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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In this epic thread:
https://www.watchuseek.com/f72/albe...t-3-post-3-june-11th-12th-2014-a-1056392.html
...Ron included a photo which puzzled me a bit:



That watch looks just like the Meihualu HJ1A which we all know and love, but carefully read the inscription:

A first-generation domestically made "Meihualu" brand mechanical pocket watch with 17 artificial diamond bearings successfully trial-produced by Jilin Wrist Watch Factory in 1958.

That's quite a bit older than I would have expected for a watch of this design from China. Is this an early HJ1A or was there another 17 jewel pocket watch movement produced at Jilin from 1958?
 

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When I saw the picture I was puzzled too. I hope we can get an answer to your question someday.

To my non-expert eyes, the style of this watch looks later than 1958. Every Meihualu pocket watch I've seen has the HJ1A, whether it be the usual version or decorated or gold-coloured. The factory did open in 1958, however, and it must have produced something. I've never seen a Jilin watch older than the HJ1A pocket watches though. Very puzzling indeed...
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
That was it; the other thing that was troubling me. The style really does look later than 1958, doesn't it?

I guess, besides chasing this specific question, the other approach would be to see if there is a general history of the Jinin Watch Factory (probably in Chinese) somewhere on the web, and see what clues emerge concerning their early production.
 

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I've looked for a history of Jilin Watch Factory before and didn't find much. I looked again this morning and found a short history which has been copied on many pages. I don't know the source, and it doesn't say much about the early years.

吉林市手表厂是我省最早的手表厂家。始建于1958年,是我国早期八大表厂之一,年产各种仪表、怀表、手表能力达110万只,属大型钟表企业。产品有机械、石英和电子手表三大系列,15个品种。其中航空、航海时钟在我国享有较高声望;"梅花鹿"牌手表为国家部颁一级表,并获省优产品称号;"吉星"牌男表在1985年同类表评比中获第一名;"吉星"牌女表获省优产品称号。

It's possible that more information will become available in the future. I often discover interesting articles and pictures I haven't seen before when making unrelated searches.

For example, while searching for a history of Jilin Watch Factory this morning I found an old picture of Shanghai Watch Factory with accompanying text.

Human Black-and-white Monochrome Photography Style


1958年4月23日,新中国第一家手表厂--地方国营上海手表厂正式创建(施志勤拍摄)。 7月1日,第一批上海牌A581型17钻机械手表,在上海第三百货商店上市,售价60元。 当天《新民晚报》以"争买上海牌手表"为大字标题,采访了首任厂长刘思仁。 1955年,上海市轻工业局组织手表试制小组,以瑞士sellca机芯进行仿制。 1956年正式成立上海手表厂筹备处,至1957年共进行了14批次试制,制定了1070道工序,终于使手表生产进入工业化轨道。 到1966年中期,上海手表厂的手表生产水平已达到日本同期手表工业生产水平。 1970年代上海SS1A型手表机芯提高了摆轮游丝频次,由原来18000次/小时提高到21600次/小时,显著提高了国产机械表的走时精度。
 

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I have an email query in to my contact at Polaris and the Museum. I'll report what I find out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I've looked for a history of Jilin Watch Factory before and didn't find much. I looked again this morning and found a short history which has been copied on many pages. I don't know the source, and it doesn't say much about the early years.

吉林市手表厂是我省最早的手表厂家。始建于1958年,是我国早期八大表厂之一,年产各种仪表、怀表、手表能力达110万只,属大型钟表企业。产品有机械、石英和电子手表三大系列,15个品种。其中航空、航海时钟在我国享有较高声望;"梅花鹿"牌手表为国家部颁一级表,并获省优产品称号;"吉星"牌男表在1985年同类表评比中获第一名;"吉星"牌女表获省优产品称号。
This is the best average machine translation that I can manage:

Jilin Watch Factory is the province's oldest watch manufacturer. Founded in 1958, is one of the first eight plants in China, with an annual output capacity of 1.1 million units - instruments, pocket watches, watches, clocks - it is a major enterprise. Products include mechanical, quartz and digital watches three series, 15 species. Aviation, nautical clocks of which enjoys a high reputation in our country; " Meihualu" brand watch tables at the ministerial level for the country, and won the provincial title;" JI XING " brand men's watch similar tables in 1985 won the first prize in the competition;" JI XING "brand of female form won the title of provincial superior products.

I am eagerly awaiting any information from Yantai.
 

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I realise I am "necro-bumping" an old thread here, but that seems to be all the rage in /f72 these days, so please forgive me. It's for the cause of furthering VCM knowledge. :)

I have been trying to learn more about the history of Meihualu watch factory and have very rapidly gotten myself quite confused. It seems like all the sources I find gloss over a number of variations in the name of the factory. I don't know if there was one factory which underwent some name changes, or multiple factories with similar names, or what. I hope someone can enlighten me.

Let's start with the museum plaque at the beginning of this thread. It talks exclusively about "吉林手表厂", which is literally Jilin Wrist Watch Factory, just the way they've translated it.

However, the block of text which Saskwatch found and Chascomm machine translated talks exclusively about "吉林市手表厂", which has an extra character (市) in it. This one is literally Jilin City Wrist Watch Factory.

If you grab an actual Meihualu-branded watch and look at the caseback, you will find yet something else. Borrowing a picture from myvcms.com:



This says "吉林市表厂", which is missing a character (手) compared to the others. This one is literally "Jilin City Watch Factory".

However, if you look at the Jixing-branded military watches (there's a nice Flickr set here), they use "吉林手表厂", just like the museum plaque.

I even found an article which switches from 吉林市手表厂 to 吉林手表厂 part way through with no explanation given!

The block of text Saskwatch found suggests that Meihualu and Jixing watches were both made at the same factory, but we don't know the source of that text. It might have been written by a collector who was just as confused about all of this as I am. Does anybody have a clear picture of what is going on here? Are we dealing with one, two or three separate factories here?

If it is the case that the factory behind the Meihualu brand was one of the original 8 factories set up in 1958, then it is extremely interesting to ask what exactly they did until 1973 when the tongji, from which their pocketwatch movement is derived) came along. 15 years is a long time to twiddle one's thumbs. The only thing I've managed to find is this old military pocketwatch (project 638), which has a non-tongji in it:





The styling on this looks more 1950s than 1970s to me. Note that the dial uses 吉林市表厂, just like the Meihualu wrist watches.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks for resurrecting this thread. I'm still hoping for some clarification on the Meihualu question.

The museum watch looks identical to known examples of HJ1A watches. However if the HJ1A was produced from 1958 then it would actually be the ancestor of the Tongji not its descendent as commonly supposed! But this raises a new problem: the HJ1A would have been a completely original Chinese design, yet I have have never read any claim of Jilin Watch Factory being responsible for the first series-produced Chinese-designed watch movement. The only way out of this is if claims of 'first' (e.g. ST-5) that I have read actually refered to 'first series-produced Chinese-designed wristwatch movement' only.

Alternatively, if the 638 preceded the HJ1A, then the museum watch has been incorrectly attributed. :think:

Mind you, that 638 opens up a whole lot of other questions about the history of pin-lever watch movements in China...
 

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However if the HJ1A was produced from 1958 then it would actually be the ancestor of the Tongji not its descendent as commonly supposed.
Surely this cannot be the case? The origins of the tongji seem relatively well documented and I have never seen any reference to it being adapted from the HJ1A - and one would certainly think that would come up! Then again, maybe I should buy a Meihualu pocket watch right now, just in case, because if this turns out to be true, prices will skyrocket! :p

The only way out of this is if claims of 'first' (e.g. ST-5) that I have read actually refered to 'first series-produced Chinese-designed wristwatch movement' only.
Actually, on this note, I was reading an article on the SS1 published in "Fans of Timekeeper" the other day, and was astonished to find the claim (according to Google) that it was "the new country's first independent design movement". I've never heard that claim before. Not related to the Jilin Conundrum, though...

Alternatively, if the 638 preceded the HJ1A, then the museum watch has been incorrectly attributed. :think:
I am starting to lean toward this hypothesis. It's not a pleasant idea, but these things surely do happen: I visited the London Science Museum in 2010, and in their space exploration section there was a large panel of writing next to one of the exhibits with a shockingly bad explanation of how satellites orbit the Earth. It claimed that because they were so far away from Earth, the force of gravity they experienced was extremely weak. This is not just wrong, it's completely backwards, and betrays a complete lack of understanding of high school physics. I was astonished, but I learned that even large and prestigious museums are a long way from infallible.

I wonder if Ron ever heard back from any of his contacts?
 

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More (but fewer than I'd like!) details on the 638 from this article on military watches (via Google, emphasis mine):

307 former Jilin mechanical timer watch factory production and trial on the mid-1960s. Was tension in the Taiwan Strait, other than artillery, while both sides are playing the propaganda war. Should request the higher authorities, Jilin watch factory design and production of a mechanical timer, Kinmen and other places for the balloon airborne propaganda.

307 Timer movement with chronograph movement Jilin Watch Factory 638 transformation, according to functional requirements, the balance wheel brake, dial scale and increased wiring pile so have to re-do the design, made significant improvements.

307 mechanical timer can be preset period of time, after running start at the preset time, the timer linkage (external) electric wire to detonate at a predetermined location spilled airborne leaflets.

Production, mechanical timer for 307 requirements are: cheap, reliable, one-time, no complex functions. 307 of the original designers of mechanical timer watch factory in Jilin, etc. Mr. Wang Gensheng. Wang had to watch the birth and development of Jilin made a significant contribution, is the winner of the "May 1" Labor Medal. 307 mechanical timer for various reasons, did not put into mass production in the future, only 73 trial production. 1
So it sounds to me like in the mid 1960s, Jilin took their pre-existing project 638 pocket watch and modified it to become the project 307 timer, which was used (or supposed to be used) to time propaganda leaflet drops from balloons flying over Taiwan (wow!). This would suggest that the 638 was an existing and mature product at Jilin in the mid 1960s, which is what we might expect if they started working on it in 1958 or thereabouts. So the 638 most probably did precede the HJ1A.
 

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How much do we know about the 638 movement? I know next to nothing about VCM pocket watches. But it seems like the exact same movement was also made by:


I guess this was a large government project distributed across several factories? Of the three factories which seem to be involved so far, Jilin is probably the oldest, if they really wwere one of the 1958 original eight (and if they weren't who is the true 8th in addition to Beijing, Guangzhou, Liaoning, Nanjing, Shanghai, Qingdao and Tianjin??). I don't have a date for Yangzhou, though. Maybe Jilin were the first to produce the 638 pocketwatch and the museum exhibit was supposed to be about that but there was some kind of mix up?
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Well this is very interesting...

So far as I know, this design is unique to China. Notice how the train is laid out with off-set 2nd wheel and centre 4th wheel to give a directly-driven sweep second hand (very similar to the SN-1 and SN-2 wristwatch movements from Nanjing) but otherwise the design is strongly reminiscent of American 'dollar watches' (which AFAIK have never been made with the directly-driven sweep hand). The crown also looks like it pushes down to set, in the dollar watch tradition.

Here is a photo from Joel Chan's collection showing a very early example of this type of watch from the Jin Xing Clock Factory (later to become the Shanghai Stopwatch Factory):


No photo is shown for the movement but I recall seeing one posted here with the movement appearing to be a copy of the Anglo-Celtic PY (a descendent of the Ingersoll Yankee dollar watch) however I have been unable to dig up a photo. Something like this one with the indirect sweep-hand modification:
Pocket watch Watch Fashion accessory Brass Metal


But when I search now, all I turn up are this 638 movement. Was I mistaken in what I wrote up on the old wiki? Was this 638 movement a clean-sheet design introduced in 1958 that was not preceded by production of a PY-clone movement?
 

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Well, here's a tiny scrap. That page with the 638 photos I posted seems to be a comment thread for an auction. The OP gives a tiny scrap of a description:

为了体现此表的真正价值现在无底价拍卖,随意加价,14日晚22时结束,拍得价不包邮。此表为吉林手表厂1958年建厂后自己设计研发的怀表,整表还保持在40多年前的状态,全部原装,表盘无氧化,走时正常,准确,频摆声音清脆,下压式调针,表经55MM,厚12MM。
which Google turns into:

In order to reflect the true value of this table is now no reserve auction, casual fare, the end of the evening of 14 22:00, looks are not shipping price. This table after Jilin pocket watch factory in 1958 to design their own research and development, the entire table is also maintained in the state 40 years ago, all original, no oxidation of the dial, the normal travel time, accurate, crisp sound frequency pendulum, under the pressure adjusting needle table by 55MM, thick 12MM.
Emphasis mine. That section seems to suggest that the 638 is the result of independent R&D conducted by Jilin in 1958. It's not much, but it's all I can dig up.
 

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This sheds no light whatsoever on the greater questions surrounding Jilin, Meihualu, and the 638, but nevertheless: Jilin eventually made quartz pocket watches under the "Fushou" brand:



And what's under the hood?



None other than Tianjin's DST5 movement, as used in the Yinjian wristwatches!
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I wasn't imagining it!

Here's an old thread in which Joel Chan mentions the 1958 Zuan Shi pocket watch and a design connection with "Smiths":
Shanghai Zuanshi (Diamond) watch info
"Smiths" in this context would be a watch made by the Anglo-Celtic Watch Company (a joint venture between Smiths and Ingersoll) such as the one whose PY movement is shown in my post above.

Clearly the 638 is not a direct copy of the PY, however it could plausibly have been designed based on examination of both the PY and the TY (wristwatch movement), but that's just my speculation.
 

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Good find! Joel also mentioned the connection to Yangzhou and the HongQi brand, explaining that production moved there from the Zuanshi factory in 1970. No mention at all of Jilin, though. I was wrong when I earlier said Jilin was older than Shanghai Stopwatch Factory, I was looking at the date that name was adopted, but the factory itself is older than Jilin, having previously gone by another name. So it is possible the movement was originally designed at Shanghai and then later produced at Jilin and Yangzhou. However, if that were the case, then the museum plaque once again becomes a total mystery. Also, the question then opens up as to when the production was moved to Jilin: if it was in 1970 as per Yangzhou, that leaves Jilin twiddling its thumbs for 12 years instead of 15, which still seems quite unlikely. Hmm, actually, the fact that Jilin made the balloon timers in the mid 60s suggests that 638 production was already happening there at time...
 

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(hyperventilating) I have found all of the answers but we're going to have to wait on a Chinese reader because they're contained in photographs of an actual dead tree book, so I can't copy anything into Google Translate. :( But below are the photos, which I found here. I recognise the name of the Jilin watch factory, the year 1958, the number 638, and the designation HJ1A, so I assume this is going to make everything clear! There are lots of dates and other numbers, it looks very thorough, so I'm terribly excited to get everything translated. Even without all of the details, though, it seems apparent that the 638 dates from August 1963 (hence 638) and the HJ1A from 1972, so the relative ages of the two movements are as we expected. I also see a reference to a Shanghai factory, but not one whose name I recognise, and the number 584, which presumably corresponds to April of 1958, which is the date Joel Chan gave for the Zuanshi factory's first pocketwatch. Maybe the factory name I don't recognise is "Shanghai Tak On Clock factory", the original name of the Zuanshi factory? This all seems to point toward an origin at Shanghai, closely followed by production at Jilin and much later a move to Yangzhou. But we'll have to wait on a proper translation to be sure of the particulars.

Text Font


Text Font Paper Document


Text Font Document Paper


Text Font Paper Document Book
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 · (Edited)
OK at this point I must rather embarassingly concede that my memory of a photo of a PY-sweep-hand clone movement in a Zuan Shi pocket watch (on this forum prior to the early 2006 server crash) is most likely a false memory. I have not turned up any evidence of such, so I am probably misremembering seeing this 584/638 design.

So it's embarassing for me but exciting for vintage Chinese watch enthusiasts because although the Zuan Shi design is attributed to "Smiths", I can say with certainty that Smiths' pin-lever watch producing subsidiary (Anglo-Celtic) never made as design quite like this.

In fact, so far as I have been able to search, none of the producers of the descendents of the 'dollar watches' (Timex/US Ingersoll, Westclox, Anglo-Celtic) ever produced a pocket watch movement with a directly-driven sweep second hand. The most that they did was add additional parts to indirectly drive a sweep hand (e.g. the big wheel and leaf spring on the PY pictured above), whereas this Chinese design takes the classic PY-subsidiary-second design and rearranges the entire train (probably copying the layout of the Anglo-Celtic TY wristwatch movement of 1956) to place the 4th wheel at the centre. That is very advanced design work for such a young watch industry.

A couple of interesting asides on this design:

The idea of offsetting the 2nd wheel and centering the 4th wheel to provide a sweep second hand goes back to Edouard Bovet circa 1830 in watches designed specifically for the Chinese market, which tells us that a sweep hand has been a priority for Chinese watch owners for a long time before the Chinese started building their own watches. This may explain why all the watch movements introduced into production in China in the early days featured a directly-driven sweep hand (i.e. integral to the design rather than an add-on indirectly-driven).

1958 was also the year in which a standard design for a cheap alarm clock was introduced across China (starting with Yantai Polaris, if I recall correctly) and still in production to this day. In contrast to cheap alarm clocks made elsewhere in the world, this design also featured a sweep second hand once again achieved via the Bovet method. One of the factories that became a major producer of such clocks was Shanghai Zuan Shi.
 
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