The watches of the Japanese brand Seiko have been on one of the leading spots in the industry for years. They are famous for their subtle, clean design, their delicate lines and excellent quality which are all common for the Japanese style. Besides that, seiko in Japanese means exquisite, so they live up to their name too.
The founder Kintaro Hattori
Kintaro Hattori was born in Tokyo in 1860. He took an apprenticeship in a clock shop when he was still 13-years-old. There he learned how to make and repair wall clocks. Four years later he put up a sign on his own house informing people of the clock repair services he offered. That was how his home became his first office.
Hittaro’s ambitions soon started to grow and his house was no longer big enough for all the goals he has in mind. In 1881, he opened a clock shop under the name K Hattori where he sold and repaired wall clocks and jewels in a central district in Tokyo. He bought clocks imported from abroad by a trading house. Soon he gained the trust of the owners and workers in the trading house because he always paid for the clocks in time. Thanks to that he gained priority access to the newest products and got to sell them most before his competitors. The innovative products and the wide selection of clocks in his shop brought him a lot of customers and his business grew rapidly.
Kintaro Hattori was ambitious enough to conquer new ground and to become not only a salesman but also a clock manufacturer. In 1892, the young entrepreneur bought an unused factory in Tokyo and started producing wall clocks there. The factory was established under the name Seikosha which is the Japanese word for an exquisite house – seiko means exquisite and sha means a house. The first clocks by Seikosha were produced only 8 weeks after the factory opened. They cost more than the ones by Seikosha’s competitors but their quality was much higher. That was exactly the business strategy of the founder too.
His work in Seikosha is a key period for Kintaro Hattori. In the factory, he made his first clocks, precedents of some models with which he proved to be one of the best clock manufacturers in the world. At that time he also started opening new shops, one of which was at a central spot in one of the most commercial districts of Tokyo – Ginza. Hattori also made the famous clock tower above that shop which became one of the symbols of Ginza.
Important moments for the Seikosha factory
- The manufacture of the first Seikosha pocket watch
By the 90s of the 19th century, Seikosha produced only wall clocks. However, Kintaro Hattori wanted to develop his business and his products and searched for innovative ideas. That is how he decided to start making pocket watches too. The first pocket watch was introduced in 1895 and was named the Time Keeper. The factory, however, did not manage, to get any profit of it for 15 years. This did not stop Hattori and he kept working hard and finally, in 1910 the pocket watches were profitable.
- The manufacture of the first wristwatch – The Laurel
After his huge success with the wall clocks and pocket watches, Kintaro got another goal. He always strived to be one step ahead of his competitors and since at that time the wristwatches producers were only a few in the entire world, he decided that that would be his next move. Besides that, all wristwatches in Japan at that point were imported from abroad. The first Seikosha wristwatch model – The Laurel was introduced in 1913.
A while later World War I started and the export of watches from Germany stopped. Kintaro took advantage of this moment and bought a lot of materials, increased the manufacture in the factory and the sales hit the roof. He became the biggest manufacturer in West Asia and even became famous as The Orient King of Timepieces.
- The first watch under the name Seiko
In 1923 Japan is shaken by the Great Kanto earthquake. The headquarters of Seikosha, as well as the factory, burned to the ground. The company had to start everything from the start. Luckily, just before the earthquake, they had a new watch ready for sale and a little later, in 1924 it was already on the market. This watch was the first one under the new name Seiko.
- The first quartz watch in the world
The first quartz watch in the world was made by Seiko in 1969 and was named the Astron. When it was first introduced, it cost as much as a car. However, this watch was one of the most important contributions the company made to the world. The quartz watches don’t need winding and are charged by batteries and last for years. Besides that, they are not affected by gravity which could make the watches inaccurate.
The company today is best known for its wristwatches. In the beginning, they were made exclusively in the factory – every little detail, the batteries, the sensors, the parts, and the mechanisms. Later on, some of the parts were made in different factories. Today, different details of the Seiko watches are manufactured in China, Malaysia, Japan or Singapore. However, the most luxury watches of the brand are still fully made in only one factory in Japan.
Seiko creates watches with three different movements – mechanical, quartz and Spring Drive. The last was is an innovative mechanism created by Seiko which implements the best of the mechanical and the quartz movements. The Spring Drive watches are automatic, have no batteries but are accurate like the quartz ones. They are one of a kind and are only made in the company of the Orient King of Timepieces.
The Seiko models have distinctive Japanese design and taste and the company describes their style as functional beauty. Nothing on the watches is too much. The dial is clear, with easy-to-read numbers, the case is simple and the lines are gentle and subtle. In harmony with the Japanese admiration of the light and shadows in nature, the Seiko dials have perfectly polished and smooth surfaces. They allow for the light to move and play with the shadows.
From the beginning of the company, the people working for Seiko strive for absolute perfection. They don’t compromise with the quality of any small part that is important for the flawless watch. The brand has long traditions with proved quality and the Seiko watches are suitable for people who appreciate the little details and the perfectionism of every element.