November 30, 2009
by Ariel Adams
This is a very fine watch from China. I’ve mostly been exposed to low quality Chinese watches that I think have skewed my perception of what the country in capable of. Don’t let the mass amount of not so great Chinese watches overshadow the good stuff that is available.
It makes sense that China produces decent watches. Wealthy Chinese people are voracious watch lovers. Hong Kong alone is one of the largest watch markets in the world and it is but one city. For a few years now, major Swiss watch makers have been eying the impressive economic growth of China. Watch stores are opening up faster than anywhere else. But before Chinese people were buying nice watches, they were making nice watches. A hidden little secret of European watch makers is that much that goes into their “Swiss Made” watches is actually made in China. This has to do with the rules around the term ” Swiss Made” and what that means. It mostly refers to the movement, and where the movement was assembled. Cases to clasps, and crystals to cogs are all to be found from reputable Chinese suppliers. Even parts that go into Swiss Made watches often have Chinese origin. There is nothing wrong with this, as quality must always be high. Over the last decade or so, China has really learned how to make some nice watches.
At some point they just decided, “hey, we will make our own watches, with our own name.” As opposed to making watches for other people, China still is lacking in the communication and marketing side of things. In that department, Europeans and Americans will always do better. That still should not mean that nice Asian watches should be overlooked. In addition to the newer Longio, a popular Chinese watch maker is Sea-Gull. You can find a review of a Sea-Gull watch here on aBlogtoRead.com. Longio is different than Sea-Gull, and this Automatic SG3842E watch is a different, and more luxurious beast.
Like most Chinese watch makers, Longio started out as an OEM watch maker (and still is one). This means that they are an “original equipment manufacturer” for other watch brands. Essentially, they make all or part of the watch, while someone else puts their name on it. Longio eventually decided that they want to put their own name on watch. One thing that is most striking about Longio watches is that they are original. The Chinese are known for copying things that others have made. The design of this watch is totally original though. We begin to see character and design that is innately regional to Hong Kong and the surrounding areas. It took Japan a long time before the watches they made had a Japanese character to them. China however is able to learn these lessons observing them from afar, and are already making watches that suit them, not just others.
One of Longio’s specialties is making actual tourbillon movement. The ultra complex mechanical wonders that are a right of passage in themselves to be able and manufacture. They offer tourbillon movement based watches starting at about $3,600. A price that blows away European offerings. No, I don’t think that Longio’s tourbillon movements are as good as what you can get from the Swiss, but how much does that matter for what is essentially a novelty movement. No one argues that a tourbillon is useful – they are merely fun to watch. And for a more reasonable price, you can get one too from Longio. I discussed their 1000 meter tourbillon diving watch here.
This review however is on one of their automatic mechanical watches (without a tourbillon). The movement is a Swiss ETA 2824-2 movement. I am quite impressed with Longio’s implementation and adjusting of the movement. It is quite accurate, easy to operate, and smooth. Power reserve is 40 hours. In time, the Chinese will be making their own movements that are able to compete better with Swiss ones, compared with what they make today. For now, the Chinese are adept at working with Swiss movements.
You can see the movement operating through the sapphire caseback window of the watch. It is no nonsense with a signed automatic rotor and some brass toned gears. Like I said, I was actually impressed with the level of accuracy, which is the most important point for me. Operating the movement is as you would expect, which is of course also important. A real high point of the watch is the case. You can see the break out diagram of its various pieces. The design unique, and the case is well made. You can see that the lugs are part of the lower section. This is easiest for manufacturing. The way it is done is not exactly how the Swiss would have done it, but it is an efficient way of doing it. You can tell in the images that the metal was well cut, and polished nicely. There is an impressive amount of contrast polishing on the case as well. For instance, you can see that horizontal lines on the case side are mirror polished on the outside, and done in a satin tone on the inside. A tough little thing to do. The top of the bezel is brushed, while the diagonal edges of it are polished. The case back screws down, and the entire watch is water resistant to 100 meters. Size of the case is large at 46m wide (a nice size for the design, and it is just under 14mm thick.
The dial crystal is sapphire, seeing into the easy to read face. Here you have a lot of unique character. The outside portion of the dial is done in mother-of-pearl, with applied Arabic numerals over it in black. There is also a minute scale in white. The center of the dial is nicely textured with an attractive patterning and segments for the text and Longio logo. Even the date window is done nicely with faceted edging. A smaller textures black ring sits on the outer most periphery of the dial framing the entire face well.
I love the dauphine hands on the dial. They are highly polished and faceted with lume in the center. The large hands are the proper size for the dial, and really complete the look. Plus, their high polish stands out making the watch quite legible. I suspect that the dial design is not something the Europeans would have made. It is a purely Asian style design, and I like that. Part of having a well-rounded watch collection is having items from all types of watches makers, coming from all types of cultures. This is the art side of watch making.
The Longio Automatic SG3824E watch comes on a nice reptile embossed black leather strap with a nice butterfly fold over clasp. For what you get, the price is reasonable at $690. Longio is serious about their watches, and I am not the only person I know that likes their stuff. It even comes in a nice box. If you are looking for a nice quality Chinese watch, with region character, and years of know-how to understand what goes into watch making, a Longio watch is a good choice.