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Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao Watch Review

Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Atelier Wen is (comparatively speaking) a higher-end “proudly made in China” watch company, and I find myself really liking its debut model. The brand’s first product collection is the Porcelain Odyssey, and it comes in two flavors: this white porcelain-dialed Hao and its blue-dial relative, the Ji. Proudly Chinese-made watches (outside of China) are actually something new. Even though many luxury watches (“Swiss” ones included) have been produced by Chinese factories for years, the concept of a home-grown Chinese watch, complete with local flavors and consumers in mind, is a relatively modern development. For the most part, Chinese watches did their best to look like non-Chinese watches.

Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

I predicted the now steady wave of “proudly made in China” watches about seven years ago after my first trip to the Hong Kong Watch & Clock fair. At the time, I noticed watchmakers in China starting to embrace local culture, aesthetics, and style in watches that might have traditionally done their best to emulate the look of European watches. Exporting Chinese culture in a luxury timepiece is no easy task. I think the appeal of watches like Atelier Wen is mostly for existing watch collectors, but these watches do have the ability to rope in wearers who come for the cultural connection, as opposed to the horological part of the equation. While there is room to further develop for sure, I think Atelier Wen did a great job in making the Porcelain Odyssey Hao feel like a traditional watch from a poise and functionality standpoint, but also decidely not like something which is trying to look as though it originated from Europe.

Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Like many brands today, Atelier Wen started with a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter (featured on aBlogtoWatch here). We have a policy that watches we have never seen before be presented to the aBlogtoWatch audience as a promotional announcement. After a crowdfunding campaign is complete and watches are being shipped, we will certainly consider an editorial review — which is exactly the case here. There can be understandable hesitation about backing an unknown company on Kickstarter, but when things align properly, the result is an excellent product like the Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey that, in my opinion, came out pretty well.

Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The above-referenced post about Atelier Wen goes into a lot more detail about the source of the Chinese culture-inspired design elements. This ranges from the Chinese characters on the dial to some of the decorative elements on the dial and, of course, the caseback. The caseback is a clear way for the Hao and Ji watches to separate themselves from the pack, given the deep relief engraving of mythical Chinese bird that, to me, looks like a peacock dragon.

Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Perhaps that is intentional, as the Chinese movement-maker Peacock is responsible for the movement inside of the watches. Peacock is a competitor to the better-known Sea Gull in China. The movement inside the Porcelain Odyssey is the Peacock caliber SL3006 automatic. It looks a lot like an ETA 2824-2 automatic clone (with enough differences), and it also operates at 4Hz with about two days of power reserve. An ETA 2824-2 the movement is not however, meaning that the Peacock will not perform quite as well, and winding it has a distinct tactile sensation. Atelier Wen is quick to point out that is carefully checks and regulates each movement (with Chinese movements there are frequently rejects) and tests them in five positions.


Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

The movement has the date disc taken out and, on the dial, we just have the time with subsidiary seconds. This placement of the seconds makes the overall design feel a bit more mature, to be honest, and I think it works really well. The level of design restraint on the dial is appreciated, as well as the combination of Chinese culture decorative elements with traditional rules of dial legibility.

One of the biggest selling points of the Porcelain Odyssey watch is the fact that both the Hao and the Ji use traditionally made porcelain dials. Altelier Wen points out that up to 80% of the dials must be rejected after they are baked (the process is similar to how enamel dials are made). This is because of how colors can change and look blotchy when not done correctly. What is impressive here isn’t just the lovely outcome of the porcelain dials but also how affordable Atelier Wen was able to make these. The result is a cost clearly above most Chinese-made watches, but a lot of value for the money if you know how to evaluate a good quality watch.

Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Blued-steel hands are used for the dial, and they look pretty good, actually. These are heat-treated hands and not coated or painted like some others out there at these price points. For those who know, heat-treated, blued hands are hard to come by at these prices (if available at all). The combination of the blued hands, porcelain dial, and overall excellent case construction make for a product that has the allure of a European luxury watch with the cultural (and construction) connection to China. Given that so many watches are both produced and consumed in China, I find this to be appropriate for the times.

Atelier Wen claims that the case design is inspired by French watches from the 1950s. I don’t know too much about French watches from the 1950s, but the case does, more or less, look like a TAG Heuer Carrera. So if there is one “homage” element of the Hao and Ji, it would be in the case. Atleier Wen points out that Japanese 316L steel (not Chinese) was used for the case — and I have to say it shows. This is Swiss watch-level case finishing and quality and, for the money, an excellent value.

Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

Size-wise, the Porcelain Odyssey is a more modestly sized watch at 39mm-wide and 11.7mm-thick with 50 meters of water resistance. Over the dial is a 1.5mm-thick AR-coated and domed sapphire crystal. I found legibility to be high and glare to be low. As a thicker dress watch or daily wear wear for smaller wrists, this is a very good size.

When you see a brand also focusing on a good strap experience you know the people behind it care about watches. A few strap options are available for the Porcelain Odyssey watch including the stock blue calf leather and an available salmon skin strap which is interesting. The buckle is also well-done and according to Atelier Wen it is inspired by the look of Pagoda structures.

Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao Watch Review Wrist Time Reviews

With mostly original parts and a lot of focus on detail and value for the money, it is hard to dismiss the Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao if you are keen on the design. Clearly, the focus on Chinese cultural elements is meant for some customers and not others, but for those customers, Atelier Wen has something to take a very close look at. Price for the Atelier Wen Porcelain Odyssey Hao or Ji is $720 USD. See more at the Altelier Wen website here.

Necessary Data
>Brand: Atelier Wen
>Model: Porcelain Odyssey Hao
>Price: $720 USD
>Size: 39mm-wide, 11.7mm-thick, and about 47mm lug-to-lug distance.
>When reviewer would personally wear it: As a dress watch or when wanting to show appreciation for traditional Chinese culture visual cues.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Watch collector interested in Chinese culture who is also interested in a well-priced porcelain dial with blued-steel hands.
>Best characteristic of watch: Excellent attention to detail and value all-around. Attractive legible dial and refined inclusion of Chinese cultural elements into overall composition.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Case very much looks like the design was borrowed from TAG Heuer (if that matters to you). Price point is high enough to merit a deep understanding of timepiece to know what you are paying for, so Atelier Wen (and fans) need to wait a few years for the larger collector community to catch up.

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  • Swiss_Cheese

    Not sure how well porcelain would fare especially if it was knocked against a desk – I’ve had porcelain bowls that have broken after I’ve looked at them the wrong way – but it looks quite nice. 11mm+ seems a tad thick on what is a dressier watch, using a Peseux 7001-esque movement and making the case ~8mm wouldn’t be a bad idea. Overall not too bad.

    • We use zirconium oxyde porcelain, so it’s extremely resistant. The reason why we chose not to use a manual wind movement is because back when we were still at the planning stage, we found out that the concept could be of appeal to non WIS crowds and that a fair bit of them see winding a watch everyday as… a chore! Thanks for the comment.

      • Nicolaj Nissen

        Maybe you could consider a “mark two” with a manual wind movement some time. Would really fit the watch well! 🙂

  • NaJo

    I do have collection sort of 1 watch every country i travel with swiss the only exception with more than several. But i dont see much chinese cultural impression on this one! Swiss steel, japanese dial, tag case except the case back…Plus what are the norms for “made in china” written on the dial?

    • Hi! Everything in the watch is made in China but the raw steel is sourced in Japan. I think Ariel wrote about “Swiss-level finishing” 😉

  • SuperStrapper

    Is the enamelled dial variant still called porcelain odyssey

    • They are both made of porcelain, and both called Porcelain Odyssey 🙂

  • denisd

    The two founders of Atelier Wen are French, it might be worth noting.
    “Atelier Wen claims that the case design is inspired by French watches from the 1950s. I don’t know too much about French watches from the 1950s,”
    Perhaps they don’t either?

    • I believe there’s a small errata in the article; the dials (and not the cases) were inspired by French/Swiss watches from the 1950s. Thanks 🙂

  • hatster

    With my (very limited) knowledge of the history of porcelain in China, I can understand why the launch version is in blue and white. I guess just like the porcelain market, it is designed to satisfy an export market as much as the domestic folks. But now I would love to see it in a number of other colours, including a reverse of this one if possible.

    • Yep, this style is called “Qinghua-ci” and is actually fairly common on porcelain. Indeed, from the onset, the brand was meant to appeal to a worldwide audience. And the sales figures supported this initial assumption; the top three markets thus far are France, the USA and China (Singapore comes fourth). I think it could look great… Something for the future, maybe? 🙂 Thanks for the comment.

  • cluedog12

    Good-looking watch, I must say.

    Can the watch’s Peacock movement be serviced by local watchmakers who would have access to tons of 2824-2 parts?

    • Thank you! It should easily be; the SL-3006 is basically an SL-3000 with an additional platter to allow for a small second at 6 o’clock… And the SL-3000 is an exact 2824-2 clone. Otherwise, our after-sales support is run by Fiyta which has amongst the very best facilities in the whole of China.

  • Ugo

    i find it quite likeable.
    the dial has good taste and the proportions are right.
    i think they have to improve on the hands pinions as they’re quite “rough”, and i’m not totally convinced about the strap buckle.
    and they definitely need higher definition (ah!) pictures on their website: i can’t understand how the blue version looks like…

  • James Honour

    Just nice to see something a little different, with an interesting story to tell, at a good price.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    39mm on a Chinese man must seem huge ( am I generalising? ) sadly a little small for me. I like it though. Nice and simple clear but its not really for me on account I’m not Chinese. Am I making any sense?
    If anyone is interested the blue version is not exactly the same in look it’s what they call a companion piece ” ji ”

  • seoulseeker

    The case looks incredibly basic. How exactly is that derivative of TAG?

    If it is then half the watches on the planet are too

  • Thanks for the kind words 🙂

  • Gary Mark
    • Err, while this is flattering, this is absolutely not the same thing… Just look at the size of the lugs for instance

      • Gary Mark

        I’d rather be accused of copying PP than Tag Heuer (like Ariel Adams said). 😉