The History of Peacock Watches

During the era of the "Old National Watch," there were primarily three watch production centers in Liaoning Province: Dandong, Shenyang, and Dalian. Many people might assume that the Liaoning Watch Factory was located in Shenyang, but in fact, it was in Dandong. Dandong was home to six of China's earliest watch factories and was one of the largest producers.

Dandong, founded during the Tang Dynasty, became an important port in eastern Liaoning and the upper reaches of the Yalu River in 1903. In the early 1950s, Dandong was at the forefront of the resistance against the United States during the Korean War. Before the 1990s, Dandong was an important industrial base in China, with its economic level relatively advanced nationwide. The watch industry was once a pillar industry in Dandong.

At the end of 1957, seven technical workers from the Andong Metal Products Factory used homemade equipment to replicate the Swiss "Rodania" watch and produced the first batch of four watches, named "Qianjin" (Advance), thus establishing the Andong Watch Factory.

In the early 1960s, the government invested 1.75 million yuan to import specialized watch manufacturing equipment from Switzerland, which was distributed to several early watch factories, including those in Dandong. With this investment, the government also acquired the drawings and authorization for the Leobe C movement from Switzerland. Some equipment was also allocated to Beijing and Guangzhou, where they later produced the Beijing BS-2 and Guangzhou SG3 movements, respectively.

In December 1962, the "Andong Clock Factory" was renamed "Andong Watch Factory." With the assistance of Soviet experts and based on the Soviet "Poljot 2409" movement, they successfully produced "Andong" brand watches. Within five years, their annual production increased from 2,000 to 13,200 watches.In November 1965, with the approval of the National Light Industry Department, the imitation of the "Poljot 2409" movement passed production appraisal and was standardized as the "A61" movement, which was used in Liaoning brand watches.

In 1967, the Liaoning Watch Factory enhanced the original "A61" movement by adding shock absorbers, resulting in the "SL1A" 17-jewel shock-resistant movement. Watches equipped with this movement were produced under the brand "Wannianqing". By the beginning of 1970, the annual production of "Liaoning" and "Wannianqing" watches exceeded 50,000 pieces.In 1970, the Liaoning Watch Factory successfully developed the first independently designed "SL2" movement with a slow-beat frequency of 18,000 vibrations per hour. This movement was used in "Hongqi" brand watches and put into mass production. Subsequently, an improved fast-beat "SL2A" movement with a frequency of 21,600 vibrations per hour was also developed. In 1971, the Liaoning Watch Factory surpassed its designed production capacity of 120,000 watches per year, with watch production exceeding 150,000 units for the first time.

The handwritten characters for "Hongqi" on the watch brand originate from the title written by Mao Zedong for the "Hongqi" magazine in 1958. At that time, it was the most popular symbol in China and was widely adopted by various industries and occasions.

In 1971, following the establishment of the "National Unified Movement" led by the Ministry of Light Industry, the Liaoning Watch Factory transitioned to producing "Hongqi" brand watches using the "SZL1A" unified movement in 1973. Production of the SL2A movement was discontinued. In fact, the "Hongqi" watches with the SL2A movement were only produced for less than three years, making them much rarer in the market compared to the Liaoning and Wannianqing watches with the SL1A movement.

After transitioning to the unified movement "Hongqi" watches in 1973, the Liaoning Watch Factory produced 300,000 units of these watches in the same year. By 1975, production had surpassed 550,000 units, and by 1978, it had reached 889,000 units. The cumulative production of "Hongqi" watches by the Liaoning Watch Factory exceeded 4.7 million units by that timeAfter the Liaoning Watch Factory began mass-producing the "Hongqi" brand watches with the unified movement, it set a goal of achieving an annual production of 1 million watches as quickly as possible. In pursuit of higher watch production, the factory reduced the original 22-step process for movement and assembly to just 9 steps. Additionally, large numbers of logistical personnel and students undergoing factory internships were assigned to the production line for watch assembly. Consequently, the quality of the unified movement "Hongqi" watches produced by the Liaoning factory declined year by year. By the end of 1977, these watches ranked last in quality assessments among major watch factories.

Due to quality issues, a staggering 670,000 units of finished "Hongqi" watches were stockpiled in commercial departments and watch factory warehouses across the country, equivalent to the Liaoning Watch Factory's entire annual production in 1977. Owing to the poor quality and significant backlog, many commercial departments ceased purchasing and distributing products from the Liaoning Watch Factory. As a result of years of accumulating quality problems, the reputation of the "Hongqi" watches among consumers plummeted to rock bottom.

In the second half of 1978, the Liaoning Watch Factory introduced the "Peacock" brand watches to replace the disgraced unified movement "Hongqi" watches in the market. In 1979, the Liaoning Watch Factory ceased production of the unified movement "Hongqi" brand watches altogether.

This is a rare example of a watch usage and maintenance manual printed by the Liaoning factory in 1978 and distributed with its products, which candidly acknowledges the quality issues with the "Hongqi" watches.

In the mid-1980s, the Liaoning Watch Factory reached its peak, with an annual production of over 3.8 million watches and a workforce of 12,000 employees (Dandong's population was only around 2 million). The factory contributed 120 million yuan in taxes annually, accounting for a quarter of Dandong's total fiscal revenue, establishing itself as a veritable pillar industry. As an advanced enterprise at the time, however, by the late 1980s, Chinese watch companies faced comprehensive contraction, and the Liaoning Watch Factory was severely impacted. The company entered a state of semi-shutdown, and many workers were forced to leave the company due to financial pressures, seeking alternative opportunities. To revitalize the old industrial base in Northeast China, Liaoning Watch Industry underwent institutional reforms. Beginning in 2000, a large number of workers returned to work at the factory.

In July 2008, with the approval of the municipal government, Liaoning Tianci Group Investment (Development) Group Co., Ltd. acquired and reorganized the watch factory, establishing Liaoning Peacock Watch Industry Co., Ltd. In 2009, the company invested over 200 million yuan to build the Liaoning Watch Industry Park in the Lingang Industrial Park. In July 2011, the industrial park was completed and put into operation, rejuvenating the Peacock Watch Industry.

Today, Peacock watches no longer focus on watchmaking but mainly produce blank movements. These movements are imitations of mainstream manufacturers' movements. Here are some comparison images of Dandong movements and suspected imitated movements for everyone to compare. History seems to repeat itself: after experiencing the imitation movements of the 1950s and 1960s and the independent design movements of the 1970s, today, domestic manufacturers have returned to the path of imitating movements.

Comparison between Dandong SL3001 and ETA2824-2

Comparison between Dandong SL4650 and ETA7750

Comparison between Dandong SL7021 and ETA2671

Comparison between Dandong SL1701 and Miyota 9015

Comparison between Dandong SL4130 and Rolex 4130 (Zenith El Primero)