in China, China visit #3, Post #3 - June 11th and 12th/2014...
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
train to Yantai, with a stop in Jinan, to see the Yantai Polaris factory in Yantai, Shandong.
I had been
told to bring my suitcases as we would be doing an overnighter trip to
Yantai, 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 gratefully 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 millennia ago
to the present day. This specific post will focus on Yantai Polaris State-Holding Co., Ltd., the oldest watch and clock company
in China and one of the largest clock companies in the world (visited on
arrived at in Jinan by train 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.