The story of Seiko began in 1881, when a 21 year old entrepreneur, Kintaro Hattori, opened a shop selling and repairing watches and clocks in central Tokyo.
Today, after more than 130 years of innovation, Kintaro Hattori’s company is still dedicated to the perfection that the founder always strove to achieve.
On the following pages you can explore Seiko’s long history and see many of our landmark watches.
1881 – 1959
Kintaro Hattori opens a shop selling and repairing watches and clocks in Ginza, Tokyo.
The story of Seiko began in 1881, when a 21 year old entrepreneur, Kintaro Hattori, opened a shop selling and repairing watches and clocks in central Tokyo. Just eleven years later, in 1892, he established the 'Seikosha' factory.
Seikosha was founded; started producing wall clocks.
In 1892 Kintaro Hattori bought a disused factory in Tokyo and Seikosha was formed (In Japanese, "Seiko" means "exquisite", "minute" or "success" and "sha" means house). It was here that Kintaro Hattori produced his first clocks and these marked the beginnings of a company that was to become one of the world's most important manufacturers of timepieces.
Seikosha builds the first pocket watch.
Throughout the 1890's, the success of Seikosha's wall clock business increased, and Kintaro looked to broaden the range of his business. In 1895, he created a pocket watch, the Timekeeper. It was a vital step forward, without which the future of Seiko would have been very different as it paved the way for Japan's first ever wrist watch.
The Laurel, the first wristwatch made in Japan, makes its debut.
In the beginning of the Taisho Era, pocket watches were still very popular and there were only a few wristwatches imported to Japan. Kintaro, however, was determined to be 'one step ahead' and embarked on the arduous task of creating Japan's first ever wristwatch. In 1913, he succeeded and the Laurel was produced. In the early days, the company was able to produce only 30 to 50 watches a day, but, for the first time, Kintaro had established a lead on the rest.
The first Seiko brand watch was produced.
In 1923, the Great Kanto Earthquake struck and the company's headquarters and the Seikosha factory all burned down. A fresh start had to be made. Just after the Earthquake, the company had created a new watch and it went on sale in December 1924.
It was the first to carry the name Seiko, introducing to the world for the first time the brand name that was later to become synonymous with precision and accuracy, innovation and refinement.
Seiko pocket watch is appointed as Japan National Railway's official "Railway Watch".
1929. As its railway network expanded, Japan National Railways appointed Seiko as its official supplier. Train drivers often made wooden cut-outs on their consoles where the approved pocket watch would sit in line of sight as they drove their trains.
Constructed The Wako Clock Tower, the familiar face of Ginza.
The current clock tower was constructed in 1932. The building adopts a style called neo-renaissance.
Started to use "Diashock", a shock-resistance device.
Diashock is a shock-resistance device. When a watch is subject to shock, as when it is dropped on a hard floor, the component most likely to be damaged is the balance-staff pivot, which is the balance wheel’s rotation axis. Even compared to other movement parts, this part is extremely thin, being only between 0.07 to 0.08mm in diameter, or about the same as a human hair.
Protection from shock is therefore crucial and the Seiko solution was to create Diashock, a device that absorbs impact on one of the most vulnerable parts of the mechanical watch, the balance-staff pivot. Diashock also reduces friction to ensure optimum amplitude of the balance wheel.
This is the first self-winding watch equipped with Seiko's proprietary “magic lever" system. The magic lever is an innovative self-winding mechanism that uses the simple “claw lever system” efficiently to transmit the power of the oscillating weight in both directions.
Magic levers are still used in SEIKO's self-winding watches on the market today. This low-cost mechanism with excellent winding quality instantly dominated the world market, pioneering the popularization of self-winding watches.
1960 – 1979
Seiko's signature piece, the Grand Seiko is first launched.
In 1960, the first Grand Seiko model was produced. High in the mountains in Nagano prefecture in central Japan. A small team of Seiko's most experienced and skilled watchmakers were entrusted with the task of making the very best watch of which they were capable. Grand Seiko was to represent the pinnacle of Seiko's excellence in mechanical watchmaking and to deliver more accuracy, legibility and durability than any other watch.
Seiko serves as Official Timer of the18th Olympiad, Tokyo, and provides 1,278 timing devices.
The day the Tokyo Olympic games opened, Seiko was ready with 1,278 timing devices, all purpose built for the task. The stopwatches created for athletics were tested by Mr. Paulen, later President of the IAAF.
Thanks to a new heart-shaped cam on the balance, a new level of accuracy had been achieved. Seiko had passed the test with flying colors.
After and hour of testing, two stopwatches registered less than 1/10 second of difference.
Introduced Japan's first wristwatch equipped with a stopwatch.
Japan’s first wristwatch equipped with a stopwatch, introduced in 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympic Games. Its smooth operation and durability were ensured by a column wheel.
Produced the first Japanese Diver's watch
The first Japan-made diver's watch, waterproof to a depth of 150 meters. The winding crown was designed with a double packing structure to withstand high water pressure. Designated for use by the 8th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition.
Neuchatel Observatory Competition and Geneva Observatory
In 1967, Daini Seikosha sent to Neuchatel calibre 45 movements that were being used in the Grand Seiko and King Seiko lines, and these were subsequently marketed as special pieces that ha passed the tests for "specially calibrated timepieces".
They were known as the Observatory Chronometers and these VFA Seiko watches took second and third places in the chronometer competition.
This was the last year of the Neuchatel cmpetition held under the old rules. Seiko then entered the Geneva Observatory competitions and at the very first attempt achieved a fantastic result.
Seiko's entries were awarded every place from fourth to tenth, which was the best result achieved by any manufacturer of mechanical wristwatches. Seiko achieved first place overall.
Introduction of cal. 6139, the world’s first automatic chronograph watch equipped with both vertical clutch and column wheel.
As the world's first automatic chronograph with a 'magic lever', column wheel and vertical clutch, this may have been the world's first such timepiece, and it was a milestone in Seiko's journey toward pre-eminence in chronograph technology.