Interesting new independent watchmaker. Designed and conceived in two Frenchmen who are Sinophiles, and in collaboration with Chinese designers. The watches feature a strong Chinese influence, and rather proudly made in China. Does does this watch hold? Yay or nay for this indie? Here is our full hands on review.
Atelier Wen Porcelain Odessey – Hao
Atelier Wen are two young Frenchmen, both Sinophiles who have lived, studied and worked in China. Both speak, read and wrist Chinese fluently and seem to have been heavily influenced by Chinese culture and history. Together with two Chinese designers, they began the watch project. The inaugural watch was launched in Kickstarter, but it soon took flight and though the original target demographic was China, it seemed to have some worldwide appeal.
The case, dial and hands
The case is 39mm diameter in Japanese 316L stainless steel, and is elegantly designed, following traditional lines of a classical Swiss wristwatch with rather thick, faceted lugs. The case is alternately polished and brushed to give a varied finish which has some depth. The sapphire crystal is 2mm thick and domed, coated with 5 layers of anti-reflective coatings.
Hands are beautifully crafted in flame blued steel, and are leaf shaped. The dial is marked in blue with arabic numerals for the even hours and dots for the odd ones. A minute railway track adorns the outer perimeter. The subdial is marked with the Chinese “Dizhi” (地支) cycle – a method of measuring the day in ancient China, marking the hours of dawn at the lower right with the Chinese character “Mao” (卯) and at the dusk hours at the upper left with the character “You” (酉).
The dial is where we think the beauty resides. The dial is made of porcelain zicronium oxide, and heated to 1400°C, in a technique which we understand is similar to that used in enamel dials. Wastage in the dial is reported to be about 80%!
The white dial is inspired by the ancient Chinese porcelain Qinghua Ci” (青花瓷) ceramic, which features blue motif markings over a white base. The dial and markings are mildly reminiscent of the recent enamel dialed version of the Rexhep Chronomètre Contemporain, if only in spirit
The case back bears another artistic item – a 0,6mm high relief engraving of the Chinese mythical beast Kunpeng – the Chimera. The Atelier Wen literature does not say if the engraving is done by hand or machine, but to our examination with our untrained, non-artistic eye, it looks quite beautiful.
The Movement: Peacock SL-3006
The movement is the Peacock SL-3006, which is a clone of the ETA 2824-2, which Atelier Wen points out has been in public domain for a while. As far as we know, Atelier Wen is the only customer, or first customer ship for the Peacock movement. It appears that this is a special variation of the Dandong SL-3006 and is made exclusively for Atelier Wen. The modifications are the removal of the whole date mechanism and said to be made to a tighter manufacturing tolerance.
The movement features what looks like a machine applied fauss côte over the rotor. And as the watch we had for review was owned by our friend, we were not able to open the case back to examine the movement. From the Caliber Corner photographs, the movement looks to be very simply finished, with perlage applied to the surfaces, but the edges of the bridges which look like they were not anglaged.
The movement is assembled by Chinese manufacturer Fitya and tested to 5 positions to achieve a daily rate of +/- 10s.
As an independent maker with a porcelain dial priced at U$720, we are hard pressed to think of co-inhabitants in the landscape. Other than microbrands, many of which are not worthy, we can perhaps think of the likes of Citizen and Seiko.
One might be the Citizen Fugu, which is considerably less expensive. Or the Seiko entry level offerings. However, these are diving watches with depth ratings and not designed with an artistic eye in mind, and hence cannot compete with the elegant aesthetics of the Atelier Wen.
The Seiko Pressage Shippo models perhaps offer an aesthetic alternative, being enamel dialed, but at US$ 1,400, they are more than double the asking price for the Atelier Wen. Another might be the Seiko Cocktail series.
As mentioned, the watch under review is owned by our friend, loaned to us for the purposes of photography and this article. We had the watch for about 3 weeks, and wore it periodically. We observed no performance issues, and the watch looked quite beautiful. At just US$720 current pricing, it seems a very fair value.
Its not everyday that a Kickstarter watch gets to me. Type the words “watch” on Kickstarter and there will be plenty on offer. But Hao by Atelier Wen got my attention. A french * Chinese design housed in a Peacock automatic movement with a porcelain dial at about US$500 (Editor’s note: Early bird price at Kickstarter). And disappointed I am not. Elegant timepiece that exceeds all expectations for the price point. In fact, its a great value for money timepiece – excellent for one just starting out on their watch collection journey.Eddie Sng, collector and the owner of the watch we reviewed.