Memorigin Tourbillon Watches From Hong Kong

Memorigin Tourbillon Watches From Hong Kong

Memorigin Tourbillon Watches From Hong Kong Watch Releases

I wonder what you feel about the Chinese watch. When people hear "watch made in China," what is it that comes to mind? It is likely a combination of both positive and negative things. I think most people think of either inexpensively made mass produced watches, or counterfeit luxury goods. That would be an under-inclusive, yet accurate description of the goods that come out of China.

China makes more than just that, especially today. The "high-end" segment of the Chinese watch industry is beginning to take a more impressive form thanks to volume and confidence. A few years ago I did a review of the Longio Telamon 1000M Diver Tourbillon watch. In discussing that brand over the course of a few articles I praised them for their Chinese character, and I made an overall assertion to the Chinese watch industry of what I thought it needed to do to succeed. My message was clear, "to succeed and grow you need to work with your Chinese character and heritage versus just copying the Swiss." One of the worst offenders is a brand called Sea-Gull. Widely known for their inexpensive copies of Swiss movements, they also have a range of self-branded timepieces. Many of them are decent looking, but they are still blatant copies of the aesthetic from Patek Philippe and other Swiss brands. The only Chinese character in them is the name on the dial.

Memorigin Tourbillon Watches From Hong Kong Watch Releases

Memorigin Tourbillon Watches From Hong Kong Watch Releases

It took a few years but Chinese brands are starting to follow my suggestions, though more than likely I was simply predicting the natural course of what was to happen. The only way to take a Chinese high-end watch seriously is if it is proud to be Chinese. One front runner in this is a new brand called The Chinese Timekeeper. Run by a European, the brand is working to promote a several thousand dollar range of watches which are entirely built in China with Chinese character. Though their prices are still a bit high compared to what you can get for a few thousand bucks.

Look at these pieces from Hong Kong-based Memorigin. These are closer to the high-end of what Chinese watches can offer. The brand produces only tourbillon-based timepieces, and they aren't half bad. These are sophisticated flying tourbillons with reasonable accuracy and power reserves of about 80 hours between two barrels. In other words, these aren't your "standard cheap Chinese tourbillons."

Memorigin Tourbillon Watches From Hong Kong Watch Releases

Memorigin Tourbillon Watches From Hong Kong Watch Releases

There are a few more interesting details about their movements which is worth knowing about. While Memorigin is based in Hong Kong, their movement factory is based in mainland China. Actually, very few things are actually made in Hong Kong anymore. Their claim to use only Swiss machinery to make their watches, as well as raw materials exclusively purchased from Switzerland and Germany. That might also mean that specialized parts such as hairsprings and balance wheels come from Europe and not China. The tourbillons also operate at 4Hz (28,800 bph) versus the 3Hz of most other Chinese tourbillons. Last, the tourbillons are flying tourbillons (no top bridge), and they are centrally mounted over the movement. This increases the stability of the tourbillon assembly. If you look at some other Chinese tourbillons you will notice the axis point of the tourbillon is not right in the center under the assembly. These are small, but important details.

Visually, Chinese tourbillons aren't quite there yet with Swiss variants in terms of finishing quality or beauty. However, they are getting better. The normal customer probably couldn't tell. I can, but I am hardly the normal customer (as I need to keep reminding myself). The question for the market is simple. Is perfect polish and craftsmanship worth many thousands of percent more in price? For the world's top connoisseurs it is, and I don't blame them. However, good quality Chinese tourbillon brands like Memorigin have democratized the tourbillon to the extent that it is an achievable luxury opposed to something most people could never fathom to afford. That is an important point for an industry long marked by catering to the elite while marketing to the masses.

Memorigin Tourbillon Watches From Hong Kong Watch Releases

Memorigin Tourbillon Watches From Hong Kong Watch Releases

Watches pictures in this article include models such as the Memorigin Tourbillon Starlit Legend, Tourbillon Zodiac Dragon Gold, Tourbillon Antique Watch, and a special Tourbillon model designed in collaboration with famous Hong Kong graphic designer Kan Tai Keung. They also have a model done in collaboration with the Bruce Lee club. Lots of models seem to include engraved gold figurines. What the watches do right is include a lot of Chinese character and design cues. Accessing this Chinese history and traditional symbolism, we see what form a Chinese luxury watch can take. China no doubt has centuries of history and achievements to sort through. Luxury brands interested in promoting these concepts have a wealth of material and it is just a matter of time until we start to see this being sold outside of Asia. As it is right now, Chinese antiques are extremely popular among the growing middle and of course very rich classes in China.

As stated, what I like most about Memorigin is their decent movements and confidence to create resolutely proud Chinese pieces. Memorigin also does some good looking engraving and decorative work on their movements. Even on their most simple models the plate under the tourbillon is decorated and most all of their movements are thoroughly engraved and skeletonized. It makes the watches feel like a good bang for your buck in terms of features and design.

Memorigin Tourbillon Watches From Hong Kong Watch Releases

Memorigin of course still has room to improve. The name for one is a title that will sound strange to Western ears until the brands have built up a caché. They also have room to improve their movement layouts and thinking. For instance, many of their watch dials feature sun/moon day/night indicators. These are very simple and are basically AM/PM indicators. They are often a hallmark of a cheaper watch because for years we have associated them with "budget moon phase indicators" on crap watches. It would be in Memorigin's best interest to remove them and simplify the dials. Plus, some of the models have synchronized 24 hour hands over the day/night indicators... which are yes, redundant. Some of Memorigin's best models are time and tourbillon only with richly engraved or otherwise simple dials. Aside from some very high-end pieces in gold that are covered with diamonds, most Memorigin timepieces are reasonably priced for what you get. Average Memorigin Tourbillon prices range from $2,500 - $5,000.

What do you think?
  • Interesting (3)
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  • EranR

    The main downside on most of these models (not all, though) is a very cluttered dial design, boasting just too many elements that don’t sit well together. Over-design emphasizes execution errors, it really takes a Vacheron-level expertise and artisanship to produce a dial that makes sense with many artistic elements. Until achieving such experience, I think Memorigin would benefit from focusing on simpler designs with better execution.

  • Ulysses31

    I don’t know why you’re so hard on SeaGull.  It’s frankly a little foolish to demand that any firm adorn their products with obvious symbols of the country of origin.  Do Japanese cars or watches have hirigana inscriptions and red sun motifs all over them?  No.  They’re designed to sell to as broad a customer base as possible and it’s doubtful that Westerners, proud of their own heritage, would desire a product that looked so obviously foreign.  You want to expand your market and become established and financially secure to the point where you can risk churning out wave after wave of hideous ‘f*** you, I don’t care what you think’ designs like a lot of Swiss companies.  Besides, many SeaGull designs are very traditional and use generic elements – but of course as a seasoned self-professed expert on watches you’d be the first to claim that no companies borrow design elements from each other, right?  Swiss companies also make shameless copies of each other’s pieces as we’ve seen over the years on this blog.
    At the end of the day it’s not about pride but common sense.  These watches you’ve posted here as some sort of progress are actually hideous.

    • Superstition

      For sure, these pieces look like they’re catered to the mainland Chinese market.

    • bichondaddy


  • Kris C

    Gah! Cannot unsee! These are the zombies of high-end watches. Once intricite and elegant, they are now infected and lumber along as gashed remnants of their former beauty, oozing gaudy gems and engravings from wounds of those that couldn’t quite put them down for good. If A Blog To Watch was a television network, I’ve just tuned into The Walking Dead.
    I know it was alrwady mentioned, but I have to reiterate how pathetic it is to have a tourbillon and a day/night wheel that apes a moonphase on the same watch. Not even a unique one either, the same awful yellow-on-blue wheel I can get on a $2 eBay watch. Do the designers of this watch also lust for a a twin turbo V8 rear-wheel 50/50 sports car with naugahyde seats and 8-track stereo?

  • DangerussArt

    April first, already?!

  • Ryan B

    Somehow these pieces slipped by the finishing department on the way out of manufacturing. The components are edgy, scratchy, and hazy just to name a few. They went through all this work to make a watch that looks like something you’d get from a claw machine at the arcade.

  • Superstition

    A lot of people should realize that Western aesthetic and Eastern aesthetic are pretty different.  When it comes to Swiss watches a lot of Chinese consumers cheese or bling them out beyond recognition.  These pieces are essentially tailored for that clientèle, but god knows if they’d actually buy it over a Rolex, Omega, Patek, etc especially since they’re all huge brand whores too.

  • CG

    Chinese watches for the Chinese market… Very confused designs

  • Specialized24

    There’s no-way I would even come close to paying for these watches, Swiss alllll the way for that range. The Tourbillion will probably stop working after a year!

  • mandime

    Any one else’ eyes hurt from looking at these photos?  Ariel, are you suggesting that the “proud to be Chinese” designs signify the apex of Chinese design?  A tad insulting if you ask me.  Artistic beauty flows in Chinese art, sculpture, the written language(witness the ubiquitous Chinese writing tattooed on countless westerners) simple, organic, harmonious, these are not of the same category.  The best Asian made tourbillon for the price?  I’ll accept that.  The hallmark of Chinese design?  No, not even close.  There are other Chinese manufactures that have an Asian aesthetic coupled with pleasing design.  Btw, even the best Swiss manufactures can’t deliver a proper Asian themed product.  Yes, I’m of Chinese descent.

  • DG Cayse

    Gaudy? Flashy? Over-Ornimented? Cluttered? Gauche? – Guilty as Charged.
    Will they sell? You bet your a** they will…in China and other parts of Asia. This is what the market is telling these companies to make. If there was not a market – there would not be a product. Chinese manufacturers rarely invest & build o spec. Market research is a very ‘new’ thing to almost all Chinese manufacturers. They see what is selling – They copy it and make it. QC is a matter of standing at the bench and watching or hoping and praying (or burning bai-bai) for the best.
    Now, this is changing…slowly. Quality of materials and quality of build is  raising. As the demands of the market increase, the manufacturers are listening…after all…it hits them directly where it counts. In their bank account. So they are listening.
    Seagull produces some very good movements. IMO their watches look like something from the Long March – but they sell. Hengzhou is also making some very good movements. There are an increasing number of “European” watch companies who are using these movements. They would not do so if there were quality and/or reliability concerns. An increasing number of “European” and American watch companies are either having their product manufactured in the workshops of China or using components from these workshops.
    So yes, to our delicate eyes and sensitivities these examples are all of the above. Personally I think they look atrocious. Not clean. Not elegant. Not something I would ever have on my wrist. But guess what? They are not making them for people with my tastes.
    They make that stuff in their other workshop….;)
    Disclaimer – I have lived, worked and played in the Pac Rim area for the last 15 years.

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  • Chief12

    98% Chinese design Tourbillons in China were sold to  the young, rich Chinese, not Westerners. Chinese watch manufactures certainly know what consumers and markets should be pleased.

  • ZL

    This post got a lot of negative comments, but I tend to agree with the author for the most part. Firstly, I like at least one of the pieces pictured there. I live in China and have been looking for a good Chinese watch for a while. But if I buy a Chinese watch, I am not interested in some wannabe design. Companies around the world are influenced by Swiss watches, and I can’t blame anyone for just trying to make  money, but they won’t get mine that way. Any watch, Chinese or otherwise, should have confidence. This is a problem across many aspects of society in China (and wider Asia): the feeling that anything “Western” equals value and validity, smacking of an inferiority complex or even shame. For the time being it will be difficult to compete with the level of quality and craftsmanship necessary to stamped with “swiss made” or the Geneva seal. Chinese watches need to innovate, and not just with design but technology also, in order to stand out. So, make me a quality watch with Chinese confidence and pride — but genuine and not gimmicky or some “Asian-themed” BS — and I’ll be your first customer.

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  • Skeletor

    Japan had this problem of creating cheap copies of western products. Eventually they matured and now make fantastic designs and technologies of their own. China is still in their infancy evident by the terrible imitated designs shown in this article. It will take time, trust and perception can’t be bought at any price.

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