Hands-On: Maison Celadon Yue Fei Diver

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When Benjamin Chee founded Maison Celadon in 2012, his goal was simple, but bold: to put out into the world luxury watches that are “Made in China with Pride.” For the Swiss, putting out a luxury watch is a relatively straightforward proposition, but for a Chinese brand, it’s an uphill battle. Despite the growing importance of China to the watch industry over the last few decades, there remains a strong stigma attached to Chinese-made watches.

Maison Celadon’s early watches are pure elegance. From the guilloche dials of the Imperial to the enamel and silk dials of the Celestial, the level of detail and finishing across the brand’s earlier range was intended to elevate these watches above the ordinary, and not just relative to other Chinese-made watches.

The Yue Fei, Celadon’s latest offering, moves squarely away from the elegant cases, delicate dials, and hand-wind movements of those early models, and shifts toward a bold interpretation of a dive watch. Despite the shift, the desire to produce a higher-end watch remains intact.

The Yue Fei is named after a 12th century military general who is now revered as a folk hero. His name has become synonymous with loyalty to China, but the cultural references of the watch don’t end there.
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$998

Hands-On: Maison Celadon Yue Fei Diver

Case
Stainless steel
Movement
Celadon grade CG15 (modified BWF B15)
Dial
Obsidian (gray); Azure (blue)
Lume
C9 Super-LumiNova
Lens
Domed sapphire
Strap
Rubber (Stingray option shown here)
Water Resistance
200 meters
Dimensions
39mm x 48mm
Thickness
14mm
Lug Width
20mm
Crown
Screw-down
Warranty
Yes – 10 years
Price
$998

The case of the Yue Fei may seem a little wild at first with its sharp, angular form and dramatic, polished surfaces, but on the wrist is doesn’t look or feel overly out there.  Despite the obvious departure from what could be described as conventional, neither the shape nor the size are all that extreme. The diameter is only 39 millimeters across excluding the octagonal, screw-down crown. And apart from a few glints and reflections from the polished, geometric shapes around the perimeter of the case, when viewed dial-on the watch doesn’t come across as all that blingy.

The bezel and the top of the case are brushed, as is the plane that extends from the top of the case down to the tips of the lugs. The case sides also have a continuous brushed surface running along their entire length despite passing over three distinct surfaces. Only the facets that sit between the case sides and the top are polished, but that’s plenty; anymore and it would have been too much. Altogether, the combination of finishes here tempers the case, and it gives the watch a higher-end look and feel.

With the solid case back, highly domed crystal, and water-resistant case, the total thickness comes in at just under 14 millimeters. Although the watch can’t be described as thin, the angle created by the top edge of the lugs makes it look thinner than it actually is. Additionally, there is no downward turn to the lugs, which means that the watch is largely flat across the back for the whole 48-millimeter lug-to-lug length.

China’s Great Wall adorns the case back.

Two variants make up the Yue Fei dive watch, with dials in Obsidian grey and Azure blue; both are limited to 50 units each. Each of the two dial choices have their own distinct character. I found that Obsidian shows off the sunburst pattern of the dial best, and acts as a restrained backdrop against the blued hands. The Azure, on the other hand, is a little more dazzling and takes on a fumé effect as the saturation changes toward the perimeter of the dial. Here, the hands are simply polished rather than blued and have more of a piercing effect against the dial.

The hands themselves are a nod to Chinese history. The hour and minute hands are modeled after the 5th-century sword of King Gouijan. The asymmetrical counterbalance and stylized barbs of the second hand represent the curved blade of General Guan Yu of the Eastern Han Dynasty. My knowledge of Chinese history and culture is limited enough that I don’t know how well all of these references knit together, but they certainly create an interesting look (though I’m sure the second hand will be either a love-it-or-hate-it sort of detail).

Worth noting: This is a final prototype, but I noticed some light tooling marks on some of the applied elements.

The hands and dial are lumed with C9 Super-LumiNova, though in my experience the small lume pip on the second hand and the marks along the edge of each applied hour index don’t add much in the way of nighttime legibility.

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Powering the Yue Fei is the CG15, an automatic caliber made by the Beijing Watch Factory, a company founded in 1958 with a focus on high-end movement production. The CG15 is essentially a Beijing B15, but with additional quality control and regulation to meet Maison Celadon’s set standard (CG15 refers to “Celadon Grade”). The CG15 features 40 hours of power reserve, hacking, hand-winding, and it beats at 21,800 bph.

It makes complete sense to use a Chinese movement in a watch which features “Made in China with Pride” on the case back. While I would have prefered  smoother second hand sweep, the accuracy itself is well within 10 seconds per day, which is good enough for me.

On the wrist, the Yue Fei is not without presence, but the smaller case size keeps it from dominating my wrist.

As the Yue Fei is almost entirely flat across the back of the watch, you would be forgiven for thinking it might not wear comfortably on the wrist, or that it might simply look strange. Of course, everyone’s wrist will be different, but I found this not to be the case for myself. The angle of the plane that forms the side of the lug continues down into the strap, so it doesn’t look awkward when the watch is worn. Having a bit of a fall off from the watch to the strap is a good thing here, as it intensifies the angles seen along the profile. The lack of curves, however, does mean that the watch is slightly lifted from the wrist at times, but it still doesn’t really impact the way the watch wears. I will note that the thickness and associated wrist presence prevents it from pairing well with dressier clothes.

The two models shown here come fitted with optional stingray straps in contrasting colors—Azure with a brown strap and Obsidian with a blue one. While the straps aren’t bad in quality and execution, they aren’t what I would choose to pair with these watches. Maison Celadon have developed a rubber strap (which we did not get to try out) to be included standard in the set, and I think that’s a much better match to the sporty vibe of the Yue Fei.

Despite the 200-meter water resistance and unidirectional rotating bezel, the Yue Fei doesn’t really feel like a dive watch. Most of the design choices here were made with aesthetics rather than diving in mind. That said, the Yue Fei is intended to be a luxury sport watch, and if you can buy into that concept, then it does a relatively solid job at achieving that aim.

I happen to like Maison Celadon’s take on a dress diver, and the case in particular is exceptionally well thought out and executed. Of course, the unconventional case shape and elaborate touches won’t be to everyone’s taste, but as a package, the Maison Celadon Yue Fei offers a truly refreshing take on a sport watch. It is currently available for pre-order at $998. Maison Celadon

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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.
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