Saturday, January 1, 2011

Shanghai 上海 114 The First Chinese Military Watch (Reissue) 114 中国第一军表(复刻版)






Model : 114 The First Chinese Military Watch (Reissue) 114 中国第一军表 (复刻版)
Manufacturer : Shanghai Watch Factory
Year of Production: 2009
Case Diameter : 
Weight w/o strap: g 
Movement Model : DG2813 (22jewels) 
Type : Automatic

Like the first Chinese air force chronograph 1963, this first Chinese military watch 114 has also become prized by the collectors of vintage Chinese watches. This piece of mine is a reissue by Shanghai Watch Factory.

The genesis of this watch began in late 1960s. In 1969, the Central Military Committee of China appointed Shanghai Watch Factory to commence production of this watch specifically for the People's Liberation Army. The model number was 114. The 114s were powered by 29 jewel SS2 initially and later by 24 J SS4 automatic movements; the one with SS2 movement was for high-ranking military personnel while with SS4 was for mid-ranking and lower. The watches were not free issued that the military personnel would have to fork out their own money to buy one and the price was 240 yuan.

There were several batches of trial productions with 29J SS2 movement between 1967 and 1969 and after which the production proper commenced. The 29J SS2 watch was produced   till some time in 1970. [Some said its production ceased earlier in 1969. I believed it ceased in 1970 as I saw images of 29J in the internet with serial number of 7000948 and A7001215]  The rotor of 29 J SS2 movement had the inscription of "29 ZHAN GUNZHU ZIDONG" (29 占滚珠自动, 29 jewels ball bearing automatic). Note that it was not 'ZUAN' (钻) but 'ZHAN' (占) despite its dial used 'ZUAN'.

The dial was embossed with "中国制造 29钻" above 6 hour index and there was no logo below 12 hour index. However, embossed characters only appeared in early production; they were printed on in later batches. The crown was like the reissue's which was a hemisphere crown without logo. The watch had luminous hands, indices and bezel markings.The luminescence in greenish white was actually radium paint which was a known radioactive material. But the quantity in a wristwatch was too small to be harmful.  The bezel shape was the one of this reissue. 

The caseback was inscribed with 5,6 or 7 digits. The first two digits were the year of production and the following digits were the product serial number in that year. One should see 67XXX, 67XXXX, 68XXXX, 69XXXX,  70XXXXX and A70XXXXX.

Some time in 1970, the production of 114 with 24J SS4 movement started. It featured anti-shock,anti-magnetic and waterproof. It had a screw down crown signed with logo  but smaller and flatter.It was indeed a military diver watch. The movement had the inscription of "SS4" on its bridge board followed by either a single letter or two letters. Its rotor was signed with "QUAN ZIDONG 24 ZUAN" (全自动24 钻,all automatic 24 jewels) and in later version the rotor was not signed with anything at all. The watch looked quite like the 29J SS2 with a few obvious differences in that, other than the crown, it had the "Shanghai 上海" logo below 12 hour index, unpainted second hand and coin edge bezel.  Like the 29J SS2, this watch too had serial numbered on its caseback but in 7 or 8 digits, i.e. A70XXXXX, A71XXXXX, 71XXXXX, 73XXXXXX and 74XXXXX.


Some time before or in 1973, the watch was re-branded as torch "火炬" brand. The "Shanghai 上海" logo on the dial was changed to red torch "火炬" logo and too the signed crown. The price known then was 180 yuan, somehow lower than that in earlier years.  The production ceased in 1976 (some said in 1977) and altogether there had been approximately 30,000 pieces of 114 made. Given that 7129XXX has already surfaced and the production had not stopped until 1976/77, I think 30,000 pieces is a conservative estimate.

Initiatives have been taken by some of the members of China based fora i.e. watchlead.com and iwatch365 (as listed in the 'Links' page of this blog) in gathering the serial numbers. The above knowledge in regard to serial number is from all the relevant threads in the fora and the contribution of the members is hereby acknowledged and the effort of the initiating members is appreciated. There are some observations on the serial numbers gathered: there has been no 72XXXXX, 75XXXXX and 76XXXXX reported so far, it may be just a matter of time the numbers will show up; the denotation of pre-fix 'A' in some of the watches in year 1970 and 1971 has been unknown and remained a mystery. 

Turning to this reissue, it is powered by 22 jewel DG2813 movement, a movement not by Shanghai but Dixmont-Guangzhou Watch Factory.  It is said in the iconic Alberta Museum of Chinese Horology in Peace River  that
[It] contains a 22 jewel Dixmont-Guangzhou 2813 auto movement. Interestingly, the DG 2813 movement, although only 22 jewels, is actually closer to the original SS4 watch movement specs than anything Shanghai currently produces... (link here)
Except "Shanghai 上海“ logo below the 12 hour index, the bezel, the crown and the hands are copy of 29J SS2 watch. The 29J SS2 is different from 24J SS4 in that it has straight edge bezel (not coin edge), red second hand, shorter stretch of lume on the hour and minute hands and hemisphere signed crown. Therefore, it is very much a 29J SS2 than 24J SS4 reissue.

All the above information were from various unofficial internet websites and fora and therefore unverified with records nor supported with any evidence.


[Added on 31 December 2012]

Many people have asked me about the method of acquiring the Chinese watches. In short, being based in Brisbane, the most effective way is buying through Taobao. However, Taobao is not that 'friendly' to customers outside of China. I have therefore been using Taobao buying agents to aid the hunts. From my experience in dealing with these agents, I prefer 86daigou as it is not only reliable but the fee is also competitive. I have a thread about this in WUS forum , see the link here. I hope this has answered the question.

[End for addition on 31 December 2012]