Not just Switzerland: the story of Seiko watches from Japan

October 7, 2022By Bonetto Cinturini

Wrist watches can transmit a sense of uniqueness, style and elegance that is timeless: a true paradox for an instrument whose essential job is to precisely monitor and record time.
Over the years, the science and engineering behind watch design and creation have developed to the point where watches have become true achievements that can be worn to enhance clothing with a nice, functional object but which hide elaborate and miniaturised systems of elaboration and display inside.

Europeans tend to render the category of luxury watches exclusive, given the brands that are present just beyond the Alps, in Switzerland. The country is certainly a true stronghold in the mentality and production of these instruments, but it is only one of the countries in the world that produce timepieces of very high quality and excellent workmanship. Japan is another of those countries: Seiko watches are the non plus ultra of aesthetic sophistication and fineness today, reaching the apex of quality in 2015.
This date, in fact, marked the fusion between two distinct companies (Seiko and Grand Seiko) that led to perfect production processes: the result allowed Seiko to become the Asian leader in the production of, among others, luxury watches.

The story of Seiko: the chronology and dates of its success today

Established in 1881, the company is one of the oldest and most expert sector companies, and boasts the title of the first watch factory in Japan. It was founded by Kintaro Hattori, a small timepiece enthusiast who started taking his first steps in the sector by reselling already-existing products and who, in 1982, decided to start producing his own model. The first watch made by Hattori was called “’Seikosha”, a word that means “of estimable workmanship”. 

The wrist accessory was very successful with the Japanese people of the period, which led to the creation of K.Hattori Ltd. in 1917. That was when history was made: the turnover, fuelled by the Seikosha, led to the watch name being changed to Seiko in 1924 and, at the same time, the development of new products and solutions began, encouraged by the copious investments being made in the search for miniaturised engineering solutions. 

These efforts led to the creation of the Seiko 35SQ Astron in 1969. It was the first quartz watch that recorded time, a revolution that led other world producers to copy the production technique. In the same period the value of the timepiece increased: when it was introduced to the market, the Seiko 35SQ Astron was worth 12 thousand Yen (about 347 American dollars at the time), the same price as an average car imported from America.

Success pushed Seiko to become noticed globally, something that led to an increase in the size and turnover of the company, but naturally the investments in research and development did not stop. As a result, the Kinetic calibre was produced in 1986, and AGS movement in 1988. A curious fact about the brand: its name became definitive only in 1990 as “Seiko Corporation”, marking the first step taken towards its transformation into a holding in 2007. Different other brands belong to the Seiko group, for example Epson, the company that produces printers.

Seiko: brand modernity and features

Today, Seiko is famous for producing different watch lines that tempt both luxury timepiece enthusiasts and people looking for an accessible, cheap and well-made product. This is why the company can today offer battery, quartz, and many others products, in bulk. A particular branch that mainly looks after the production of underwater models for immersion specialists was also recently inaugurated. 

Seiko watches are a good way of entering the sector and becoming an enthusiast; they also have the advantage that even the vintage versions are accessible. In addition, having a Seiko watch with non-original parts is not something to worry about because its value does not lower in the same way as the value of a Swiss brand watch would.

From among the Seiko watch lines, the Seiko Presage collection stands out: its timepieces, with animated dials that are moved mechanically, were launched outside the Japanese market just a few years ago. In addition, Seiko has also started investing in the hi-tech watch sector, so as to offer products that can compete with smartwatches and still keep the fascination and elegance of a traditional product intact.
From when it was launched, for example, the Seiko Astron GPS has always been controlled directly by a GPS signal that makes it the most precise watch in the world without any rival; it is also made using materials that stand up well to breaks or accidental knocks.

Seiko, Grand Seiko and Credor: different sides of the same coin

Seiko is a wide-ranging brand that has launched, among other things, even less famous brands. It has specialised in a specific sector so as to expand its line of solutions and adapt to each niche, no matter whether the watch market, watch enthusiasts or passionate watch collectors.
The Grand Seiko collection, for example, is an advanced luxury brand and one of the most refined made by this producer. The company manufactures about 35,000 watches every year, but its core business is in Asia. This is why the cost of every timepiece from this line remains unchanged, and even if used it is not difficult to find deals that can enrich your collection: they are niche products that only a few specialists and enthusiasts can identify, like the Grand Seiko GMT for example.
Credor, instead, is a Seiko sub-brand. It was formed for creating only watches made from precious materials like gold, platinum and silver. They are priceless timepieces, with often only a limited series being made, and only spread among very wealthy people. Among the most famous and particular Credo pieces are the Credor Eichi II, or the Tourbillon Fugaku: the latter costs 8 million Yen and was only reproduced 8 times at the factory.