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A common misconception is to group all Chinese watches/movements into one category. This is incorrect and a distinction needs to be made between the different grades of Chinese watches. Common groupings are eBay brands, Mushroom brands, Chinese brands, and Internationally recognized brands that are either entirely made in China or only use Chinese movements.
Lower Tier eBay brands: Orkina, Olipai, Wilon, Fineat, Flent, Goer, etc.
Common prices: ~$10-$20
These are very inexpensive watches and may or may not work very well. They are made with low quality materials and low grade / culled movements. However, it is not uncommon to occasionally find decent working model.
Top Tier eBay brands: Tao, Parnis, Minorva, Samson, Ouyi, etc.
Common prices: up to ~$100
From customer reviews, these watches appear to be made with better materials and components and are made to higher specifications with better quality control than the Lower Tier eBay brands. While the occasional problem may arise, the customer service at this level tends to be adequate. With quality product, paying close attention to their customers needs, and promptly responding to problems, some of these brands may even overlap into the higher Mushroom Brand category.
Mushroom Brands: Rousseau, Auguste Galan, Aeromatic, Deporte, SUG, Trias, Alpha, AlphaUSA, Tauchmeister, Theorema, Javelle, Swisstar, Louis Bolle, Eberle, Chevenard 1928, Lindburg & Sons, Sorna, etc.
Common prices: $50-$300; ~$1,200 for tourbillons
This is a very broad category of Chinese watches. These watches are outsourced from one the high-volume Chinese manufacturers and are made in limited quantities. They are generally made from quality materials with adequate quality control but this will vary from brand to brand. The customer service at this level varies. If purchased directly from one of the larger brand owners (e.g. Always at Market, Contempo Group, etc.) through one of their partners or selling outlets (uBid, ShopNBC, Property Room, eBay, etc.) then the customer service is generally good and defective watches are repaired or replaced. If purchased from a smaller brand owner or third party retailer, then customer service may or may not be adequate or even exist.
Chinese brands: Sea-Gull, Beijing, Shanghai, Dixmont, etc.
Common prices: $100-$500; up to $5,000 for tourbillons, up to $60,000 for ultra complicated models
These are the manufacturers that supply the world with their mechanical movements. The lower quality movements that are culled or do not make quality control specs are sold locally and find their way into eBay & other brands. Sea-Gull, Shanghai, & Beijing are their own brand and are a step above the competition. These watches can have superb fit, finish, and quality and the higher end models may even rival the Swiss. These companies each have over 50 years of experience and have developed many in-house movements including tourbillons, double tourbillons, minute repeaters, perpetual calendars, and Beijing has even developed a Tourbillon & Minute repeater!!! Sea-Gull is a true manufacture which means that not only do they make their own movements, but they make all of the individual components inside the movement. Sea-Gull now has a presence on the internet http://www.usseagull.com and offer 2 year warranties on most of their watches and lifetime warranties on the tourbillons & minute repeaters.
Internationally recognized brands: Invicta, Croton, Edouard Lauzieres, Zodiac, Jacques Leman, Stuhrling Original, Android, Rotary, Adee Kaye, Swiss Legend, Gevril, etc.
Common prices: $50-$500; ~$1,200 for tourbillons
These watches are also outsourced and are generally of equal or higher quality than the average Mushroom brand. Some of these brands claim to hand pick and test the movements before being cased and and others also claim to own their assembling facilities. While it may be uncommon to experience a problem with one of these watches, the customer service of these brands are generally excellent and should be able to keep most customers satisfied. Trying to determine the actual movement caliber used in these watches can be troublesome. Some of the brands are upfront concerning the origins of the movements being used while others rename the movement to an in-house caliber. In my opinion this only adds to the deflection of the true origin of the movement. Renaming a caliber is a well established practice in the watch manufacturing business if a movement is built up from an ebauche and has parts refinished or have complications added. Some Internationally recognized brands may go as far as refinish part of the movement or add a branded rotor but most just use an untouched, off-the-shelf movement. Note: Do not believe any markings you see on the rotor, case, or dial. Examples have been found to have the words "Swiss", "Japan", "France", and other markings that may lead the buyer into thinking the watch and/or movement is anything but Chinese. Examples of Chinese movements legally labeled as Swiss Made calibers are the Claro-Semag CL888 and the Edouard Lauzieres EL-18.
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