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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
June 11th and 12th, I had been told to bring my suitcases as we would be doing an overnighter trip to Yantai, with a stop in the evening in Jinan, so it was promising to be a busy couple/three days. My plan was to fly from Yantai to Shijiazhuang on the afternoon of the 13th to se my brother MaRong after my time in Yantai, and Li Wei's plan was to fill the time in between as productively as possible.

LiWei explained to me during the morning trip to Tianjin that his goal regarding my membership in the China Horologe Association 中國鐘表協會 and my time in China this trip was to educate me more broadly about the Chinese timepiece industry as a whole, meaning I would be shown and taught the Chinese clock industry as well as the watch industry, including quartz, digital and smart, from pop market and entry level to very high-end, and from the beginnings centuries ago to plans for the future.

It's plain that I was being offered a spectacular and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to quickly and efficiently gain a fairly in-depth and up close education about how the entire Chinese watch and clock industry operates, and over the next weeks I did my best to very gratefuly understand and absorb as much as I possibly could of what was being presented to me. I was deep back in school, and thrilled about it.

One result of the Chinese Horologe Association's generosity is that I'll be sharing a lot of clock-related information during my posts on this trip, along with watch-related content. Some companies I encountered make both, other producers are clock-only. If you have no interest in clocks, please bear with me, I promise there will always be quite pure watch content coming around the corner.

That said, this post -- like others to come -- will contain a lot of wide-ranging information on Chinese horological history, from millenia ago to the present day. This specific post will focus onYantai Polaris State-Holding Co., Ltd., the oldest watch and clock company in China and one of the largest clock companis in the world (visited on the 12th)..



We arrived in Jinan at about 10PM, and were to leave for Yantai about 11:30PM, but we had two fine reasons for this stopover: one, to drink a cup or three of smooth and fragrant Kopi Luwack coffee (look it up) at the intimate and well-stocked "23rd Street" coffee house/bar in Jinan owned by LiWei's friend, "Helen", and two: to visit for an hour or so with Helen because she's cool :). Her English is excellent and she's just plain charming.













I found the evening light in that tiny canal street area fascinating for photography...it was about 11:00 or thereabouts when these were taken.









We left Helen's bar for the train station to catch an overnight "hard sleeper" to Yantai. From there, things weren't quite so beautiful for a few hours. The overnight train ride was well worth it, but not comfortable at all.

Hard sleeper photo borrowed from A World in Small Handfuls:



Hard sleeper cots do allow you to lie down, but they're narrow, three high in the rail car, and when it's hot and humid and your car is also transporting some rude and noisy young folks, it's not a restful ride.

I got a couple of hours of hot, sweaty dozing, and that's all. A hard sleeper just gets you there slightly rested, and so we arrived, tired, at the Yantai station at about 10:00AM, where we were picked up and immediately, almost magically, whisked to (finally) very (as in OMG, is this awesome) comfortable surroundings: The 5-star Yantai Golden Guilf Hotel, a temporary home for, among others, the past Prime Minister of Australia, and n0w my home for the next two nights.











A couple of hours much-needed rest later, we were met at the hotel by Ms. Wang Ling (Cathleen), the executive in charge of overseas markets for Yantai Polaris Timepiece IM. and EX. Co. Ltd (the export-import division of Yantai Polaris State-Holding...



...who took us -- after a sunny walk to a mid-afternoon lunch at a local eatery...







...to the day's first planned venue: The Polaris Horologe Culture Museum, only a few minutes walk along the beach. I'm pictured here with Mr. Zheng, the calligrapher.



Now, if you want a great primer on the advent and progress of timekeeping in China, start with this very objective appraisal at the entrance to the museum...



...and followed by reading these plates/floor plaques in order, illustrated by photos taken inside if I have them......

Water Clocks...









...Rotation dials/sundials...







...Escapement...





...followed by other highlights...













...and the entrance to the museum area itself...



Here's a bunch more shots taken inside...feel free to ask questions about anything specific. I learned enough there's a reasonable chance I might be able to answer now in some detail :)



Note the gold-plated "do not take pictures" in this next photo. I asked and was directly told that Museum Director (Mr. Han?) had provided approval for me to take any, and as many, photographs as I chose and that I was free to publish the photos as I saw fit. I'm very grateful for the opportunity and the trust.









I ;ove this clock...it rotates and the bottom ball mount section dislays the time around the world.



This is an important display in the musueum, It describes how a Jesuit Monk, Matteo Ricci (1522-1610) travelled to the Macao area in the early 1580s and introduced modern European clock design to the Chinese Emperor's court, re-igniting Chinese mechanical clock building after centuries of little progress.



Examples of more modern but still vintage clocks...

















Shots taken of the interior courtyard of the Museum...





An example of early advertsing materials...



...and this is a photo of Beijixing's very first factory location...



...and a photo of the Factory founders.





Anohert outside view of the Nuseum building...



A shot of a number of modern Polaris/Beijixing watches in a display in the Polaris store inside the museum.



We left the museum in the later afternoon, going directly, next, to a meeting at the Beijixing Polaris Board Room. The purpose of the meeting was to meet the company President, Mr. Zhang Zhao Ji and other executives, as well as to discuss LiWei's recent activities in the industry, to introduce Mr. Zheng, the calligraphic artist, as the designer of early promotional materials for the Beijizxing 100th Anniversary, and to discuss my activities and motives regarding Chinese watches but moreso to also discuss my understandings of China's current and future positioning in western horological markets. I was asked for, and provided, a fairly detailed and candid overview of my thinking, both positive and negative.





Cathleen busy during our meeting...







Mr. Zhang proudly displaying his Beijixing/Polaris tourbillon...





After the meetting, Mr. Zhang very kindly asked us to dinner outide at a second-floor patio restaurant right on the Yantai beach, overlooking evening activities on the Yantai beach as the sun went down. No special effects on the photos, just the normal result of evening humidity on this very warm, mooist and only lightly breezy evening.









Please excuse the somewhat blurry photo of Cathleen Ms. Wang Ling), but it captures the feel of the evening very well: a comfortable evening meal, followed by a few hours of somtimes serious and sometimes humourous watch talk combined with relaxed friendship.





Although this photo was taken during a period of more serious discussion, Mr. Zhang has a very friendly nature and an easy smile and he very kindly remarked to me early in the evening that he'd known right away when we met that he and I would get along very comfortably, and I'd felt exactly the same way, just as quickly. I look very forward to seeing Mr. Zhang at next years's Beijixing 100th Anniversary celebration and I'm grateful for the invitation.





The last two photograps were taken as I treid to walk somewhat straightly back to our hotel, accompanied by LiWei and Mr. Zheng, the calligrapher, as we had a busy day coming tomorrow: a return trip to beijixing;'s main factroy building to see the Factory watch and clock strore, folowed by a trip to a suburban beijixing faciltiy where high end clocks (including the Beijixing Polaris 100th Anniversat limited edition clock) are made, followed by visits to two smaller but successful high end clock manufacturers and another great luch, before I was taken to the yantai airport for my flight to see my brother maRong. It's been a year too long and I was looking very forward to seeing him and QiRan, his wife, again.



 

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Truly amazing. Can't come close to imagine how you must have felt during this trip. Each 'installment' is mind blowing to read, to actually be there.....

Just a little curious as to why there is so little (read none) mention of what appears to be one of the major players. The watch display must mean they make and not re-badge. Their own movements, or bought in.
Some of the clocks look amazing. Worth a closer look too.

Many thanks for sharing your, can't say once-in-a-lifetime trip as this being the third, with talk about next years.....just mind blowing.
Cheers and all the best.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Just a little curious as to why there is so little (read none) mention of what appears to be one of the major players.
Who do you mean?
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Although Polaris/Beijixing is now a fairly major watch manufaturer and has been since the later 1950s, their main market (and, as I've mentioned, the intended focus of my visit to Yantai given the goals of the China Horologe Association for my time with them) is clocks more than watches. Beijixing/Polaris made clocks for decades before ever making a watch, and they make quartz as well as mechanical watches and clocks.
 

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I noticed again that there seems to be one or more non-seagull tourbillon which looks just like the ST8000 - the one in our WUS project watch - , sometimes with the hairspring mounted with the opposite winding sense. In your post it is a Polaris/Beijixing. What is the explanation for that? I think I'll start a separate thread with this question.
 

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Wow, another once-in-a-lifetime so unique trip and experience ! (always thrilling to read those)

All pics & pieces shown are awesome (the early clepsydras in Polaris museum are amazing, makes me think similar differences between ealry huge room-sized computers compared to nowadays tiny chips running our smartphones...).

Thanks a lot for sharing !

Tuan
 

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Although Polaris/Beijixing is now a fairly major watch manufaturer and has been since the later 1950s, their main market (and, as I've mentioned, the intended focus of my visit to Yantai given the goals of the China Horologe Association for my time with them) is clocks more than watches. Beijixing/Polaris made clocks for decades before ever making a watch, and they make quartz as well as mechanical watches and clocks.
Awesome report Ron!....on a Polaris follow up , are they producing anything mechanical similar to animated carousels or Cuckoo style clocks?
 
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Thanks for taking us with you on this part of your journey and for the many pictures you share. I especially like the historic timekeeping devices.

It appears that you are seen as a representative of Western watch aficionados. I have no doubt that you fill this role excellently.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Awesome report Ron!....on a Polaris follow up , are they producing anything mechanical similar to animated carousels or Cuckoo style clocks?
Lots o cuckoo clocks Cuckoo clocks...but I think the 100th Anniversary is the only current carousel.
 

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Yet another post that I will need to return to a few times to take it all in.

Ron, thank you so much for providing such a detailed tour of the museum in Yantai. It is a place has long interested me although I don't imagine that I will get the chance to see it any time soon. So a big thank you for that.

As for Mr Li's workshop: how amazing to see 'in the metal' so many of the kinds of devices that are usually only seen in books. I was impressed enough by the enamel art last week, but this was totally mindblowing.

BTW, for anybody interested; to understand why this mechanism is so cool...



... Google "fusee" and "Chinese duplex escapement". Go ahead. It will be worth it.

And once again so many beautiful places and people. Ron, superlatives fail me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
BTW, for anybody interested; to understand why this mechanism is so cool...... Google "fusee" and "Chinese duplex escapement". Go ahead. It will be worth it. And once again so many beautiful places and people. Ron, superlatives fail me.
Chascomm: Mr. Li's beautiful fusee mechanisms have another coolness. The chain tension mechanism is Mr. Li's design: it's a ratcheted lever mechanism to provide the tension instead of the normal key wound internal capstan axle. The lever handle is very obvious in this photo:

 

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What an amazing post and full of very complicated movements! Thanks for documenting it all. Don't hate me but out of all of those pictures the first thing I thought when I saw this one was: "I want this!"

Machine
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
What an amazing post and full of very complicated movements! Thanks for documenting it all. Don't hate me but out of all of those pictures the first thing I thought when I saw this one was: "I want this!"
Nope. don't hate. Felt exactly the same way..a huge and skeletonized classic Tongji/unified/standard. Glorious...and I wanted it too.
 
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