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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
I'm interested in creating a forum project watch, but I'm not sure how the process works over here on the Chinese mechanical forum. Looking at past projects, it seems as though a small group has repeatedly led projects. I have a few questions for those who have participated in past projects:

  • How were designs chosen? What was the initial inspiration for each project?
  • What, in your opinion, is the most you believe people would pay for a project watch (in my own, I would be interested in focusing on additional finishing for the case and hands)?
  • Was HKED always in charge of design? If not, how did you create initial designs?
  • What would you want to see in a future project?
  • Were there any administrative issues that popped up during the projects that delayed the process?

I'm not certain I would submit a project for review this year - work will be busy this year - but, I'd love to se the stage for something starting next year!
 

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The following is a consolidation of comments that I have made in previous project threads. Hopefully is will be a useful starting point for addressing some of your questions:


What is a Forum Project?

A forum project is a collaborative activity with the aim of producing a limited series of watches for forum members. Forum projects are hosted by Watchuseek Forums but are initiated and run by the membership.


Who can participate in a project?

Projects are open to all Watchuseek members. Watchuseek membership is a prerequisite of project participation.

Participation in a project is at the member's own risk. Watchuseek accepts no liability.


How does a project get started?

For the protection of the membership and the reputation of Watchuseek, projects may only be run once the project proposal has been reviewed and approved by the site owners, with advice provided by the moderating team.

Approval should not be taken for granted. Watchuseek is a privately owned site in which the membership enjoys the services provided for free. The site owners determine what constitutes acceptable activity on the forum.


What kind of project is likely to be approved?

The following criteria is not prescriptive, but it should serve as an indication of the kinds of questions to be addressed in proposing a forum project:

Suitability
Does the theme of the project align with the theme of the forum in which it is launched?
Does it respect intellectual property rights?
Does it enhance the reputation of Watchuseek?

Originality
Does the project offer original design, style or conceptual elements?
Does it offer a unique opportunity to the members that is not available elsewhere?
Does it bring something new to the watch industry and market?

Viability
Is there enough interest from the membership to sustain the project to its completion?
Does the builder have an established reputation appropriate to the work involved?
Does the timing of the project avoid negatively impacting the viability of other forum projects?


What should be included in a project proposal?

A brief description of the theme, style and specification; preferably with a picture.
A rationale for why the project is being proposed.
A rough estimate of per-unit cost, minimum order quantity and delivery time.
Who is the main supplier.
Who is the project leader (usually the submitter of the proposal).
Other people involved in delivering the project.


Are homages acceptable as a project theme?

That depends.

Original design is generally more in keeping with the ethos of a forum project, however a design may incorporate elements of another design while still being recognisably original in its overall execution.

A substantial reproduction of another watch currently or recently in production would not be appropriate. Apart from possible legal consequnces, it would reflect poorly on the reputation of the Watchuseek brand and this forum community. A sensitive homage to a vintage design might be appropriate, provided the creator of the original design no longer has an interest.

The design must align with the forum theme. A vintage Chinese watch would be a suitable basis for a project on the Chinese Mechanical Watches forum, whereas a vintage Japanese or Swiss watch would not.
 

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Since nobody else has commented, I'll push on with a potted history of our forum projects:

In 2011 there was strong enthusiasm for the spirit of this forum to be expressed in a custom watch. That was the starting point, vague as it was. It was quickly agreed that the watch must be entirely Chinese made, powered by a Chinese designed and built movement. It should include a cool, unusual and yet highly affordable complication (we settled on the ST2528 with big date and moon phase). And it should showcase the best of contemporary Chinese design trends (which in 2011 was typically a dress watch with bold dial texture). I think it was Ed who found Thomas, who at that time was still heading Sea-Gull's Hong Kong OEM division, producing for various international brands. Given the broadness of the brief, the design process was long and with lots of polls. A groundswell of goodwill got us through the rough patches. The result was in my opinion a triumph of Chinese watchmaking of its era. Reoccurring motifs that have persisted through later projects include Chinese text, a touch of red on the dial, and the blue rotor.

The next project was carried by the overflow of enthusiasm for the previous one. The starting point was almost as open-ended, and this might have been a mistake. Initially it was hoped to be a GMT watch but a suitable movement was unavailable to our supplier at the time. Sea-Gull had produced a dual-crown case which helped focus the design around a sports watch theme, with the twist of a dual-function bezel. I think it was a solid result, but it was harder than it needed to be, and that has tended to lead us towards projects that are more focussed fro mthe outset.

A side project for the high-rollers among us was a tourbillon watch, which was carried to completion with less difficulty, I think. And the result was quite striking.

The next project was a stroke of risky genius with its origins in the enthusiasm of a mad ex-pat in Hong Kong. A large quantity of the most beat-up vintage ST-5 watches still with viable movements were bought up from the local flea-markets, serviced, and installed in a case and dial that paid homage to the classic vintage Chinese watches that we all love while still being thoroughly contemporary. And multiple dial colours were offered! Brilliant!

Next up, the forum finally got its GMT. Just to be utterly original, it came in a square case. Clear design parameters helped the process, but those parameters also divded opinion, which threatened the viability. The risk is usually to go for a design that is too vanilla in order to please the most people. This project did the opposite. I'm not sure if that would work a second time, but the result certainly stands proud in any 'what are you wearing' thread.

A simple, focussed side-project was a homage to the Tianjin 304 air force chronograph. An instant success it has become an internet legend and launched Ed's micro-brand.

The next project (and the last to successfully complete) was inspired by the public debut the Liaoning Peacock SL6601 movement. The distinctive dial layout and movement size focussed the design parameters, but we still came up with three very distinctive dial themes. I'm very happy with my Midnight Peacock.

In 2017 we attempted to do a project in parallel with the Affordables forum. In differentiating the two design themes, we split the pool of subscribers. Perhaps the explosion of micro-brands had softened demand for forum projects. But it didn't help that the voting on our theme took it in a dirrection that split the support even further. The project was halted when it ceased to be viable, but the one over on Affordables was a big success.

Last year we had a couple of long discussions about projects, but nothing practical emerged from that.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thank you for the summary of the past projects. I've got some ideas as to what direction I'd like this project to go, and would like some crowd input for initial interest. That way I can work on a "project focus statement." Hopefully next year I can submit something for review to the moderators!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Here's a list of features that I would like to see, along with some pictures.

  • A very high-quality everyday wear watch, closer to a dress watch than a sports watch
    • A set of specific qualities that I like in other watches
      • Nicely finished case and hands
      • Some type of paper or linen dial (Chinese paper or Chinese linen)
      • Chinese movement with day/date complication using 星期___ format
        • A modern movement would be better and likely more reliable, but vintage could lessen the cost
        • Could be hand-wound or automatic.
      • An applied logo medallion and indices, similar to the ST5
      • No lume
      • 30-50m water resistance
      • Under USD $1000 (ideally under USD $800)
      • Leather strap w/deployant clasp
      • Unique case shape; think 70s grand seikos or modern Timex falcon eye
        • Or like the Shuangling case style, to keep it closer to a vintage Chinese design
      • Max 38mm, ideally 36mm case size (excluding crown)
      • No English on the dial

In terms of the dial, I would like to do something similar to the Citizen Chronomaster washi dial, except with xuan paper or silk as opposed to washi.

15724855


Additionally, the case shape I'm really looking at is as follows:

15724862




15724863


The next step is to research which Chinese movements would be appropriate for the project.
 

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It helps when a project has cross-over appeal. Keeping it relatively inexpensive traditionally brought in a lot of interest from Affordables, for example. Using an interesting movement might bring interest from Public. Of course the downside is that it also waters down the specificity of the project belonging to this subforum.

In these days of microbrand proliferation and the rise of AliX brands, and when - sadly - this forum seems less active than it once was, I am not sure a CMWF project is viable. Too many folk in Affordables buy mainly on price and spec sheet, and the movement-curious can find all sorts of exotics on AliX for far less than what a project watch would cost.

I hope I am wrong though.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
It helps when a project has cross-over appeal. Keeping it relatively inexpensive traditionally brought in a lot of interest from Affordables, for example. Using an interesting movement might bring interest from Public. Of course the downside is that it also waters down the specificity of the project belonging to this subforum.

In these days of microbrand proliferation and the rise of AliX brands, and when - sadly - this forum seems less active than it once was, I am not sure a CMWF project is viable. Too many folk in Affordables buy mainly on price and spec sheet, and the movement-curious can find all sorts of exotics on AliX for far less than what a project watch would cost.

I hope I am wrong though.
I appreciate the input - based on what Chascomm said about the last project, having that cross-forum support is crucial to getting a project here completed. And it's true, there are easier or cheaper ways to get a watch.

In order for a forum project to be successful, then, is to get its messaging straight ahead of promoting the project. We take a central theme, make it comparable to a desirable product, and give people the opportunity to have their voices heard, to give them buy-in within the project. That is why I wanted to begin the discussion now, well ahead of when we'd actually present the project for submission.

Given a central theme (quality finishing, casual/business watch), comparable or aspirational competitors (in this case, Grand Seiko/King Seiko and Citizen Chronomaster), and a message on how interesting vintage Chinese watches can be (and what the design cues we take from them), we can gather a good amount of people interested in the project. The important thing is to stay afloat in a sea of options that people will put forward, and to get a list of people interested early on and maintain that list, to ensure we would have enough participants. If we have those things, I think the project is viable.
 

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I think you're both right concerning support for a project both within the forum and beyond. For a project to be a success and to stay true to its intentions it needs to build and maintain a core of enthusiasm in one forum before inviting participation more widely across the site.

Outside of this forum the wider Watchuseek membership continue to see Chinese watchmaking primarily as a means of getting something cheap, and particularly as an imitation of something more expensive. Even within this forum, the number of regular contributors with a strong interest in original Chinese design has declined against a tide of people wanting to talk about homage divers with Japanese movements.

This is why the days are long past of saying 'hey, lets do a project' and then starting a brainstorming session. However if what you present is one clear, original idea that can spark enthusiasm on one forum first, because it speaks to the theme of that forum, and if it can also draw interest more widely by sparking curiosity about the theme of that forum, then success becomes possible.

So the one idea that you are suggesting could be described as 'finishing' or 'fine craftsmanship', inspired by traditional Chinese crafts, and it would be expressed primarily through the dial material or texture, reinforced by the finishing of the case, and anchored to its Chinese origins by the Chinese day/date display. Is that a fair summary?
 

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Even within this forum, the number of regular contributors with a strong interest in original Chinese design has declined against a tide of people wanting to talk about homage divers with Japanese movements.
I think most of us still check in, but looking down the wall of posts about AliX brands with Japanese movements, we just move on. :( I really wish we could keep that sort of talk in Affordables, which is the better venue for it, but I understand why it comes here.

Also I think the golden age of buying good VCMs outside of China has ended. It's a lot harder nowadays to develop a first-hand understanding of the roots of Chinese horology from outside of China than it was a decade ago. :(

On the positive side, it sounds like there is growing appreciation of VCMs in China itself, and that can't but be a good thing.
This is why the days are long past of saying 'hey, lets do a project' and then starting a brainstorming session. However if what you present is one clear, original idea that can spark enthusiasm on one forum first, because it speaks to the theme of that forum, and if it can also draw interest more widely by sparking curiosity about the theme of that forum, then success becomes possible.

So the one idea that you are suggesting could be described as 'finishing' or 'fine craftsmanship', inspired by traditional Chinese crafts, and it would be expressed primarily through the dial material or texture, reinforced by the finishing of the case, and anchored to its Chinese origins by the Chinese day/date display. Is that a fair summary?
(y)(y)(y)

That's the sort of thing that could get me excited again, rather like Atelier Wen, which was started by a couple of French lads but who produce some absolutely stunning Chinese watches.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
I think you're both right concerning support for a project both within the forum and beyond. For a project to be a success and to stay true to its intentions it needs to build and maintain a core of enthusiasm in one forum before inviting participation more widely across the site.

Outside of this forum the wider Watchuseek membership continue to see Chinese watchmaking primarily as a means of getting something cheap, and particularly as an imitation of something more expensive. Even within this forum, the number of regular contributors with a strong interest in original Chinese design has declined against a tide of people wanting to talk about homage divers with Japanese movements.

This is why the days are long past of saying 'hey, lets do a project' and then starting a brainstorming session. However if what you present is one clear, original idea that can spark enthusiasm on one forum first, because it speaks to the theme of that forum, and if it can also draw interest more widely by sparking curiosity about the theme of that forum, then success becomes possible.

So the one idea that you are suggesting could be described as 'finishing' or 'fine craftsmanship', inspired by traditional Chinese crafts, and it would be expressed primarily through the dial material or texture, reinforced by the finishing of the case, and anchored to its Chinese origins by the Chinese day/date display. Is that a fair summary?
That's a fair summary. While I would want to be extremely careful about how to present it, I would say the only advantage we have in regard to people coming to this forum for homages is the fact that we can set ourselves up as an experiment - just how close can we come to achieving a comparable product to some of the major brands in terms of finishing and craft? That makes it clear we are not making an homage, but setting it up as a "competition" instead.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I'll try not to bombard the forum with posts related to this in the future haha, though I may ask some questions through DM. In the meantime, I will try to put together some initial sketch and present it here. The most immediate obstacle is that I have never used design software, so either learning to use it myself or finding someone who does is the next step.
 

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What has been said so far sounds interesting, and I agree with the above posters that this subforum is not as active as it once was, and that getting support from for example the affordable forum would be key to getting enough participants. I think though that given the number of Microbrands that still get funded, a strong proposition could still succeed.
 

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The descriptions/summaries by Chascomm and you sound like something I might be interested in, but your ideas on size (36-38mm) and the case examples you showed are not going to work for me. These days I think 40mm or maybe even 42mm is a good middle of the road compromise, and the case should be a lot less 80ish (or is that 70ish?) than the Seiko and the Timex you posted.
I also think that for many of us who signed up for past projects $300 - $400 might be the optimal target range.

Just to throw something out there, how about the movement (Hangzhou 5000) and case appearance of a Lobinni, but dial styling etc. more like Celadon?

Just my two cents.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
The descriptions/summaries by Chascomm and you sound like something I might be interested in, but your ideas on size (36-38mm) and the case examples you showed are not going to work for me. These days I think 40mm or maybe even 42mm is a good middle of the road compromise, and the case should be a lot less 80ish (or is that 70ish?) than the Seiko and the Timex you posted.
I also think that for many of us who signed up for past projects $300 - $400 might be the optimal target range.

Just to throw something out there, how about the movement (Hangzhou 5000) and case appearance of a Lobinni, but dial styling etc. more like Celadon?

Just my two cents.
I appreciate the input - I think the case styling will shift away from the hidden lug-style I initially suggested. I took a look at the Lobinni watch cases; to me, even if we went for a more traditionally-shaped case, I would prefer it to be closer to something like the cases for the vintage ST5, at the closer-to-vintage size, rather than the rounder, larger case.

I'm glad to hear the difference of opinion, though - it may mean the project as it stands now wouldn't have enough support. By Celadon-like dial styling, do you mean a similar pattern and dial-type, rather than the paper dial initially suggested?
 

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What I was noticing in the Timex example was not the hooded lugs (of which I'm not a fan), but rather the polished chamfer on the upper case edges and how that contrasts with the brushed surfaces, which it shares with the Seiko (which has open lugs but straight case ends). A simple round case is not such a good canvas for showcasing that interplay of finishes.
 

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I think with any project price to value proposition is always important. With competing micros/AliExpress along with perception of "Chinese" watch and coupled with the somewhat lacking enthusiasts (compared to our Russian forum), can make a project very difficult.

I initially thought the "rocket" project would have been nice. But, I disliked the whole space theme and would have preferred the classic VCM homage design that was presented earlier.
 

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Chascomm's comment about Japanese movements in Chinese watches really hits home - in fact when I'm dealing with the Chinese watch factories that cater to building for microbrands or Swiss OEM components the clear initial preference from them is to get a Seiko or Miyota movement inside.

And I can't really blame them either - when you see companies like Beijing Watch Company putting Miyotas into their lower end lines - in many ways I think Chinese watchmaking is facing a greater problem in the 21st century than it did in the 20th.

People/brands like Atlier Wen, Maison Celadon could be flying the flag rather than the traditional Sea-Gull, BJWAF, Shanghais etc.

I'd wish the OP luck if a forum project gets off the ground - I was very proud to be the happy owner of the first CMWF project watch (for my father's 50th birthday too) - still ticking away happily.

One reason why microbrands have taken off (Sólás Starlight in my case which uses the Hangzhou 5000A microrotor mentioned by LCheapo above) is that there is a benefit to having a "dictator" in charge too rather than decisions by committee - quite often the singular vision of one person may resonate better with people than mass democracy :D (at least when it comes to watchmaking/design) - see Watchcrank's logo (a reference to the voting that took place for one of the forum projects).

Sub-$800 would be very ambitious I think for a CMWF project watch - was the tourbillon project a $800 watch (900?) in the end? I think success at the 200-250 dollar level would be much more likely :)
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Chascomm's comment about Japanese movements in Chinese watches really hits home - in fact when I'm dealing with the Chinese watch factories that cater to building for microbrands or Swiss OEM components the clear initial preference from them is to get a Seiko or Miyota movement inside.

And I can't really blame them either - when you see companies like Beijing Watch Company putting Miyotas into their lower end lines - in many ways I think Chinese watchmaking is facing a greater problem in the 21st century than it did in the 20th.

People/brands like Atlier Wen, Maison Celadon could be flying the flag rather than the traditional Sea-Gull, BJWAF, Shanghais etc.

I'd wish the OP luck if a forum project gets off the ground - I was very proud to be the happy owner of the first CMWF project watch (for my father's 50th birthday too) - still ticking away happily.

One reason why microbrands have taken off (Sólás Starlight in my case which uses the Hangzhou 5000A microrotor mentioned by LCheapo above) is that there is a benefit to having a "dictator" in charge too rather than decisions by committee - quite often the singular vision of one person may resonate better with people than mass democracy :D (at least when it comes to watchmaking/design) - see Watchcrank's logo (a reference to the voting that took place for one of the forum projects).

Sub-$800 would be very ambitious I think for a CMWF project watch - was the tourbillon project a $800 watch (900?) in the end? I think success at the 200-250 dollar level would be much more likely :)
In order to do that, I'd have to give up some of the features that I was initially looking for - i.e., the paper dial, in order to focus solely on one thing - finishing. But then you lose a big draw or unique style that would have made it stand out to begin with. Even then, I am unfamiliar with the manufacturing process and have no reference points for which manufacturers are capable of such a thing. So, there's a ton of research to do before anything gets off the ground.

It's encouraging to know there was a project successfully completed that cost around the same as the initial price estimate, though!
 

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quite often the singular vision of one person may resonate better with people than mass democracy :D (at least when it comes to watchmaking/design) - see Watchcrank's logo (a reference to the voting that took place for one of the forum projects).
Glad to know someone remembers that. :cool:

I changed avatars around 5,500 posts (about the same time I asked the mods to add "_tx" to my name since there is someone who registered "watchcrank" on some other fora, and I didn't want to cause confusion), but I kept "Vote #4" and the red background so people would still recognize me.

This was the original campaign "poster" I made and adopted as my avatar for many years:
15736939


In that case, option 4 was a dragon-engraved rotor for our Year of the Dragon watch. I campaigned hard for the dragon, and in the end it won.

And as seagullfan intimates, it turned out to be a cautionary tale: not only did the dragon rotor turn out so badly that the Committee decided quite rightly not to mount it to the watch but instead only to include it as an accessory, but the whole watch ended up bearing a heavy cast of "design by committee." I don't regret the project - for it cemented me as a regular member here instead of merely a casual reader and mostly lurker - but I never liked the watch all that much. I sold mine not long ago, but I kept the dragon rotor as a souvenir.

I felt the ST5 project - being far more focused and directed - was by consequence a far more successful design.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
It sounds like the ST5 project, from all the comments I've heard, was not only the most popular project, but also the best-run due to the popularity of the movement and the narrow goals the project set out to achieve. If that's the case, then maybe bringing back the idea of an SM1A-K project is the best starting point...
 
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