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About Seiko Watches

Well-known and highly respected throughout the world, Seiko watches come with a distinct history that dates back more than 130 years. From the beginning, the Seiko brand was a small, humble company that took some time before it turned into the major player that it is today.

Back in 1873 Tokyo, Kintaro Hattori, Seiko’s founder, was just 13-years-old when he dreamed of owning a clock shop. After getting a job in the industry, he eventually started his own business at age 22. Hattori began by importing, as well as repairing, clocks—and the business grew rapidly.

The Seikosha Brand

With the intention of manufacturing watches, Hattori hired an engineer, Tsuruhiko Yoshikawa, and set up Seikosha—meaning ‘House of Exquisite Workmanship’. The result of this endeavor was the forerunner of what we now know to be the Seiko brand. At first, the company made only wall clocks until 1895 when their pocket watch was introduced.

The Timekeeper Pocket Watch

With a silver case made in Japan, the inner workings of the first Timekeeper watch were mostly imported from Switzerland. With a vision for international exporting, Hattori named it “Timekeeper”, expecting this English name could provide certain benefits.

Although the popularity of the pocket watch business was not booming, the company kept trying. After 15 years of running at a loss, technology finally caught up with Hattori’s plans, and productivity was able to increase with the introduction of new machines. Seikosha’s pocket watch business finally turned a profit in 1910.

The Laurel Wristwatch

Always ahead of the curve, Hattori produced the company’s (and Japan’s) first wristwatch in 1913. “The Laurel”, with its silver case and enamel dial, was slow on the production line due to the need for imported parts. But as the company grew, it began to manufacture its own components to keep up with the growing need for wristwatches.

The Seiko Brand

In an unfortunate incident, the 1923 earthquake caused the Seikosha factory to burn to the ground. Yet, in the midst of disaster, a newly created prototype was recovered from the rubble and the company began rebuilding immediately. It was this new prototype that first wore the “Seiko” brand. By 1924, the first watch embossed with the name “Seiko” on the dial was produced, made of nickel with a 7-jewel movement and small sub-dial for the second hand. It wasn’t for another 25 years that the company would create a watch with a second hand in the center.

The Seiko Marvel Wristwatch

The first watch to be designed fully in the exclusive style of Seiko, without any outside influences, was a few decades later in 1956. The stability and accuracy maintained by The Marvel were significantly improved over previous models, incorporating a new system for shock absorption, “Diashock”. In 1960 Seiko debuted their “Magic Lever” which was meant to increase the efficiency of the watch winding process. This was also the year that Seiko created its own certification process to guarantee a standard of precision that, even today, outdoes the Swiss agency’s standard.

Notable Seiko Firsts

  • As Tokyo hosted its first modern Olympics in 1964, Seiko was designated the official timer, building over stopwatches specifically for the task.
  • The first automatic chronograph watches in the world came from Seiko in 1969, the Seiko 5 Sports Speed Timer.
  • The first diver’s watch made in Japan was the 62MAS, which set the precedent for a number of other serious diving watches with straps made of rubber and stainless steel.
  • Built in 1969, the Quartz Aston was the first in Japan to set the quartz quality of watches into motion. It was with this watch that Seiko predicted: “someday, all watches will be made this way.” And their prediction came true.
  • A forerunner of current kinetic watches, Seiko launched the AGs “Kinetic” which was the beginning of the company’s refinement process of the Automatic Generating System.

With a truly remarkable history, Seiko went from a humble start as a small Tokyo clock shop to a high-quality watch manufacturer. Even after the founder’s death in 1934, Seiko has been and will continue to be a strong contender for some of the world’s most affordable, reliable watches.