Jun 06 2011 

Chinese men and watches: the watch is a talisman

For over a year now, via internet and other channels, Zhenji has been interviewing hundreds of Chinese nationals in the “affluent” social sphere category all over the country about luxury watches. They all echo one thing unanimously: wearing a valuable watch breeds self-confidence, and to gain self-confidence, you need the right watch for the right occasion.

Essentially, a watch is an object of mystery. Maybe not for real amateurs who will easily discern the most subtle of complications on a timepiece from a mere detail on one of the hands. They understand the intricacies of technical complications, and the challenges of customizing movements to implement them. But all the neophytes can see are tiny little cases containing highly complex and hidden mechanisms. Some of which, although invisible to the naked eye, can fetch upwards of a million euros. And our surveyed Chinese tell us it is this hidden and mysterious mechanism that yields self-confidence.

From an outsider’s perspective, this is the kind of effect one would expect from an amulet. An object comprising a case, a wrist band, and driven by a perpetual motion engine always kept – literally – at arm’s length. It’s a magical object. A highly valuable one, with the mystical power to transmit well-being (self-confidence), and wealth (as one usually follows the other). These are indeed the magical effects associated with a talisman. Created by by a shaman, invisible to outsiders, and with powers obvious only to its wearer.

BJWF chinese watch

Of course, part of these objects’ value has to do with the social status they impart. Not to mention the prestige of the associated brand. And then there is the value that comes from being validated by connoisseurs. Luxury watches are like a club. You’re either in it or not. And you are judged by the watch you wear. This is what confidence is all about.

But then, why watches? After all, watches are nothing new to the Chinese. A simple visit to Beijing’s Forbidden City’s Clock Museum – one of the world’s grandest horology museums – will quickly speak to China’s great horology heritage. A history linking China to legendary brands like Patek Philippe, and to the now-defunct Maison Berthoud.

Chinese lotus clock 17th Century Forbidden City

Early on, Western missionaries set foot in China bringing chiming clocks with them. These devices quickly become very popular with the locals. And two passionate horology lovers, the Emperor Qianlong (1736-1795), and France’s Louis the XVIth, traded clocks back and forth frequently before the French Revolution did away with the latter’s head.

The Chinese have enticed European artisans to set up shop here and train local watchmakers. Clocks and watches go hand in hand, endlessly, constantly synchronizing time between one another. In Beijing’s Clock Museum, you can see Patek time pieces that were made specifically for China. Even Chairman Mao was fascinated by watches. He made them popular too by decreeting that they be among the “Four big things” a man should possess starting in 1963 along with a bicycle, a radio, and a sewing machine. Accordingly, the Beijing Watch Factory came out with the first “Tourbillon Oriental” in 1957.

Around 2000 BC Chinese Pi

From the beginning, watches have always fascinated the Chinese people. They are mesmerized by the circular representation of time. It corresponds to their cyclic notion of time. Traditionally represented by a Pi ring – a flat circle-shaped object symbolizing the passage of time into infinity, and considered a Chinese talisman.

Could today’s watches be the Pi rings of modern times?

By Nathalie Omori. Filed under Brand |


  1. by hemp, Jun 21 2011

    by Watches with a combination of Chinese elements not only can be traced back a long time and almost all of the brands are still searching for this treasure-house design inspiration..A long history of Chinese civilization is the designers treasure the very cultural heritage and legends of the Chinese elements in the construction Clothing JewelryFields gave birth to a countless wonderful work while higherWatchesWith the combination of Chinese elements not only can be traced back a long time and almost all of the brands are still searching for this treasure-house design inspiration..From the ancient Chinese to the Chinese peoples most favorite 8 from National Treasure Panda symbol of sacred animal to the emperor dragon from the Great Wall to the Temple of the Forbidden City from Genghis Khan to Mao Zedong these Chinese elements or decoration on the dial or hidden in the form and even become a part of the time display brainstorms with top designer watch craftsmen superb did not dare to make rich oriental style in a tiny radius of the land beaming brilliance.. Totem Symbol Mysterious China.Yin and Yang Yin and Yang astrotech the Five Elements gossip if on the Taoist philosophy the visual representation must be that yin and yang fish and second to none person. Traditional Chinese Philosophy and Western integration of the top watch it here…Caruso Blancpain heaven and earth tailor-made watch.Caruso Blancpain heaven and earth a special watch which can be described as classic the table is the National Palace Museum Jianyuanyilai s first collection of contemporary watches heritageCollectionItem New 204 357.

  2. by david chang, Aug 02 2011

    good article

  3. by Peter Wenham, Jan 14 2013

    Very thought-provoking article as usual, Nathalie – in a class/world of signs and symbols/dream of its own, and not at all mundane or dumbed down numb like all the rest of the drivel we suffer (and/or research/analzye) every day! Worthy of the great tradition of French thinkers and philosophers!

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