There was a time, in the not too-distant past, when it was assumed almost everything we would want to be manufactured at scale would eventually be made in China.
When it comes to prestigious timepieces, however, the thought of China challenging the historic maisons of Switzerland and Germany looked a distant possibility.
That assumption is being challenged by Atelier Wen, which wants to put fine Chinese watchmaking on the map by mastering some of Switzerland’s historic horological skills and using them to make watches of comparable quality, but at significantly lower prices.
Its mission began with the creation of the Porcelain Odyssey collection, which used traditional Chinese porcelain art to produce pure white dials with accent colours matching leather straps.
They were powered by Swiss-made ETA automatic movements.
Five references were produced, priced at £614, all of which are now sold out.
Atelier Wen is building on the success of the Porcelain Odyssey collection with the launch of its Perception family where, again, traditional Chinese artisan skills are used to bring a new twist to watchmaking techniques that have been refined over centuries in Europe.
This time the company has used a movement from the Dandong Watch Factory, also known as the Liaoning Watch Factory, which was established in 1958 and produced China’s first automatic chronograph, based on the design of the ETA 7750, at the turn of this century.
The Dandong SL1588 two-handed movement used int the Perception line is accurate to +/- 10 seconds per day and has a 41 hour power reserve.
It is decorated with the traditional Swiss Cote de Geneve stripes on both its plates and tungsten rotor.
The movement is partially on show through a transparent aperture in a steel case back decorated to look like a traditional Chinese stone guardian lion.
Perceptions’ dials are the star of the show.
A heavy guilloché pattern is created in the workshop of Cheng Yu Cai, China’s only master guilloché craftsman, in the pattern of fish scales.
Each dial is hand-turned on a rose engine of Master Cheng’s own design and takes 8 hours to produce.
The guillochéd dial has 12 cut out notches in which the watch’s hour markers sit.
Altelier Wen has created a unique octagonal shaped 40mm case for its 1970s-inspired luxury steel sport watch, and offers it on a sophisticated integrated bracelet.
The bracelet can be swapped out for a sportier rubber strap, all for £2,652.
Atelier Wen says it has designed the Perception as a core collection that can be extended with additional colours, styles and complications.
Last year the company worked with Revolution’s founder Wei Koh to make a 100-piece limited edition with a bright red dial in a circular basketweave design.