The Seagull 1963 is possibly one of the most historically significant affordable mechanical watches. It is an official remake of the “Project 304,” the first Chinese Air Force wrist chronograph.
Both the vintage design and the rarity of this manual-winding mechanical watch make it one of the most popular military watches among collectors.
With only 1400 units produced during the 1960s and a difficult-to-find re-edition, you can be sure that you won’t find anyone else with the same watch as you.
In this article, we will delve deep into the operating and design details of the legendary Seagull 1963, but first, let’s take a look at its interesting history.
- Manual-winding mechanical watch
- Stainless steel
- NATO strap
- Acrylic crystal
- Seagull ST-19 movement
- 21 jewels
- 45-hour power reserve
- Water resistance: 30m
- Case diameter: 38mm
- Strap width: 14mm
Índice de contenidos
✚ The Seagull 1963 and its history
In 1962, the Tianjin Wristwatch Factory, the first watch factory in China, received an order from the People’s Liberation Army to manufacture a wrist chronograph for its aviators.
The Chinese watch factory, later renamed Seagull, got to work, and in 1963, they completed the first test units, named Seagull 1963.
The watch was based on the Swiss-origin Venus 175 movement, which the Chinese improved by adding 2 jewels and increasing its beat rate to 21,600 bph. They also reinforced it with an anti-shock system.
After various precision and resistance tests involving temperature, water, impacts, and magnetism, the watch was approved by the Chinese government in 1965 for its good quality.
Thus, the Seagull 1963 went into series production, becoming the first wrist chronograph manufactured in the land of the rising sun.
After the initial 1400 units, the factory did not produce the Seagull again until 40 years later, when the legendary watch was reissued with modern materials such as stainless steel and sapphire crystal in some models.
✚ Technical Specifications – Seagull 1963
|Crystal Type||Acrylic or Sapphire depending on the model|
|Case Material||Stainless Steel|
|Strap Material||NATO / Leather|
|Movement||Manual-winding mechanical, bi-compax with column wheel|
|Movement Caliber||Seagull ST-19 or ST-21|
|Movement Features||21 jewels, 21,600 bph beat rate, 45-hour power reserve|
|Precision||+/-10 seconds per day|
|Water Resistance||30m / 3 ATM|
|Other Features||Mechanical chronograph and transparent case back|
✚ Design and Features
The first thing that stands out about the Seagull 1963 is how surprisingly elegant it is for a military watch.
The blue hour and minute hands contrast perfectly with the red chronograph hand, while the hour markers and golden numerals on the cream dial give it that classic ’60s touch.
Both the numerals and markers are raised rather than printed, which not only reinforces the classic touch but also makes the dial easier to read.
Another notable aspect is the triangular shape of the markers, which seem to point toward the center of the watch, where you can find the small historical details: the red star that reveals its military origin and the name of the factory where the first units were manufactured.
中国 = China
天津手表厂 = Tianjin Watch Factory
Underneath the star, you can also see the number of jewels depending on the version: 19 ZUAN or 21 ZUAN, 19 gems or 21 gems.
We must not overlook the slightly asymmetrical subdials of the Seagull 1963, located at 3 and 9 o’clock. One indicates the seconds, and the other is a 30-minute counter for the chronograph.
➤ The Case
The current editions of the watch feature a stainless steel case, a durable material that enhances the design by highlighting the golden elements.
On the back, some versions have a transparent case back, which showcases the striking movement. The case back is decorated with the factory’s name in Chinese, a star superimposed on a column, and the number 1963.
As for the size, the Seagull 1963 has a 38mm diameter, making it a medium-sized watch. There are also 42mm versions available, although they deviate slightly from the original 1963 model.
➤ The Strap
The most historically accurate strap would be a NATO strap since it is a military watch, although it is a more casual or sporty option.
To wear this classic as a dress watch, it is best to use a leather strap, which also complements the vintage style of the timepiece.
✚ Movement and Operation
Inside the current Seagull 1963 watches, you can find two different movements depending on the version: the Seagull ST19 and the Seagull ST21, which only differ in the number of jewels.
Both movements have an accuracy of +/- 10 seconds per day, operate at 21,600 beats per hour, and have a power reserve of about 45 hours.
The accuracy of these movements comes from the Swiss-origin Venus 175. In the 1960s, Venus sold the 175 pieces that make up this Seagull movement, which they used to manufacture the ST.
It is a manual-winding bi-compax movement with a column wheel, a design considered by watch enthusiasts to be the most desirable due to the skill required for its construction.
As for its operation, being a true military chronograph, the Seagull was created with a purpose and is fully functional.
The minute and second indexes that run along the outer ring of the dial are used with the chronograph hand, which is activated by pressing the button located above 2 o’clock.
When activated, the subdial located at 3 o’clock functions as the 30-minute chronograph counter.
The lower right button, located above 2 o’clock, is used to reset the chronograph and set it back to 0.
✚ The Seagull 1963 and its Various Variations
It is important to note that Seagull does not directly manufacture the 1963 but distributes the components among different suppliers.
As the watch is manufactured by a large number of third parties, the Seagull 1963 has a wide range of variations in its final design.
The original reissued model has a 38mm case with an acrylic crystal, NATO strap, and a cream or silver dial with the red star. However, there are versions with an empty yellow-bordered star that are more faithful to the first 1963 edition.
The Chinese characters on the dial can also vary from one supplier to another, either saying “Made in China” or “Tianjin Watch Factory,” with the latter being more accurate to the watch’s history.
On the other hand, there are larger diameter editions with a 42mm case, which, although more fashionable, eliminate much of the vintage aesthetic and deviate further from the historical model.
It is also worth noting that not all editions have a transparent case back, which is undesirable considering the beauty of the mechanism with its multiple gold and silver gears.
Lastly, in each edition, you can find versions with either an acrylic crystal or a sapphire crystal, although the latter slightly changes the case’s shape, altering the watch’s aesthetics.
✚ How to Identify the Reissue Most Faithful to the Original 1963?
People refer to it as the “Original Remake” because it was the model that started this whole trend around the Seagull 1963. The version is also known as the “Red Star” 1963.
This watch has a 38mm case with an acrylic crystal, applied hour markers, and colorful inscriptions on the subdials. The dial can be either cream or silver.
Specifically, the subdials have blue hands, one of which has a tail, which is historically more accurate. If you look at the original 1963 prototype, you will notice that the hand on the right subdial is different, more elongated.
On the other hand, the chronograph hand on the central dial is red. The thickness may vary depending on the supplier, although the difference is not very noticeable.
At 12 o’clock, there is a red star with a yellow border, which is why it is called the Red Star. However, in some models, the star only has a yellow border without the red filling, which is a more faithful reproduction of the 1963 model.
The inscriptions on the dial can also vary, alternating between “China-Tianjin Watch Factory” or “Made in China,” both located at 6 o’clock, but the former is more accurate.
The movement can have either 21 or 19 jewels, with the more modern versions featuring 21 jewels. However, the historic ST19 of the 1963 Seagull had 19 jewels, making it the movement that best respects the history.
The history and its multiple reissues make the Seagull 1963 a highly interesting watch. In fact, more and more people are starting to collect vintage watches, and the 1963 is a great way to begin.
While some rush to buy more expensive vintage watches or reissues of vintage watches, others prefer the 1963, an affordable relic of the past, for those who are not overly obsessed with details.
In all its versions, the 1963 has proven that it can maintain its essence and evolve. So whether you prefer a watch with a more retro design and concept or a modern watch for daily use, there is a 1963 watch for you.
Relojes.Wiki participates in the Amazon EU and Amazon US Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide websites with a means to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.es, Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. More info.
Last update of links and images on 2023-11-29.