From Tradition to Innovation: The Facts About Seiko Watches

Written by: Maz P
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Seiko Watches

Seiko watches are renowned for their precision, innovation, and quality. Introducing technologies such as the quartz movement and kinetic energy, the brand’s commitment to excellence is showcased in its diverse range of timepieces. From classic dress watches to rugged dive watches, Seiko has a reputation for reliability and accuracy that has earned it a loyal following worldwide. Thanks to the brand’s perfect blend of traditional craftsmanship and cutting-edge technology, Seiko continues to push the boundaries of watchmaking. The history and heritage of this Japanese brand is iconic and a story that transcends generations.  Below we’ve compiled our list of fascinating facts about Seiko.

The Birth of Japanese Watchmaking

The company was founded in 1881 as a watchmaker and store which sold imported watches. Thanks to the rarity of the timepieces the store was selling, it became extremely popular and began developing clocks and pocket watches. The brand then produced Japan’s first wristwatch in 1913 marking the beginning of its legacy in watchmaking. Japan’s first wristwatch, the Laurel, was developed by Seiko and represented a departure from traditional pocket watches and showcased Japan’s ability to produce high-quality timepieces.

The Seiko Name

When the company was founded in 1881, the shop was named K. Hattori after the owner Kintaro Hattori. When he began to design clocks in 1892, they were produced under the name Seikosha which roughly translates to ‘house of exquisite workmanship’. The trademark was later changed to just ‘Seiko’ in 1924 and has been a household name ever since. The word seiko in Japanese means exquisite and is also pronounced the same as the word for success. This name is a true reflection of the brand’s heritage and quality.

Seiko Watches

The World’s First Quartz Watch – Seiko Astron

In 1969, Seiko introduced game-changing technology to the watch world. The Seiko Quartz Astron was the first quartz watch ever developed and changed the horological landscape forever. This groundbreaking timepiece revolutionized the watch industry with its unrivaled precision and accuracy. The Seiko Astron featured a technology that far surpassed the mechanical movements of traditional watches. It used quartz crystal oscillators to regulate timekeeping and its introduction marked a huge shift in watchmaking. Seiko’s quartz watches quickly gained popularity for their reliability and affordability. Its impact on the watch industry led to the quartz crisis in the 1970s. Traditional watchmakers struggled to compete with the mass-produced quartz watches flooding the market and the Swiss watch industry was particularly threatened. Ultimately, this technology paved the way for a new era of timekeeping technology.

An Evolution in Dive Watches

Seiko also changed the dive industry with the introduction of the world’s first titanium diver’s watches and chronograph divers. The brand received a letter from a Japanese diver detailing the stresses put on a watch when diving up to 350 meters. Seiko immediately got to work and after seven years of research, introduced the Professional Diver’s 600m. This timepiece was the world’s first diving watch with a titanium case and set a new industry standard. A further seven years later, the brand introduced the combination of analog and digital technology with its chronograph drivers. The Seiko Tuna watch on the market today is a re-interpretation of this very first chronograph diver and is a first favorite with diving communities. It also has a place in pop culture as Arnold Schwarzenegger sported it in the movie ‘Commando’. Then in 1990, it was the world’s first computerized divers watch that hit the market. Named the Scubamaster, it featured a dive table and depth meter functions, providing vital information to divers.

First GPS Solar Watch

In 2021, Seiko introduced another timepiece that was incredibly important to horological history. The Seiko Astron GPS Solar was the very first GPS solar watch, providing completely precise time that was unmatched. By receiving GPS signals, it could identify any time zone and accurately reflect the time. It recognized all 39 time zones and was a breakthrough in the watch industry. It launched a new era of timekeeping technology in the same way the Seiko Astron did with the quartz introduction in 1969.

The Grand Seiko

Introduced in 1960, the Grand Seiko watch represents Seiko’s watchmaking excellence with a touch of luxury. Each Grand Seiko timepiece is meticulously hand-assembled and adjusted by skilled artisans, reflecting the brand’s commitment to quality and attention to detail. Grand Seiko offers a diverse range of models including the iconic Snowflake which features a unique textured dial inspired by the snow-covered landscapes of Japan’s Shinshu region. Grand Seiko has developed a reputation as one of the world’s finest luxury watch brands thanks to its timeless elegance and exceptional craftsmanship.

Seiko Technologies

Other World’s First Technologies

The brand is one that is constantly pushing boundaries and its Japanese influence is constantly combining other technologies with timepieces. In 1981, they introduced the world’s first TV watch, complete with a tuner and headphone jack, allowing wearers to watch television wherever they are. The following year, Seiko introduced the world’s first ‘voice note’ watch capable of voice recordings. Then in 1984, it was the first watch released with computer functions. It was the first of its kind and could store telephone numbers, addresses and a diary for up to one month. There were many other developments over the next two decades but the most notable was the world’s first e-ink watch, a watch that won the Grand Prix de Geneve.

The Seiko Kinetic Movement

The Seiko Kinetic movement revolutionized the world of watchmaking by combining the accuracy of quartz technology with the charm of mechanical watchmaking. This movement harnesses the kinetic energy generated by the wearer’s movements to power the watch, eliminating the need for battery changes while offering precise timekeeping. The Seiko Kinetic movement offers an alternative to traditional quartz and mechanical watches with the convenience of battery-free operation and the appeal of a smooth precision. By seamlessly blending the best of both worlds, Seiko created a movement that is reliable, accurate and honors the heritage of mechanical horology.

The Seiko Spring Drive Movement

Introduced in 1999, the Seiko Spring Drive movement was a fusion of mechanical and quartz technologies. This movement blended traditional craftsmanship and cutting-edge quartz innovation to make timepieces that showcase the best of both watch types. Unlike traditional mechanical movements, the Spring Drive uses a quartz oscillator for precision timekeeping, resulting in unparalleled accuracy. However, what truly sets the Spring Drive apart is its smooth sweeping seconds hand, a feature typically associated with mechanical movements. This seamless motion is achieved through the use of a unique electromagnetic braking system which regulates the speed of the watch’s rotor. The Seiko Spring Drive has received praise for its exceptional accuracy, reliability and smooth operation. It has become a favorite with watch collectors and its introduction was a significant milestone in watchmaking technology.

PGA Tokyo Olympics

Although Omega has been the official timekeeper of the Olympic Games since 1932, when Tokyo held the games in 1964, Seiko was ready. For that year alone, it was the official timekeeper of the games, a true honor for the brand. The brand was not well-versed in sports timekeeping devices and only had three years to develop the technology. Seiko provided 1,278 timekeeping devices for the competitions and its exposure throughout the games helped it to become a global brand. With sales growing globally, Seiko had the finances to support the development of the world’s first quartz watch. While Seiko achieved great success due to its collaboration with the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, the brand did not gain a role of the official timekeeper when the Olympics returned to Tokyo in 2020.

The World Pro Ski Tour

In 2021, Seiko became the official timekeeper of the World Pro Ski Tour. Seiko has a rich history in the world of skiing and the Seiko Prospex is the perfect timepiece for skiers specifically for athletes. Short for ‘professional specifications,’ Prospex is a line of high-performance sports watches designed for adventurers and explorers. Launched in 1965, Prospex watches are crafted to meet the demands of extreme environments making them ideal for the slopes. Seiko technology is also used for timekeeping the Ski World Cup events due to its accuracy and reliability.

Sustainability

The Seiko Watch Corporation has made significant efforts to promote sustainability and responsible watchmaking practices, implementing various initiatives aimed at reducing its environmental footprint and supporting sustainable development. The brand prioritizes ethical sourcing for materials and frequently uses recycled materials. Seiko also actively supports conservation efforts including initiatives to protect marine ecosystems and reduce plastic pollution.

Facts About Seiko Watches FAQ

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AUTHOR

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I started WatchmakingTools to share my passion and knowledge with those already bitten by the watchmaking bug. I’ve often spent hours searching online for answers on a specific issue, and even though there is a wealth of information out there, it hasn’t always been very useful, hence why I wanted to share my own findings.

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