5th Hong Kong Travel Report June 2002 -- A Story in 21 Pictures

Dear All

There are better traveling seasons to Hong Kong then June/July. The temperature is easily climbing to about 35 Degrees Celsius and the humidity makes you think it is even hotter. But when a WIS is watch hunting, he is used to stand the strain...:-) Despite the heat, I decided to walk from Tsim Sha Tsui (next to the harbour), so I could take some pictures on the way.

Miami Vice?! No, Flamingos at the Kowloon Park enjoying the bath to cool down

Half an hour later and already soaking wet (concentrating when taking pictures does not really cool you down) I found those beautiful flowers. Mongkok is not the posh residential area where normally find bunches of beautiful flowers. Sidewalks are often used by the small shops as work place, I had to step over an iron gate that was being soldered right across the path.

A Funeral? No, a traditional shop (restaurant) opening, flowers have been sent by business partners wishing good fortune

A picture of the famous Man Ho Temple that gave Temple Street its name. On both sides of the temple is a small public park. The front park was under renovation, thus I had a steep angle to take the picture from the inside. And the other side was crowded with the gambling crowds that normally gather here.

Man Ho Temple in Mongkok

A detail of the relief decorating the roof. You can only take pictures inside by appointment with a guide but actually I was not that sad, because it was really hot in there. Burning candles and and their exotic smell contributed to the already sticky climate.

A Detail from the outside

After the cultural excursion (actually right on my way) I continued to my watch shops. The last time I could not find one of the shop with the friendliest lady sales person you could imagine. Surprisingly for the Mongkok area her English is very good. I asked for a piece of paper to put my dripping Diet Coke on the vitrine and she saw how much I was sweating and immediately offered my some napkins. And here is what I found in that shop!

NOS "Made in Peking" Double Rhomb Handwind 17 Jewels

I never expected to find NOS in such a perfect condition. The watches still had the factory sticker on the back and there were absolutely no handling hairlines. My loupe that is always in my pocket confirmed that :-)

The back of the watches with the factory protective sticker

I found that there were variations in dial, hands and crystals. I also found that some watches had a very rough finish on the case at the lugs. But finally I was able to pick 4 watches that had a perfect finish on the case and back and had the hands that were nicely finished.

My trophies: the watch in the front with the Chinese markings on the dial, the three in the back are identical, I bought 2 black and 2 brown leather straps since watches look a lot better if photographed with bands

Here is the first watch shown on the background, a nice Mother-Of-Pearl shell that proved to be an ideal stage aid. I first wanted to photograph the watches on an old Chinese book with a read cover and gold printing, but the reflection of the red and gold completely changed the character of the watches.

I found that shell created a nice color link to the strap

Since I could not decide whether black or brown fits those 70ies watches better, I made a 50% compromise and put two on a black band and two on a brown.

The watch looks maybe a bit more elegant with the black dial, I turned that shell around to show the bright white inner part. That served me also as a reflector, since those shots had to be improvised, I did not carry the tripod nor reflector cards

The same watch closer

Then it was time to continue the hunt, but actually I was quite happy to have found watches that are 30 years old in such an excellent condition and decided to go slowly now. The temperature had asked its toll also, outside the sun was still burning down.
Not to far from the first shop I was eager to see, whether there were more Orients available, and it seemed it was my lucky day!

Yes, there they were, a white and dark blue dial with radial texture that changes the dial color slightly depending on the viewing angle. The dark blue dial is a real beauty, but it was almost impossible to photograph it. See another attempt below.

I had never seen that dark blue in person and it is amazing how it changes the watch's characteristic. I have a cream dial in my collection, bought a white dial last time also, so I know how it looked, but this blue one, was yet another story :-)

I used the Mother-Of-Pearl shell to throw some light onto the dial, there was no other way to show that great blue. I tried for about an hour to create shot that would do this dial justice and this is the best I could come up with

The great thing was also that those watches came with an open warranty card and even an outer cardbox. So far I was never able to get a watch from any shop in Mongkok with papers. When you ask for it, they will just look very puzzled "Papers? What for?".

From this distance it was easier to avoid the reflections on this hard to photograph crystal

The watches come with a display back and one of the best, solid bracelets I have seen in this price class. The bracelet is a real surprise, it is heavy and very well finished. The movement is obviously supplied by Seiko, but until today, I have nowhere found a caliber designation.

The display back shows the pearlage finish on the main plate. Since I did not have enough stage aids, the depth of field is a bit short, sorry for that

Another closer look at the white dial, a white dial is always a photographer's friend and allows great close-ups with little worries:

Due to the relatively low light, the luminous markers felt like they should start "working" already

Now I was really tired and was longing for an air-conditioned room, some refreshment and a shower. But it was late afternoon now and the light seemed just perfect to take pictures from the harbour. So I gave myself a very hard push (it is also kind of reassuring that quite a few visitors all over the world will look at those pictures, so at least there is some additional motivation) and left the MTR (subway) at Tsim Sha Tsui and walked towards the Cultural Center of Hong Kong.
The famous Peninsula always reminds of a huge cat that sits and guards Kowloon:

The "cat" impression is even more obvious if you look at the Peninsual from the Island side

It was now around 5 PM, I had been walking for almost 3 hours and felt a bit exhausted. But when I saw the great lighting on the buildings on the Island side, I decided to keep shooting.

This is a shot throught the typical support structures of the Cultural Center - image how huge those high-rises are! Because they are on the other side of the harbor!

The Cultural Center's architecture was often a topic of hot discussions about contemporary architecture. And it just speaks for the vision of that architect, everybody seems to like it today.

The Cultural Center of Hong Kong shot from the Harbour Promenade

The shutter bug had bitten now, so I decided to further postpone my long overdue shower and take the Star Ferry across the harbor, because the light was really getting just right

I used to work many times in that tallest building of Wanchai: the Central Plaza. If you have a chance, go in there, they allow visitors to go up to the 47th floor, the Sky Lobby and I promise you, that is one of the most spectacular views over the harbour. But not at this time of the day, you have to go there during the morning in order to get good photo light

It seems I stressed my luck quite a bit on that day, just when we were about to land in Central on the Island, I spotted an old Chinese junk and I prayed that the old boat would speed up a bit so I could take a shot of it in front of the Convention Center

Well almost :-)

I just learned yesterday that the unemployment rate is close to 7% now and that there are few indications of improvement. It is a pity, that the old "Pearl of Asia" is cruising along so slowly whereas Shanghai is booming like never before.
Here is an icon from the glory days of Hong Kong's economy, the "cloth hanger". The most fascinating detail besides the great design, there were no bolts used to construct this building's frame.

No, it is not the tower of Pisa, but the Star Ferry was about to land when I shot this picture :-)

I do hope Hong Kong will economically recover soon, the city is too beautiful to go slow.

Reto Castellazzi, June 2002, Hong Kong