in China, China visit #3, Post #3 - June 11th and 12th/2014...
the Tianjin workshop of one of the Tianjin Edwin Clock Company
restaurant housed in the former Tianjin residence of a past President of
beautiful coffee shop in Jinan (wait till you hear what I drank...)
the Golden Gulf Hotel in Yantai,
the Yantai Horologe Culture Museum
and 12th started with Li Wei, calligrapher Mr. Zheng, and I taking a
morning fast train to Tianjin to see a Mr. Li Qiu-sheng's clockmaking
I had been
told to bring my suitcases as we would be doing an overnighter trip to
Yantai after Tianjin, with a stop in the evening in Jinan, so it was
promising to be a busy couple/three days. My plan was to fly from Yantai
to Shijiazhuang on the afternoon of the 13th to se my brother MaRong after
my time in Yantai, and Li Wei's plan was to fill the time in between as
productively as possible.
explained to me during the morning trip to Tianjin that his goal regarding
my membership in the China Horologe Association中國鐘表協會
and my time in China this trip was to educate me more broadly about the
Chinese timepiece industry as a whole, meaning I would be shown and taught
the Chinese clock industry as well as the watch industry, including
quartz, digital and smart, from pop market and entry level to very
high-end, and from the beginnings centuries ago to plans for the future.
that I was being offered a spectacular and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
to quickly and efficiently gain a fairly in-depth and up close education
about how the entire Chinese watch and clock industry operates, and over
the next weeks I did my best to very gratefuly understand and absorb as
much as I possibly could of what was being presented to me. I was deep
back in school, and thrilled about it.
of the Chinese Horologe Association's generosity is that I'll be sharing a
lot of clock-related information during my posts on this trip, along with
watch-related content. Some companies I encountered make both, other
producers are clock-only. If you have no interest in clocks, please bear
with me, I promise there will always be quite pure watch content coming
around the corner.
this post -- like others to come -- will contain a lot of
wide-ranging information on Chinese horological history, from millenia ago
to the present day. This specific post will focus on two companies, first
the Tianjin Edwin Clock Company, Ltd. owned by Li Qiu-sheng (Rick Li), a
small but prestigious Tianjin clock workshop (visited on the 11th) and
Yantai Polaris State-Holding Co., Ltd., the oldest watch and clock company
in China and one of the largest clock companis in the world (visited on
at Mr. Li's workshop about 11:00 after being picked up at the Tianjin
trrin Station by Mr. Li, himself.
So, where to
start? How about with this gorgeous photo of Mr. Li's chain-powered and
hand built tourbillon movement (taken by Li Wei...all Discuz marked photo
courtesy Li Wei).
for over 40 years, Mr. Li is highly regarded in the Tianjin community for
his original and inventive movement design work as well as for the
legitimate reproduction clocks he sells to buyers world-wide. The next
photo is Mr. Li explaining to me various aspects of his hand-built
movements, and through English and translation software we did pretty good
And here's a
photo Mr. Li had taken while he and LiWei were explaining the functioning
of a machine built by Mr. Li ...
efficiently and accuately produce these from solid rods...
is a LiWei photo of me having a Skype conversation with Mr. Li's son who
handles North American distribution of the clocks.
fortunate over the next month to spend a few days time with Mr. Li in
Shenzhen as well as Tianjin and, quite apart from his watchmaking
expertise, I want to note that Mr. Li is a pure pleasure to spend time
with. Good natured with a ready and intelligent sense of humour, it's easy
to be smiling when he's nearby, and I'm really looking forward to meeting
with him again next year, if future plans hold.)
describe the details on the movements because they're a mystery to me in
many ways, and because I'm certain a movement specialist can provide
better information than I, but they sure are pretty, dontcha think. b-)
This is one
of the more unique reproduction clocks Mr. Li produces at his workshop. He
explained that such clocks are very hard to regulate since, among other
things, brass is temperature sensitive, affecting the travel length of the
another example of a more classically traditional hand-done reproduction
piece by Mr. Li, along with an old book article that was the inspiration
for this build.
photos of Mr. Li's shop.
Mr. Li also
has a wonderful collection of vintage clocks and clock mechanisms he was
kind enough to share...
late afternoon by the time we left Mr. Li's shop, and I learned my
wonderful afternoon would be followed by a delicious meal with Mr. Li and
his wife at the Villa of
the former home of a Chinese general, politician and emperor (1859-1916),
now one of Tianjin's very finest dining locations.
literally right on the banks of the Hai He, the river that flows through
downtown Tianjin, and a place I consider one of the prettiest on earth.
Plus, I got to play with a local kid being taken out by his Grandmother.
evenings would end there...but not ours :-). Immediately after dining,
right next on the agenda, was a quick drive and then an on-foot rush to
the Train Station for a fast train ride to Jinan, a normal 4 1/2 hour
drive made in about an hour and a half by bullet.
arrived at about 10PM, and were to leave for Yantai about 11:30PM, but we
had two fine reasons for this stopover: one, to drink a cup or three of
smooth and fragrant
Kopi Luwack coffee
(look it up) at the intimate and well-stocked "23rd Street" coffee
house/bar in Jinan owned by LiWei's friend, "Helen", and two: to visit for
an hour or so with Helen because she's cool :-). Her English is excellent
and she's just plain charming.
I found the
evening light in that tiny canal street area fascinating for
photography...it was about 11:00 or thereabouts when these were taken.
Helen's bar for the train station to catch an overnight "hard sleeper" to
Yantai. From there, things weren't quite so beautiful for a few hours. The
overnight train ride was well worth it, but not comfortable at all.
photo borrowed from A World in Small Handfuls:
cots do allow you to lie down, but they're narrow, three high in the rail
car, and when it's hot and humid and your car is also transporting some
rude and noisy young folks, it's not a restful ride.
I got a
couple of hours of hot, sweaty dozing, and that's all. A hard sleeper just
gets you there slightly rested, and so we arrived, tired, at the Yantai
station at about 10:00AM, where we were picked up and immediately, almost
magically, whisked to (finally) very (as in OMG, is this
awesome) comfortable surroundings: The 5-star Yantai Golden Guilf
Hotel, a temporary home for, among others, the past Prime Minister of
Australia, and n0w my home for the next two nights.
A couple of hours much-needed rest later, we were met at the hotel by Ms.
Wang Ling (Cathleen), the executive in charge of overseas markets for
Yantai Polaris Timepiece IM. and EX. Co. Ltd (the export-import division
of Yantai Polaris State-Holding...
us -- after a sunny walk to a mid-afternoon lunch at a local eatery...
day's first planned venue: The Polaris Horologe Culture Museum, only a few
minutes walk along the beach. I'm pictured here with Mr. Zheng, the
Now, if you
want a great primer on the advent and progress of timekeeping in China,
start with this very objective appraisal at the entrance to the museum...
followed by reading these plates/floor plaques in order, illustrated by
photos taken inside if I have them......
by other highlights...
entrance to the museum area itself...
bunch more shots taken inside...feel free to ask questions about anything
specific. I learned enough there's a reasonable chance I might be able to
answer now in some detail :-)
gold-plated "do not take pictures" in this next photo. I asked and was
directly told that Museum Director (Mr. Han?) had provided approval for me
to take any, and as many, photographs as I chose and that I was free to
publish the photos as I saw fit. I'm very grateful for the opportunity and
I ;ove this
clock...it rotates and the bottom ball mount section dislays the time
around the world.
This is an
important display in the museum, It describes how a Jesuit Monk, Matteo
Ricci (1522-1610) travelled to the Macao area in the early 1580s and
introduced modern European clock design to the Chinese Emperor's court,
re-igniting Chinese mechanical clock building after centuries of little
more modern but still vintage clocks...
of the interior courtyard of the Museum...
of early advertising materials...
is a photo of Beijixing's very first factory location...
photo of the Factory founders.
outside view of the Museum building...
A shot of a
number of modern Polaris/Beijixing watches in a display in the Polaris
store inside the museum.
We left the
museum in the later afternoon, going directly, next, to a meeting at the
Beijixing Polaris Board Room. The purpose of the meeting was to meet the
company President, Mr. Zhang Zhao Ji and other executives, as well as to
discuss LiWei's recent activities in the industry, to introduce Mr. Zheng,
the calligraphic artist, as the designer of early promotional materials
for the Beijizxing 100th Anniversary, and to discuss my activities and
motives regarding Chinese watches but moreso to also discuss my
understandings of China's current and future positioning in western
horological markets. I was asked for, and provided, a fairly detailed and
candid overview of my thinking, both positive and negative.
busy during our meeting...
proudly displaying his Beijixing/Polaris tourbillon...
meeting, Mr. Zhang very kindly asked us to dinner outside at a
second-floor patio restaurant right on the Yantai beach, overlooking
evening activities on the Yantai beach as the sun went down. No special
effects on the photos, just the normal result of evening humidity on this
very warm, moist and only lightly breezy evening.
excuse the somewhat blurry photo of Cathleen Ms. Wang Ling), but it
captures the feel of the evening very well: a comfortable evening meal,
followed by a few hours of sometimes serious and sometimes humourous watch
talk combined with relaxed friendship.
this photo was taken during a period of more serious discussion, Mr. Zhang
has a very friendly nature and an easy smile and he very kindly remarked
to me early in the evening that he'd known right away when we met that he
and I would get along very comfortably, and I'd felt exactly the same way,
just as quickly. I look very forward to seeing Mr. Zhang at next years's
Beijixing 100th Anniversary celebration and I'm grateful for the
The last two
photographs were taken as I tried to walk somewhat straightly back to our
hotel, accompanied by LiWei and Mr. Zheng, the calligrapher, as we had a
busy day coming tomorrow: a return trip to Beijixing;'s main factory
building to see the Factory watch and clock store, followed by a trip to a
suburban beijixing faciltiy where high end clocks (including the Beijixing
Polaris 100th Anniversary limited edition clock) are made, followed by
visits to two smaller but successful high end clock manufacturers and
another great luck, before I was taken to the Yantai airport for my flight
to see my brother MaRong. It's been a year too long and I was looking very
forward to seeing him and QiRan, his wife, again.