Tourbillon watches are considered the ultimate art of watchmaking. Since the invention of the tourbillon mechanism in the late 18th century, tourbillon timepieces have never been associated with “cheap” or “affordable”. Ownership of a piece of Swiss made tourbillon watches today will cost you roughly $100,000 to $150,000 dollars, similar price to a fancy sports car.
Nevertheless, the Chinese have set their foot on the luxury market at the beginning of the last decade after they have huge success in mass producing timepieces for the entire world. Although at the higher end, buying a Chinese tourbillon watch is going to set you back some $50,000 to $60,000 dollars, you can also buy one with a tenth of that amount for the most basic yet perfectly working designs.
You may wonder why Chinese tourbillons are so cheap compared to the Swiss watches. Are they fakes? Well, there are fakes and replicas on the market long before the genuine Chinese watchmakers entered the market. The Chinese tourbillon here we are talking about aren’t those fakes. They are tourbillons with real Chinese brands made by Chinese watchmakers and never claim or pretend to be Swiss made. They are cheap first because of the low labor costs in China. The average workers receive a tenth of what their counterpart in Europe and North America would get. Making tourbillon is extremely time-consuming. Bring down the labor cost alone can cut the cost at least in half.
Anther way to reduce the cost is to use cheaper materials. The Chinese have aimed their products at the wider market, unlike their European peers who only serve the richest. For example using stainless steel in the place of gold or platinum surely will bring down the cost significantly. Chinese tourbillons sold under $1,000 are typically cased in stainless steel and equipped with straps made from cow hide rather than the exotic alligator hide. There are also luxury versions of Chinese tourbillons using exotic materials that are sold at higher price accordingly.
Further more the price has been brought down because of the scale of mass production in watchmaking. One Chinese watchmaker, Tianjin Seagull, alone has already been producing a quarter of the timepieces for the entire planet yearly. Although tourbillon watches can’t simply be put on the assembling line, parts of these watches can be mass produced.
Low labor costs, cheaper materials and mass productions are the three well known “secrets” of cheaper Chinese tourbillons prices. In fact they are the main reason for cheap Chinese goods in general. Only the time will tell whether their quality can live up to expectations. Good news is some high quality Chinese made tourbillons have already found their places in watch and jewelry boutiques across the world.