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NB: Some pictures do not display correctly. My apologies for the inconvenience.

First of all, I think a bit of background is necessary. I am Robin, a French guy studying in the UK. My university has a partnership with Renmin University in Beijing, thus I decided to apply for this programme, and, luckily enough, I got selected to spend a whole month in China. b-)

I arrived on 1[SUP]st[/SUP] July, and on the 3[SUP]rd[/SUP] I wanted to check in person the Beijing dual time retrograde watch. Hence, I headed towards the Oriental Mall on Wangfujing Avenue (Beijing’s store is not in SOHO anymore). I started with the Seagull store, and got the chance to admire their micro rotor tourbillon as well as their 3-dimensions one. To be fair, they are impressive (and the micro rotor movement is a charm). The two sellers were nice and friendly, and they asked me how to pronounce correctly some Swiss brands (the hardest one for them was Vacheron Constantin). A few minutes later I left the store and moved to the Beijing’s one. I quickly glance at the GMT watch, but as I move inside the shop, I notice a familiar face. Is it…? No, it’s not possible! Better ask him! So I move towards this person and ask him: “Are you Ron Good from Watchuseek?” and he replies me with a big smile “Yes I am!”. We introduce each other, and he tells me that he is buying a Beihai (one of the very very last ones; if I recall correctly, this is one of the three last remaining). Very good choice! Can you imagine, we just met by coincidence! In one of the biggest and most populated cities in the world, we have been lucky enough to be at the same place on the same day and at the very same time. It’s even more impressive if you consider that he lives in Canada and me in the UK… and the coincidence had made that we both met in a foreign country far from our usual residential place. That is impressive.

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(Courtesy of Ron Good)

He asks me if I have any plan, and since I do not have any scheduled appointment, well, let’s spend some time together! We then head to Panjiayuan (oddly enough, this is what we both were thinking to do after the Beijing’s store), and move through the alleys. I spot a nice 24-jewel Shanghai Military Diver, but the dial and the bezel both seem too new. It’s impressive how much the market for VCMs has expanded in the past few years. The sellers are now more and more knowledgeable, and the watches more and more expensive. A seller is offering a 40-jewel Double Rhomb, quite a few pocket watches, a large prototype VCM and the Beijing 1989 Tian An Men watch (the prices were not too much of an exaggeration). Quite a nice selection!

Ron has then been kind enough to invite me for lunch. He was looking for BBQ meat, but I guess it was a bit too late for these, so we choose to go to the Oak Café. We ordered some pizzas, and, quite surprisingly, they were actually very good!

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(These three pictures: courtesy of Ron Good)

The watch hunt continues afterwards, and we go to the Han Yue Watchmaking Workshop. The proprietor is very nice guy; he welcomed us warmly and offered us some tea! He was mostly selling some Swiss watches, and his offering was of very good quality. He showed us a very nice Captain Chronograph, and I must say that I am quite jealous of its future owner! I had already seen some on the internet, but properly handling one was something very much different; the quality was top notch!

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Time flies quickly! We then went through some alleys looking at things different from watches, i.e. bracelets, belts, pictures, posters… There are some quite nice out there! We eventually end our visit of Panjiayuan by sitting in one alley and watching the sellers packing while sipping a drink; quite a nice spectacle!

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We then head to Lishi Hutong, where Ron’s hotel is located. This is actually a very nice place. It is first of all very well located, within walkable distance of all the major sights, and secondly, it ,kind of feels “genuine”, “original”, “lively” i.e. there are still some people living there. This is not necessarily the case in some other Beijing hutongs; if you have a look for instance at Nanluoguxiang, there are just shops and restaurants out there, and hardly anybody living at that place. This is not the case with Lishi Hutong; you can see kids, elderlies, families just living their lives in this place.

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There is on the roof of Ron’s hotel a very very nice bar, with a kind of peaceful and “home” feeling associated to it. He invites to get some beers there (which is, once again, very nice of him!). We then go for dinner, in a small restaurant located within the hutong. Prior to coming to China, I watched Diao Yinan’s first movie (one of my very favourite Chinese directors; his last movie “Black Coal, Thin Ice” is a gem), Uniform. In the latter, the protagonists were drinking in one scene what I identified as an orange coloured soda, and, to be fair, I was quite puzzled about it. Such a drink was offered in the restaurant in which we were, and the mysterious drink happened to be an orange-flavoured sparkling soda. Quite good!



The food in the restaurant was pretty good, and the eggplant dish we ordered was really succulent! As a kind of “reflect” of the hutong itself, the restaurant was filled with locals, workers, kids… The owner was cheerful, smiling, joking… A really nice experience!

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We then headed to Liu Shuli’s shop, which was really impressive. He had an astonishing collection of old European tools, as well as a very nice collection of old French clocks (vive la France !). He was also selling quite a few modern watches and…gosh… they were all astonishing! A green-dialled Rolex Datejust with green crocodile strap caught my eyes. Liu Shuli himself was a very nice guy; he even offered me a Baoshihua!! And as if this wasn’t enough, he invited Ron and I for dinner (Chinese hospitality is definitely great), but sadly we had to decline as we both had some scheduled things to do in the evening. If you are around you should definitely visit his shop (as a “bonus”, you can see the watchmakers working, which is quite fascinating imho).

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We go back to Lishi Hutong, sit at a terrace, and enjoy another beer. This is just cool.

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This day could not have been better (and I am genuinely thinking it). Ron is an awesome, very generous, very kind and knowledgeable person, and it has been a real pleasure for me to spend a day with him. What stroke me most what the fact that, even though we did not really know each other, he did not hesitate even one second when asking me if I wanted to go with him to Panjiayuan. And add to this the fact that it was just a total coincidence… Perfect!

Oh, and he also gave me a very nice and very small lady VCM in NOS state. While I don’t have any girlfriend at the moment (cry cry cry), this will be perfect for my little sister, whom I am trying to convert to Chinese mechanical watches. She is already wearing a vintage mechanical Seiko Lady watch (hehe!), and as soon as I head back to France, a VCM will be on her wrist!

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Pretty awesome, isn’t it? But you know what, this is not even finished!

The next day in the morning, I receive a text from Ron telling me that I can have dinner this evening with his friend Li Wei! Of course, I’d love to! Later in the day we set out a few details, and in the evening I meet Ron and Li Wei (I was awfully late; I did not imagine Beijing’s traffic could be that bad)!

A few seconds after I met them we are joined by 郑怀宝 a renowned calligrapher currently teaching at Beijing Language and Culture University and whose work is exhibited worldwide. He takes us to his apartment where we are welcomed by his very nice wife. She is a very kind and courteous person. Quickly after, Wang Kaihao, a reporter at China Daily arrives. He has been kind enough to help us facilitating discussions by translating English into Chinese and vice-versa. What is more, he is also a very interesting individual with keen interest in all forms of Chinese culture, and it has been a real pleasure to talk to him.

In 郑怀宝’s flat, he shows us some books containing pictures of his works as well as some of his original pieces. Even though I did not have any particular interest in calligraphy prior to meeting him (well, to be fair, I was most likely lacking knowledge about it is), I must say that I have been impressed by his art. I especially liked the set of seals he made for the Shanghai World Expo 2010; each of these seals were representing a country, but each of them were only made by characters shang and hai.

Li Wei then shows us his wonderful Beijing BS-1, which unlike the more “common” BS-1 models (which are still tremendously rare) has an earlier dial, which is even rarer! According to watchaunted (https://www.watchuseek.com/f72/rarest-chinese-vintage-watch-beijing-type-1-bs1-437649.html) only 3276 BS-1 watches were manufactured, and only a very small part of them did have this dial. Therefore, a substantially rare watch!


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(These 5 pictures: courtesy of Li Wei; from left to right: Li Wei, your faithfully, 郑怀宝, Ron Good, Wang Kaihao)

We then head to a restaurant, where we have a very nice meal. I get the chance to try Ron’s tourbillon (a very nice watch; the case is well finished, the dial is stunning, the strap is genuine crocodile, and the movement…well, no need to talk about it!) as well as Li Wei’s Koncise. The enamel dial is simply a stunner!

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(These 4 pictures: courtesy of 郑怀宝)

It was a really really nice evening! All these people were super friendly, talkative, generous, nice, humorous, and it was a real pleasure to spend time with them. Something that quite surprised me was that, even though Ron and I are not fluent in Mandarin, sometimes we could just understand what they were saying (without the help of Wang Kaihao); language was not a barrier! These two days have been honestly amazing and (I think I’ve said it before), they could not have been better. I’ve met Ron by total coincidence, and I feel lucky for this!
 

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Awesome Robin. Thanks for sharing. I only wished I had join you last fri night... I would have if not for the business dinner that ended late...
 

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Thank you for posting this and for all your kind words, Robin.

It was a pure pleasure for me, our bumping in to each other, and we both know your meeting with Li Wei and Liu Shuli among others--and your WeChat meeting with bcy-- will lead to more good times for you to share while in Beijing.

We never know what surprises are just around the corner on this small planet, my friend, and this one was wonderful for me, making for a better-than-imagined last two full days to my incredible time in China this year.
 

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Great story of what sounds like a wonderful couple of days. Thanks for sharing.
 
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Amazing, truly wonderful. What are the odds for something like like...billions to one perhaps.
Many thanks for posting mate. Like your style btw, 2 days in and start looking for a watch, cool ;)
Memories to be treasured for sure.

Now that Ron's back hope you'll realize we'll all miss his adventures/travelogue so if you've any spare time during your stay a pic. or three would help.... ;)

All the best.

ps. wondered what Ron would pick up on this trip. Cat out of the bag for two ;)
 

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Thank you all for your wishes!

Awesome Robin. Thanks for sharing. I only wished I had join you last fri night... I would have if not for the business dinner that ended late...
Thanks! I hope we'll get the chance to meet as well!

Thank you for posting this and for all your kind words, Robin.

It was a pure pleasure for me, our bumping in to each other, and we both know your meeting with Li Wei and Liu Shuli among others--and your WeChat meeting with bcy-- will lead to more good times for you to share while in Beijing.

We never know what surprises are just around the corner on this small planet, my friend, and this one was wonderful for me, making for a better-than-imagined last two full days to my incredible time in China this year.
Thank you! I think I have already said it quite a few times, but this was also for me two incredible days! I hope so, and I'll definitely post about these moments here on f72.

Amazing, truly wonderful. What are the odds for something like like...billions to one perhaps.
Many thanks for posting mate. Like your style btw, 2 days in and start looking for a watch, cool ;)
Memories to be treasured for sure.

Now that Ron's back hope you'll realize we'll all miss his adventures/travelogue so if you've any spare time during your stay a pic. or three would help.... ;)

All the best.

ps. wondered what Ron would pick up on this trip. Cat out of the bag for two ;)
Hahah yeah, this is what happen when one of your favorite brand only has a very few stores in a country very far away from your residential place... Seriously, I was really impatient to go the store and to check the watches in person! I'll definitely post some more! :)
 

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That is an awesome story! It's amazing you'd run into a friendly face on the other side of the world.

Years ago, when I lived in Beijing, I lived just across the street from the west gate of Ren Da… Great fun…. Enjoy your time in China!
 

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What a coincidence! A truly amazing story.

Merci beaucoup, Robin!

Sent from my GT-I8160 using Tapatalk 2
 

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Quelle chance,
belle rencontre !! et beau reportage !
 

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That's a really cool story! It's great that the two of you had such a wonderful time.
 
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