Seiko Holdings Corporation, commonly known as Seiko, is a Japanese maker of watches, clocks, electronic devices, semiconductors, jewelries, and optical products. Founded in 1881, it is known for introducing the world's first quartz watch as well as the world's first quartz watch with a chronograph complication.
Seiko produces watches with quartz, kinetic, solar, and mechanical movements of varying prices, ranging from around ¥4,000 (US$45) to ¥50,000,000 (US$554,000). To separate the customer groups, Seiko has created many different brands in Japan and the international market including Lorus, Pulsar, and Alba. Seiko has several lines such as the Seiko 5, luxury "Credor", "Prospex", "Presage", "Velatura" and the "Grand Seiko" series.
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Seiko’s history began in 1881, when its founder Kintarō Hattori opened a watch and jewelry shop called "K. Hattori" (服部時計店, Hattori Tokeiten) in Tokyo, Japan.
Kintarō Hattori had been working as clockmaker apprentice since the age of 13, with multiple stints in different watch shops, such as “Kobayashi Clock Shop”, ran by an expert technician named Seijiro Sakurai, “Kameda Clock Shop” in Nihonbashi, as well as “Sakata Clock Shop” in Ueno, where he learned how to both sell and repair timepieces.
In 1881, a new age of Japan-made clocks and watches was dawning. Pioneers in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya were studying and producing pocket watches based on Western products. Japanese wholesalers needed to purchase all the imported timepieces from foreign trading companies established in Yokohama, Kobe, and other open port areas.
In 1885, Mr. Hattori began dealing directly with these foreign trading firms in the Yokohama settlement focused on the wholesaling and retailing of western (imported) timepieces and machinery.
Over the years, Kintarō Hattori developed a close partnership with multiple foreign trading firms, including the likes of C&J Favre-Brandt, F. Perregaux & Co., Zanuti & Cie. and Siber & Brennwald, allowing him to obtain exclusive imported timepieces and machinery which was not available to anyone else at that time.
Mr. Hattori’s shop became increasingly popular due to the rarity of the imported watches the shop was selling, items that couldn’t be found anywhere else in Japan. This growing success allowed him to relocate the company to the main street of Ginza (Tokyo), still the epicenter of commerce in Japan to this day.
The amount of support from his customers encouraged Mr Hattori to pursue the next step, which was becoming a manufacturer himself, an endeavor he would pursue shortly after by purchasing a factory in Tokyo and renaming it ‘Seikosha’ (精工舍).
In 1891, 10 years after the establishment of K. Hattori & Co., the 31-year-old Kintaro was asked to take up two important positions in industry, one as a director of the Tokyo Clockmaker and Watchmaker Association and one as a member of Tokyo Chamber of Commerce.
Eight years later, in 1895, the successful watch dealer purchased the whole corner of Ginza 4-chome (the present-day location of WAKO], constructed a building with a clock tower (16 meters from top to bottom), setting up shop at the new address.
In 1892, Mr. Hattori began to produce clocks under the name Seikosha (精工舎, Seikōsha), meaning roughly, "House of Exquisite Workmanship". According to Seiko's official company history, titled A Journey In Time: The Remarkable Story of Seiko (2003), Seiko is a Japanese word meaning "exquisite" (精巧, Seikō), "success" (成功, Seikō), or "sexual intercourse" (性交, Seikō).
In order to avoid an ill omen, believed to be associated with the word "GLORY" in Japanese, Seikosha changed its trade mark to "SEIKO" in 1924.