• Importing Automatic and Mechanical Watches from China: A Complete Guide

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    This year, we have seen a trend with many startup brands, in the Watch industry, shifting  from Electronic Quartz Watches, to Mechanical and Automatic Watches. While closely related, there are various differences in terms of components, quality issues, applicable regulations and labelling requirements that overseas buyers must know, when importing Automatic and Mechanical Watches from Chinese manufacturers. In this article, we explain what you must know before getting started.

    What is the difference between Quartz, Automatic and Mechanical Watches?

    As we are frequently referring to Quartz, Automatic and Mechanical Watches (Movements) in this article, we begin by explaining the differences below:

    • Quartz Movement (Battery Operated): A battery operated movement using an electronic oscillator, regulated by a quartz crystal to keep time. Quartz Movements are cheap and reliable, explaining why they are used in most watches produced today. Miyota 1L22 is a common movement found in many medium price range watches. Read More
    • Mechanical Movement (Hand Winding): A non­battery operated movement, that is wound automatically by motion. A Mechanical watch is wound, either automatically or manually (hand winding). The latter requires the user to wind the watch by rotating the spring. Read More
    • Mechanical Movement (Automatic Winding): A Mechanical movement, that is wound automatically by motion. As such, the watch is continuously provided with energy when the wearer moves. Read More

    Automatic and Mechanical Watch Manufacturers in China

    Shenzhen, in China’s southern Guangdong province, is the global center for wristwatch manufacturing assembly. While most suppliers specialize in Quartz Watches (Electronic Movement), Shenzhen is also home to a large number of Mechanical and Automatic Watch manufacturers.

    Most watch suppliers only produce the watch case, and assemble all other parts (i.e., Movements, hands and straps), purchased from subcontractors. As such, specialisation in Automatic and Mechanical Watches is therefore not a requirement, as any supplier can purchase Automatic and Mechanical movements. In the end, the production process is identical. In general, a watch manufacturer is not limited to a fixed pool of component suppliers, but can be instructed to assemble parts, for example an Automatic Citizen Miyota Movement, from a component supplier selected by the foreign buyer.

    Much of Hong Kong and Shenzhen’s leading Watch manufacturers, and component suppliers, attend the HKTDC Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair, the world’s biggest watch and timepiece trade show. Click here to read more about the HKTDC Hong Kong Watch & Clock Fair.

    Automatic and Mechanical Movements

    a. Technical Specifications

    • Winding: Automatic / Hand (See explanation above)
    • Size: XX­X/X’’ (i.e., 11­1⁄2’’)
    • Height: XX mm (i.e. 3.9 mm)
    • Hands: 2 ­ 3 (i.e., 3 hands)
    • Date: Yes / No
    • 24 Hour Display: Yes / No
    • Vibrations per hour: XX k (i.e., 28800)
    • Accepted Time Delay (i.e., +/­ 30 seconds)
    • Energy Storage (i.e., 45 hours)

    b. Japanese and Swiss Mechanical and Automatic Movements

    Chinese Watch Manufacturers purchase movements from both domestic and foreign suppliers. Most medium and high end watches are made using movements from well known, non­Chinese, suppliers. A list of movement brands and models, commonly used by Automatic and Mechanical Watch Manufacturers in Shenzhen, follows below:

    Citizen Miyota (Read More)

    • Miyota 9015 (Slim)
    • Miyota 90S5 (Skeleton)
    • Miyota 9100 (Multifunction)
    • Miyota 9011 (Multifunction)
    • Miyota 9120 (Multifunction)
    • Miyota 9130 (Multifunction)
    • Miyota 9132 (Multifunction)
    • 82/8N Series
    • 6T Series

    Seiko (Read More)

    •  Seiko Caliber 6R20
    • Seiko Caliber 6R15
    • Seiko Caliber 7S26B

    ETA (Read More)

    • Mecaline 2671
    • Mecaline 2678
    • Mecaline 2681
    • Mecaline 2801­2
    • Mecaline 2801­2
    • Mecaline 2824­2
    • Mecaline 2826­2
    • Mecaline 2836­2
    • Mecaline 2834­2
    • Mecaline 6497­1
    • Mecaline 6498­1

    c. Chinese OEM (No Name) Mechanical and Automatic Movements

    Chinese OEM (No Name) movements are commonly used in cheaper Automatic and Mechanical watches. These movements are prone to be shipped with very high defect rates, an issue exacerbated by the fact that the source (subcontractor) is often unknown. This is perhaps the biggest challenge when importing low cost Mechanical and Automatic Movements from China.

    We have experienced OEM Mechanical Movements with defect rates as high as 15%, far more than the standard accepted defect rate for watch movements. The problem is seemingly so widespread, that even the Watch manufacturers themselves don’t trust their own suppliers of Mechanical and Automatic movements. Suppliers routinely refuse to set strict accepted defect rates, as they (seemingly) struggle to control the quality of incoming OEM Movements.

    Further, Watch suppliers can rarely provide useful technical spec sheets (see above) for these movements, making it very complicated, if not impossible, to determine the movements quality and performance.

    Applicable Product Standards, Substance Restrictions and Labelling Requirements

    For Buyers based in the European Union, the main difference is that RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive 2002/95/EC) is not applicable to Mechanical and Automatic watches, as these are by definition not powered by electronic movements. This affects labelling requirements, as RoHS 2.0 requires CE marking. As Automatic and Mechanical Movements are not battery operated, you don’t need to ensure compliance with the EU Battery Directive, or the US104­142 Act. The latter restricts mercury content in button cell batteries, commonly used in Quartz movements.

    However, REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals) and California Proposition 65 are both applicable.

    Buyers in the United States must also ensure compliance with country of origin labelling requirements, which in the case of watches refer to the origin of the movement. As such, an Automatic or Mechanical Watch with a Japanese movement, may therefore be labelled as following:

    • Japanese Movement
    • Japan Movt
    • Japanese Movement / Made in China
    • Japanese Movement / Assembled in China

    However, it’s important to highlight that this requires the movement to be assembled in the advertised country of origin. Some movements use foreign (i.e., Swiss or Japanese) parts, while the movements are, just like the final product, assembled in China. You need to be sure before you submit print files to your supplier, as improper labelling may result in a forced recall. That said, all reputable watch manufacturers clearly state the country of assembly on their websites.

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  • 3 Responses to “Importing Automatic and Mechanical Watches from China: A Complete Guide

    1. Tzu Fiore at 9:49 am

      Very Nice and amazingly written blog. I really like it, I really loved to wear automatic mechanical or quartz movement. Thanks for sharing it.

    2. Levi I Neely at 2:29 am

      Hi there! I really love the site and have just now stumbled onto it as I’m in the process of developing my first watch. I am wishing to source movements from the TMI LTD company which is in Hong Kong, but my manufacturer is in Shenzhen, and it seems like there is difficulty getting the movements from Hong Kong to Shenzhen. Can you tell me why it is difficult to bring movements into Shenzhen from Hong Kong? Also, do you know of a transport service that can bring them from one place to the other? Thanks for your great information and website.

      1. ChinaImportal at 7:26 am

        Hi Levi,

        This is strange. There should not be any issues obtaining TMI / Seiko movements in Shenzhen

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