Beijing Watch Factory Wu Ji “Infinite Universe” Bi-Axial Tourbillon Watch Hands-On

Beijing Watch Factory Wu Ji “Infinite Universe” Bi-Axial Tourbillon Watch Hands-On

Beijing Watch Factory Wu Ji Infinite Universe Bi Axial Tourbillon Watch Hands On   hands on

Chinese watchmaking is nothing new, nor is it unsophisticated. All of this is evidenced by the 2013 Wu Ji watch by the Beijing Watch Factory. "Wu Ji" apparently translates from Mandarin to "Infinite Universe" in English, a lofty title typical of Chinese naming practices. That said, the Beijing Watch Factory should be proud. Once again they've broken ground for their country by producing what they claim is the most complicated watch produced on mainland China. What impresses me more is the brand itself, and their rather atypically refined sense of composure.

China isn't known for creative watch design. China is known for production, copying, and diligence - which applies to their own watch industry as well. From a production and consumption standpoint, China is the most important place in the world for watches. All but the most exclusive of Swiss watch brands rely heavily on China for the production of watch parts - such as cases and straps - even when they contain "Swiss Made" movements. Native Chinese brands are nevertheless marred by national qualities which oppose many of the qualities that allow for beautiful watchmaking. Ask the Swiss how they make watches and they use the term "slow" and "careful" a lot. China's industrial power comes from the fact that they aren't slow and often not careful. So why do we expect them to make good watches the Swiss way? The simple answer is that they don't.

Beijing Watch Factory Wu Ji Infinite Universe Bi Axial Tourbillon Watch Hands On   hands on

Although, these generalities aren't rules. Not all Chinese watches exhibit confusing and awkward designs that that woefully seek to emulate European aesthetics. There are, however, excellent examples of Chinese watchmakers who emulate the Swiss rather well. This is both the strength and weakness of the Chinese watch industry. To be considered "good" by traditional standards, they need to still copy the West. To be bad, they need only to copy poorly. No matter what China is still copying, my hope at least - and there are positive signs of this - is that with China's serious and sincere love of watches we will eventually see unique design in both the outside and inside of their domestically made watches.

While there are many elements of Swiss watch design seen in the Wu Ji, it is a pleasantly original and interesting timepiece. While elements such as overall aesthetic in many of Beijing Watch Factory's designs are inherently European, they do however take many artistic liberties in producing unique products. The Wu Ji is a glowing and ambitious example of what they can produce. Even though Chinese watch manufacturing is huge, those that can produce credible mechanical watches are still limited and few watch lovers would claim that Chinese-made mechanical movements are excellent. I am not an expert on all Chinese movements, but I do know that most of them are copies of Swiss movements. The mechanism in the Infinite Universe clearly isn't. While an inspection of the movement makes it clear that this is a Chinese creation, I found many of the unique elements quite interesting. What I love about this watch is how the complications are much more than skin deep. What you see is only half of what you get. First and foremost, I'll explain how you even tell the time.

Beijing Watch Factory Wu Ji Infinite Universe Bi Axial Tourbillon Watch Hands On   hands on

16 comments
ZL
ZL

Glad to finally see something about Beijing watches here. I would like to see more. For a long time, I have been wanting to see a Chinese watch worth buying -- that is, a good value, at whatever price point. Beijing watches sell at luxury prices, putting them in direct competition for my money with Swiss watches. So, although I really want to like them and really want to support and encourage Chinese watchmaking, I still have to be convinced that it is a good enough value. With lower prices for quality, value is the edge that China can have in the watch world, since there's the reputation thing. So, Beijing watches: good value for the money?

This particular watch, although I like certain elements, is not for me.

DG Cayse
DG Cayse

Patience is a virtue in the west. Patience is a given in China.

China has a long history of producing watches for the masses. It isn't that standards were necessarily, they were just considered adequate for production requirements. That was the mindset of the watch making companies.

Things have changed on many levels now. Every year I see quality, material and design standards raised a notch. That is slow in the West - in China that is rapid. 

A watch such as this was unthinkable 5 years ago. Now it is a reality. Once the critiques filter back to the design and manufacturing segment, they will make the changes to make it 'just a little' better.

I see a piece such as this as a design and manufacturing exercise. A stretching of the legs as it were. This is obviously not going to be a mass produced piece; and mass production is what the factories depend upon.


Oh, and on a recent trip to Shanghai, I noted that BMWs and M-Bs were the preferred vehicles for the PRC/PLA comrades. And the local business bosses were following their lead. Buicks...yeah, but only for the 3rd wife....lol!

 

bichondaddy
bichondaddy

Pretty interesting watch.....I like the looks of the dial...as I like watches that don't look like everyone else's watch.  But...not sure the finishing of the watch is what one would expect to see on a $75K watch. 

Ruutzy
Ruutzy

I was really looking forward to the hands on with this piece. I have only recently started my exploration into the world of horology and so do not have a vast knowledge base to draw from. What draws me to this subject is the ingenuity of the engineer to have such a vision in their mind and be able to bring it to life in such a small but complicated form. 

I think that the naming of the watch combined with the non-linear movement is actually quite beautiful depending on what you believe about how time and space may be folded. The planar 'space' of the dial is penetrated by the engine that drives the 'passage of time' which is itself folded to accommodate that same engine. It is an interesting allegory of an Infinite Universe.

CG
CG

are stamped metal parts in this watch? Sure looks like it, no milling or lathe work? Is it distortion or is roman numeral One askew? Well the world economy has shifted to China and India so the next 200 years or so is plenty of time to get it right. This watch is not my taste but is awfully big for the Chinese market soze wise. And to think Chinese elitist politicians fav car is a buick! Go figure...

SuperStrapper
SuperStrapper

Interesting. The retrograde timetelling is maybe something I would never want to learn properly, it seems so unnecessary. I get they didn't want the bi-axial tourby to be interfered with, but there must be a better way. Some kind of regulateur format maybe. 


It certainly is a big dress watch, quite thick. Not that this is a bad thing, but certainly worth noting. The mix of polished and satinized finishes around the bezel reminds me of a few deWitt watches actually. 


Can't say for certain because of all the reflections, etc, but I swear there is a fingerprint on one of the bi-ax tourbillon cages. To be honest, I think that's just about perfect for a watch like this.  


Good luck on your MSRP, 

Panagiotis
Panagiotis

I agree with U31 that craftmanship has always been a Chinese staple throughout their history. Maybe it's not now but it is more in their history and culture than it is in the Swiss'.

Ulysses31
Ulysses31

China has been world famous for its skill in terms of craftsmanship for thousands of years.  To believe that they just don't have it in them is wrong.  I think recent events in Chinese history has damaged the value of such skills in a severe way but it is coming back.  The West tried for decades to rip-off and duplicate the wonders coming out of the Chinese porcelain industry.  Similarly it will take the Chinese time to master watch making but they'll manage it.  As for the watch itself, it's impressive though the design isn't to my taste and I would rather have a watch that could be read more conventionally.  Still, in order to avoid occluding the tourbillion the engineer implemented a daring and difficult mechanical detour, and that's impressive for a Chinese watch.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

An impressive watch in its own right. I certainly enjoyed seeing it in Hong Kong recently. But to be honest, for $75K I still would expect more hand finishing. 

I suspect the upper segment of the Chinese watch industry will (eventually) awaken to the slow and 'by hand' mentality for haute horlogerie. When that truly happens, with their lower labor rates, the same countless hours of beveling will be done but with a price advantage over the Swiss. Companies like the Beijing Watch Factory ones to keep an eye on.

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@DG Cayse Yeah, I also saw long wheelbase 5 series BMWs (which are only for the Chinese market) a lot in HK and China. I read that the stretch is because they are most often chauffeur driven. "The Ultimate Riding-in-the back Machine".

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@CG Yep, I saw a noticeable number of Buicks in Mainland China recently. More than I see on the road at home in Hawaii for sure. I also got a ride in a Ford (locally produced) in Mainland China.

CG
CG

Not a Mustang! That would be a sacrilege. I know we're a long way from the litho days of the 50s and 60s but they can't even get simple motorcycle electronics right, of which I have had hateful experience! I'll be purposely staying away from Chinese watches, i know you can spec out plans and designs with Chinese engineering companies and they can meet your 9000+ threshold but qualitu and longevity is an issue. (for me)

MarkCarson
MarkCarson

@CG Nope, not a Mustang. Sadly, I don't expect much from American cars (or Chinese built versions of them), so the Ford (Focus?) seemed in line with my expectations. Just seemed like a rental car (but it was privately owned). Not to get stereotypical, but that myth about Asian women being bad drivers may have some truth to it.

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