Seiko Watch Company
Seiko Holdings Corporation (セイコーホールディングス株式会社 Seikō Hōrudingusu Kabushiki-gaisha) (TYO: 8050), more commonly known simply as Seiko (/ˈseɪkoʊ/ SAY-koh), is a Japanese holding company that holds subsidiaries which manufactures and sells watches, clocks, electronic devices, semiconductors, jewelries, and optical products.
The company was founded in 1881, when Kintarō Hattori opened a watch and jewelry shop called "K. Hattori" (服部時計店 Hattori Tokeiten) in the Ginza area of Tokyo, Japan. Eleven years later, in 1892, he began to produce clocks under the name Seikosha (精工舎 Seikōsha), meaning roughly "House of Exquisite Workmanship". According to Seiko's official company history, titled "A Journey In Time: The Remarkable Story of Seiko" (2003), Seiko is a Japanese word meaning "exquisite" or "success" ("exquisite" is usually written 精巧 from Chinese jīngqiǎo, while the meaning "success" is usually written 成功 from Chinese chénggōng).
The first watches produced under the Seiko brand appeared in 1924. In 1969, Seiko introduced the Astron, the world's first production quartz watch; when it was introduced, it cost the same as a medium-sized car. Seiko later went on to introduce the first quartz chronograph. In the late 1980s, Seiko produced the first Kinetic watch that combined the self-energizing attributes of an automatic watch with quartz accuracy. The watch is entirely powered by its movement in everyday wear.
In 1985, Orient and Seiko established a joint factory.
The company was incorporated (K. Hattori & Co., Ltd.) in 1917 and was renamed Hattori Seiko Co., Ltd. in 1983 and Seiko Corporation in 1990. After reconstructing and creating its operating subsidiaries (such as Seiko Watch Corporation and Seiko Clock Inc.), it became a holding company in 2001 and was renamed Seiko Holdings Corporation as of July 1, 2007.
Seiko is perhaps best known for its wristwatches, all of which were at one time produced entirely in-house. This includes not only major items such as microgears, motors, hands, crystal oscillators, batteries, sensors, LCDs but also minor items such as the oils used in lubricating the watches and the luminous compounds used on the hands and the dials. Seiko watches were originally produced by two different subsidiaries. One was Diani Seikosha Co.,(now known as Seiko Instruments Inc.), and the other was Suwa Seikosha Co.(now known as Seiko Epson Corporation). Having two companies both producing the same brand of watch enabled Seiko to improve technology through competition and hedge risk. It also reduced risk of production problems, since one company can increase production in the case of decreased production in the other party.
Currently watch movements are made in Shizukuishi, Iwate (SII Morioka Seiko Instruments), Ninohe, Iwate (SII Ninohe Tokei Kogyo), Shiojiri, Nagano (Seiko Epson) and their subsidiaries in China, Malaysia and Singapore. The fully integrated in-house production system is still practised for luxury watches in Japan.
Seiko produces watches with quartz, kinetic, solar, and mechanical watches of varying prices, ranging from around ¥4,000 (US$45) (sold under the brand Alba_(watch)) to ¥50,000,000 (US$554,000). To separate the customer groups, Seiko has created many different brands in Japan and the international market.
Seiko has several lines such as the Seiko "5" series (the 5 reflects five key features of the watch, namely automatic winding, day and date display in a single window—rare at the time, water resistant, recessed crown at the 4 o’clock position and durable case and bracelet—i.e. steel), and the luxury "Credor," "King Seiko," and "Grand Seiko" series.
Prior to 1960, to challenge the status of Swiss watches and change the perception of Japanese watches, Daini Seikosha and Suwa began the discussion of a product line that can match the quality of Swiss watches under the suggestion of the parent company. At the time, Suwa Seikosha Co. was in charge of manufacturing men's watches, so it was decided that Suwa would be producing the first Grand Seiko (GS).
Grand Seiko SBGA011 with 9R Spring drive movement
The first Grand Seiko was released in 1960, it was based on Seiko's previous high-end watch, CROWN. This Grand Seiko has a 25-jewel, manual-winding, 3180 calibre, and only 36,000 units were produced. This was also the first Chronometer grade watch manufactured in Japan, and it was based on Seiko's own chronometer standard.
The design language of the Grand Seiko was set in 1967, with the creation of Grand Seiko 44GS. The 44GS set the ground for all future Grand Seiko with nine elements. These elements help improve the legibility of the watch under different situations, and create a sharp, crisp visual impression:
- Double width index at 12 o'clock
- Multi-faceted rectangular markers
- Highly polished bezel
- Highly polished planes and two dimensional surface
- Half recessed crown
- Flat dial
- Multi-faceted hour and minute hands
- Curved sideline
- Reverse slanted bezel wall and case side
In 1968, Seiko introduced three 10 beat (10 ticks per second) calibers, the automatic caliber 61GS, the manual winding 45GS and 19GS for women's watch. The 61GS was Japan's first automatic 10 beat watch, and it was the most accurate mechanical watch due to the high beat calibers. The calibers are considered high beat because normal mechanical movements beat six to eight times per second, and higher beat makes the watch more resistant to shock, thus achieving the high accuracy.
In 2009, Seiko released the new 10 beat caliber 9S85, which is a completely new designed of the previous high beat caliber. The new caliber also met the Grand Seiko Standard, a chronometer certification that is more strict than the Chronometer Certificate in Switzerland.
List of Seiko Mechanical Movements
6R15 21,600 23 +25～-15 50 3 hands, time display (Hour, minute and second hands) and date display
6R20 28,800 29 +25～-15 45 6 hands, time display (Hour, minute and second hands), day and date display, power reserve indicator
6R21 28,800 29 +25～-15 45 6 hands, time display (Hour, minute and second hands), day and date display, power reserve indicator
6R24 28,800 31 +25～-15 45 6 hands, time display (Hour, minute and second hands), day and date display, power reserve indicator
6R27 28,800 29 +25～-15 45 5 hands, time display (Hour, minute and second hands), date display, power reserve indicator
8R48 28,800 34 +25～-15 45 6 hands, time display (Hour, minute and small second hands), stopwatch display (Hour, minute and second hands) and date display
8L35 28,800 26 +15～-10 50 3 hands, time display (Hour, minute and second hands) and date display
8L55 36,000 37 +15～-10 55 3 hands, time display (Hour, minute and second hands) and date display
On December 25, 1969, Seiko released the world’s first quartz watch, the Seiko Quartz ASTRON. The watch uses a crystal oscillator at its core for accuracy, where the crystal generate steady vibration when voltage is applied to it. During the ten years of development period at Suwa Seikosha, Seiko manage to create many parts which enabled viable application of quartz on wristwatch. For example, Seiko cut the crystal oscillator into the shape of a tuning-fork, developed integrated circuit and step motor to properly operate the signals from the crystal oscillator.
First commercial quartz watch, only 100 copies sold at Tokyo on Christmas 1969.
Quartz wristwatch Astron Cal. 35A, Seiko, Japan, 1969
Additional to creating the parts that enabled quartz watch, Seiko did not monopolize the patent rights for the unique pieces, but decided to open it.
In 1973, Seiko announced the world’s first LCD quartz watch with six-digit digital display.
In 1975, Seiko launched the world’s first multi-function digital watch, the 0634.
In 1978, Seiko released the Twin Quartz watch to address the impact of temperature on the frequency of the quartz crystal oscillator, which put a limitation on the accuracy of quartz watch. Seiko put a second crystal in the watch that's linked with a processor that detects the change in temperature and signals the main oscillator to compensate. The result was a huge improve in the watch’s accuracy from 5 seconds per month to 5 seconds per year.
In 1988, Seiko combined the automatic with electric watch making with Seiko Kinetic, a movement that's powered by the user and convert the energy to electricity for the quartz movement.
In 2005, Seiko Spring Drive was announced. It was developed by Yoshikazu Akahane and his team and inspired by Yoshikazu’s vision: “a watch wound by a mainspring and with one-second-a-day accuracy, a precision that only the finest electronic watches could deliver.” This movement achieved high accuracy with 1 second per day, long power reserve (72 hours) with its special developed alloy, fast winding with the “Magic Lever” design and glide-motion movement with the watch hands.
The movement uses a mainspring as a source of energy and transmits it through gear train just like a traditional mechanical watch, but instead of an escapement and balance wheel, Seiko used the newly developed "Tri-synchro regulator", which acts like a quartz movement. The Tri-synchro regulator has three main function: controlling the mechanical energy of the mainspring, generate electricity for the low consumption (~25 nanowatts) quartz crystal oscillator and generate a magnetic force to regulate the glide wheel. By replacing the traditional escapement with magnetic brake, the Spring Drive operates with lower noise and present a glide motion hand that shows continuous flow of time. The Spring Drive movement was also used as the basis for the first ever watch designed to be worn by an astronaut during a space walk, the aptly named Seiko Spring Drive Spacewalk.
Seiko Corporation of America is responsible for distribution of Seiko watches and clocks, as well as Pulsar brand watches, in the United States. The models available in the United States are normally a smaller subset of the full line produced in Japan. Seiko Corporation of America has its headquarters (and Coserv repair center) in Mahwah, New Jersey. In the United States, Seiko watches are sold primarily by fine jewelers and department stores as well as 19 company stores located in various cities.
Seiko's 2004 marketing campaign emphasized that a watch, as opposed to other traits (such as what car they drive), tells the most about a person.
NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz wore a Seiko 5 model 6119-8460 during the height of his career. It was on his wrist when the Apollo 11 crew touched down on the lunar surface, when the Apollo 13 explosion occurred, and throughout the remainder of his career at NASA. The watch was recently sold and is still in working order.
On Friday, January 10, 2014, on the eve of the Australian Open in Melbourne, Shinji Hattori, President of Seiko Watch Corporation, presented to Novak Djokovic a Seiko Astron GPS Solar watch, symbolizing Seiko's partnership with the world no.1 professional tennis player.
Seiko is also the official timekeeper of many major sporting events:
1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan
1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain
1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway
1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan
2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States
FIFA World Cup
1978 FIFA World Cup in Argentina
1982 FIFA World Cup in Spain
1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico
1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy
IAAF World Championships
Currently, Seiko has an agreement with the International Association of Athletics Federations to act as the timekeeper for the latest editions of the IAAF World Championships in Athletics. The agreement started in 1985 and is set to continue until at least 2019.
1987 World Championships in Athletics in Rome, Italy
1991 World Championships in Athletics in Tokyo, Japan
1993 World Championships in Athletics in Stuttgart, Germany
1995 World Championships in Athletics in Gothenburg, Sweden
1997 World Championships in Athletics in Athens, Greece
1999 World Championships in Athletics in Seville, Spain
2001 World Championships in Athletics in Edmonton, Canada
2003 World Championships in Athletics in Paris, France
2005 World Championships in Athletics in Helsinki, Finland
2007 World Championships in Athletics in Osaka, Japan
2009 World Championships in Athletics in Berlin, Germany
2011 World Championships in Athletics in Daegu, South Korea
2013 World Championships in Athletics in Moscow, Russia
2015 World Championships in Athletics in Beijing, China
2017 World Championships in Athletics in London, United Kingdom
2019 World Championships in Athletics in Doha, Qatar
Seiko is also named as the official timekeeper of the Gran Turismo racing game series, published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It was also the sponsor of FC Barcelona from 2011 to 2014.
Seiko was the official timekeeper of the North American Soccer League during the 2014 season.
Seiko used to sponsor Honda F1 (previously known as BAR [British American Racing] Honda). The Seiko name cannot currently be found on the Honda racing cars because Seiko Japan refused to be advertised whilst the names of tobacco companies are still appearing on the cars. They can, however, be found on the lollipop used in the pitlane.
Historic Seiko watches
Seiko Gyro Marvel Automatic Diashock 17 Jewels, 1960
Seiko Champion Diashock 19 Jewels, 1960
Seiko King Diashock 25 Jewels, 2nd model, 1967
Seiko Skyliner 6220-7990, 1968
Seiko Bell-Matic 17 Jewels
Seiko Bell-Matic 27 Jewels
Seiko Quartz 2002 3803-7070, 1973
Seiko Chronograph Automatic 6139-7080 ("Hexagon"), 1974
Seiko Grand Quartz 4843-5010, 1975
Seiko King Quartz 0853-8005, 1976
Seiko Chronograph Automatic 6138-8020 ("Panda"), 1977
Seiko LCD Solar Alarm Chronograph A156-5000, 1978 (Seiko's 1st solar-powered watch)
Seiko Quartz Automatic Generating System 7M22-6A50, 1988
Seiko Quartz A.G.S. 7M22-8A20, 1988
Seiko Automatic Generating System 5M22-8A80, 1993
Seiko AGS SCUBA Diver 200m 5M23-6A60, 1993
Seiko Kinetic 5M42-0A70, 1995
Seiko Sportura Dual Time World Chronograph H023-00A0, 2003
Seiko Automatic-Chronograph Cal. 6139, the „Pogue Seiko“
Seiko SKX007 automatic watch
Grand Seiko Automatic Hi-Beat 5646-7000
King Seiko Automatic Special Hi-Beat 5246-6000 Chronometer Officially Certified
Seiko Flyback-Automatic-Chronograph Cal. 7016, "Seiko-Monaco" (1976).
Operating companies (products and services)
Seiko Watch Corporation — Planning for watches and other products and domestic and overseas sales
Seiko Nextage Co., Ltd. — watches: Alba and licensed brand watches
Seiko Clock Inc. — Development, manufacturing and sales of clocks (desk clocks, wall clocks, alarm clocks)
Seiko Service Center Co., Ltd. — repair and after service for watches
Seiko Time Systems Inc. — Sale and incidental installation work for system clocks, varied information display equipment and sports timing equipment, as well as timing and measurement services for various sports
Seiko Precision Inc. — Manufacturing/sales for electronic devices, shutters for cameras and peripherals, and production equipment
Seiko NPC Corporation — Development, manufacturing and marketing of integrated circuits (IC)
Seiko Solutions Inc. — Development, manufacturing, sales, maintenance, services and consultations for the hardware and the software relating with information systems and network services
Seiko Optical Products Co., Ltd. — Wholesale marketing of lenses and frames for glasses along with other optical-related products
Seiko Instruments Inc. — Development, manufacturing and sales of watches, precision components and machine tools, electronic components, printers, measurement and analysis instruments
Wako Co., Ltd. — Sales of watches, jewelry, accessories, interior supplies, art goods and crafts, glasses and foodstuffs
Cronos Inc. — retail sales of watches, jewelry items and eyeglasses
Seiko Business Services Inc. — human resources
Ohara Inc. (Seiko owns 32.2% TYO: 5218) — specialty optical glass (glass materials for lenses and prisms)