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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
More catching up, and June 10th was my 63rd birthday...

I'm back in Beijing now (it's just after 2AM, July 2nd here) for my last few days in China this trip, and it's been a whirlwind of activity since my last post...about 6 hours of sleep (maybe) most nights, and so much information that I'm kinda boggled by it all.

Time to make posts? I'm begging your understanding but it's been hard to find time to even sit down (I am so damn fortunate...truly blessed...)

So, today's post will cover June 10th,just one day. It might give you an idea of the pace of things on this trip for me ;-)

LiWei asked me to meet him at 9:00 AM outside the location of the old Beijing Watch Factory flagship store in Beijing's Sanlitun SOHO area because (1) he knew I could find it ;-) and (2) because both Longio and Koncise have stores very nearby.

The day started right on time with a re-visit to the Longio store...


I've spoken about Longio's impressive line before and visited their store last year, but the return was a friendly treat. I was introduced this time to the store Manager, Mr. LuiZheng (instead, meeting the owner later in Shenzhen) and I was again shown their line of very solid and modern tourbillon and non-tourbillon watches.

Longio *gets* that the western market demands something more than dress watches and they have built-like-tank divers, pilots and field watches in their line along with dressier pieces. As I've noted before, even some of their tourbillons are modern heavy-metal designs. They also understand the expectations of some higher-end customers and have chosen Swiss movements for a number of their higher-end (read: pricier) models.

Any prices shown are RMB with 1000 RMB equaling about $162 USD, so the pilots list at about $2000.00. These aren't at all cheap Chinese watches, and they're built to fairly compete with serious stuff from anywhere. (Note: so many watch and jewelry display cases are lit for glitter and not cameras, so please excuse crappy colour at times...)

Here's some of the photos taken at the Longio store...



















...(I'm pretty sure I have better photos taken during the Shenzhen days of the Longio auto tourbillon in the heavy-metal case, so I'll leave it till then.)

Also, seen in these photos, apart from other people named, is Boey Chern Yue (a very friendly WatchuSeek contributor from Singapore I was fortunate enough to meet face-to-face during this trip) and Mr. Wang Kaihao, the Xinhua news reporter who was along with us this day). It's not all about watches; the human side of these trips is always what |I find the most rewarding.

By the way, Boey, another store visitor, and I all tried on the very hefty curved case Longio models with the roman numerals to see how the curve fit differing wrists...and the result was we all found it fit well. Don't know how they did that, but... :)

Anyways, next stop was the Koncise (Beijing) International Watch Co., Ltd. flagship store.


Here's what I understood of the story of this company and its very impressive roots:

I was met at the store by the Koncise Watch Company Chairman, Mr. Kong Lingjun. His family traces its history back 67 generations to Confucious.

The Koncise Company's enamel dials are produced by some of the world's most prestigious masters and by people trained by them, and the Company's enamel is arguably the highest grade enamel available anywhere, made by anyone. The watch case design is made to resemble old scrolls and the idea is to produce a modern but historically respectful -- and very, very high quality -- watch for horological connoisseurs.

So, first, some photos from the shop...and then the first great surprise of the day that followed...



I tried a number of shots, but I couldn't even come close to capturing the subtle but startling beauty of this dial...



The classic Koncise case design is very inventive. All the watch dials and interior cases double as wrist or pocket watches, beng placed securely in either respective outer case...













Koncise is very proud that its watches have been honoured with the inclusion of an example at the Musee International D'Horlogerie in La Choux-de-Fonds...



Before leaving Boey and I were both asked to write something for the Koncise records, a task we were both happy to perform. I'll say this: Boey is an eloquent writer. Me, I think not so much.

(next shots courtesy LiWei)











And here's a shot of Company Chairman Kong Lingjun watching me try my best to do his watches at least some justice.



Here's what Koncise had to say about our visit.

Then followed the day's first surprise, a trip to the very small village outside Beijing where the dials are produced and where the Xiong family of craftsmen holds many of its incredible treasures.

I was taken to the village to:

1) gain an appreciation for history behind these treasures,
2) to gain a much deeper understanding of what makes good or great as opposed to merely pedestrian enamel,
3) to meet an enamel master whose family enamel and cloisonne production expertise directly dates back to family enamel masters resident at the Imperial Palace from 1644, the beginning of the Qing dynasty, to a short time after the turn of the last century, and
4) to enjoy a meal (mostly grown in the village) at the Xiong family table (and people sometimes still wonder why I consider my life spectacularly blessed???)


No shots of the village because...well, because I was too shell-shocked. I only thought about photos once I was inside.

Here, have a look: both older technique and new technique pieces (the newest technique developed by Master Xiong)...and I can tell the difference now :)



















A couple of examples of materials ground for colours/pigments...





At the table...



...and what you've maybe been waiting for...















...and being from Alberta (cowboy country) it was fun checking out this not-so-traditional belt buckle...



...and here I am proudly with the enamel vase I was given as a most generous birthday gift from mr. Xiong personally :)



Seriously, the day couldn't get better, but it was only early afternoon and it stayed just as good the rest of the day.

Next stop, the venerable Beijing Watch Factory (BJWAF)...so, next shot, courtesy LiWei, a photo of Boey and I outside the factory itself...



...and a couple by me, outside...





...and Boey showing off his Beijing watch inside (look close, mine's on my wrist, too)...



More photos of BJWAF...photos from the museum inside, after a first shot of a monster tourbillon in the entrance...













Incredibly rare...



Early movements...





Boey drooling...



...and more Beijing Watch Factory museum shots...

















Now some shots of the factory floors...





























Spotted on a worker's wrist...



What a birthday!! And, next...a delicious dinner starting at dusk at a huge man-made lakeside restaurant about a half-hour's drive from the factory, with the General Manager of Beijing Watch Factory, Mr. Miao Hong Bo.

One photo I took...



...One LiWei took...



...and a shot of me with Mr. Miao...



Well...all good days have to end and this birthday had been perfect, but LiWei mentioned we were going to go back for coffee at the Touch Woman Cafe, which turned out to be the last surprise of the day...

Mr. Kong (descendant of Confucious, remember?) and LiWei had very generously arranged a private birthday party for me with our crew, so this is how the day ended, complete with goofy birthday hat:







:) :) :)

And that was just. one. day.

I know I can't can't say thanks enough for the kindnesses shown to me by everyone. I'm hope everyone reading understands, though, that I'll be very, very grateful every day of my life for the wonders I'm being shown and the opportunities I've been presented. Obviously, a huge thanks goes to my incredible friend, LiWei...but everyone mentioned has shown me invaluable friendship and courtesy.

More to come...
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Fabulous, and very many happy returns to you. What a way to spend a birthday.

Ric
Thanks, Ric :) It's not easy to write about this trip...I run out of superlatives to describe how I'm being treated.
 

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Happy birthday Ron.

What an incredible day! I'm going to need to return to those photos a few more times to take it all in. Every time I think I can't be more amazed, I am. The enamel... I'm lost for words again.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Happy birthday Ron...Every time I think I can't be more amazed, I am. The enamel... I'm lost for words again.
I understand being lost for words on this stuff, Chascomm, and it's taking me a lot of effort to process everything, too. I'm overwhelmed lots of the time, and have even been moved to tears a few times by the incredible welcome I receive.

Thanks very much for the birthday wishes :) I wish for everyone to find their later years as inspiring as I find mine, and the only thing I can say is this that I read from someone bright a while back, words to the exact effect of:

"If you find you have some money for extras, maybe don't buy something...instead, *do* something." Work hard, save...and go. Working 11 months a year at my two full-time jobs is worth every minute when this month rolls around.
 

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Ron, it was a really good day for me too. Most of all, it was great to finally meet you in person. Thanks to you and LiWei, I get to see and experience all these wonderful insights into the beijing based watch industry and art form! Wonderful day indeed
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Ron, it was a really good day for me too. Most of all, it was great to finally meet you in person. Thanks to you and LiWei, I get to see and experience all these wonderful insights into the beijing based watch industry and art form! Wonderful day indeed
The pleasure was mine, Boey. You're a truly class act and thanks for all your help...plus: my goodness you are putting together a classy, well-informed collection!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Belated congratulations Ron :-!
What a beautiful time you must have. You are one lucky man, but you do deserve it!

Regards,

Martin
Thanks, Martin.

I don't know about "deserve" but I'll happily accept all the kindness and opportunities I'm blessed with :)
 

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Hi Ron,

thanks a lot for the write up. I truly envy you :)
Amazing pictures and travel you have and do there...

I can completely understand how blown away you must feel, as you get to see the inner sanctum of the chinese watch industry and treated like a rock-star... well, wait, you mentioned you played in bars with your band ;)

do I understand correct, that when you came to Shanghai you were 1 year older? ;)

Well, late best wishes for your birthday from Shu and me in that case.

Thanks again a lot for letting us participate in your adventures into the chinese watch industry. The enamal dialed watches are not my cup of tea, but it is no doubt that it is amazing and beautiful craftmenship! My favourite would be the greyed-out one :) I am wondering what is behind that bar ;) ...or some of the dragon ones.

Having seen a lot of factories in China (although in the automotive sector), I can understand now why the Beijing watches have high quality by "analyzing" your factory pictures.

I am curious about the write up for your next days, although it will be tough to keep it up at that level ;)

regards from Shanghai,

Romain
 

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Happy Birthday Ron!

Try and enjoy yourself while you are there. (just kidding) You have managed to turn a once in a lifetime trip into a lifelong quest. Very cool indeed.

Cheers,
Walter
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
Happy Birthday Ron!

Try and enjoy yourself while you are there. (just kidding) You have managed to turn a once in a lifetime trip into a lifelong quest. Very cool indeed.

Cheers,
Walter
Heh, I know you remember when this was all starting with my collecting, and the first very tentative contacts with sellers in China, back and forths behind the scenes trying to figure out how to do things...

Who'da thunk what I was getting into would be so life changing...and affirming. I sure know I never expected anything like this.

And here's a teaser: an accidental encounter with me in Beijing two days ago is leading to the opening of some interesting doors for another (younger) forum member, too.

I'll let him fill us in...life is so cool sometimes... :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Belated happy birthday Ron!!! Looks like you are having a great and very busy time.

Guess we'll have to wait a little longer to read all your #3 trip to China installments :)
Thanks!

Lucky thing I *always* have backups. Lost a day's writing and photo editiing today with a catastrophic crash of my main computer. But I didn't lose any data...all my photos, notes etc. are A-OK. Just bear with me...it's back to my two full-time job regular schedule ;-)
 

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Thanks!

Lucky thing I *always* have backups. Lost a day's writing and photo editiing today with a catastrophic crash of my main computer. But I didn't lose any data...all my photos, notes etc. are A-OK. Just bear with me...it's back to my two full-time job regular schedule ;-)
Sorry to hear about your computer-crash (any hardware damage?)

Excellent to hear that you were "prepared" and did your homework (backup).

everybody is probably waiting anxiously about your further adventures in the Middle Kingdom... (well at least I can say that I am for sure)

regards from Shanghai,

Romain
 
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