Chinese manufacturing is an odd beast. On the one hand you have mass production of cheap goods and on the other you have centuries old traditions and heritage crafts that are unrivalled in quality. It’s a sad fact that in western perception the former often overshadows the latter. However, one brand aiming to change that perception is Atelier Wen who have launched a new sports chic collection called Perception.
A key part in demonstrating high quality Chinese watchmaking is attention to detail and finish, which is prominently displayed by the case. It’s stainless steel with a 40mm diameter, sharp lines and a neat, brushed finish on its flat surfaces. In terms of shape, it’s an irregular octagon, paying homage to other sports chic watches like the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak without being so similar as to preclude individuality. Another reference to legendary watches comes in the form of the bracelet which has a link structure not unlike the Patek Philippe Nautilus.
However, while the case and bracelet are nice, the dial stands out as the focal piece of craftsmanship. It’s hand engraved guilloché created with a traditional rose engine, a technique mastered by just 30 people in the world, only one of whom is Chinese, Master Cheng. It was he who crafted the dials for the Atelier Wen Perception watches, each one taking him 8 hours to complete. This is a level of metiers d’art that we expect from artisanal Swiss brands like Louis Erard and their watch the Excellence Guilloché Main II.
The pattern used for the Perception guilloché comes from traditional Chinese architecture and is called sunmao, a method of construction without nails or glue. There are three colours available, Piao, Ying and Xia – blue, grey and copper respectively. The rhodium-plated hands and indexes are then nestled into the design. Speaking of the hands, they bear the same leaf shape as Atelier Wen’s previous collection, Porcelain Odyssey, but have been beefed up to fit the new sporty profile.
On the reverse side of the Atelier Wen Perception is a semi-exhibition caseback formed of a half cover in stainless steel depicting a Chinese guardian lion. The lion’s mouth forms a window through which you can see the movement inside. In keeping with Atelier Wen’s desire to promote Chinese crafts, the movement is also proudly made in China, the Dandong SL1588.
As the watch is in the pre-order phase Atelier Wen are still looking to make their own adjustments and further customisations to the movement before production, such as adding a hacking seconds mechanism for a quality of life improvement. Hopefully they can make that change as it’s other specs, such as the 41-hour power reserve, are perhaps a tad underwhelming considering the artistry of the dial. Hardly a major issue though, especially for a microbrand.
But it’s important to note that Atelier Wen Perception doesn’t come at typical microbrand prices at £1,637. That’s largely due to the hand crafted elements which can only be produced by one person, a fact that also means annual production is limited. It might be at the top end of microbrand prices but for this level of craftsmanship it’s still very accessible.
If their previous watch is anything to go by, it will sell out fast. In fact, the first wave of pre-orders has already sold out meaning you’ll have to sign up to the Atelier Wen newsletter for information on when the next wave will become available at the end of 2022.
Price & Specs:
- Model: Atelier Wen Perception
- Reference: Piao (blue dial), Ying (grey dial), Xia (copper dial)
- Case/dial: 40mm diameter x 9.4mm height, stainless steel case, hand-made guilloché dial using a rose engine by China’s sole guilloché master craftsman in blue, grey or orange
- Water resistance: 100m (10 bar)
- Movement: Extra-thin Dandong movement (ref. SL1588), automatic, 32 jewels
- Frequency: 28,800 vph (4 Hz)
- Power reserve: 41h
- Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
- Strap: Stainless steel bracelet
- Price/availability: £1,637, available October 2022
More details at Atelier Wen.