The SeaGull 1963 may not be familiar to you, but it is a cheap mechanical chronograph watch made expressly for the Chinese air force during the last century.
Problem with this watch? That it is quite complicated to buy the correct model: there are many replicas, although the truth is that the vast majority are of good quality. Now we give a few tips to get your purchase right. But first a little history of the SeaGull 1963 Watch.
By order of the Chinese government, a nationwide initiative was launched in early 1955 to establish a watch industry in the north of the country. That year they managed to manufacture the Wuxing (Five Stars), a simple and handmade watch, which only managed to reach a very limited production.
A few years later, in 1958, the Sea-Gull Watch Group was created in the city of Tianjin. The Tianjin Watch Factory took over the production of various mechanical and electronic movements. It is the largest industrial producer of watches and movements in China.
The original Seagull watch was created for the Chinese Air Force in 1963 with a movement based on the Swiss Venus 175 caliber, improving it and making it resistant to all kinds of shocks and speeding up its march. In 1965 its production began. They only made about 1400 units.
Do you know which SeaGull 1963 you are buying? Is true or false? Is it a good replica?
The official factory for the 1963 Seagull is the Tianjin Seagull Factory in Tianjin, but many reproductions are made in Guangdong. This is a problem? We’ll see. Most of the reproductions or replicas are of tremendous quality. No problem.
Its parts are original and are manufactured by the official Seagull factory. That is Seagull sells the machinery and parts to third parties who assemble the watches and give them the same name as the original.
That’s why they are good replicas. You just have to find a reputable seller who does good quality control.
- The watches sold on international websites are “authentic” watches in the sense that they are all replicas of the Tianjin Watch Factory 1st Aviation’s “Prototype 304” chronograph watch from the 1960s.
The official version is made by the Tianjin Seagull Watch Group: they have made two versions of this model that have SEA-GULL inscribed on the back of the watch case.
How is the original watch currently manufactured by the official company?
- Bracelet width: 17.5mm
- Case thickness: 13mm
- Bracelet length: 22cm
- Water resistance depth: 30m
- Model Number: FKJB
- with acrylic glass
- Brand Name: SEA-GULL
- Dial diameter: 38mm
- Case material: stainless steel
- Case thickness: 11mm
- Needle color: Blue
- Steel back
The truly authentic model will come in a Seagull zippered case with an additional NATO strap and Seagull instruction booklet.
- An authentic Tianjin Seagull watch will come with the word “Sea-Gull” on the case back.
- The watch will come with a QR code sticker on the bottom of the box to authenticate the watch.
However, the replicas that we can find online in many places, can be obtained for approximately half the price or a little less. We think they are worth it if you choose the right one. We have tested a replica with the back exposed to be able to see the caliber.
SeaGull 1963: Characteristics, design, and manufacture
- Manual winding mechanical watch
- Sea-Gull ST19 caliber with 21 jewels (21,600 BPH)
- Steel case
- 38mm dial diameter
- 5 ATM water resistance
- Plexiglass crystal (with sapphire option)
- NATO strap and leather strap
The packaging is quite striking, with a nice box inside which we can find the watch with the NATO strap on, a leather strap, and an instruction card.
The quality of the watch is very good. It has a stainless steel case and domed acrylic glass that draws a lot of attention and makes the watch look thicker. It is a good reproduction of the original. Acrylic crystal is not as scratch resistant as sapphire crystal, but you can also buy a version with this type of mineral. The acrylic glass provides nice distortions to the sphere.
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To the right of the case, we have two buttons to start the chronograph. Also, the crown with texture to be able to wind it without much problem. These two buttons protrude quite a bit and it is somewhat difficult to press them. The crown has 2 positions.
The bezel is polished and rounded, and the lugs are curved to fit the wrist comfortably.
The dial is quite vintage with a champagne hue. The hour markers have gold-colored alternating Arabic numerals at 12, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, and arrow markers in between. The hour and minute hands have a blue color that turns black depending on the reflection of light. The second one has a nice red color.
On the front of the dial, at the bottom, we can read 中国制造 (Made in China). It is missing the inscription 天津手表厂 (Tianjin Watch Factory). At the top above the hands, we read that it has 21 Zuan (jewels) and there is a striking red star.
To the left and to the right we have two dials: The subdial at 9 o’clock is a dial that shows us the seconds since the main second’s hand is used by the chronograph function. The subdial at 3 o’clock is used by the chronograph and measures time in intervals of up to 30 minutes.
In the outermost part, we can see the minute indices with numbers at intervals of 5. Next, we see the back and the movement.
SeaGull 1963: movement
The manual mechanical Sea-Gull Caliber ST1901 comes directly from the Swiss Venus 175 movement. Seagull bought the patent and machinery in the early 1960s. It currently has 21 jewels.
It runs at 21,600 vibrations and has a power reserve of 45 hours. The movement is accurate to about 10 seconds a day (up or down).
In addition to its good performance, this caliber stands out for being especially striking. That is why it is interesting to buy this watch with the back visible, even if it is less faithful to the original version. It is really striking.
Honestly, it is one of the movements that are best appreciated.
Keep in mind that this model is NOT automatic, so you will have to wind it every day. With patience and love. You have to spend some time on it. It is a good habit.
In position 1 of the crown, you will be able to wind the watch. In position 2 you can set the time.
Button P1 starts and stops the chronograph, and button P2 resets the chronograph to zero. eye! You can only press the P2 button to restart the chronograph when it is completely stopped. You can charge the move otherwise.
With only 50 meters, this watch is not made to put in the water.
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SeaGull 1963: how it looks on the wrist
It is a watch with a small dial diameter of only 38 mm. Perfect for small dolls. It’s a bit thick, but comfortable, especially with the green NATO strap.
This version also comes with a very attractive leather strap.
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The straps are easily changed thanks to their quick release. The only thing that can make you uncomfortable with this watch is the presence of the chronograph buttons. They stick out quite a bit from the box.
Conclusion: Is the SeaGull 1963 watch worth buying?
A Chinese mechanical watch from another era. Precious. One of the classics of world watchmaking. Its price is usually very affordable and you get a piece of history. There are many versions of it, but we quite like this one.
You can always go for the official version of this 1963 Sea-Gull made by the Tianjin Seagull Watch Group, but it is quite a bit more expensive. The machinery and parts for all these replicas come from the same factory. Just change the quality control (you have to buy it from a reputable seller).
It’s only 38mm in diameter, like the watches of yesteryear, and you’re going to have to manually wind it (it’s not automatic). It is part of its charm. It has 22 jewels. The power reserve is about 42 hours
This version with acrylic glass is the closest to the original 1963 version. The case material is steel. There are also versions with sapphire crystal.
On the dial, we can see the central hours, central minutes, small seconds at 9 o’clock, 30-minute chronograph sub-dial at 3 o’clock, and 12-hour sub-dial at 6 o’clock.
It comes with an olive-colored NATO strap and with a brown leather strap. It is water-resistant up to 50 meters. The back is fully visible and the mechanical movement can be seen.
If you want to try more pilot watches, we have recommended a few.
In favor of SeaGull 1963 watch
- Made with original parts
- good quality price
- The large vintage dial design
- With two straps and a good presentation
- Visible back: we can admire the caliber
- Replica. It is not the original.
- Difficult to find the right version due to the large number of reproductions that are manufactured