Seagull 1963 Chinese Air Force Pilot Chronograph

With its origins dating back to the 1960s, the Seagull 1963 Chronograph is one of the most recognizable wristwatches ever made. It is a product of Tianjin Watch Factory, the world’s largest manufacturer of mechanical watch movements.

Founded in 1955 in China, this state-owned firm was initially known as WuYi Watch Company. Producer of the first Chinese mechanical watch, it relocated to Tianjin in 1962 and came to known as Tianjin Watch Factory. This company rose to fame with the launch of the first Chinese pilot’s chronograph in the early 1960s.

Seagull 1963 Chinese Air Force Pilot Chronograph

The People’s Liberation Army Air Force wanted a reliable chronograph watch for its pilots, and the Chinese Government appointed Tianjin Watch Factory to manufacture a suitable timepiece for the Air Force Pilots.

Meanwhile in Switzerland, the iconic movement company Venus was searching for capital to develop the Cal.188 chronograph movement. Then known as Fabrique d’Ebauches Venus SA and based in Moutier, the Swiss manufacture decided to sell the production rights and tooling of the Cal. 175 to a potential buyer so that it could raise money for the production of Cal.188.

It was the right opportunity for the Tianjin Watch Factory, and it acquired the manufacturing rights and production facilities of the Venus 175 chronograph calibre from the Swiss company.

With the help of these blueprints and machinery, the Chinese manufacturer succeeded in creating movements for equipping the chronograph watches proposed for the Chinese Air Force.

Introduced by the Fabrique d’Ebauches Vénus in the 1940s, Calibre 175 is a manual-winding mechanical column-wheel chronograph movement with a 30-minute counter. To equip the Chinese Air Force chronograph, TWF modified the 17 jewel Cal. Venus 175 and produced the 19 jewel ST3 movement. The oscillator frequency was also increased from 2.5 Hz to 3 Hz.

Using the ST3 chronograph calibre, TWC had created several prototypes and submitted for approval. In the end of 1960s, the company supplied approximately 3,000 chronographs to Chinese People’s Liberation Army Air Force, also known as PLAAF. Later on, the production was discontinued.

In the early 2000s, Tianjin SEA-GULL Company launched a timepiece based on the prototype that they developed for the PLAAF in 1963. Named 1963 Chinese Air Force Chronograph, this re-launch model houses the Seagull ST1901 calibre with 21 jewels.

Seagull 1963 Chinese Air Force Pilot Chronograph

This stainless steel chronograph soon became a highly sought-after collector’s piece. The Seagull Watch Company subsequently expanded this series by adding several new models.

Equipped with the 21 jewel Cal. Seagull ST1901, this hand-wound mechanical chronograph is presently available in 38mm, 40mm and 42mm case versions in stainless steel, bronze or blackened steel. It still maintains the emblematic bicompax dial layout. Once fully wound, the movement offers a power reserve of 42 hours.

In addition to the emblematic vintage cream dial, the brand is offering new colour choices like black, blue, green, grey, yellow and white. The dial boasts the iconic star emblem just below the 12 o’clock. Below the star is the inscription 21 Zuan, which means 21 jewels.

The watches are available with a retro-styled acrylic glass or scratch-proof sapphire crystal. These watches also come with exhibition case-backs allowing to admire the iconic Seagull ST1901 manual-winding chronograph movement.

Seagull ST1901 Movement

These highly sought-after homages of the historic Seagull Chinese Air Force Chronograph are now available for purchase via Seagull 1963, official reseller of Seagull watches.

Depending upon the version, the prices range from 279 to 429 Euros. Based in Belgium, the reseller is offering worldwide delivery.

For more details, please visit the Seagull 1963 online store.


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