One of the best and considered quality watches in the world at the moment is Seiko. The craftsmanship behind every timepiece boasts of quality and precision. And like most of the great brands all over the world, Seiko did have its fairs share of humble beginnings. All these shaped the brand to what it is today.
Japanese watch landscape
Japan has had its fair share of war times and was actually embroiled in a lot which was later of followed by a national seclusion policy in 1630 referred to as Sakoku. Literally translated as “closed country,” it evolved to prohibiting voyages overseas and even covered returning voyages to Japan in 1635. Needless to say, this was a big blow to trade, commerce, and advancement.
This was on the cusp of a race to develop a marine chronometer being endeavored in by most Western countries which were later developed by a British inventor named John Harrison. The chronometer was designed to for naval navigation. It was developed to help seafarers pinpoint their location by giving them the ability to determine longitude. This accuracy is an essential part of sea navigation.
In Japan, the Wadokei seasonal clock was the primary time system in the past. However, as aesthetic and technical as the watch is, it was behind in terms of precision and even in size with that of modern watches. The closed country policy did not also help their cause and made it a lot more difficult to catch-up.
What further complicated watchmaker’s struggle at the time was that in 1872, Japan switched from seasonal to a fixed time system and a Western calendar was adopted. Traditional watches became obsolete and the whole country became reliant on the Western supply of watches. This was around the time when Japanese horologists started making their own including Seiko founder Kintaro Hattori.
Seiko founder Kintaro Hattori
When you talk about quality watches down to the basic watch components, Seiko is in this discussion. That being said, it is important to understand the early life of Kintaro Hattori – the person who started Seiko watches.
As early as 13 years old, Hattori visited the Kobayashi Clock Shop during the Edo period and that enabled young Kintaro to see the beauty in the watch industry. He found out that being a clockmaker would put him in business all year round. He would be selling the clock and at the same time, making repairs on them as well.
Still at 13 years of age, he later on joined Kameda Clock shop in 1874 as an apprentice. He was later on transferred in Ueno in Sakata Clock Shop in 1876. This was where Hattori learned not only how to sell the watch but how to repair timepieces as well. This would later on be a good foundation for his future business decisions. Not long after, the clock shop would be forced to close down and file for bankruptcy. Kintaro Hattori would exhibit generosity and loyalty by offering the owner his savings from all the time that he worked there.
After a year, Kintaro would return home in 1877. As he now knew how to sell and repair watches, he would put up a signboard on his house. It simply said “Hattori Clock Repair” as he began not only selling but taking in second-hand timepieces for repair. After only 4 years, he would establish K. Hattori & Co. still engaged in the sale and repair but now, for imported watches. When Hattori passed away in 1934, he has already made a name for himself and the company was a full-fledged Kabushiki Kasha (referred to as KK meaning a stock company). His three sons, (Genzo, Shoji, Takesaburo) would soon take over the business.
Quality watches by Seiko through the years
Seiko has been an industry leader in the production of world class quality watches for sale. Here is rundown of what the company has accomplished through the years. These milestones in their history are proof of the founder’s forward thinking as well business acumen – qualities that have made Seiko a leader in the watch industry.
1892 – Wall Clock
With the founding of the Seikosha factory with engineer Tsuruhiko Yoshikawa, the company started wall clock production as it was cost efficient at that time.
1895 – Timekeeper
The company then ventured into production of pocket quality watches and introduced the Timekeeper. The silver case was made in Japan but the movements and other components had to be imported from Switzerland. What this timepiece also represented was how Hattori plans ahead. He believed that the name “Timekeeper” could be a great platform for product expansion down the line.
1913 – Laurel
As a testament again to Hattori’s business acumen, he believed that pocket watches would soon be over run by the popularity of wrist watches. This is why in 1913, he introduced Laurel. Having a much smaller diameter than the pocket watch, the Laurel was going to be a big hit. The only drawback was that most components had to be imported into the country. This resulted in slower production. This prompted the company to produce its own components to bring up production.
1924 – First Seiko Watch
The Seikosha factory was just one of the structures destroyed in the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake in Japan. This resulted in a halt in production but the determined Hattori did not let this stop him. He quickly started to rebuild despite the massive cost. At this time Hattori believed that he can use a non-English name for the latest product. This is a gamble as a lot of people believed that the West had far more superior products. Hattori introduced the first Seiko wristwatch in 1924 with a small subdial for the seconds which was widely accepted until the 1950s. Seiko was taken from the “Seikosha,” the same name of the factory that roughly translated to “excellent workmanship” in Japanese. This move paved the way for quality watches for sale to bear the name Seiko.
1929 – Railway Watch
The pocket watch produced by Seikosha factory was designated by Japan as the country’s first railway watch. This allowed safer railway This meant safer railways especially as more and more trains occupy the lines.
1956 – Seiko Marvel
Moving forward with innovation, the company introduced another one of its quality watches for sale – the Seiko Marvel in 1956. This is a big step for Seiko as this was the first watch that was created from the ground up without any outside influence. This was all in-house production from design to output and featured a new shock absorption system for the product lineup.
1960 – Grand Seiko
As far as precision and accuracy go for Seiko watches, the first Grand Seiko was undoubtedly the one of the best in the world. The gold-filled case of the watch only added to its prestige and the certification from the Seiko standards proved to be a big factor as they are even more stringent compared to the Swiss standards for chronometers.
1963 – Seiko Sportsmatic 5
This was the year the Seiko Sportsmatic 5 was launched which is still loved to date by a lot of people. Considered to be one of the quality watches for sale, it ushered in a few innovations that were again ahead of its time. As it carried the Diashock design first seen in the Seiko Marvel, it also had the strong Diaflex mainspring. However, what sets the Sportsmatic 5 aside was the introduction of the water resistance feature on the watch. In case you are wondering what the “5” was all about, it stands for 5 key elements the watched stood for to connect with the 1960s generation – automatic winding, day and date displayed in one window, water resistance, the recessed crown at the 4 o’clock position, and the durable case and bracelet.
1964 – Seiko Crown Chronograph
Seiko again gave Japan its first chronograph watch in 1964. Proving to be a trailblazer in the field of watch making, the company was ahead of the competition.
1965 – 150m Diver’s Watch
Just after a year, Seiko released its very first diver’s watch that was resistant to up to 150 meters. At this time, diving was a specialized hobby so the watch appealed to a few select consumers. However, as the hobby picked up in popularity over the years, Seiko improved on the design as well. It increases water-resistance to 300 in 1968 and further improved on it in 1975 bumping up the number to 1,000 meters. This was also the first time it included a titanium case.
1968 – Quartz Wall Clock
Though a lot of the technological advancements were concentrated on wristwatches, the company made another first in 1968 by creating the first quartz wall clock in the world.
1969 – Seiko 5 Sports Speed Timer
1969 was a breakthrough year for the watch industry as a lot of companies were in a race to put out an automatic winding chronograph. Many succeeded but Seiko was the first one to have one in the market with the Seiko 5 Sports Speed Timer. It was the first of its kind and included a 30-minute counter and a day and date bilingual system for both Japanese and English wearers. It was indeed considered to be one of the quality watches of its time.
1969 – Seiko Quartz Astron which ushered in quality watches in the years to come
After creating the first quartz wall clock a year ago, Seiko proceeded to put out quality watches for sale with the first quartz wristwatch in 1969. This almost threatened mechanical watches with the way it was able to conserve battery to a full year and accuracy of 5 seconds per month.
1973 – LCD Watch
The company produced another first in the watchmaking industry. Seiko launched the first ever LCD watch that has a six-digit display.
1988 – Automatic Generating System Watch
Seiko has proven to be ahead of its time with the production of the Automatic Generating System (AGS). This was to be known later on as a kinetic watch. The watch was able to capture the motion of the wrist of the wearer. It then converted that to electricity to power the movement.
2008 – Spring Drive Spacewalk
Seiko made another innovative design with the 2008 Spring Drive Spacewalk. The watch had a quartz oscillator but had a mainspring drive much like a mechanical watch. The creation of the watch was commissioned by Richard Garriott. His objective was to spacewalk (hence the name) and had some great innovations. The airtight gasket was to protect the watch from fluctuating temperature. The watch also had a titanium light case which made the watch perfect for space walk.
2012 – Astron GPS Solar Watch
Proving to be an avant garde company, Seiko has unveiled another game-changer with the Astron GPS Solar wrist watch. Coming out first in 1969, the company revived the Astron line up putting in technological advancements in the timepiece. The analog and solar powered watch are able to receive and process GPS satellite signals. As a result, the watch is able to make automatic adjustments on the exact local time anywhere on the planet.