What Japan is proud of - Craftsmanship! : Japanese Watches III

SEIKO History

Founded in 1881 (2011 was its 130th Anniversary) by Kintaro Hattori - first, as clock repair shop, then start making its own clocks. Set up its manufacturing factory (Seikosha). Went on to the watches by establishing Daini (second) Seikosha.... "Seiko" means, again, "precision" or "precision manufacturing".

The photo above on the left is the melted pocket watches, shaped like a mountain, by the fire caused by the Kanto Great Earthquake on September 1, 1923. They were what customers had brought in for repair. And what did SEIKO do? Two and a half month later, K. Hattori Clock shop re-opened and offered all of them new ones without asking questions.

K. Hattori revolved from the watch retailer/ repairer to a manufacturer of the clocks. The photo on the right was one of the first.

SEIKO's innovation and persistence to "attention to details".

SEIKO kept on innovating the watchmaking.

One of many, many examples are those two pics.

The left one is, apparently just another alarm clock. But it became a big hit in Europe. German Alarm Clocks had been dominant in Europe (before 1915), but were made with nickel plated steel parts and many were already rusty when they arrive at the wholesaler in other European countries. SEIKO made Alarm Clocks with nickel plated brass parts and they were fine even after the long voyage from Japan to Europe, so it got quite popular, particularly in UK and France, back then (ca. 1915).

The right side is much later accomplishment. Will write about this more later (there are a LOT to talk about this), but by late 1960s, SEIKO had become a watch manufacturer who dominated the Observatory Chronometer competition in Switzerland. You may have heard the word "Chronometer" - one condition is to maintain +6/ -4 sec. per day deviance. And Observatory Chronometer is, as the name shows, intended to use at the Observatories and required to be far more accurate and subject to more rigorous and long test (45 days, while Chronometer test is for 17 days or so). The permitted deviance per day is 0.75 second.

What is great about SEIKO's samples sent for testing and certification and competition were made to be sold to the public after the test while most other brands submitted the samples which are just like F1 machines, meaning it has only to last for the test.

Anyway, more about it later, so stay tuned.

The World of Wa-Dokei (Japanese Clocks or Temporal Hour Clocks)

Now, what is Wa-Dokei? It is translated "Temporal Hour". Unlike other cultures, Japan had been measuring the time by dividing the day and night each by six. So, it was like "it's the hour of snake".

The problem is, the length of the day and night changes everyday. And how would you make clocks to show such time?

The photo on the left show two balances with weight (up and down). There was an officer in charge of the clock back then (Edo era), and he moves the weight regularly to inward or outward so the clocks changes the speed accordingly and tell the (relatively) accurate time.

This is totally original. And there is a young watchmaker now who made it to the wrist watch and became the first and youngest member of the World Independent Watchmakers Institution (AHCI). He - Masahiro Kikuno - is often featured on TV program these days. Check it out.

That's it for SEIKO museum and please stay tuned for more about Japanese watches and SEIKO.

Again, this museum is free and English guide tour is also free - please make reservation.


For the full content, please refer to my article here:

by KIH