"Always one step ahead of the rest."
Always one step ahead of the rest. At the age of just 21, Kintaro Hattori opened a clock repair store in central Tokyo. Within a few years, his business had grown and changed into a vibrant manufacturing concern that led the way in Japan and was soon to become internationally renowned. This rapid growth from such humble beginnings was brought about by Kintaro’s energy and skill but, most of all, by his vision that his company and its products should be “Always one step ahead of the rest.” Today, Seiko is run by a great grandson of Kintaro, whose vision guides the company still.
From repair to manufacturingKin.
taro Hattori set up in business in 1881 in the Ginza area of Tokyo. While he started as a repairer of clocks, his sights were set much higher and his dream was to become Japan’s leading timepiece manufacturer. In 1892, he opened his factory, calling it Seiko-sha, the “house of precision” and so began a journey that led from the assembly of large clocks to the manufacture of his first wall clock and pocket watch in 1895, and first alarm clock in 1899. All along the way, Kintaro gained expertise, trained engineers, invested in automation and developed the in-house manufacturing expertise that he knew he needed to have in order to be “one step ahead of the rest.
Kintaro’s business grew rapidly as the Japanese market expanded throughout the Meiji era and he continued to invest in new equipments, facilities, people and skills. As a result, Kintaro was able to produce the Laurel, the first wrist watch ever to have been made in Japan. More importantly, it contained many components made in-house, including the main spring, the hands and the dial. Year by year, Kintaro’s dream of self-sufficient, in-house watchmaking was being realised.The company’s progress came to a tragic and sudden halt when the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 destroyed both the offices and the Seikosha factory. Around 1,500 watches and clocks were destroyed in fire that followed the quake and, as soon as Kintaro had set up in new, temporary offices, he published an advertisement promising a replacement to all whose timepieces had been lost. It was an act of open generosity that endeared the company to the public and was long remembered. Remarkably, less than a year after disaster had struck, Kintaro produced a new watch, using a prototype that had miraculously survived the fire that had followed the quake. Perhaps sensing that this completely new watch represented a fresh start for his company, he gave it the name Seiko, the very first time that this name had been used. Seiko and precision were henceforth synonymous.
Kintaro’s business recovered quickly and, by 1932, the company’s offices were moved to a new building in the Ginza area of Tokyo. This building and its clock tower are still Tokyo landmarks today. After Kintaro’s death in 1934, the management of the company passed to his son and the business continued to grow, with new production facilities opening across Japan. By the early 1960’s, Seiko’s mechanical wristwatches were winning every chronometer competition in Japan and the company looked overseas for new challenges. The Geneva Observatory graciously accepted Seiko’s entries in to its competitions and, by 1968, Seiko had won the overall prize by a margin greater than that of any watchmaker in history. Thanks to the vision of Kintaro and the perseverance and skill of the team he had created, Seiko now took its place at the top table of world watchmaking. In the continuous drive for ever greater precision in timekeeping, Seiko had been developing quartz-based time devices since the 1950’s. A crucial breakthrough was a clock made for broadcasters used in 1958. However, formidable challenges still stood in the way of Seiko’s attempts to make a viable quartz wristwatch. It required significant advances in electrical, electronic and micro-engineering technologies and a further six years, but, on December 25, 1969, Seiko marketed the world’s first quartz watch. The Quartz Astron set a new industry standard and, when Seiko opened its patents to the world, nearly every other manufacturer adopted the systems that Seiko had pioneered. Ever since, and because of its world-leading expertise in both traditional and electronic watchmaking, Seiko has been able to bring a continuous stream of innovative, useful and durable watches to the world, including the remarkable Kinetic and Spring Drive technologies in 1988 and 1999 respectively. Most recently, in 2012, Seiko Astron further extended the limits of what a fully autonomous watch can do by delivering GPS connectivity, using just the power of light. Kintaro would have been very proud.
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