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Review: Sugess Tourbillon Master

No word of a lie, this is a real watch with a real, fully functioning tourbillon, like you get in luxury watches that cost $100,000, but for $500. Genuinely. Scout’s honour. There must be a catch. What is it?


We both know this is not a Swiss-made watch. We both know that because even the cheapest Swiss-made tourbillon, the TAG Heuer Carrera Heuer 02-T is, at $16,000, magnitudes more expensive than this. Never mind the $73,500 Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Tourbillon or the $117,000 Vacheron Constantin Fiftysix Tourbillon—this watch is thirty times cheaper than the cheapest tourbillon Switzerland can muster.

Can you guess where it was made? I’m hearing China … are we saying China? Yes, it’s China. The bit we’re interested in here, the calibre ST8230, is made specifically in Tianjin by a company called Seagull, and you may think that sounds terrible—but wait a minute. Seagull has been making watches, in China, by order of the Chinese government, since 1955. That makes it considerably older than successful Swiss brands like Hublot, not to mention having a history of making mechanical watches the right side of the quartz crisis.

It’s the biggest producer of watches in China, and not just the simple stuff. It makes chronographs, hand wound and automatic, minute repeaters—and of course tourbillons. The irony really is that Switzerland started off making watches in much the same way as China did: producing poor quality, cheap fakes. But, like Switzerland, China’s capabilities are improving every single day, and a fully functional tourbillon is proof of that.

What does that mean for you? Well, it means the impossible becomes possible. There are many, many people who would surely love to enjoy a tourbillon of their very own, who might never even get the opportunity to see one let alone lay claim to one—and now they can. For $500. A $500 tourbillon. Can saying that ever get old?


As the old saying goes, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Does that apply to this $500 tourbillon? If you can afford $500, should you be spending it on a watch like this? Is this watch all things to all people? No, of course not, don’t be silly. It’s a $500 tourbillon for crying out loud. Even in China, there’s only so much you can get for $500.

If you have $500 that you want to spend on a watch to cherish and enjoy—spend it elsewhere. This is like when people bought dirty old Ferraris for Ford Mondeo money and expected them to cost Mondeo money to run. Your $500 is better spent on a tidy Seiko or something like that, something that’s not a gamble that could end up with you winning the consolation prize—a brand new paperweight that looks exactly like a Chinese tourbillon.

On the other hand, if you don’t mind the idea of potentially turning your $500 into a useless pile of bits, you could be in for a pleasant surprise. The dial is poor quality, the hands as cheap as you can expect, the case and crown pretty rough—but the actual movement isn’t half bad. Sure, it won’t be winning any beauty contests, and it’s got more chance of going to the moon than it has being awarded a Genvea Seal, but it is not bad.

There are reports of these running with decent time for years, even decades, merrily beating away without a care in the world. Your $500, should you choose to risk it, could end up netting you a genuinely reliable, daily wear tourbillon. It’s 41mm in diameter, 11mm thick, steel with a 60-hour power reserve and fifty metres of water resistance—although you’d be brave to test it—so the answer, much to my surprise, is yeah, if you don’t mind taking a chance, give it a try.

The Tourbillon Itself

But what about the main event itself, the actual tourbillon? Never mind being wearable, having a decent power reserve, actually working—does it give the same sensory satisfaction that has turned the competition spec tourbillon into the tart of watchmaking? This not-quite-a-complication that has no business being on a dial except to drool over—does being made in China and sold for $500 tarnish the experience?

It’s not a Vacheron Constantin. It’s not a Jaeger-LeCoultre. It’s not even a TAG Heuer. But what it is, is better than you’d expect. Don’t go expecting to study this thing under a microscope and walk away happy, but if you want to give it a glance every once in a while, with plain old ordinary human eyes—it’s actually, surprisingly good. There are blued screws, polished finishes, weights surrounding the balance. They weren’t put there by a wizened Swiss watchmaker in the foothills of the Alps, but they are there, present and correct. Just.

Wander further afield and there’s radial striping, big, red jewels and even some mild skeletonisation. If a Vacheron Constantin is the work of a watchmaker in their wiser autumn years, this is week two after they’d completed their health and safety training and found a space for their lunchbox in the fridge. With the right level of expectation, this is a watch that continues to surprise, and ultimately—and it still isn’t getting old—this is a $500 tourbillon.

The thing that makes a tourbillon so appealing, beyond its finishing, beyond the extreme cost, is that it represents an incredible piece of lateral thinking from a period before CAD, before computers, even, that is not only a fantastic technical achievement, but also a visually stirring one as well. Well over two centuries have passed since Abraham-Louis Breguet filed his patent for his whirlwind invention, and here we are in an age where, despite its obsolescence, the very same device can exist for the same price as an Apple Watch.

Honestly, it’s hard to know what to think about this watch. It raises so many questions about the complication, the company and the industry as a whole, it almost feels like it would be better to go on in blissful ignorance, not knowing it exists at all. But it does, and here it is, all $500-worth. So, we know what it is, but what does it represent? An opportunity? A changing tide? Or just a fringe oddity that a handful of people are aware of? It may be hard to say, but in the meantime, for—yes—less than $500, it’s pretty easy to enjoy.