The Imperial is Maison Celadon’s flagship dress watch, one of the brand’s very first designs and according to the brand it “forms the cornerstone of the Celadon family”. Without further ado, let’s get into this review!
Maison Celadon – the Brand
I previously covered the brand story of Maison Celadon in my review of the Maison Celadon Yue Fei last week. If you haven’t read it yet, you can read the review (and learn more about the brand) here.
Maison Celadon Imperial – Build Quality
The specifications of the Imperial are pretty solid.
Firstly, the Maison Celadon Imperial utilises a domed sapphire crystal. As aforementioned numerous times in my previous reviews, I’m a huge advocate of sapphire crystal due to their inherent scratch-resisting properties. Personally, I always look for sapphire crystal in my modern watches as it adds greatly to the durability of the watch. Unfortunately, there’s a lack of AR coating here, which often results in unwanted reflections especially when trying to take a photo – a complaint I also voiced in my review of the Yue Fei. Elsewhere, the WR rating for the Imperial is stated at 50M, which means that it should be fine for almost all everyday activities, except for trips to the sea or the pool.
Maison Celadon watches are always powered by some pretty unique movements, and that trend continues in the Imperial. The Imperial uses the Celadon-grade B18 movement, which is essentially a B18 movement – manufactured by the Beijing Watch Factory – that’s regulated to a higher standard set by Maison Celadon. Beijing Watch Factory is known for manufacturing high-end movements – it’s Chinese, but it’s no Seagull! Some specifications on the movement: it has approximately 42 hours of power reserve, beats at 21,600 bph, and hacks. Given the brand’s premise to showcase the best of Chinese culture and watchmaking, it make sense for the Imperial to utilise a Chinese movement, instead of the conventional ETA 2824/Sellita SW-200 that you often see in watches at this price point. It’s wonderfully decorated as well, with blued screws, hand-calligraphy, gold chatons and a rotating balance wheel all visible through the exhibition caseback.
The standard strap that comes with the Imperial is unfortunately pretty average. It’s made from genuine leather, meaning that unlike full-grain leather, it will not patina over time. It’s not a bad strap – it’s perfectly serviceable – but I expected more from a S$1000+ watch. It does come with a wonderfully milled signed tang buckle, but my advice would be to purchase an handcrafted aftermarket strap, and fit the buckle onto that.
Overall, the most intriguing specification of the Imperial has to be its CG (Celadon-grade) B18 movement. It’s a wonderful movement, absolutely beautiful, and one that is very rarely seen in the wild – something that definitely speaks to me as a watch enthusiast.
Maison Celadon Imperial – Design
While the Imperial does have an intriguing movement, its key draw is undoubtedly its aesthetics.
I absolutely love the dial of the Maison Celadon Imperial – it’s sophisticated, refined, and elegant. This particular variant of the Imperial features the Plum Blossom guilloche, which is basically guilloche in the pattern of a Plum Blossom. According to the brand, the Plum Blossom in Chinese culture is “a symbol of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity, as they bloom most vibrantly in the deepest winter snow.” I think that makes this uncommon guilloche pattern not only rare, but also meaningful. There’s also a slight sunburst texture to it as well, which plays wonderfully under different lighting conditions.
There are several variants of the Imperial, but this midnight blue colourway has to be my favourite. I love midnight blue – it is a shade that appears either blue or black, depending on lighting conditions, thus giving it its name. There’s an inexplicable resplendence and depth to it that is absolutely lovely. As you guys know, I’m into the sartorial as well, and I love a midnight blue suit. On watches, the colour is much less common, and I’m pleased to see it here on the Imperial.
They say that the devil is in the details, but the details in the Maison Celadon Imperial are nothing but heavenly. The Imperial utilises applied indices – which creates more depth – on the dial, and the indices are faceted and nicely finished. It’s not Grand Seiko level, but there’s definitely a visible difference as compared to the indices on cheaper watches, such as the Klein Otus which I reviewed last week. The applied Maison Celadon seal (the brand’s logo) at 12 o’clock is a nice touch too, as are the Chinese characters for China inscribed at 6 o’clock. These are subtle details, but they really do make a world of difference. In addition, one can also see in the picture above just how beautiful the guilloche pattern is on the Imperial – the texture of the dial is simply stunning.
The elegance of the Maison Celadon Imperial continues from the dial to its case. The teardrop lugs is a nice aesthetic feature that harkens back to a bygone era of watch design, whilst the stepped bezel adds further depth to the watch. Sometimes, dress watches can come across as a tad too flat, but the Imperial conquers that trap by possessing depth and texture in spades.
The onion shaped crown on the Maison Celadon Imperial is nicely sized and grooved, making the watch an ease to wind, which is important given that the Imperial is a manually wound watch. However, the case itself is pretty simply finished – it’s mainly brushed on the sides and polished at the front. There isn’t much bevelled edges, something like the zaratsu polishing found on Grand Seiko watches for instance. I definitely would have liked to see a tad more sophistication in the case finishing of the Imperial.
However, I have no complaints about the caseback! Look at it – it’s astonishing. Definitely one of the most beautiful caseback I’ve ever seen, especially at this price range. The golden Chinese calligraphy, blued screws and jewels, and the rotating balance wheel are all visible through the sapphire exhibition caseback, and it’s definitely a sight to behold. I should also highlight the presence of gold chatons here, which is a feature usually only seen in 5 figure watches. In addition, one can also see the limited production serial number (24/50 on mine), as well as the words “Made in China with Pride” inscribed on the caseback. I like this minimalist approach, which is in stark contrast to most brands who insist on putting all sort of specifications on the caseback.
The Maison Celadon Imperial scores highly in the wearability department as well, largely due to its svelte dimensions. At 38mm wide, it is the perfect size for a dress watch, though its elongated teardrop lugs does make the watch wear slightly larger than its diameter might indicate. Coming in at only 9.4mm thick, the Imperial is also guaranteed to fit under any shirt cuff. Personally, I love the Imperial’s quintessential dress watch dimensions – it wears wonderfully on my wrist.
All in all, the Maison Celadon Imperial is an absolutely beautiful dress watch. I love the uncommon midnight blue dial, the intricate Plum Blossom guilloche, the defined applied indices and hands, the teardrop lugs and stepped case, as well as the stunning caseback. I personally would have liked the case finishing to be a bit more sophisticated, but in total the Imperial is definitely one of the most visually intriguing dress watches I’ve reviewed thus far.
Shootout – Maison Celadon Imperial vs Maison Celadon Premier
Currently, the best alternative to the Maison Celadon Imperial – in terms of a Chinese inspired dress watch – is the brand’s newest offering, the Maison Celadon Premier.
In terms of specifications, both watches are pretty similar, with the critical exception of the movement. Whilst the Imperial utilises the manual winding Celadon-Grade B18 movement, the Premier uses the automatic Celadon-Grade B15 movement instead – the same movement found in the Yue Fei I reviewed last week. Both movements share the same beat rate and power reserve. As such, which movement is better for you largely lies in your preference of an automatic or manual-winding movement.
From an aesthetics perspective, both watches share the exact same dial, though the Premier does feature a seconds hand. In addition, the Premier does not come in the midnight blue colour seen on the Imperial above – there’s only two variants, the Red Plum Blossom and Blanc de Chine Peacock. There are also other subtle differences, such as the exclusion of teardrop lugs on the Premier, a simpler looking crown, and perhaps most importantly, the lack of a exhibition caseback. Between the two, the design of the Imperial is undoubtedly superior – it comes in more colourways, possess an exhibition caseback, lovely teardrop lugs and an onion crown, and without the seconds hand, is a true dress watch.
Where the Premier has the Imperial beat is in its value. Currently, the Premier retails for just S$711 on pre-order, which is almost half the retail price of the Imperial! In addition, Maison Celadon will be donating all the net proceeds from the sale of the Premier to Gentle Paws, a local dog shelter. In my opinion, the Imperial is the better watch, but the Premier is undoubtedly more bang-for-buck and it’s for a good cause as well.
Conclusion – so the Maison Celadon Imperial “shiok” or not?
It’s definitely a lovely watch. I really enjoyed the Maison Celadon Imperial, and it’s probably one of my favourite dress watches I’ve worn till date. I love the intricate Plum Blossom guilloche pattern, the shimmering midnight blue colourway, the teardrop lugs, and most of all, the jaw-dropping movement that’s visible through the Imperial’s exhibition caseback. However, the Premier offers a lot of what the Imperial has, for almost half the price. I’ll say this – the Imperial is the better watch, and if you have the cash go for it. If not, the Premier is a great alternative that’s absolutely bang-for-buck.
For those interested, the promo code “WAHSOSHIOK” would grant you 10% off all Maison Celadon watches, excluding the Premier which is on pre-order. After the promo code, the Maison Celadon Imperial costs just $898 USD/ ~S$1249, which I think is a fair price for the watch given the amount of detail it possesses. However, if you’re interested in the Premier, you can email Maison Celadon and include “WAHSOSHIOK” in the subject to enjoy a complimentary set of cufflinks! I don’t think you can go wrong either way – both are phenomenal dress watches.
View Maison Celadon’s full range of watches here.
You can email Maison Celadon at firstname.lastname@example.org
Technical Specifications of the Imperial
- available with Plum Blossom guilloche in 3 colours – Blanc de Chine, Midnight Blue and Imperial Red
- available with Peacock guilloche in Blanc de Chine
- 5 year global warranty
- Celadon-Grade B18 with bespoke calligraphic engraving
- handwinding movement
- 21,600 vph
- approx 42 hour power reserve
Dial and Hands –
- oil-pressed guilloche dial
- double-faceted hour and minute dauphine hands
- 316L stainless steel
- voluptuous teardrop lugs case
- screwed down caseback
- 50m water resistant
- 38mm case diameter
- 9.4mm thin
- 20mm strap width at lugs
- front and rear sapphire crystal
- signed tang buckle
- genuine chocolate calf leather strap with signed cream lining
- a wide range of ready-made and bespoke straps available as options
P.S Do check out the new “Discounts!” page for exclusive discounts for Wahsoshiok readers! More brands will be added very soon – stay tuned!