GUEST POST: Today we have a featured post from guest writer Eric Mulder, one of the good folks over at Montres Publiques. You can find more of Eric and his colleagues’s watch coverage over at the Montres Publiques website.
Many may think that Japanese movements are of lower quality than their Swiss counterparts, but they too have a tradition of high quality craftsmanship. Japanese watchmakers, like many of their large conglomerates, have rich histories going back hundreds of years. Seiko, for example, is well known around the world.
Seiko was founded by a 21-year-old entrepreneur, Kintaro Hattori, after he opened up a shop selling and repairing watches and clocks in Tokyo. This first store was established in 1881.
By the 1890s, it was producing both clocks and pocket watches manufactured in the ‘Seikosha’ factory. Then in 1913, Seiko produced Japan’s first wristwatch, the Seiko Laurel. Seiko had beat out several other Japanese companies, including other Tokyo clock companies like Tokyo Clock Co. and Japan Pocket Watch Manufacturing Co. to reach this milestone.
By the mid-20th century, Seiko produced some of its most important wristwatches that set the stage for its future. In the early 1950s, Seiko produced the Seiko Super which then became the Marvel. And in 1960 Seiko released the first Grand Seiko. This marked the beginning of not only the Grand Seiko but also the King Seiko and Lord Matic lines to follow.
Then, in 1969, Seiko released the Astron-35SQ. This was the world’s first quartz watch, which would upend the Swiss watchmaking industry through what is called the ‘Quartz Crisis.
The effects on the mechanical watch sector were devastating, and the Swiss watch industry was effectively cut in half, with about 1 000 companies closing and more than 60 000 people losing their jobs. Even American greats like Bulova and Hamilton were forced to sell as a result of the crisis.
Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Seiko continued to produce extraordinary quartz watches, along with many legendary vintage Seiko dive watches, but also stopped producing Grand Seiko altogether between 1975 and 1988.
In modern times Seiko continues to innovate, especially through its Grand Seiko brand. Now this year, in 2021, Seiko celebrated its 140th Anniversary. It is still a company dedicated to perfection, just as young Kintaro Hattori was when he started Seiko back in 1881.
Visit the Montres Publiques website to read more about vintage watches, watchmaking history,
and the watch industry as a whole.