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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I’ve joined Watchuseek for a while now, but I seldom wrote meaningful stuff. Today, I decided I want to share my passion for Enicar watches and its impact on the Chinese culture, as well as a look inside the classic AR160 movement. Enicar is a brand not discussed often on these forums, but hopefully, I will spark your interest too in this little gem of horology history.

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At the height of Enicar watches’ success, I was yet to be born. Four years after I was born, in 1988, Enicar watch was sold to a Hong Kong company, although watches were still to be ensemble in Switzerland, the little magic that once existed was no more, and what are left of it are the nostalgic name and the ever familiar logo.

Enicar watch never made it to the moon, or to the deep seas. But in the late 60’s, 70’s and the early 80’s, they did dominate the Chinese watch market. Enicar was imported as a Tier 4 brand, which meant it was a less expensive alternative for the Chinese to own a Swiss Made watch. In the Tier 3 were brands like Roamer and Titoni. And it was these three brands that made up the largest import watches in China, with Enicar alone importing two-hundred-thousand watches per year!

At the time, an Enicar watch costs 185 RMB (roughly $30), which is 30% more than the average Chinese monthly salary. (A Chinese domestic brand such as Shanghai and Shuangling cost half as much). It was said there were three items to own in order for a man to be eligible for marriage: a bicycle, a sewing machine, and a watch. Enicar’s owner Mr. Racine (Enicar spelt backwards) is a good friend of the Chinese government and a jolly good man with a big nose. And while the Chinese government pressured him into lowering the price, he would get angry and refused to do so because it upheld the quality of his products.

AR161:
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Like many of its peers at the time, Enicar was a bona-fide movement manufacture. Some of their well-known movements were AR140 - hand winding, AR160 - an improved, higher-beat version of the AR 140, AR161 –with date, AR 165 – automatic (later became the one of the base engine for Chronoswiss watches), and AR 167 – auto with day-date.

The AR160 is perhaps the most popular movement for Enicar. It encompasses all the top grade parts: top grade Nivaflex mainspring, top grade Nivarox balance spring, and top grade Incabloc shock protection system. The balance spring is made of berrylium alloy, polished steel on escapement wheel and fork. And to top it off, the movement itself is truly beautifully, the main plates are plated in gold and the bridge is decorated with mesmerizing stripes. My watchmaker once told me that the Enicar AR160 had the least failure rate during their heydays. And whenever he serviced them, he marveled at the workmanship.

AR160 Movement
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AR160 beats at 21600 vph, an improvement from the 18000 vph of AR140. The movement is 26.2mm in diameter, which makes it one of the larger movements at the time, and resulted larger watch cases - typically 38mm.

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There are two so called patents for the AR160. One is Star Jewels, and the other is called Oil-Stop. The former uses a jewel as a stud for the minute wheel. As far as watchmakers can tell, it offers no specialty whatsoever; and became known as merely a marketing gimmick. The later applies a type of stearic acid to places where oil is unwanted in the movement. But it would take a certified Enicar watchmaker to know not to touch these places when servicing a watch, and reapply stearic acid when necessary. Otherwise, the Oil-Stop is a defunct feature in most of the vintage Enicar watches today.

Roamer, Titoni, Enicar, and Certina
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It was said that the case finish and dial design is what made Enicar fell into the Tier 4 category rather than Tier 3. Personally, I would say that Roamer and Titoni are only slightly better. And I enjoy the larger case size, and the engraved shark on the case back. The dial design at first glance is pretty much the same as every other watch on the Chinese market at the time, but after a closer look, you would see that the lume design is a hidden surprise.

AR160 Caseback
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Dial:
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I am too young to pretend that I collect Enicar for the nostalgia. But my father and the people in his age around me are not. And it brings a smile to my face whenever my Enicar, the most popular watch from the heydays gets recognized. And I love the conversations that it brings out, people taking about the life back in the day, how they saved up for a Swiss watch, and what a watch was meant to them. And for those of us who weren’t around in the 60’s and the 70’s, aren’t these kind of conversations part of the reason we like collect vintage time pieces?

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And let's show your Enicars if you have 'em!
 

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I don't really collect vintage watches, but I enjoy servicing vintage movements. I came across Enicar (Ocean Pearl, Star Jewels, 24 Jewels, cal 1145 if I remember correctly), and it was really well made. Finish and movement quality was impeccable.
 

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I have only one Enicar which was my grandfather's, not too old as he bought it in the 1970s to replace a Tissot that he lost.

An interesting thing is that Enicar is still going even though the company caved in and the assets were bought to form Chronoswiss. It makes me wonder who's actually making the current ones.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
I have only one Enicar which was my grandfather's, not too old as he bought it in the 1970s to replace a Tissot that he lost.

An interesting thing is that Enicar is still going even though the company caved in and the assets were bought to form Chronoswiss. It makes me wonder who's actually making the current ones.
Actually, only the stock movements were sold to Gered-Rudiger Lang, who later founded Chronoswiss. The brand name and its trade mark was sold to a Hong Kong invester name Mr. Wah, CEO of Wah Ming-Hong Ltd. Watches bearing Enicar name and logo today is still operated by the Wah's family.

Presently, Enicar, along with Titoni and Roamer, are only focused in Asia market, and are still widely popular. To the old Chinese folks, these brands were the high-quality swiss watch brands that people once desired, and continues to be desired.
 

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Great info on this company,do you do your own work on these watches? if so always great to have people having a go.
 

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Crazyfist,

I also understand that Roamer watches were highly prized objects of desire in mainland China for many decades, so much so the movements were replicated in Nanjing; this old thread shows some details.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Crazyfist,

I also understand that Roamer watches were highly prized objects of desire in mainland China for many decades, so much so the movements were replicated in Nanjing; this old thread shows some details.
Wow that thread has a lot of information...

But yes, and Roamer is actually still making new ETA based watches, and I've only seen it in mainland China. It'd be a sure guess that they are also sold to a HK company.
What's interesting is that even in the vintage market in China, sellers are still going by the price according to the old classification system, a tier 3 like Roamer would cost more than a tier 4 Enicar or Certina. I guess after all these years, some things don't change.
 

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Oddly enough, at the collectors fairs here in Sydney I often find vintage Roamers, and a watch dealer in my neighbourhood is also a Roamer dealer selling the current models. There again, Australia is a strange market, for instance, nobody has ever heard of Titoni, but we're all up to our armpits in vintage Felcas.
 

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Roamer is actually still making new ETA based watches, and I've only seen it in mainland China. It'd be a sure guess that they are also sold to a HK company.
To quote Kris

1994Roamer purchased by the Hong Kong based Chung Nam Company.



Though I have a vague memory that this has since changed - modern Roamers aren't really my specialist area.
 

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Thanks for this thread. :)

There is a downside to Enicar: parts. I have a Sherpa Guide and a Sherpa OPS languishing for parts and need a NOS 166 movement for the Guide. Since Chronoswiss bought the stock, these are even rarer than replacement crystals that actually fit. :) Search the forum for my tales of woe..

Of course, this is true for any vintage watch, but the fact that the stocks have disappeared from the market really doesn't help here.

But I like the Sherpas too much to give up. Every once in a while something turns up. I recently found NOS hands for the 160 family that will go on the Guide, whose hands are missing the plume. The 166 inside the Guide is simply worn out (multiple problems with pinions slipping, etc). The OPS case is a disaster, with the internal bezel gearing frozen and then a tooth breaking from a previous owner forcing it.

Someday, though, they will be restored to their former glory. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Still need to take this guy to my watch guy for a proper cleaning, but here's an Enicar tank dress watch with original box I picked up awhile ago that says hello.

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Such an elegant watch! This reminds me that out of all the watches I own, I have yet to own a tank shaped watch!

Also I have an inquiry: to me, this movement looks like an ETA, it resembles a 2750 yet it has date and the release lever for the crown appears to beheld by a screw. What's the movement model on this?
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
For the movement parts? Have you tried to contact Chronoswiss?

I've always wondered just how many stock movements did Chronoswiss actually purchase. The purchase was made after the quartz crisis, when Enicar's main production line was probably filled with quartz movements. Just how many AR165 and variants could be left over?
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I've had numerous attempts to capture a lume shot, but failed miserably. So I just drew on the dial picture to give you an idea. Those lucky enough to own a Sherpa care to give it a shot?
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The lines are just there for reference. Only the dots light up.
 

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Crazyfist, thank you for the photos of your watchmaker and of the love for Enicar! You might know there is a connection between these folks and my vintage watch of choice, Gallet. Of course, not many have heard of Gallet, but one of their cousins was Jules Racine based in New York in the late 30's. He was the only US importer of Gallet for many years. It was another Racine cousin that became interested in the watch business but for unknown reasons, split entirely with the Gallet connection and formed Enicar, which is Racine backwards.

That is the information as I know it. I've seen variations on that story as well. Obviously, you have put a lot more research in this than I have, I would enjoy hearing your take on that, if you know anything regarding it.

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I like several of the Enicar designs, most of all the Sherpa as shown by John MS above. I've spent some time in Beijing, and have seen watchmakers work in tiny corners or doorways, but never with one's feet! Such marvelous determination!

~Daniel
 
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