The *other* Chinese mechanical column-wheel chronograph...

Very hard to find in either iteration, and far less known than the '63, allow me to introduce the Captain brand chrono from Fenglei Instruments Factory 风雷仪表厂 in Xian.

At least: here's what happened to some original parts. 

The watch above is legitimate but, so I understand from what I am told by senior collector friends in China, from a second run, a newer small run made from rediscovered movements found in Xian. 

When opened in 1963 the factory made civilian and military measuring instruments, but later made watches, including a prototype chronograph that made it to only very limited general production.

Not based on the Venus 175 like Sea-Gull's ST-19, this movement is a separate build entirely. Also, this movement is 22 jewels.

The first generation Captain chronographs are broadly described (Baidu translated) from an older Chinese write-up:

"In March 1961, Tianjin Watch Factory produced a watch with the code of 304 for pilots with stopwatch mechanism. The movement was finalized as ST3. In December 1963, 32 prototype watches were trial-produced. In 1964, 100 finished watches were produced. By the end of 1965, 2000 Tianjin and Great Wall precision chronometers were produced.

Later, due to the national adjustment of the watch production layout, this watch was transferred to Xi'an Fenglei Instrument Factory for production in 1969...By 1976, 1130 were produced."

A poor condition original Captain exists in the Tianjin Watch and Clock Collectors private museum in Tianjin

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...and another, original variant in much better condition but poorly photographed by me, exists in a friend's personal collection (photographed at the Shenzhen 2019 China Clock and Watch Fair).

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Given the rarity of these 1969 period pieces, and even of the more modern but also quite rare newer pieces, I'm happy to at least have a 2nd gen with an original movement re-cased in a more contemporary style.

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Thank you for a great article. Great information to know. Not a day goes by here you don't learn something new.

Cheers!

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Beautiful watch.  I'm a great believer in Chinese brands.  I think they are slowly taking over the world, one wrist at a time.  

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It is funny how they keep finding or discovering movements from a just made bin...  it is a nice watch none the less...

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moemoe

It is funny how they keep finding or discovering movements from a just made bin...  it is a nice watch none the less...

These 2nd gen watches are more than a decade old, so the movements were found a while ago. And back in 2012 and before that, even in China, the level of interest in watches from the older Chinese factories was much lower than today.
 

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Thank you for the history lesson! Very interesting read. And the watch looks great.

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ckim4watches

Beautiful watch.  I'm a great believer in Chinese brands.  I think they are slowly taking over the world, one wrist at a time.  

Yes, years from now we'll be reading about the "great Chinese watch crisis" and how Japanese and Swiss watch makers struggled to survive.

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I'm confused. I thought the only reason Venus were able to sell their movement to the Chinese was because they didn't have one 😳

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bikerbill

I'm confused. I thought the only reason Venus were able to sell their movement to the Chinese was because they didn't have one 😳

The Chinese didn't have a domestic chronograph when they bought the Venus tooling.

But Fenglei Watch Factory worked in very close partnership with the Chinese Clock & Watch Research Institute of the Ministry of Light Industry, which was exactly what it says: research and development for civilian and military timing devices.

The Chinese weren't at all incapable of developing domestic machining, and Fenglei took a more independent route to obtaining tooling--they built it. They began their chronograph production about 6 years after the Venus derived Tianjin factory did.