China’s Retro Brand Renaissance Continues As Shanghai/HK Watchmaker Iguzzini Debuts New Releases

Company Founded 1903 In Shanghai By Italian Watchmaker, Revived 2007 By Michel Brothers

Iguzzini's Grand Bleu Explorer is the deepest range Automatic Professional Dive watch to ever be released by a Chinese Luxury watch brand

Iguzzini’s Grand Bleu Explorer is the deepest range Automatic Professional Dive watch to ever be released by a Chinese Luxury watch brand

While imported luxury brands continue their Long March into the Chinese interior, another more low-key trend continues to gain strength in China’s largest cities, where some creative locals and foreign expats are reviving decades-old, moribund Chinese brands. Over the past few years, despite Beijing’s status as China’s arts and culture epicenter, Shanghai has emerged as the engine of China’s retro brand renaissance. Shoe brands like the 1960s-infused Ospop (a distillation of the Mao-era “Liberation Shoe”), Warrior (Huili, relaunched last year in nearby Hangzhou), cosmetic brands like Shanghai VIVE and Friendship, and bicycle brands like Forever have looked back at China’s pre-capitalist past for inspiration, often combining traditional design with the country’s recent creative boom.

Other enterprising businesspeople haven’t let China’s sustained love affair with high-end watches go unnoticed. Revived in 2008, Shanghai Watch, once known more as a utilitarian “People’s watchmaker,” has attempted to go upmarket, selling limited-edition models for tens of thousands of dollars, while also trying to position itself as “cool” through its 2008 partnership with Jellymon. In 2005, brothers Stephane and Lander Michel became enthralled with the defunct Shanghai watch brand Iguzzini, founded in the city in 1903 by Italian watchmaker Federico Iguzzini. Within two years, the brothers had purchased the rights to the Iguzzini brand name and relaunched the brand, incorporating — in much the same way as Shanghai Watch did with Jellymon — the occasional Chinese design flourish while focusing on the high end of the market.

This week, Iguzzini debuted two new watches, the Grand Bleu Explorer Dive watch and the Intercepteur Aviator watch, limited to a respective run of only 30 and 50 pieces. According to the company, the Grand Bleu Explorer is the deepest range automatic dive watch ever to be released by a Chinese luxury watch brand, with a water resistance of 2,000 meters. The all-black Intercepteur aviation watch features a black stainless steel case, housing the Swiss Automatic movement and displaying the date and time with a Superluminous dial. Combining East and West doesn’t come cheap, though: the Grand Bleu Explorer range retails for US$7,000 (46000 yuan), while the Intercepteur goes for $5,900 (38800 yuan).

As Stephane Michel recently told Nicely Made in China, the Iguzzini team believes the combination of European watchmaking expertise and Chinese craftsmanship will be a winning formula both in China and elsewhere, particularly as the reputation of home-grown Chinese brands gradually rises:

We are absolutely a Chinese brand and proud of it. Since the birth of the brand in 1903, the company has been Chinese in essence, spirit and heritage but as it was started by an Italian it also has, of course, a European touch. We are bringing together unmatched horological components with the craftsmanship of China. At events in New York or Geneva there is never any doubt that we are a Chinese luxury brand and it is something we are proud to say.

Only 50 Intercepteur Aviator watches will be made available

Only 50 Intercepteur Aviator watches will be made available

Intercepteur Aviator

Intercepteur Aviator

Grand Bleu Explorer Dive Watch in White

Grand Bleu Explorer Dive Watch in White

Only 30 Grand Bleu Explorer watches will be available, featuring either White or Orange dials

Only 30 Grand Bleu Explorer watches will be available, featuring either White or Orange dials

For more information on Iguzzini and its products, check out the company website at http://www.federicoiguzzini.com/.

 

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Culture, Watches & Jewelry