of country Switzerland; that is not replaceable in a short time. Besides making better products, Chinese has to elevate the reputation of its people and country as a whole before they have a chance to challenge the Swiss brands. Only when Chinese rich people start choosing Chinese high-end watches over Swiss ones, Chinese brands are ready to conquer on the world, then.
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