[Review] Atelier Wen Focuses On The Details With New Perception

It’s been three and a half years since I reviewed Atelier Wen’s first watch, the Ji. Without revisiting in detail, my lingering thoughts are that the Ji’s porcelain dial was very special, but that the case perhaps didn’t exhibit quite the same level of elegance. It’s clear that Atelier Wen have once again strived for the spectacular with the guilloché dial of the Perception, but does the rest of the watch create a suitable home? Let’s find out.

It would be unfair to say that the Atelier Wen Perception is all about the dial, but it’s certainly a significant part. Here, the guilloché isn’t stamped or CNC machined, but rose engine turned by China’s sole guilloché Master Craftsman, Master Cheng. After handling a Russian tobacco box, decorated with guilloché and finished with blue enamel, Master Cheng fell in love with guilloché and decided to build his own rose engine and learn the craft. Several completed, but ultimately useless, rose engines in his first couple of years of self-learning wasn’t enough to deter him. In 2018, four years after giving up his job and moving away from the bustling city, Master Cheng competed his first working rose engine. Today, he has now completed four working rose or straight-line engines, has four apprentices working under him in his cave-based atelier, and has produced guilloché dials for major Swiss brands (though his work is sourced and provided by middlemen, so you’ll never find his name associated with the finished product).


[Review] Atelier Wen Focuses On The Details With New Perception

stainless steel
Customised Dandong/Peacock SL1588
Salmon, Grey or Ice Blue
X1 SuperLuminova
Sapphire with 5 layers of AR coating
904L stainless steel bracelet
Water Resistance
Lug Width
Screw Down
2 Years

With the Perception, Atelier Wen look to celebrate Chinese culture and craftsmanship, and the guilloché dial is a striking example. Three dial colors are available: grey, ice-blue, and salmon as seen here. Although each option will give off a slightly different vibe, the texture of the guilloché is prominent in all three. Outside of the warm tones of the impressive dial, the hour markers are rhodium plated and surrounded by a chapter ring in a deeper orange hue. The chapter ring features a traditional rectangular spiral pattern, so can’t really be used as a minute track, but does get the same X1 SuperLuminova as the hands. The lume on the hands is a practical touch on an otherwise very ornate dial, but the lumed chapter ring is pure aesthetics.

It’s tough to write about the case without at least making reference to any number of sport watches that people may see some influence from. Some may see Nautilus ‘wings’, others a Hublot-like case silhouette. Whatever influence you see, and whether you like it or not, I’m very impressed by both the finishing and dimensions of the case. The majority of the case is finished with fine vertical brushing across the top surface, flat lugs and case sides, but there’s still plenty of polished 904L stainless steel to catch the eye. There is a continuous polished ridge running the length of the watch from lug tip to lug tip spanning five different angled edges on each side, and surrounding the dial is a slightly concave bezel which not only reflects but also slightly distorts the light.

At 40mm across the case (excluding the screw down crown), the Perception is fairly modest in size. I often find that watches where the case splays out to create additional width wear slightly smaller than the numbers alone might suggest. In this case the dial is little over 30mm. However, I would say that the watch makes as big an impact on the wrist as many watches that are a millimeter or two larger. That’s not to suggest it ‘wears big’, because it doesn’t. The lugs are sharply downturned transitioning into the strap or bracelet surface very quickly. However, I would personally not want the watch any bigger. Along with the lightness of the brushed steel surfaces, the dial is enough of a statement that any larger might be too overpowering.

The thinness of the case also has a huge part in how it wears on the wrist. Anything under 10mm tends to get classed as slim for an automatic watch, and the Perception comes in well under that number. With the polished bezel sitting on top, and the display case back protruding a little beneath, that leaves less than five millimeters for the midcase. When the case itself sits flat every millimeter matters, and Atelier Wen have got the right balance here.

A slim watch needs a slim movement. Atelier Wen have worked with Dandong/Peacock to provide the SL1588 automatic caliber. This slimmed-down movement beats at 28,800 bph and has a power reserve of 41 hours. The movement is regulated to +/-10 seconds per day as it leaves the factory, and Atelier Wen then regulate further across five positions and different temperatures. Robin Tallendier of Atelier Wen is also hoping that they are able to introduce hacking into the movement and the removal of the crown’s ghost date position for the final production models. Only a small section of the movement is visible though the partial display back, and the small window is often obscured by the black rhodium plated rotor.

When it comes to living with the Perception, strap choices are going to be severely restricted. I’ve had the opportunity to try out the 904L stainless steel bracelet and the fitted rubber strap. The rubber gives the sportier look, aside from the extravagant folding clasp. The bracelet feels like it completes the package better though as it continues the excellent finishing and attention to detail seen on the case. The bracelet also features a very nice on-the-fly ratcheting clasp which is operated by pressing the Atelier Wen symbol in the center. These two options provide some versatility and the transition from the lugs is excellent on both, but the inability to switch them out for any other standard strap is a limiting factor.

There’s no getting away from the fact that the Perception is another part of the steel sports watch trend, but does it have enough to set it apart from the crowd? The level of workmanship exhibited in the dial (each of which takes 8 hours to complete) is going to go some way towards that, as are the quality of design and execution of some key Chinese aesthetic concepts. Pre-orders for the Atelier Wen Perception are live now, priced at $2,088. Atelier Wen.

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Brad stumbled into the watch world in 2011 and has been falling down the rabbit hole ever since. Based in London, Brad's interests lie in anything that ticks, sweeps or hums and is slightly off the beaten track.