September 30, 2013
Making Time in Taiwan
Take a trip through time with a visit to ATOP, an award winning time piece company based in New Taipei City.
Taiwan has advanced so rapidly over the last 30 years, and with the speed of redevelopment, and especially in the major cities, even the relatively recent past has vanished.
Many of the home industries that drove the economic revolution have gone forever, some have merged to become major industrial forces, many have been superseded by companies in China, yet some do remain.
One such company is ATOP, who has been manufacturing clocks and watches since the 1980s. Whereas most of their competitors have now moved to China, ATOP has stayed in Taiwan and recently opened their doors to visitors with their Time Arts Pavilion.
The idea behind the Time Arts Pavilion is to give one an appreciation of time and the ways in which time has influenced and continues to influence eastern and western culture since, well, time began, and in some regards how to make time.
And of course make time is what ATOP has been doing for 30 years, and on display in a hands on sense are some of the tools from the origins to present day. Although this will probably appeal more to those with an interest in science or engineering, I did find the progression in precision interesting, and perhaps one could view this as the way in which Taiwan has developed.
Part of that development is the precision, i.e. quality of the products made in Taiwan, as evidenced by the awards ATOP has won, including the prestigious reddot design and IF design awards. Bill Gates used to praise the innovation of Taiwanese companies, and ATOP has a patented style of adjusting their pieces for world time. Simply rotate the bevel to the indicated time zone and voila! This and the colourful range of watches shows the reinvention of a company into a brand now available worldwide.
As I mentioned the experience is quite hands on, and there is a DIY section where you can assemble a clock or watch which you can then keep. It's good fun and interesting to see how the bits of a clock fit together.
You do need to call in advance (see contact details below) but you can do so in English. The entrance fee is NT$200 (at time of writing), but this does include the DIY clock or watch which you get to take home. The best way to get there is by MRT to Yongning station on the Bannan line, and then a taxi from exit 1, which takes about 10 minutes. For details check their website: http://www.atopwatch.com/en/
On the drive there, you will pass many old style home industries. It's fair to say you won't be stopping to take photos, but I do think it's interesting to see what the old engine of the country was like and contrast that with the shiny towers of modern day Taiwan.
I should also point out that although they do promote their watches and you can indeed buy the products there, this is not a high pressure sales type factory visit. We were made to feel very welcome from the beginning to end, even being waved off in the taxi (and do ask them to call you a cab when you leave).
Admittedly this is not on the well beaten tourist path, however it does provide an interesting insight into how modern Taiwan has developed and perhaps how it will be in the future.
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