As I continue to study and learn about the watch industry, there’s one major (perhaps obvious) difference between Chinese and foreign brands that keeps making itself apparent. What is it that separates a “luxury” Chinese brand from truly luxurious foreign brands? There are many factors, of course, but the main difference that I’ve noticed between the majority of Chinese brands and those from around the world, is the way in which they organize their priorities. At least on surface level, most successful foreign brands take more pride in their product and in the presentation of their brands than they do in the actual sale of their product.
Ok, I understand, the ultimate point of almost any business is to make money. I get that, and a LOT of Chinese brands are making a LOT of money! But regardless of how much money they make, why is it that many watch enthusiasts around the world consider the Chinese watch to be second rate? The answer to this question, as I see it, is because the first priority for most Chinese brands is to sell as much product as possible, as soon as possible, with only the required minimum regard to the product itself. Actually taking pride in having an exquisite product that stands out from the rest is simply not first on the agenda for many brands.
However there are some, like the brand I’m presenting here, whose priorities are obvious. In my conversations with Benjamin, founder of Maison Celadon, it’s extremely clear that his priorities are a) to create the epitome of an elegant and yet very much Chinese timepiece, and b) to present his product with a clarity and studied thoughtfulness that is nearly unmatched by any brand I’ve found in this country.
(all photos courtesy of Maison Celadon)
Maison Celadon is a boutique brand founded in 2013, which to date has variations of 2 models, with a third model due for release at any time. While many Chinese brands run away from their roots, Maison Celadon runs directly to them and showcases in its timepieces some of the most historically important craftsmanship this ancient culture has to offer. I’ll go into further detail of each series and their intimate features, including flame blued hands and hand engraved gold balance cocks at a further point. For now I’ll give a short introduction to each series.
The first series of the brand’s signature piece, the Imperial, was released in 2013. It features a Guilloche textured dial with a Plum Blossom design in either Rice Paper Cream, Imperial Red or Midnight Blue color options. The second series Imperial features an incredibly detailed pressed Guilloche Peacock dial (below right). The movement is the SB18-6 thin in-house manufacture movement from Beijing Manufactory. The case is 38mm in diameter, and the Imperial retails at $1220 USD.
The flagship Celestial, released in 2014, is a bespoke watch in which clients can choose from one of 5 dial options, including Micro Painting enamel, Cloisonné or Gold Wire enamel (by Master Artist Xiong Songtao, featured here) Micro Carving enamel, Hand-stitched Suzhou Embroidery (below) or Hand-painted Fencai Porcelain. The Celestial is bigger at 43mm, providing a broader landscape to show dial detail, and uses the B24 double escapement and resonance movement with a 7 day power reserve. The Celestial starts at $5800 USD, but the price ultimately depends on a handful of customization options.
Soon to be released is the Celadon Yue Fei military diver. I was fortunate enough to be included in a private group chat where several sneak peek features of this watch were shared. The details of the hands alone are going to knock…no let’s say slice your socks off. The watch meets all the standards of an ISO-rated 200m diver with its clear legibility, screw down case back, lume pip and lume dot on the seconds hand, etc. It also has a wildly unique steel bracelet with links modeled after the Celadon logo in a combination of brushed and polished surfaces. Besides the technical achievements, this watch is per standard for Maison Celadon, delivering a powerful punch of important historical Chinese details. I’ve only seen peeks of these yummy bits and pieces individually, and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together!
Ok I have to be honest here about something…I’m fairly confident that I came across Maison Celadon when I first started researching Chinese brands last year. If my memory is correct, I actually dismissed it fairly quickly because I only wanted to feature truly Chinese brands here on EWR. You’re saying ”but this is a truly Chinese brand, correct?” Correct. I think this is what happened…my mindset was slightly warped after weeks of viewing average watches and reading sloppy marketing materials. So when I came across Maison Celadon, something upstairs didn’t compute. Could something this polished and complete be a Chinese brand? Couldn’t be. Could it? Wait a minute…it is? These are Chinese watches. They are watches, that are Made in China, With Pride.