Claro-Semag & CL-888 - Watch Freeks

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Old 02-24-2010, 11:08 PM   #1 (permalink)
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The new calibre CL-888
The following is quoted from 'Isthmus', the Seiko Forum Moderator at
"Claro-Semag is Fossil's Switzerland based in-house mechanical movement 'manufacturer'. They produce a movement called the CL-888 which is used in Fossil's Zodiac Oceanaire divers, several other Fossils and is also sold to other brands. The watches are solid and most have reported nice solid performance from their movements.

"However a few eagle eyed tinkerers have also reported that the movement is the same movement as the Chinese Tianjin ST16. Now Tianjin Sea-Gull is about the most respected Chinese brand at the moment... this particular movement does a good job of integrating some of the better ideas of several movements out there.

"The thing is that the CL-888 only differs from the ST16 in its finishing. Since most likely that finishing is performed in Switzerland, by someone getting paid swiss wages, it is quite likely that that is what pushes the value of the Swiss part of the watch past the magic 50% mark. The end result is that Fossil is able to use a Chinese movement in a (very nice) watch and legally call it Swiss. I have a feeling that much of the case work is probably achieved in similar fashion, thus allowing them to write Swiss Made on the dial."

While the CL-888 is undoubtedly a 'Swiss Movement' under the law, some watch enthusiasts have been concerned by the possibility of a Chinese designed, Chinese built ebauche at the core of their Swiss watch. To counter this there have been some claims that the design and all the parts originate in Switzerland.

One claim is that Claro-Semag, in the 1960s, was building this movement and selling it in Hong Kong, and the Chinese have subsequently copied the design. This begs the question as to why Sea-Gull waited until 1997 to first produce their 'copy'. This story also seems less likely in light of the fact that the distinctive auto-winding mechanism employed in the ST16 and CL-888 was patented by Seiko, and the patent remained in force until the 1980s or 90s. Thus Claro-Semag could only have built this movement if they had a license agreement with Seiko to use the Japanese technology.

Regarding known Semag calibres of that period:
- The ES (hand-wind only) calibres differ in every possible detail from the CL-888.
- There was a 'Semag Autoking' watch made in the 1960s with a 25 jewel automatic movement however this uses a Felsa ebauche, not a Semag original design.

More recently, a representative from Zodiac Switzerland responded to inquiries about the origin of its Claro-Semag movements, saying:
"This discussions and rumors we have had already since we have made the style years ago. Fact is that the movement is Swiss made and not china made. Correct is also that some parts of the movement are prefabricated in China (same what other Swiss made movement brands are doing) and then assembled here in Switzerland. Fact is also that the most important parts of the movements are made here in Switzerland and the assembly (one of the most important part) is made exclusively in Switzerland. For example, the balance spring, rotor and other important parts are all made in Switzerland. Now we could talk and talk and talk whatever we like but by Swiss watch federation and law the movement is Swiss made and nothing else. Before you get an ok for a Swiss made movement you need to pass several Swiss watch federations test and only if you pass them you get the Swiss made approval." [1]

For Zodiac to say that the 888 is "not China made" but "parts of the movement are prefabricated in China" is somewhat misleading, as the 888 is plainly of Chinese origin. However, they are in compliance with Swiss regulations in labeling their movements 'Swiss'. According to Swiss law, a movement is considered to be "Swiss" if: 1) it has been assembled in Switzerland; 2) it has been inspected by the manufacturer in Switzerland; and 3) the components of Swiss manufacture account for at least 50 percent of the total value, without taking into account the cost of assembly.

If Zodiac/Claro-Semag imports Chinese ST16 movements (or their parts), upgrades a few key components with Swiss pieces, refinishes the bridges, and then reassembles the movements including a nicely finished rotor crafted in-house, they have fulfilled the legal requirements to have made them Swiss movements.

In principle, this isn't so different than when TAG, Omega, Cartier, Brietling, Panerai and other established Swiss watch manufacturers take workhorse ETA movements, refinish them in-house, and call them their own calibres. In theory, the resulting movements are improved and more exclusive. This is an accepted practice when the manufacturers involved are all European, but the introduction of Chinese manufacturers into the mix disturbs the late-20th century myth of the 'superior' Swiss Made watch, where European design and labor is assumed to be 'better' and 'more authentic'.

A detailed comparison between the Sea-Gull ST16 and Claro-Semag CL888 can be found on the Watchuseek Chinese Mechanical Watches Forum. It demonstrates that the ebauches are identical, and that Claro have done some genuine 'finishing' that comply with 'Swiss made' regulations:

In Rotation: Accutron Spaceview T Case (1970), Tudor Pelagos 25500TN, Glycine Airman 17 Ref:3917.2, Glycine Airman 08 Chrono 7754, Omega Planet Ocean XL, Raymond Weil Nabucco GMT, Citizen Skyhawk JY0000-53E, Breitling Super Avenger A13370, Boschett Cave Dweller WF LE, Lum-Tec M53 Bronze, Uniq GAF44, Maranez Bangla Ti Cali Dial, Bathy's 100 Fathom, Maranez Bangla Ti LE, Ball Engineer Master II Aviator NM1080C-L3-BK, Orient Pro Saturation Diver EL02003W, REC M5 Mark I, Casio Tough Solar, SWAE Veteran, Panzera BREUER B44-01D (Celtic), Hamilton Sunset H62555153, Prometheus Poseidon, Luxmento Naylamp 300m Automatic Blue, Seiko Recraft, Vostok Europe Ekranoplan, Marina Militare, Hamilton Pan Europ Chrono

Smartwatches: Samsung Gear 2, Ticwatch 2
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Old 02-25-2010, 01:14 AM   #2 (permalink)
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This has been a matter of debate for some time now. After all the reading and research I've done on this, I think there is nothing wrong with the movement and I too think that it is "Swiss". They meet all the criteria to be called and certified Swiss so that's good enough for me!

It's like I have a real nice Jacques Lemans diver that has the CL-888 in it and it works awesome! It also has the word "Geneve" on it. That is a whole other designation with it's own special criteria to have "Geneve" on the watch face. That's why the Swiss have rules and regulate it real heavy so it means something, though many feel they have lost out on being as special as it used to be. That's why the Swiss are tightening their criteria for the "Swiss Made" label.

THANKS for all the good info as it's always nice to be edumacated!
I collect watches, it\'s what I do-Brian
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