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Chinese Watches Made in 1970s (4)

by Youfang

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4, The Development Of St-7 High Frequency Day-Date Automatic Watch

In a meeting with my friends in Beijing this October, I was asked which watch produced by Tianjin Watch Plant was most popular. It must be Five Stars, 304 stopwatch and Seagull ST-7 high frequency Automatic Watch, I answered. Although my conclusion has yet to be backed by the data, but I think it may not too far off the mark.


The inner work of Seagull ST-7


The backcover of Seagull ST-7


Seagull ST-7 was developed between 1978 and 1979. It took five years from trial assembly to commercial production, and the leading designer of this product is Mr. Zhang Zhaoli, the chief engineer of Tianjin Watch Plant. Today, some old workers of the plant would comment the product, saying “had we been aware of the intellectual property rights by then, we could have the patent for a Chinese watch product by now.” Seagull ST-7 was never formally placed within production line and never sold in market. As for why the plant gave up this brand, we can not know for sure, but some people in the plant guessed that it might be due to quality issues caused by the product design, or owing to the fact that it was too difficult to secure quality components with the machine tools of the time.

The beat rate of Seagull ST-7 is 28,800 per hour, with offset double wheel escapement design. On the hollow rotor there is a motif of seagull and the letters signifying “TIANJIN ST-7” and 28ZUAN”. It possesses multiple quickset and stopwatch features: When the crown is pulled to its first position, you can use it as a stopwatch; when it is pulled to the second position, you can adjust time; when it reaches its third position, you can set day by turning clockwise and the date by the opposite direction, which is what makes this product different from all other watches produced in China during that period.

The Seagull ST-7 watches we find today are either trial items, or discarded goods. The expert collectors in the field estimate the total number of this particular timepiece produced should be between 2,000 to 3,000.


Tianjin Watch Plant today


Despite Seagull ST-7 has become part of history, its importance in China’s timepiece development is beyond doubt. Today when we behold a Seagull watch that has a delicate look and unique design, we are reminded a time that we experienced and the achievement that we accomplished.

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

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