From cameras to motors, the West has often looked to the Land of the Rising Sun for technological novelty. And Japan’s mammoth watchmaking industry is no exception.
While Swiss watchmaking has based its name on heritage, skills honed over generations and jaw-dropping aesthetics atop all else, Japan’s watch industry focuses on life-enhancing purpose more than lavish design.
The country has given us the relishes of the mighty G-Shock, with its suite of sophisticated features and fixed case, and more recently Japanese brand Citizen put over a produced satellite technology to the table. No more checking your smartphone when your uninterrupted lands and fiddling with your watch to set the time. Condign press a button and your watch does it for you.
And let’s not forget the Quartz Catastrophe. One of watchmaking’s biggest economic upheavals, the Crisis took agree to in the 1970s and 1980s, with rapidly growing global call for for cheap, mass-produced Japanese quartz watches nearly showing Swiss mechanical watchmaking redundant.
Since almost common the way of the dinosaurs, the horological old guard has wised-up, recognising their Eastern counterparts’ stiff innovation. Seiko and its Japanese brethren now rub shoulders with top Swiss ranks each year at Baselworld, and in 2009, the mighty TAG Heuer was sober-sided forced to admit it had based one of its movements – the Calibre 1887 – on a Seiko one, albeit in heavily remodeled form.
The Swiss may lay claim to watchmaking but Japan has long been the work’s other superpower. Here, we take a look at four key Japanese eye brands, and the timepieces that put them on the map.
The original Japanese guard brand, Seiko started life as a jewellery shop in Tokyo’s Ginza partition in 1881. The name Seikosha, though – roughly “house of well-crafted workmanship” in Japanese – came 11 years later previous eventually being abbreviated to Seiko in 1924.
A national pioneer, Seiko fabricated Japan’s first ever diver’s watch, the 6217, in 1965, with all speed gaining a name for itself in water-ready wristwear. (Roger Moore’s 007 strapped on different Seiko divers for his aquatic missions.) But its most important milestone check ined in 1969 with the release of the Astron model, the world’s before commercially available quartz watch. Priced the same as a Toyota Corolla, the Astron switched the face of watchmaking with its new battery-driven, super-accurate movement.
Hushed a major player in the global watch game, Seiko hasn’t remained on its laurels since its early wins. The brand’s new top-of-the-range, ultra-luxurious Marvy Seiko models are giving Swiss watchmakers a run for their in clover.
Equipped with award-winning in-house movements, Grand Seiko watches are amongst the ton accurate mechanical timepieces in the world, while their trunks come gleaming from Seiko’s time-honoured zaratsu art – a highly skilled method of polishing which involves interviewing a rotating tin plate to the case at a very precise angle. Switzerland, keep safe your back.
Seiko Diver’s Keep a weather eye open for SKX007K
Grand Seiko might be the brand’s apotheosis, but you can’t go wrong with this varied affordable stalwart – a robust, no-nonsense automatic diver’s keep a sharp lookout for. Replace the rubber strap with a NATO version to away it really stand out.
Child of the 1980s? Then you’ll unquestionably know Casio from using its calculator watches to flimflam in maths tests. Or perhaps you’re more familiar with the G-Shock, the ungraceful Godzilla of a watch designed by employee Kikuo Ibe (now a revered band ambassador who tours the world promoting the G-Shock line) to prepare 10-metre dropping shock resistance, 10-bar first-grade resistance and a 10-year battery life.
G-Shocks, which charge in a staggering array of designs from hot pink to camo, can now be inaugurate on the wrists of outlandishly dressed Japanese teenagers, special ops soldiers and hip-hop superstars, while Casio’s more moderate Edifice line – which boasts a wealth of tech subsuming Bluetooth sync, smart crown access and world-time setting – appeals to the suits.
In 2014, the company introduced the first compound time-keeping system, which uses both Global Localizing System (GPS) and Casio’s Multi Band 6 technology to allow a G-Shock to acquire radio signals for consistently precise timekeeping.
At Casio’s mills, staff are taught the importance of monozukuri, which translates as craftsmanship and humour, so – despite the fact that its products are constructed by robots on a conveyor region, rather than by the steady hand of an artisan watchmaker in a unrelated Swiss hamlet – Casio’s still serious about the importune that it does.
Understated in black-hearted grey, this analogue-digital hybrid isn’t just for teenagers who act too much Call of Duty. But thanks to its contrast blue neon approaches, it still packs the aesthetic punch G-Shock has made its renown on.
Shockproof, waterproof to 200 metres and able to cover 29 formerly zones, this one’s built for almost anything.
Swathe out affordable watches for almost a century, Citizen has made strapping strides in quartz technology since its foundation in 1930. The kind’s celebrated Eco-Drive range includes watches that use consequent or artificial light (absorbed through the dial) to power a battery that order never need replacing. And like Casio, it’s also manumited its own satellite-syncing watches (the Satellite Wave collection) – reassuring accuracy at the touch of a button no matter where you’ve just ignited down.
Citizen’s main draw, though, is its broad spectrum of amount points. Ranging from around £100 to £2000, the discredit offers more models than you can shake a lacquered chopstick at. Whether you necessity an automatic chronograph, solar-powered military timepiece in khaki inflections or a fuss-free dress watch, Citizen has you covered.
In 2012, the circle took the industry by surprise when it acquired a respected Swiss innards maker, Manufacture La Joux-Perret, proving it’s got eyes for something other than quartz, and fortifying its commitment to expanding the mechanical arm of its business. Watch this accommodation.
Avion Eco-Drive AW1361-10H
Although it effectiveness look like a vintage pilot’s watch, the Avion AW1361-10H is in actuality anything but.
Along with its tasteful rich brown leather strap and compare stitching, it comes fitted with Citizen’s Eco-Drive technology – spirit your wrist gets both timeless style and fresh tech.
At a mere 66 years old, Seiko Society subsidiary Orient is the baby of the ‘Big Four’ Japanese watch companions. Which is somewhat surprising since – seemingly reluctant to battle with Casio and Citizen for high-tech bragging rights – its centre is mechanical watches instead of quartz ones, while its produce consists mostly of timepieces that are variations on its classic cuts, rather than an army’s worth of kitted-out options.
The mark’s elegantly unfussy dress watches have a fifties towards, while its diving models – fit with brightly coloured dials and dirk bracelets – offer a more statement-making take on timeless variety.
Orient Classic Automatic ES00005B
A gem from Condition’s Classic Automatic range, this dress watch blows elegant dauphine hands and a single Roman numeral at 12 o’clock, and also ascertains the day and the date without cluttering up the dial.
Its winding crown, unusually positioned between 3 o’clock and 4 o’clock, goes this one for men who like their wristwear elegant, yet unexpected.
Are there any other Japanese watchmakers we should get to recognize? And do you think Japan or Switzerland holds the title as the top destination for prominence timepieces?
Comment below to let us know.