Seagull 1963 D304 Air Force Chronograph Watch
In the 1960s, Chinese watches were imported from Switzerlandorthe Soviet UnionandChina’sMinistry of Light Industry launched an initiative to develop and produce timepieces in the People’sRepublic. Given the code number 304, the project set out to make a new chronograph wristwatch for the Chinese air force. The resulting watch–the 304 Chinese Air Force Chronograph–was reissued in the 2000s by the Seagull watch company and the result is the Seagull 1963. You can read more about the history of the watch: https://wristwatchreview.co.uk/tag/seagull-1963
There are many variants of the Seagull 1963: as well as selling complete watches, Seagull sells all the component parts separately. As a result, there is no real concept of “genuine” or “fake” when it comes to these watches. The most common options are 38mm or 42mm case size, display or closed case-back, and NATO or leather strap.
The watch I am reviewing is the 38mm model. It is quite small by modern standards but wears better than you might expect, albeit the domed crystal adds quite a bit of height. The design is sleek and the edges are all well-finished. The crown is a touch on the small side for a pilot’s watch and can be a bit fiddly to use, but the pushers have a solid-feeling action and emit that satisfying mechanical“click” when activated.
I think the dial on the 38mm version of the Seagull D304 reissue chronograph is more balanced than the 42mm version, and although the glass crystal on the bigger watch is arguably harder wearing I enjoy the way the acrylic dome distorts the dial when viewed at an angle. The Seagull 1963 dial is beautiful–combining cream, gold, and blue in a way that is legible in all but the lowest light conditions and which catches the light in a stunning way.
The Seagull ST-19 movement is a direct descendent of the Calibre 175 produced by the Swiss Venuscompany in the 1940s. As such, it is tried and tested and easy to service or replace, and although perhaps a little outdated it is probably the most affordable hand-wound chronograph. Timekeeping is perfectly adequate for my needs, and since you have to wind it every day it is no problem to also reset the time if it has drifted. The movement is very attractive when viewed through a transparent case back if you like that kind of thing
Bracelet / Straps
Wherever you buy your Seagull Air Force Watch I’d recommend upgrading the strap. Try a few to see what suits you. NATO straps are popular, but they obscure the glass case back if you have that model. I currently use a thin leather strap from Speidel–it would be easy to overwhelm the watch with too thick a strap given the 18mm lug width.
- ST-19 Seagull hand-winding Chronograph movement
- 21 Jewels
- 21600 BPH
- Case diameter 38mm
- Thickness 12.7mm (excluding crystal)
- 316L Stainless Steel
Crystal Type: Acrylic domed
DIAL COLOUR : Cream
- Supplied with a NATO strap, review watch is fitted with a Speidel leather strap
- Lug width 18mm
WATER RESISTANCE : 3 ATM/ 30M