Since I moved to China almost 6 years ago, the desire for new luxury items has grown in front of my eyes. It seems like most of China's wealthy prefer to buy new and modern luxury items, and for the most part it's the same for watches. In every major city there are high end boutiques left and right. But there is a growing interest, especially among some younger generation people, in retro / vintage / antique collecting. In Beijing I lived opposite a street (actually a 600 year old hutong) called Wu Dao Ying, and I loved browsing the handful of vintage and second hand shops in that area. It wasn't uncommon to find some vintage mechanical watches in these shops, alongside antique radios and sunglasses from the 1960's. Shops like these were popping up all over Beijing, and as a thrift shop junkie I was in heaven.
Since moving to Guangzhou, finding unique shops like this has been a challenge. So I was absolutely thrilled this week when I walked into GuanYang Watch, a small inconspicuous shop in a typically overcrowded market area. As soon as I walked in I knew I had found a gem. They deal in strictly second hand and vintage mechanical watches (as well as antique clocks). This may not sound special, but when you're surrounded by an obsession for new luxury, finding unique vintage and quality second hand Swiss watches is apparently very rare.
One thing I've been noticing about vintage Chinese watches, is the similarity between brands. If you read my post about the history of watchmaking in China, it's not difficult to understand why a lot of early Chinese watches all resemble each other. There was some variation when chronographs came around, but apparently the most popular watches in China for many decades were simple 3 hand stainless steel watches with date. GuanYang Watch has a large selection of Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing, & Tianjin Seagull brands. Prices for these ranged from around 80 - 2500rmb ($13 - $400 USD).
I was also impressed with the variety of second hand Swiss or European watch brands for sale. Like I mentioned before, these may be easy to find online, outside of China, and especially in Hong Kong. But to find a brick and mortar shop with authentic second hand quality watches it is not common in the Mainland. The staff was great, and let us take our time browsing their selection. They have everything from Rolex, Audemars Piguet, Tudor, Tag Heuer, Hamilton and Panerai, to fashion brands like Chanel or Bulgari. The list goes on and on. The prices were competitive, especially when you consider the roughly 20% markup on new luxury goods in China.
The most expensive watch in the shop on the day of my visit was this Glashutte Original Panograph, at 135,000RMB ($21,700 USD).
However, my favorite watch in the shop was a retro Delma Dual Time with two separate automatic movements. I'm seriously considering this for myself. With the right leather strap this could be killer :)
They also have an experienced watch repair staff. If you're in the area check them out!
GuanYang Watches, G/F, Shop 19, ZhongShan Liu Road, 广州市中山六路19号地铺. Gongyuanqian metro station, Exit A. Turn left and walk until you cross one main road. The shop is just ahead on the left.