The Finest Japanese Watch Manufacturers
From cameras to automobiles, the West has typically appeared to the Land of the Rising Solar for innovation. And Japan’s mammoth watchmaking trade isn’t any exception. Heck, even the Japanese whisky trade is at the moment trumping the Scots at their very own recreation.
Whereas Swiss watchmaking has constructed its identify on heritage, expertise honed over generations and jaw-dropping aesthetics above all else, Japanese watch manufacturers give attention to life-enhancing expertise and performance greater than lavish design.
The nation has given us the likes of the mighty G-Shock, with its suite of refined options and indestructible circumstances, and extra just lately Japanese model Citizen introduced satellite tv for pc expertise to the desk. No extra checking your smartphone when your airplane lands and fiddling along with your watch to set the time – simply press a single button and it does all of it for you.
And let’s not neglect the introduction of quartz watches. One in all watchmaking’s largest financial upheavals, quartz took maintain within the Seventies and Eighties, and the quickly rising international demand for affordable, mass-produced Japanese quartz watches practically rendered Swiss mechanical watches redundant.
Since nearly going the best way of the dinosaurs, the horological outdated guard has wised up, recognizing their Japanese counterparts’ relentless innovation. Seiko and its Japanese brethren now rub shoulders with high Swiss watch names annually on the Baselworld watch honest, and way back to 2009, the mighty TAG Heuer was even compelled to confess it had based mostly one among its actions – the Calibre 1887 – on a Seiko one, albeit in closely modified type.
The Swiss might lay declare to classical watchmaking however Japan has lengthy been the trade’s different superpower. Right here, we check out 4 key Japanese watch manufacturers, and the timepieces that put them on the map.
Based: Tokyo, 1881
Value vary: £80-£40,000+
Recognized for: Made the primary quartz watch; unbelievable worth mechanicals; Swiss-beating Grand Seiko sub-brand
The unique Japanese watch model, Seiko began life as a jewellery store in Tokyo’s Ginza district in 1881. The identify Seikosha, although – roughly “home of beautiful workmanship” in Japanese – got here 11 years later earlier than finally being abbreviated to Seiko in 1924.
A nationwide pioneer, Seiko produced Japan’s first ever diver’s watch, the 6217, in 1965, shortly gaining a reputation for itself in water-ready wristwear. Roger Moore’s 007 strapped on a number of Seiko divers for his aquatic missions and extra just lately, the Seiko SKX007 has grow to be a cult favourite for watch nerds who like a discount.
Its most essential milestone got here in 1969 with the discharge of the Astron mannequin, the world’s first commercially accessible quartz watch. Priced the identical as a Toyota Corolla, the Astron modified the face of watchmaking with its new battery-driven, super-accurate motion.
Nonetheless a serious participant within the international watch recreation, Seiko hasn’t rested on its laurels since its early wins. The model’s top-of-the-range, ultra-luxurious Grand Seiko fashions are giving Swiss watchmakers a run for his or her cash.
Outfitted with award-winning in-house actions, Grand Seiko watches are amongst probably the most correct mechanical timepieces on the earth, whereas their circumstances come gleaming from Seiko’s time-honoured zaratsu approach – a extremely expert methodology of sharpening which entails making use of a rotating tin plate to the case at a exact angle. Switzerland, watch your again.
Based: Tokyo, 1946
Value vary: £20-£800
Recognized for: Multi-function digital watches; worth for cash
Youngster of the Eighties? You then’ll most likely bear in mind Casio from utilizing its calculator watches to cheat in maths assessments. Or maybe you’re extra conversant in the G-Shock, the hulking Godzilla of a watch designed by worker Kikuo Ibe (now a revered firm ambassador who excursions the world selling the G-Shock line) to have 10-meter dropping shock resistance, 10-bar water resistance and a 10-year battery life.
G-Shocks, which are available a staggering array of designs from scorching pink to camo, can now be discovered on the wrists of outlandishly dressed Japanese youngsters, particular ops troopers and the best-dressed males in hip-hop, whereas Casio’s extra conservative Edifice line – which boasts a wealth of tech together with Bluetooth sync, sensible crown entry and world-time adjustment – appeals to the fits.
In 2014, the corporate launched the primary hybrid time-keeping system, which makes use of each International Positioning System (GPS) and Casio’s Multi Band 6 expertise to permit a G-Shock to obtain radio indicators for persistently exact timekeeping.
At Casio’s factories, employees are taught the significance of monozukuri, which interprets as craftsmanship and spirit, so – even though its merchandise are constructed by robots on a conveyor belt, reasonably than by the regular hand of an artisan watchmaker in a distant Swiss hamlet – Casio continues to be severe concerning the work that it does.
Based: Tokyo, 1918
Value vary: £100-£2,000
Recognized for: Trade-leading tech together with Atomic Timekeeping and Eco-Drive
Rolling out reasonably priced watches for nearly a century, Citizen has made gigantic strides in quartz expertise since its basis in 1930. The model’s celebrated Eco-Drive vary consists of watches that use pure or synthetic mild (absorbed by the dial) to energy a battery that may by no means want changing. And like Casio, it’s additionally launched its personal satellite-syncing watches (the Satellite tv for pc Wave assortment) – promising accuracy on the contact of a button irrespective of the place you’ve simply touched down.
Citizen’s principal draw, although, is its broad spectrum of value factors. Starting from round £100 to £2000, the model affords extra fashions than you may shake a stick at. Whether or not you need an automated chronograph, solar-powered army timepiece in khaki tones or a fuss-free costume watch, Citizen has you coated.
At 2018’s Baselworld watch honest Citizen launched the Eco-Drive One, the world’s thinnest light-powered watch with a motion simply 1mm thick. As elegant as any costume watch you’ll discover, it proved the Japanese model might be simply as modern as Seiko or Casio, and at a value level that’ll nonetheless undercut the Swiss.
Based: Tokyo, 1950
Value vary: £30 – £2,000
Recognized for: Basic design; attention-grabbing mechanical actions; the occasional homage
At a mere 66 years outdated, Seiko Group subsidiary Orient is the infant of the ‘Huge 4’ Japanese watch firms. Which is considerably stunning since – seemingly reluctant to compete with Casio and Citizen for high-tech bragging rights – its focus is mechanical watches as an alternative of quartz ones, whereas its output consists largely of timepieces which are variations on its traditional types, reasonably than a military’s value of kitted-out choices.
The model’s elegantly unfussy costume watches have the fifties really feel, whereas its diving fashions – match with brightly coloured dials and metal bracelets – supply a extra statement-making tackle timeless fashion.