As part of our Under the Radar series, we discover an interesting find in the world of watches. Introducing Maison Celadon, an up and coming micro-watch brand with a mantra to promote Chinese watchmaking and fine art. Lesser heard and seldom mentioned, Made-in-China watches are sometimes grossly overlooked. While it is still inappropriate to say that Chinese watchmaking has reached parity with its European and Japanese counterparts, there are some exceptional models that we have come across of late that reminds us that some Chinese mass market watches have vastly improved.
One of these exceptions is Maison Celadon. Founded by Benjamin Chee, Maison Celadon offers classic designs with brilliant quality at its price point. Featured in this article is the popular Celadon Imperial line, or 秀才 in mandarin. Before we explain what we love about the watch, we thought that our readers should understand that Chinese watchmaking is steep in history and expertise. From the time of Bovet till the more recent Seagull and Beijing Watch Factory, the Chinese have been a major producer of mechanical movements. They have now even developed technical expertise to produce tourbillons and other high complications. Seemingly unimaginable 30 years ago, Chinese talents in watchmaking have reached international acclaim. Chinese national Ma Xushu is a member of the AHCI, an organisation which supports some of the best independent watchmakers in the industry; members includes famous watchmakers Kari Voutilainen, Philippe Dufour etc. While Chinese watch factories are nowhere as ‘high-tech’ as those in Switzerland in terms of equipment, we see trends of a rapidly improving watch production industry in China. These signs are wholly evident in a Maison Celadon timepiece.
What we like about Maison Celadon’s Imperial
It’s all in the details. Details. Details. Details. From the case to the dial, to the crown and movement, the watch priced starting at US$977 is a steal compared to its Swiss counterparts. Yes it may be made with cheaper labour and what not, but the attention to detail for each production piece is unparalleled.
Let’s begin with the case. Sized at approximately 38mm, the sleek design of the watch is given distinction with the cow horn lugs and onion crown. In the flesh, it just works brilliantly. The sapphire crystal glass is treated with anti-reflective coating, and enhances the clarity of the beautiful dial.
The dials are very well finished with nicely engraved guilloche patterns. In the first photograph of the Peacock edition, the hour markers and hands are blued steel. Heated blue steel. This is accomplished via a unique technique of heating steel to a very high temperature to a point before it turns completely black. Arresting the right moment, the heated steel once cooled appears in a darkened shade of blue instead.
The Maison Celadon Imperial uses the in-house BWAF SB18-6 movement, which is a hand-winding movement designed and produced by Beijing Watch Factory, instead of the usual copy unitas 6497 movement used by many brands. The SB18-6 movement uses a 3 quarter plate, similar to German watch movements. On top of that, it uses heated blue screws and golden chatons, features usually found only in extremely high end watches.
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our experience handling the Imperial watches. They looked good and wore well. A classic timepiece that would stay relevant for a good few decades at the least.
While not covered in this article, other pieces in Maison Celadon’s collection such as the Celestial also allows for customized dials, and other exotic dial options, like enamel, silk embroidery etc. The Imperial collection that we have covered above also has several customization options, including engraving on the movement plate, bespoke straps, etc.
At the time this article is written, the Imperial was priced beginning at USD$977. For a more detailed pricelist which includes customization and add-ons, please check with Maison Celadon’s concierge service.