999 Watch Sets Commemorating 90th Anniversary Of Chinese Communist Party To Be Sold
Long gone are the days when the comparatively humble Shanghai Watch A-581, favored watch of the likes of Zhou En’lai and Mao Zedong, was the must-have timepiece of China’s elite. Coming at a time when China’s love affair with jaw-droppingly expensive Swiss watches seems to get deeper by the day, this week domestic watchmaker Tianjin Seagull (天津海鸥表业集团) unveiled a gold, diamond, and jade-encrusted pair of wildly expensive limited-edition timepieces created, ironically enough, to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Now that tour operators from Hainan to Hunan are flogging “red tourism” packages, Chongqing’s party boss Bo Xilai is on a one-man mission to make “red songs” (红歌歌曲) the new pop music, and the Chinese government pushing a broader “red culture” drive in the run-up to the Party’s 90th anniversary, Tianjin Seagull’s “red watches” look like a halfway-brilliant, halfway-desperate attempt at bandwagon-jumping.
Admittedly, Tianjin Seagull’s limited-edition watch sets, priced at 29,800 yuan (US$4,586) and limited to a run of 999, do have some solid features amid all the bling. The emerald-encrusted rose gold wristwatch, which lays on the “red”-ness via a 24-karat gold profile of Mao Zedong set at the 12 o’clock mark, features an alligator skin band, 0.5 karat diamond bezel, and tourbillon movement — generally found in more expensive watches. Compared to the pocket watch, however, Seagull’s CCP-edition wristwatch is as low-key as a black Swatch.
The pocket watch, based on Seagull’s ST3600 model, is nothing if not extravagant, with a gold outer casing embedded a bezel of diamonds and a jade ring surrounding a golden Mao Zedong in profile. Once opened, the watch is something of a museum of CCP iconography, with yet another Mao bust set at the 12 o’clock mark atop his famous axiom “Serve the People” (为人民服务), dragon-shaped gold watch hands, and a large red hammer and sickle set at the six o’clock mark.
Both watches come packaged in a polished hardwood box, which is actually quite tasteful, sheathed in a less tasteful gold bag.