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Always one step ahead
The Pilot Watch Magazine
11 July 2024

High technology and craftsmanship from Japan

The Seiko story begins in 1881, when 21-year-old watchmaker and entrepreneur Kintaro Hattori opens a small watch store in central Tokyo. Over the years, business develops so well that in 1892 Kintaro decides to start his own watch manufacturing business. He buys a disused factory in the Japanese metropolis and starts producing his own timepieces there under the name Seikosha. Seiko means success in Japanese, sha means house. Kintaro Hattoris could not have chosen a more appropriate name for his company – his successful house was to become one of the largest and most important watch manufacturers in the world.

In the beginning, Kintaro exclusively assembled classic wall clocks. However, he quickly recognized the potential of small and mobile timepieces and the associated opportunity to overtake his competitors in the market. in 1895, he therefore expanded his portfolio, first with pocket watches and then, from 1913, with the first wristwatches developed in Japan. The quality and accuracy of the chronometers produced by Kintaro Hattori were so convincing that Seikosha was appointed official watch supplier to the Japan National Railway. Since 1924, the legally protected company name Seiko has also been used as the official brand name on the dials of the Japanese watchmakers.

Today, after more than 140 years of innovation, Seiko is still dedicated to the perfection that its founder Kintaro Hattori has always strived for.


Seiko on its way to becoming a global corporation

Even after the death of its founder in 1934, the success story of the family-owned company continues unabated under the leadership of Kintaro Hattori’s descendants. Ever new technical innovations allowed the once small Tokyo watch store to grow into an ever larger global corporation. In 1955, for example, Seiko presented its first automatic wristwatch. Just one year later, timepieces with a revolutionary shock protection system were presented to the enthusiastic trade. International awards at watch competitions follow.

Race for the world’s first quartz watch

Since the early 1960s, Seiko has been in a race with the long-established Swiss watch company Rolex to develop the first wristwatch powered by a quartz movement. The Japanese won this race by a good margin and introduced the world’s first mass-produced quartz wristwatch, the Seiko Quartz-Astron, at the end of 1969. Competitor Rolex, on the other hand, succeeded in presenting its first own quartz watch only in April 1970. The tuning fork quartz oscillator invented by Seiko for its Astron has a frequency of 8,192 oscillations per second, which means a rate deviation of only five seconds per day – a sensational accuracy for that time.

Seiko’s unique Spring Drive technology

But things were to get even more precise. At the turn of the millennium, Seiko introduced its technically innovative Spring-Drive technology, which now enabled mechanical watches to achieve a previously unknown degree of accuracy. A Spring-Drive movement combines the high torque of a mechanical watch with the high-precision control of an electronic timepiece. In short, electrical energy is generated for a quartz movement by means of a spring and gears. The quartz movement uses this energy to keep the gears of the movement at a constant speed – Seiko calls this Tri-Synchro-Regulator System. The special feature: Through this, the Spring-Drive movement moves continuously, and the second hand glides across the dial without the typical ticking. Spring-Drive movements guarantee an accuracy of only one second deviation per day – and that with a power reserve of at least 72 hours.

New impulses and standards

Today, the global corporation is still owned by the founding family, controlled by Kintaro Hattori’s descendants. Seiko does not need any external suppliers for the production of its timepieces. All parts and components are without exception developed and manufactured in-house, which is unique in watch production worldwide. And the former small watch store from Tokyo still regularly succeeds in setting new impulses and standards in the watch industry – for example with its presentation of the world’s first GPS solar watch. Then as now, the vision of the company’s founder applies to Seiko: always one step ahead.

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