In 2003 the Chinese launched their first manned space rocket. On board of the Shenzhou 5 was Tyconaut Lt.Col.Yang Li Wei. On his wrist was a Chinese made Fiyta Chronograph.
Ever since the Omega Speedmaster gained cult status for being the watch certified by NASA for the Apollo program, and being the first and only watch on the moon, there is great interest by collectors for any model that has been in space. Obviously the manufacturers know this, and often use the fact as an argument to sell more watches, and raise the status and popularity of the brand.
The same goes for the Fiyta company. They don't sell their watches outside of China as far as I know, but I was lucky enough to be able to pick one up during one of my lay-overs in Shanghai. It was for sale in high street watch dealer that sold several of the big Swiss brands, and the Fiyta was definitely one of the cheaper watches at 700RMB which at that time equaled about US$200. Here's the proof:
Fiyta went out of their way to make this a nice package. I don't think I've ever seen a watch in this price range that comes in such a nice box. On the outside of the box is the Shenzhou logo to commemorate the space flight, and the Fiyta slogan "It's my time". I'm unable to read the rest of the print, so if anyone can help me out, please let me know. Here's the box still unopened.
Let's open it.
In it we obviously find the watch. Furthermore we have two straps, two booklets and the warranty card. All nicely kept in it's own place. You can hardly ask for more.
Now let's have a closer look at the watch. It has a shiny steel case that looks pretty well made. The crystal looks and feels mineral glass. I guess it could be sapphire, but I can't read Chinese, and at this price point that seems highly unlikely. It certainly is not plastic. The crown is nicely sized, grippy and Fiyta signed. The pushers are very big, kind of mushroom shaped. They are easy to operate, and although a bit big, they don't look bad. If I try to judge this watch as a space watch, I have to say that the shiny finish does not seem like a good idea. Also a mineral glass is not what I would have expected.
It has a snap back case, and you can tell that Fiyta had a good look at a Speedmaster before designing it. Again we find the Shenzhou logo, and the date of the launch. Furtermore it reads "souvenir for China first manned spaceflight" This is probably a poor translation from Chinese, and I guess it should have read something like "in commemoration of China's first manned spaceflight." These poor translations are typical, and you'll find them everywhere in the China.
On the inside I found the biggest surprise. For some reason I
expected to find a Chinese movement in this watch. Not so. The heart of this
Chinese watch is distinctly Japanese. A fairly cheap looking Miyota quartz
movement states honestly that it contains "no jewels". Well there you
have it. A $5 Japanese movement is space qualified, and apparently survived a
real spaceflight. To be fair, Fiyta claims to have made a special limited run of
10 watches made "from processed Fiyta movement" but I have my doubts.
Why would they buy quartz movements from Japan, when they produce their own?
The movement is a very basic, quartz controlled, chronograph with date. No Fly-back or Split second function. The only functions that could be considered extra is the 24hr hand, and that you can stop and reset the chronograph with one push on the reset button. On a chronograph you expect some feedback from the pushers when you push them. A nice "click" will let you know that you've achieved what you want. This Fiyta disappoints in that regard. The movement is made in such a way that the pushers can only deliver that 'click' once. The 'click' then moves to the other pusher. If you push one after the other, you'll get a click every time. If however you push the same button twice, it will not give any feedback the second time. This is very awkward. If you start the chrono using the start/stop pusher, it will 'click'. If you want to stop it without resetting it, you will need to push the start/stop pusher again. There is no way of telling that you've activated it without looking at the running second hand. I consider that a big disadvantage. There is no doubt in my mind that this movement will run accurately, and last for quit a long time, but it's nothing special.
Let's have a closer look at the dial. On first glance it
doesn't look bad. The basic time indication is good. Big white stick hour
markings on a matt black dial, in combination with white hands provide good
readability. Unfortunately the luminous material used by the Chinese is nowhere
near as good as the Super Luminova used on most European watches today. Actually
it's pretty useless. The subregisters are small, and have low contrast hands.
Difficult to read therefore. The big red chronograph second hand is nice in
itself, but I would prefer to have all the chrono hands in the same colour.
Since one sub register is used for the running second hand, and another
for the 24hr hand, there is only one left. It counts to 60. This is therefore a
60min. chronograph. What I don't llike at all are the 0.2 markings on the dial.
They serve absolutely no purpose on a quartz watch of this kind, and are there
only for show. Also the colour coding of 45-60 markings on the dial makes no
sense to me at all. It may be useful as a kind of countdown reminder for
something that lasts exactly 1 min. But I can't really think of any
practical purpose. Probably show again.
While it may look nice initially, this dial really disappoints me.
One of the straps is a regular sized nylon strap with a suede (like?) lining and a steel buckle. The other strap is very wide and made from a somewhat softer artificial material, and also lined with the suede like material. It has a regular length, unlike the one that was worn by Yang Li Wei. His was extra long, so that he could wear it over his space suit. I haven't worn the normal strap, but I like the wide strap. It looks nice, and is quit comfortable to wear.
I'm happy to own this watch, but only because it's "collectable" due to the space link. Fiyta made a nice package, containing a watch that could be considered good looking. I have a hard time however to consider this a good aviation watch. It's more a fashion thing if you ask me. And even in this price range, there are better watches available.