01 Aug History of Seiko Watches
The history of Seiko watches is an interesting one. It goes all the way back to the 19th century.
Kintarō Hattori founded Seiko at the age of 21. He became an apprentice to a wholesaler at the early age of 11.
When he was about 13, he got an innovative idea - when he saw a close by clock shop and realized that a clock shop could also make money but fixing clocks.
He advanced his training in a clock shop by learning everything about how he could make clocks. This led to the creation of his own business in Tokyo, Japan in 1881, which would later be called Seiko.
Kintarō Hattori imported clocks from a trading house in Yokohama to sell in his newly created shop. He fostered a good relationship with the foreign trading house by settling all his invoices at the appropriate date, which was not customary in those times.
This good relationship allowed Kintarō to be able to order for large products and earn access to new releases, earlier than his competitors.
With such a wide variety of new and cool products, his store became quite popular, and his watch business experienced multiplied growth.
Kintarō's aim shifted to desiring to become a manufacturer. To achieve this, he hired Tsuruhiko Yoshikawa, who was a very skilled engineer.
In 1892, Kintarō set up the Seikosha factory which is translated as "House of Exquisite Workmanship." He went on to start producing high quality, high priced wall clocks.
The first watches released to the market were manufactured within eight weeks of unveiling the factory, under the Seikosha brand. K. Hattori's shop continued to grow in popularity during this period. He opened another shop at 4-5-11 Ginza, Tokyo in 1894.
This new shop was distinct in that it has a clock on top of it which was known as "Hattori Clock Tower." The building has been refurbished since, but a clock remains on the building in respect to Kintarō Hattori. The first pocket watches made by Seikosha were created in 1895.
The company continued to develop new pocket watches in line with the aim of its founder to establish a lasting watch business.
The pocket watch business ran at a loss for the first 15 years. In 1910, advancements in technology brought new materials which improved the company's production and allowed the watch business to enjoy returns for the first time.
In 1910, Seikosha also started exporting wall clocks to China. This decision helped in expanding the business even further. After the First World War, the watch demand from China increased, as it was impossible for them to import timepieces from Germany.
Kintarō had gotten a massive amount of materials when the war first broke out and was strategically placed to compete with Western manufacturers.
The success of his watches in China earned him the title of the "Japanese King of Timepieces." On the other hand, Kintarō was always looking ahead, and he predicted the shift in focus from pocket watches to wrist watches.
In 1913, Seikosha developed the first Japanese wristwatch - The Laurel. The release of this timepiece marked the company's advancement into a new watch market. The creation of the Seiko brand of wristwatches may not have occurred if not for luck the company experienced after a disaster.
In 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake struck Japan. This disaster destroyed the Seikosha factory, burning it all to the ground.
Only days before, a very important prototype of a new generation of wristwatches had been assembled in the factory which had been destroyed.
By a stroke of luck, the prototype was able to be recovered from the factory. Despite the great disaster, Kintarō began rebuilding the company almost from scratch.
Wall clock shipments started again in the following months. This was quite laudable, considering that the earthquake had ruined the entire factory.
Work continued on the newly created wristwatch prototypes after the disaster. Consequently, the production of the first watch under the "Seiko" brand began in December.
At this period, some watch products were still sold under "Seikosha" and some under Seiko.
The company experienced further success in 1929 when a Seikosha pocket watch was selected as Japan National Railway"s official "Railway Watch." Hattori continued the rebuilding of his factories throughout the next decade.
Finally, the main building on 4-5-11 Ginza was completely restored in 1932, and it still stands today as the headquarters of the Japanese retailer Wako - a retail subsidiary of Seiko.
The building is iconic in the district of Tokyo where it is located. In 1934, Kintarō became ill and passed away. His eldest son, Genzo took over the company as the President.
Genzo allowed private plants to start producing timepieces marketed by the Seiko brand. This was the final decision that helped the company grow up to its pre-earthquake output.
After some series of up and downs, the company fell into recession again.
In the 2000's, Seiko needed to continue making profits, and this brought about restructuring efforts at the beginning of the decade. In 2003, the company began making a profit and continued to innovate as they released the "Spring Dive" watch in 2005.
The movement used in the Spring Dive watch had been developed in 1977 and first appeared in a watch in 1999.
The newly created Spring Dive watch was launched in 2005 and sales began the next day. The latest advancements in the Seiko products is the GPS Solar watches, which have been added to the Seiko Astron "Revolution" as the brand calls it.
The Seiko brand continues to be leaders in innovative watch products even until today. They produce watches with great features that attract attention and respect.
The Seiko brand is well known throughout the world due to their partnership with the media and other organizations.
Many celebrities have been seen wearing Seiko watches including, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sigourney Weaver, and Novak Djokovic.
The brand is also known for its accuracy, as they have been named the official timekeeper for numerous sporting events which includes multiple Olympic Games and FIFA World Cups.