The act of manually winding a watch is hard to describe. With each rotation, a tactile response is felt through the crown and for a moment, the only thing you experience is the rhythm of each turn. The watch itself has stopped. Time has stopped. And with each wind, the mainspring’s tension tightens. 10, 15, 20 turns. No movement. Until, it finally happens. The wheels begin to turn and the second hand commences its descent, clockwise naturally, towards the next minute. This process lasts no longer than 30 seconds. Yet that brief pause acts as a sort of horological moment of mindfulness. No rushing through traffic to get to the office. No list of tasks to complete before the next meeting. Just the owner and his watch. Scuffs and all. Perfect with each blemish and sign of age. Personalised by the touch of time.
The Seagull 1963 is for all intents and purposes, the best manual wind chronograph money can buy for <$350. At 3ATM it can’t be taken into deep water. With its brittle acrylic crystal, it’s not the most robust. Yet it possesses a sort of endearing charm that can’t be met by any other watch in its class.
The champagne dial. The applied golden numerals and markers. The harsh olive khaki strap (which I love btw). The enamel blue hands. The firm response from the stop/start chronograph pushers. The domed acrylic crystal. Down to the all high polish finishing on its case. Its subtle and strange and understated and unpretentious.
Stocked by only a handful of online retailers, the watch is powered by a manual wind column-wheel chronograph movement: the Seagull ST1901. With a period correct case size of 38mm, its elegant and exudes vintage styling.
The watch has an interesting history dating back to 1961, when the Tianjin Watch Factory was tasked with producing the first Chinese pilots chronograph (aka project 304), for the Air Force of the People’s Liberation Army. By 1963, 1,400 units were produced and provided to the Chinese Air Force. The dial features a red Chinese star, with red symbolizing luck, happiness and joy. Underneath it reads ’21 Zuan’, which translates to ’21 Jewels’. The Chinese lettering at the 6 o’clock position spells out: ‘China – Tianjin Watch Factory’.
The version I prefer and purchased was stocked by Watch Unique. Their customer care was incredible, making for a smooth transaction and relatively speedy delivery considering it traveled across continents.
The Seagull 1963 won’t be your daily watch. It will however, be a great conversation piece, pairing nicely with smart / casual attire and cosy coffee shops.
Case size (not including crown): 38mm
Lug to lug: 47mm
Lug width: 18mm
Caliber: ST1901 Manual Wind, Column-wheel Chronograph, 40 hour power reserve
Strap / Bracelet: 18mm olive khaki NATO strap