Impressions of Atelier Wen "Hao"

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Impressions of Atelier Wen "Hao"

Post by conjurer » August 2nd 2019, 4:32pm

By and large, I don't care for microbrands. When I see a review of one, usually a dive/sport watch that looks like a Submariner and is powered by a Seiko automatic movement, my usual reaction is, "Or, you can buy a SKX007." Most micros are stultifyingly boring--a catalogue case, a catalogue bracelet, a catalogue movement, usually all tied up with a lot of pretentious copy that reads well on Kickstarter.

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Another reason to dislike micros

Then, out of the blue, I saw a posting from my good pal Ron, aka Alberta Time, regarding a new brand called Atelier Wen; he posted some fine pics of one of their two models at Watchlords, and I suddenly saw a micro that might change my mind:

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So, would this watch actually make me a micro-believer? We shall soon see.

Atelier Wen was started last year by a couple of young guys who wanted to make a brand that embraced Chinese horology. Through Ron's good (!) offices, I got in touch with one of them and he kindly sent me a review sample a few weeks ago.

The Hao comes in a nice cardboard sleeve, with a couple of extra straps with quick-change pins; as I am a smoker, I only wore the watch with the supple blue leather the watch came on as to not ruin any more straps than I had to. The Hao is nicely sized at 39mm across, 42mm with crown, and 46.5mm lug to lug. The lug width is 20mm, so strap changes should be easy. So far, so good; then I measured the thickness of the case, and it came out just shy of 12mm--not necessarily too thick, but it makes the watch seem a little out of scale, like the ratios were slightly off kilter. The case is stainless steel, with some nice polishing and clean edges--not exactly high-end Grand Seiko finishing, but pretty damned good, anyway.

The movement is a 32 jewel Peacock SL3006 automatic, which some call a clone of the ETA 2824. It runs at 8 beats per second and has a power reserve of around 40 hours. I was advised by Ron that he trusts these movements, which are adjusted to five positions and Atelier Wen claims an accuracy of +/- 10 seconds a day. I'll take Ron's word for it, since he's forgotten more about Chinese horology than I'll ever know. I do know that the Hao I got runs very accurately indeed--it's a little difficult to track, since the seconds subdial is pretty small and not indexed, but I got about -1-2 seconds a day out of it, and that was very stable. Clone movement or not, that's remarkably impressive.

However, the big story here is the porcelain dial:

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Which is very finally made and really very attractive. The blue printing is superbly executed, and even the handset:

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is furnaced blued and finely wrought. Really, you'd have to get into Grand Seiko or one of the mid-to-top range Swiss brands to find a better handset. This being a dress watch, there is no lume.

Flipping the Hao over, you get a nice caseback:

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I don't know if this caseback was stamped or cut, but if it was stamped, they did a great job. Also, little things kept surprising me about the Hao, like how they hide the branding on the underside of the buckle:

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The strap is good, and had minimal break-in. The case finishing, like I said above, is very good:

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The crown, alas, is not a strong point:

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It's push-pull, but extremely stiff--indeed, when I was first handling the watch, I thought it was screwed down. It's also pretty small, and it's difficult to find purchase on it when winding. However, over the days I wore the watch (in between other watches in my rotation) I noticed that the crown loosened up a bit.

Now, to the money part: The Hao is priced at $720 US, which is a pretty heavy lift for a Chinese watch. However, I spent some time looking at what that money will buy you at a gray market site like Jomashop, and there wasn't, admittedly, a lot there to rival the Hao--a Hammy or two, a few Rados, and some other weird crap I wouldn't want to be found dead in a ditch wearing. So, if you're looking for a dress watch with some very nice design upgrades, the Hao, while not exactly a bargain, isn't a bad investment.

So, in conclusion, did the Atelier Wen Hao change my mind about micros? Not totally, although I liked the Hao very much. Interestingly, it's not even a style I usually like--I prefer sport watches with a center sweep and a date window. However, the Hao is an interesting watch; it embraces the Chinese culture and doesn't bob and weave to hide it, like so many Chinese made micros do. In fact, with the beautiful porcelain dial, elegant sub-seconds, and overall good finishing and design, the Hao is more of a boutique watch, something that Atelier Wen's owners put a lot of thought into. A really fine watch, in many ways. Atelier Wen did good.

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Re: Impressions of Atelier Wen "Hao"

Post by conjurer » August 2nd 2019, 4:54pm

koimaster wrote:What did you do with John?


What? It's a nice watch! I watched my language since I was posting the review at WUS, and didn't want to piss off Sgt. Bo.
I find tv watches to be like the guys who raise their truck you need a fricken ladder to get in. It’s a attempt to look cool... that’s all.

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Re: Impressions of Atelier Wen "Hao"

Post by conjurer » August 2nd 2019, 6:04pm

JAS1125 wrote:
koimaster wrote:What did you do with John?


Seriously, this is rather disconcerting.
Next thing you know he'll start his own blog!


You Judge Judys all need to get laid so you can embrace happyosity, you jerkoffs!!
I find tv watches to be like the guys who raise their truck you need a fricken ladder to get in. It’s a attempt to look cool... that’s all.

--Hawkeye
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Re: Impressions of Atelier Wen "Hao"

Post by 3Flushes » August 2nd 2019, 8:13pm

JAS1125 wrote:
koimaster wrote:What did you do with John?


Seriously, this is rather disconcerting...

Deepfake?

They are doing amazing shit with that shit although John's voice clearly still requires work.

I'm interested in this watch so it's cool to know what you think. The what else could I get for the money perspective- I need to think like that every time- does work in its favor. I have some ancient Chinese blue jars from the only Dynasty from which porcelain is worth spit that would make for some very cool pics. Like you, most of my watches are sport types and I'm looking for something dressy now that I am attending holidays and joyous occasions with family again but I didn't want to lay out 7 C's for all design.

Always fun to read, even when you like the watch. I mean not as much, of course, but informative is good, too. And I understand people get paid for that.
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Re: Impressions of Atelier Wen "Hao"

Post by biglove » August 2nd 2019, 8:24pm

conjurer wrote:
JAS1125 wrote:
koimaster wrote:What did you do with John?


Seriously, this is rather disconcerting.
Next thing you know he'll start his own blog!


You Judge Judys all need to get laid so you can embrace happyosity, you jerkoffs!!


My wife had been staying with our youngest daughter who gave birth to our first grandson two weeks ago today. Despite my age, I can state much about needing to get laid and jerking it.

Anyhoo, a very nice review. Appreciate honesty, always, even without the swearing, damnit.
"I always complain because I'm old now and everything hurts."-Mike Rowe
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Re: Impressions of Atelier Wen "Hao"

Post by AlbertaTime » August 3rd 2019, 7:28am

Very fair review, John. Your two points about 1) the Hao being a boutique watch, and 2) value compared to alternatives are very valid.

One way of looking at it is: this isn't a $2000 watch for $700, but it *is* a competitive $700 watch for $700--which is fair enough.

It's very difficult for me to be objective about the Hao, and its partner watch, the Ji, due to my close connection to Robin and Wilfried, but also due to my appreciation for Chinese aesthetics. I like Chinese art influences when Breguet displays them, and when AW shows them.

I will say this: it's always a plus when a watch has a story, and this one has a beautiful story, from the chance meeting in a Beijing watch shop that put Robin in touch with the very top of the Chinese watch industry (and that has led to a terrific and truly multicultural friendship), right through the rest of the story (design process, choosing manufacturers, etc) that Robin described in fine detail in this Watchuseek thread that I've noted before...

https://forums.watchuseek.com/f72/journ ... 39765.html

Plus: it's gorgeous ;-)

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Re: Impressions of Atelier Wen "Hao"

Post by AlbertaTime » August 6th 2019, 10:36pm

bbattle wrote:
August 6th 2019, 5:34pm
That is a beautiful watch but at $700, it's got some terrific competition.
That's true.
bbattle wrote:
August 6th 2019, 5:34pm
I do love that blue on white dial, though.
Me too :-)
bbattle wrote:
August 6th 2019, 5:34pm
The "made in China" curse makes me wonder about quality control. Would I get the crappy one and then play hell trying to get my money back?
biglove wrote:
August 6th 2019, 6:47pm
I don't think QC is the issue here. China's largest watch company, Fiyta, assembles them.
I have personal knowledge of the lengths that Robin and Wilfried have gone to ensure quality control from the involved companies, well past just the Fiyta involvement, but errors or mishaps are always possible. I could always be wrong, but I can't really see Robin or Wilfried leaving anyone high and dry. Knowing them and their backgrounds like I do, I'd be very shocked if that happened.
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Re: Impressions of Atelier Wen "Hao"

Post by conjurer » August 6th 2019, 11:42pm

AlbertaTime wrote:
August 6th 2019, 10:36pm
bbattle wrote:
August 6th 2019, 5:34pm
The "made in China" curse makes me wonder about quality control. Would I get the crappy one and then play hell trying to get my money back?
biglove wrote:
August 6th 2019, 6:47pm
I don't think QC is the issue here. China's largest watch company, Fiyta, assembles them.
I have personal knowledge of the lengths that Robin and Wilfried have gone to ensure quality control from the involved companies, well past just the Fiyta involvement, but errors or mishaps are always possible. I could always be wrong, but I can't really see Robin or Wilfried leaving anyone high and dry. Knowing them and their backgrounds like I do, I'd be very shocked if that happened.
Quite so. The owners of Atelier Wen have been standup throughout the process of me getting the review sample, and me telling them that I would write a serious, impartial review. From this, and because of the fact I don't really have microbrand makers lining up to send their shit to me for review, I take them to be serious men, and worthy of consideration from those in This Thing of Ours.
I find tv watches to be like the guys who raise their truck you need a fricken ladder to get in. It’s a attempt to look cool... that’s all.

--Hawkeye
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Re: Impressions of Atelier Wen "Hao"

Post by bbattle » August 7th 2019, 1:52pm

That's nice to know about their commitment to quality. I do really like that blue and white dial.

I was thinking more along the lines of car owners that got tired of their Ford or Chevy always breaking down so they bought a Toyota. They never went back to Ford even if all the news says Ford has better cars than Toyota. China has a reputation for cheap goods(in price and quality) which makes it hard for them to sell the things that really are well made.

The US was painted that way back in post-Revolution times by the British. The Japanese had that reputation in the 60's and worked very hard to erase it. Same with Korea and Taiwan.
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