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The Hidden History of Swiss Watchmaking’s Biggest Rivals

There’s a reason you don’t hear the term “Asian watchmaking” often: watchmaking in the East, though powerful, is most easily grouped into Japanese, Chinese, and other country-focused categories. Studying these markets together is like lumping together British, Swiss, and German watchmaking — they have different histories, different priorities, and different meanings to the modern watch collector.

Yet there’s value in exploring the wide scene of watchmaking in Asia, if only because it’s understudied and under-appreciated. So let’s ask the question: what could we mean when we talk about these separate groups and their meaning to global watchmaking and watch ownership?

China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are important production hubs — not just for low-end, mass-produced pieces, but for many parts that go into watches made by worldwide microbrands and, yes, your “Swiss-made” beauty, since that label means that only 60% of each timepiece must have been produced in Switzerland. Hong Kong, for instance, was second only to Switzerland for watch exports by value in 2017. China, its industry at different times hobbled and intensified by intense government control, leads exports based on number of units, and exported 688 million completed watches worldwide between 2013 and 2017.

Asian countries are not just producing watches — they’re buying them at historic rates. Both China and Hong Kong are monsters of the luxury watch market share. Together, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, Asian countries accounted for 40% of the total Swiss luxury watches purchased worldwide in 2017 — more than $8 billion. With that sort of purchasing power, you better believe that the whims and taste of Asian buyers drive the market for the rest of us.

And then, of course, there’s the story of the East’s most iconic brands themselves. These center around Japan, whose history and modern prominence form the most important narrative for Western watch collectors. In the 1890s, Japanese watchmakers began building pocket watches with lever escapements; by the end of the Meiji era, in 1912, according to the Japan Clock & Watch Association, 20 factories turned out 3.8 million timepieces a year. Practically all Japanese watchmaking industry was destroyed during WWII, but in the 1950s and ‘60s, Japan determined it would become the “Switzerland of the East.”

Production during the Korean War boomed in the 1950s, and by the 1960s and ‘70s, technological innovation and quality had made Japanese watchmaking famous worldwide. There might have been a “Quartz Crisis” in Europe, but not so in Japan, where the new technology drove innovation of all kinds (a small wonder, since the Japanese invented the quartz watch). Today, Japanese makers are some of the largest manufacturers of mechanical movements and of completed watches, and shipped some 65 million timepieces in 2017.

Though there are much deeper histories of these watchmaking feats, burgeoning markets, and industrial powerhouses, the best way to study such a wide swath of watchmaking is to look at the watches themselves. This is truly what differentiates Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian watchmaking from the Germans, the British, the Swiss, and the Americans. Asian brands have strived, and in many cases succeeded, to match quality from these markets; they’ve become some of the largest manufacturers of watches, and mechanical movements, in the entire world; they’ve shaken the watch world to its very core with a technological revolution, and steered the way we think about our favorite kinds of watches, from divers to dress watches.

Here’s a quick primer on the brands you should know, and the watches that matter.

Some Background

China’s Long Road to Diversification: China began making watches in 1955. Designs were strictly based on Swiss pieces, but eventually, some original design and watchmaking occurred in the 1960s. Then, in the 1970s, the Chinese government forced all watchmaking, most of it focused in eight large factories, to begin work on a single, standardized movement called the Tongji that was meant to be affordable and accurate. In the 1980s and 90s, production changed and many factories closed because of the increase in quartz watches and the introduction of foreign-backed watchmaking companies in the Special Economic Zones. Today, nine large factories still exist and make their own movements for luxury mechanical watches, including Tianjin Seagull, which makes an affordable chronograph movement; smaller makers that import movements and serve the “affordable” market; and a few legendary individual watchmakers, too.

Hong Kong’s Luxury Market Share: If you’ve watched Crazy Rich Asians, you know Hong Kong is a crucible of immense wealth. The Swiss luxury industry, after planting seeds in the market in the 2010s, is reaping what it has sown today to the tune of $2.8 billion a year. (The U.S., by the way, bought just over $2 billion in high-end Swiss watches in 2018.)

Japan’s Movement Dominance: During a visit to the Seiko Instruments factory in 2015, Jason Heaton heard a distinct hum — the sound of a manufacturing line that turns out incredible numbers of quartz movements a day, all sold to third parties. This kind of manufacturing prowess stretches to Seiko’s and Grand Seiko’s mechanical watch movements, and to the mechanical movements made by Seiko’s competitor, Miyota. Together, the two produce a stunning number of movements per year, made possible by some of the most perfect vertical integration in the world. Turn over a mechanical watch not made by a big Swiss brand that costs over $150, and it’s likely you’ll see either Seiko or Miyota printed on the case back.

Large Companies

Seiko

Kintaro Hattori

Japan’s most iconic brand started its journey some 138 years ago, when Kintaro Hattori opened a small watch shop in Tokyo. It’s led Japanese watchmaking ever since, making Japan’s first wristwatch, its first chronograph and its first dive watch. And worldwide, Seiko has made some of the biggest marks on watchmaking of any company. It innovated quartz with one of the first quartz watches, the first six-digit LCD display quartz and the first analog quartz chronograph. It is a dominant force in movement making.

Though the company doesn’t publicly share production numbers, Seiko movements — both mechanical and quartz — drive a huge number of watches worldwide. For over fifty years, Seiko has made a steel sports watch that’s one of the most beloved affordable timepieces ever. There’s a lot of beauty to be captured at Seiko, but its most important and iconic watches all intersect at unique design, affordable prices, and bulletproof build quality.

Learn More: Here

Seiko 5

The first Seiko 5, released in 1963, ushered in a handful of exciting new innovations: a tougher mainspring, a shock resistant design, and solid water resistance. Still, even Seiko’s biggest fans could never have imagined the impact the Seiko 5 would have on watch fandom worldwide. The Seiko 5 was eventually expanded into hundreds of different watches, tied together by the specifications that comprised that “5” name: Diaflex mainspring, Diashock anti-shock system, automatic winding, day/date indication, and water resistance. (There is some debate over which specs constitute the 5—read more about that here.)

The steel watches with basic, bulletproof mechanical movements have remained popular because they can be bought for less than $200 today, and often for significantly less. Untold numbers of people who now obsess over Rolexes and Audemars Piguets started out watch collecting with a Seiko 5. Not that anyone ever really moves on from loving them.

Learn More: Here

Quartz-Astron 35SQ

Though the watchmaking world had toyed with non-mechanical watches prior to 1969, it was Seiko’s Astron that made quartz technology available to consumers. The watch had a gold case, sold for around $1,250 (at the time, the price of a small car), and, by using its quartz oscillator to turn a tiny stepping motor, was accurate to plus or minus one minute a year with a battery life of a full year.

The watch’s impact went far beyond the hundred or so watches it sold in its first week. Quartz, already more accurate than mechanical timekeeping, quickly became more affordable, too, precipitating what’s been called both a “Quartz Crisis” and a “Quartz Revolution” in watchmaking. The rest turned out mostly OK for mechanical watchmaking, and, of course, for quartz; today, Seiko continues to make loads of both, and watches like the Seiko Astron GPS Solar Chronograph continue the 35SQ’s legacy of innovation and utility.

Learn More: Here

SKX007 Dive Watch

The first Japanese dive watch might’ve been the reference 62MAS, first made in 1965, but Seiko’s made a number of iconic divers since then, like the Professional Diver’s 600m, affectionately called the “Tuna Can” for its chubby, encased appearance. Today, the brand’s most ubiquitous diver is the SKX007, which has the genetics of its forebears but a price that rivals the accessibility of the Seiko 5. The SKX007 was first produced in 1996, and it continues to be, as Jack Forster over at Hodinkee wrote about it in a brilliant essay, “the single best value at any price point” for a watch that qualifies as a dive watch under the ISO 6425 criteria.

The SKX007 encapsulates everything that’s beautiful about Seiko’s beautiful dive watches: a tank-like case, thick bezel, dial that’s infinitely clear and singular in style, unstoppable movement. Oh, and a price tag (around $200) that lets just about anybody afford it. Unfortunately, Seiko has recently stopped production of the SKX007, but so many were produced that finding a new one isn’t yet a problem.

Learn More: Here

Credor Eichi II

The Eichi I, when it was released in 2008, represented an entirely different approach to watchmaking than Seiko’s other watches: its platinum case, enamel dial and hand-painted markers looked not like something out of the perfectionist grand watchmaker’s high-tech studio, but like a single, perfect piece that was clearly hand-made by an artisan, probably cloistered atop a lonely mountain. The Eichi II makes the first watch’s minimalism even more austere. Inside is the hand-wound Spring Drive movement, which is both mechanical and quartz, powered by a “glide wheel” that’s unique even among hybrid movements. The highest-end Seiko-produced line of watches that you can buy.

Learn More: Here

Seiko Modders

The low cost, ubiquity, and modularity of Seiko timepieces has done more than just sell a lot of watches or build a large following. Over the years, tinkerers around the world, falling short of the training and toolset needed for full-on watchmaking, have become what we now call “Seiko modders.” The idea can be simple: take a Seiko watch, pull it apart, and swap in a different dial, maybe some hands from a different watch, to customize its look. Modders have explored these design refurbishments and thousands of others for years thanks to a good eye and an impressive Seiko part inventory.

Modding a Seiko can also be extremely heightened: hand-plane an extremely complicated dial, say, or custom-make your own bezels that can be popped on any Seiko diver. The world of Seiko modders is a wide one, but the biggest and most interesting names in modding complete watches and building custom parts for those modes include Yobokeis, Dagaz, Dave Murphy, and Damien Lau.

Learn More: Here

Orient

Founded in 1950, Orient found success in Japan and China focusing on mechanical watches throughout the 20th century. In 2009, it was bought by Seiko, and today continues making mostly mechanical watches, operating relatively freely from its parent company. Its designs and manufacturing are handled separately, and its movements are made in-house. Many of its watches feature a power reserve indicator or other complications, which in this case is done with remarkable affordability. Orient, like Seiko, is a wonderful value proposition, and an easy landing pad for Seiko fans who want a Japanese watch with a different look and appeal.

Learn More: Here

Orient Bambino

The Bambino has quickly become a darling of the affordable dress watch set, filling a notable gap among Japanese watches for a classically styled, handsome and elegant piece that cost less than $500. It’s available in a number of different iterations, including several different versions of the date-equipped three-hander, plus a version with a small seconds sub-dial and an “open heart” version with a slightly open-worked dial.

Learn More: Here

Orient Mako USA II

Orient’s flagship Mako was released in 2003 and has, just like the Bambino, become a dark horse hero of affordable Japanese watchmaking. As with the Seiko SKX007, it offers the right amount of dive watch features at an impulse-buy price. In 2014, the brand reached out to Reddit’s /r/watches subreddit looking for feedback. Among the requests: a sapphire crystal, a reworked bezel, and a bezel graced by a screaming bald eagle and an American flag. Orient used those requests (well, some of them) in its Mako USA and subsequent Mako USA II –both of which became cult classics (at least among reddit’s watch set).

Learn More: Here

Citizen/Miyota

Kamekichi Yakamazi

The early history of Citizen is actually one of a Swiss-Japanese partnership. The company was founded in 1930 by a group of Swiss and Japanese investors; it took over a Japanese factory founded in 1912 by Rodolphe Schmid, a Swiss. Citizen became a worldwide name after the second World War, but its impact on watchmaking worldwide really began in the 1970s and 1980s, when it made important innovations in electronic watches.

The other side of the Citizen coin is Miyota, one of the most ubiquitous mechanical movement makers in the world, which is a 65%-owned subsidiary of Citizen. Every year, Miyota makes 1.8 million watch movements, most of them affordable workhorses that find their way into not just Japanese watches, but watches produced worldwide. Together, these two names are a force of nature in both quartz and mechanical watchmaking.

Learn More: Here

Crystron Solar Cell

Citizen’s most famous feature is its EcoDrive movement, which uses light to keep a watch charged. That technology was pioneered in 1976 by the Crystron Solar Cell, a watch that had all the visual appeal of a rooftop solar panel but managed to extend its quartz-powered battery up to five years. Its four miniature solar wafers made it the first analog solar-powered watch and proved the Eco-Drive concept, paving the way for such hugely popular watches with the technology as the Promaster Diver, or, 40 years later, the EcoDrive One, the world’s thinnest solar powered watch, at just 2.98mm thick. (Visual solar wafers no longer included.)

Learn More: Here

Citizen X8 Titanium Chronometer

Photo: sweep-hand.org

As we’ve written before, titanium is an ultimate watch material: it’s lightweight, strong, and hypoallergenic. Citizen was the first to make a watch almost entirely out of the material (some 99.6%), using almost pure titanium for the case, bezel and crown — back when it was considered “space age” material. The X8 had an electro-mechanical chronometer movement, the Cosmotron 0820 — together with its swooping case shape, pale blue dial, and matte case material, it had visuals to make lucky wearers of the limited edition batch of 2,000 pieces feel like they were looking at a watch from the stars.

Learn More: Here

Miyota 9015

Miyota movements have been staples for small watch brands (often called “microbrands” or “boutique brands”) for many years now. In particular, watchmakers who aren’t making their own movements love Miyota’s 9015, which is thin, relatively expensive, and similar to the lauded Swiss-made ETA 2824-2. Compared to Seiko’s Nh45, it has a higher beat rate, which means it’s more accurate and its seconds hand sweeps more smoothly. When the price is right (such things fluctuate with demand), it’s a movement that nears Swiss quality, at roughly half the price.

Learn More: Here

Casio

The Four Kashio Brothers

The wonder of Casio is this: Before 1974, it solely dealt in computers, calculators, and a ring that allowed you to smoke a cigarette the whole way down. The quartz revolution diverted the river of watchmaking right into Casio’s waterwheel, if you will; the company began watchmaking with a bang in 1974, with a digital quartz watch called the Casiotron. Take a look at that Casiotron and you’ll see all the hallmarks that still make Casio great today: utilitarianism with style and brazenly embracing technology, rather than trying to make it fit in a classic package. No other watch company ran wild with technology this early on, from touchscreens to digital readouts to novel specific functions, like fitness trackers in the 1990s.

Learn More: Here

F91W

Want to know if a watch has been successful? Check to see if the original is still in production nearly thirty years later. The original F91W — 1/100th-second stopwatch, alarm, calendar, tiny metal pushbuttons and all –still is. You can buy one for $10. If you do, you’ll be wearing what’s been called “a modest masterpiece,” a little microcosm of everything that makes Casio great.

Learn More: Here

Casio Databank

Photo: watchshock.com

The calculator that put Casio on the map was the 14-A, which in 1957 was the world’s first all-electric compact calculator. But to watch nerds, there’s only one Casio calculator: the Databank. It was first released in 1984, after a number of other calculator watches, from Casio and others, had already been sold. But the Databank was special, in that it could store data, like phone numbers. It came to stand for the cool kind of nerd, like Marty McFly. Today, it and its progeny stand as icons of the fact that smart can be sexy.

Learn More: Here

G-Shock

The Casio name sparks a lot of conversations having to do with nerd culture. Rightly so. But it’s also worth noting that they’ve also made a number of watches favored by the coldest-blooded military types on the planet. That’s right: the Special Forces love Casio. But they’re not wearing calculator watches — they’re wearing G-Shocks. Casio designer Kikuo Ibe designed the first G Shock, the DW-5000C, in 1983, with the aim of creating a watch that could survive a 10-meter fall, had 10 bars of water resistance, and had 10 years of battery life.

Since then, G-Shocks have been made for all kinds of specialties involving toughness, most notably the Masters of G series, including the Frogman, Gulfman, Mudman, Riseman, and Rangeman. Those watches have clearly primed the pump for Casio’s successful smartwatches, like the Pro Trek, which incorporate connectivity, fitness tracking, and GPS navigation. And, in an odd twist, the decidedly utilitarian watches have also become street style icons, necessitating a whole range of whacky colorways and aesthetic spin-offs. This means that there’s a G-Shock for anyone, whether you wear it defusing mines underwater or to the next Jay-Z concert.

Learn More: Here

Small Companies

Grand Seiko

In 1960, Seiko handed a team of its master watchmakers a new assignment: Make a whole new sub-brand of watches with the same Seiko ethos, but at a higher level of excellence, and, of course, cost. In the almost sixty years since, Grand Seiko has maintained the kind of quality and excellence that makes it a favorite brand of watchmakers around the world. Today, every Grand Seiko is still touched only by master watchmakers as it’s made — their watches combine incredible finishing quality with a range of movements, including, interestingly, high-end quartz. Each movement meets a stricter accuracy requirement than the vaunted COSC standard.

Learn More: Here

Hi-Beat 36000 GMT

In 2014, this watch won the Petit Aiguille prize at the Grand Horlogerie de Geneve, an award given to the best watch of the year priced under around $8,000 — and stood out as the only non-European winner from that year (and any other). The Europeans are a pretty exclusive group, but the Hi-Beat 36000 GMT is just that good. Buyers know it too, which is why it’s one of Grand Seiko’s best sellers. It’s driven by the all-around beast 9S8X hi-beat movement; its name comes from the movement’s 36,000 vibrations per hour (which is quite high). Its finishing is pristine, and it’s available in a variety of versions.

Learn More: Here

9F Movement

The metaphorical hill that most horology nerds will die on is that mechanical watchmaking trumps quartz. It speaks to Grand Seiko’s abilities that it is perhaps the only brand to escape this non-starter. In an essay supporting the cost of Grand Seiko’s $2,300 Quartz SBGX061 watch, Hodinkee’s Jack Forster, ever the horological poet, argues that a Grand Seiko quartz is probably the most unique value proposition in all watchmaking (besides the SKX007, of course).

Indeed, the the process by which Grand Seiko has circumvents quartz’s pitfalls in its 9F movement constitutes watchmaking art. Grand Seiko grows its own quartz crystals; because temperature affects quartz’s timekeeping, the movement itself tests ambient temperature 540 times a day, and adjusts itself; there are loads of mechanical mechanisms within the movement, for controlling things like the date change and torque. The end result is a movement that loses or gains only ten seconds a year.

Learn More: Here

Tianjin Sea-Gull

The Tianjin WuYi watch factory was one of eight production facilities created by the Chinese government in 1958, and played a major role in Chinese watchmaking throughout the 20th century, in part thanks to it being granted an exemption from production of the Chinese government’s Chinese Standard Movement, the Tongji. It made one of China’s first noteworthy watches, the WuYi, based on Swiss designs, in the late 1950s. In the 1960s, with the Chinese army in need of a chronograph for its aviators, Tianjin was outfitted with tooling equipment purchased from the Swiss firm Venus, and eventually made the first Chinese chronograph, the ST3.

In 1966, it produced what was considered the first Chinese-designed and built wristwatch, the ST5, which was thin and dependable, and was prized for its bridges’ hand-engraved “seagull stripes. ” Later, during the chaos caused by the quartz crisis, the Tianjin factory was privatized, and since has been known as Tianjin Sea-Gull. Since then, it’s made a number of important movements, including a tourbillon, but its largest effect on the global watch market has been a huge number of ETA 2824 clones. Today, Tianjin Seagull’s most prominent watch is the 1963 chronograph, which uses an affordable chronograph movement and pays homage to the ST3.

Learn More: Here

Zelos

Zelos is a product of Kickstarter. But unlike other microbrands, it doesn’t just source its materials from Singapore — it’s also based there. Its founder, Elshan Tang, is a mechanical engineer who pairs a range of movement options from ETA and Seiko with divers made from unique case materials like bronze, carbon fiber, and Damascus steel. His Abyss 2 and Helmsman 2 are good examples of young and exciting watchmaking coming out of the East.

Learn More: Here

Kiu Tai Yu

China’s watchmaking industry has turned out several excellent watchmakers. Kiu Tai Yu is the most world-renowned. He was born in 1946 and, after a stint making watches in the state-run Suzhou factory, moved to Hong Kong and began designing and building his own, including China’s first ever tourbillon. His most famous watches, the “Mystery Tourbillons” of the 1990s, featured free-floating movements, without a cage or any visible means of support. These incredible watches earned him a place as an honorary member of the Academie Horlogere des Createurs Independants (Academy of Independent Creators in Watchmaking), which includes some of the best independent watchmakers in the world.

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The Hidden History of Swiss Watchmaking’s Biggest Rivals

There’s a reason you don’t hear the term “Asian watchmaking” often: watchmaking in the East, though powerful, is most easily grouped into Japanese, Chinese, and other country-focused categories. Studying these markets together is like lumping together British, Swiss, and German watchmaking — they have different histories, different priorities, and different meanings to the modern watch collector.

Yet there’s value in exploring the wide scene of watchmaking in Asia, if only because it’s understudied and under-appreciated. So let’s ask the question: what could we mean when we talk about these separate groups and their meaning to global watchmaking and watch ownership?

China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are important production hubs — not just for low-end, mass-produced pieces, but for many parts that go into watches made by worldwide microbrands and, yes, your “Swiss-made” beauty, since that label means that only 60% of each timepiece must have been produced in Switzerland. Hong Kong, for instance, was second only to Switzerland for watch exports by value in 2017. China, its industry at different times hobbled and intensified by intense government control, leads exports based on number of units, and exported 688 million completed watches worldwide between 2013 and 2017.

Asian countries are not just producing watches — they’re buying them at historic rates. Both China and Hong Kong are monsters of the luxury watch market share. Together, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, Asian countries accounted for 40% of the total Swiss luxury watches purchased worldwide in 2017 — more than $8 billion. With that sort of purchasing power, you better believe that the whims and taste of Asian buyers drive the market for the rest of us.

And then, of course, there’s the story of the East’s most iconic brands themselves. These center around Japan, whose history and modern prominence form the most important narrative for Western watch collectors. In the 1890s, Japanese watchmakers began building pocket watches with lever escapements; by the end of the Meiji era, in 1912, according to the Japan Clock & Watch Association, 20 factories turned out 3.8 million timepieces a year. Practically all Japanese watchmaking industry was destroyed during WWII, but in the 1950s and ‘60s, Japan determined it would become the “Switzerland of the East.”

Production during the Korean War boomed in the 1950s, and by the 1960s and ‘70s, technological innovation and quality had made Japanese watchmaking famous worldwide. There might have been a “Quartz Crisis” in Europe, but not so in Japan, where the new technology drove innovation of all kinds (a small wonder, since the Japanese invented the quartz watch). Today, Japanese makers are some of the largest manufacturers of mechanical movements and of completed watches, and shipped some 65 million timepieces in 2017.

Though there are much deeper histories of these watchmaking feats, burgeoning markets, and industrial powerhouses, the best way to study such a wide swath of watchmaking is to look at the watches themselves. This is truly what differentiates Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian watchmaking from the Germans, the British, the Swiss, and the Americans. Asian brands have strived, and in many cases succeeded, to match quality from these markets; they’ve become some of the largest manufacturers of watches, and mechanical movements, in the entire world; they’ve shaken the watch world to its very core with a technological revolution, and steered the way we think about our favorite kinds of watches, from divers to dress watches.

Here’s a quick primer on the brands you should know, and the watches that matter.

Some Background

China’s Long Road to Diversification: China began making watches in 1955. Designs were strictly based on Swiss pieces, but eventually, some original design and watchmaking occurred in the 1960s. Then, in the 1970s, the Chinese government forced all watchmaking, most of it focused in eight large factories, to begin work on a single, standardized movement called the Tongji that was meant to be affordable and accurate. In the 1980s and 90s, production changed and many factories closed because of the increase in quartz watches and the introduction of foreign-backed watchmaking companies in the Special Economic Zones. Today, nine large factories still exist and make their own movements for luxury mechanical watches, including Tianjin Seagull, which makes an affordable chronograph movement; smaller makers that import movements and serve the “affordable” market; and a few legendary individual watchmakers, too.

Hong Kong’s Luxury Market Share: If you’ve watched Crazy Rich Asians, you know Hong Kong is a crucible of immense wealth. The Swiss luxury industry, after planting seeds in the market in the 2010s, is reaping what it has sown today to the tune of $2.8 billion a year. (The U.S., by the way, bought just over $2 billion in high-end Swiss watches in 2018.)

Japan’s Movement Dominance: During a visit to the Seiko Instruments factory in 2015, Jason Heaton heard a distinct hum — the sound of a manufacturing line that turns out incredible numbers of quartz movements a day, all sold to third parties. This kind of manufacturing prowess stretches to Seiko’s and Grand Seiko’s mechanical watch movements, and to the mechanical movements made by Seiko’s competitor, Miyota. Together, the two produce a stunning number of movements per year, made possible by some of the most perfect vertical integration in the world. Turn over a mechanical watch not made by a big Swiss brand that costs over $150, and it’s likely you’ll see either Seiko or Miyota printed on the case back.

Large Companies

Seiko

Kintaro Hattori

Japan’s most iconic brand started its journey some 138 years ago, when Kintaro Hattori opened a small watch shop in Tokyo. It’s led Japanese watchmaking ever since, making Japan’s first wristwatch, its first chronograph and its first dive watch. And worldwide, Seiko has made some of the biggest marks on watchmaking of any company. It innovated quartz with one of the first quartz watches, the first six-digit LCD display quartz and the first analog quartz chronograph. It is a dominant force in movement making.

Though the company doesn’t publicly share production numbers, Seiko movements — both mechanical and quartz — drive a huge number of watches worldwide. For over fifty years, Seiko has made a steel sports watch that’s one of the most beloved affordable timepieces ever. There’s a lot of beauty to be captured at Seiko, but its most important and iconic watches all intersect at unique design, affordable prices, and bulletproof build quality.

Learn More: Here

Seiko 5

The first Seiko 5, released in 1963, ushered in a handful of exciting new innovations: a tougher mainspring, a shock resistant design, and solid water resistance. Still, even Seiko’s biggest fans could never have imagined the impact the Seiko 5 would have on watch fandom worldwide. The Seiko 5 was eventually expanded into hundreds of different watches, tied together by the specifications that comprised that “5” name: Diaflex mainspring, Diashock anti-shock system, automatic winding, day/date indication, and water resistance. (There is some debate over which specs constitute the 5—read more about that here.)

The steel watches with basic, bulletproof mechanical movements have remained popular because they can be bought for less than $200 today, and often for significantly less. Untold numbers of people who now obsess over Rolexes and Audemars Piguets started out watch collecting with a Seiko 5. Not that anyone ever really moves on from loving them.

Learn More: Here

Quartz-Astron 35SQ

Though the watchmaking world had toyed with non-mechanical watches prior to 1969, it was Seiko’s Astron that made quartz technology available to consumers. The watch had a gold case, sold for around $1,250 (at the time, the price of a small car), and, by using its quartz oscillator to turn a tiny stepping motor, was accurate to plus or minus one minute a year with a battery life of a full year.

The watch’s impact went far beyond the hundred or so watches it sold in its first week. Quartz, already more accurate than mechanical timekeeping, quickly became more affordable, too, precipitating what’s been called both a “Quartz Crisis” and a “Quartz Revolution” in watchmaking. The rest turned out mostly OK for mechanical watchmaking, and, of course, for quartz; today, Seiko continues to make loads of both, and watches like the Seiko Astron GPS Solar Chronograph continue the 35SQ’s legacy of innovation and utility.

Learn More: Here

SKX007 Dive Watch

The first Japanese dive watch might’ve been the reference 62MAS, first made in 1965, but Seiko’s made a number of iconic divers since then, like the Professional Diver’s 600m, affectionately called the “Tuna Can” for its chubby, encased appearance. Today, the brand’s most ubiquitous diver is the SKX007, which has the genetics of its forebears but a price that rivals the accessibility of the Seiko 5. The SKX007 was first produced in 1996, and it continues to be, as Jack Forster over at Hodinkee wrote about it in a brilliant essay, “the single best value at any price point” for a watch that qualifies as a dive watch under the ISO 6425 criteria.

The SKX007 encapsulates everything that’s beautiful about Seiko’s beautiful dive watches: a tank-like case, thick bezel, dial that’s infinitely clear and singular in style, unstoppable movement. Oh, and a price tag (around $200) that lets just about anybody afford it. Unfortunately, Seiko has recently stopped production of the SKX007, but so many were produced that finding a new one isn’t yet a problem.

Learn More: Here

Credor Eichi II

The Eichi I, when it was released in 2008, represented an entirely different approach to watchmaking than Seiko’s other watches: its platinum case, enamel dial and hand-painted markers looked not like something out of the perfectionist grand watchmaker’s high-tech studio, but like a single, perfect piece that was clearly hand-made by an artisan, probably cloistered atop a lonely mountain. The Eichi II makes the first watch’s minimalism even more austere. Inside is the hand-wound Spring Drive movement, which is both mechanical and quartz, powered by a “glide wheel” that’s unique even among hybrid movements. The highest-end Seiko-produced line of watches that you can buy.

Learn More: Here

Seiko Modders

The low cost, ubiquity, and modularity of Seiko timepieces has done more than just sell a lot of watches or build a large following. Over the years, tinkerers around the world, falling short of the training and toolset needed for full-on watchmaking, have become what we now call “Seiko modders.” The idea can be simple: take a Seiko watch, pull it apart, and swap in a different dial, maybe some hands from a different watch, to customize its look. Modders have explored these design refurbishments and thousands of others for years thanks to a good eye and an impressive Seiko part inventory.

Modding a Seiko can also be extremely heightened: hand-plane an extremely complicated dial, say, or custom-make your own bezels that can be popped on any Seiko diver. The world of Seiko modders is a wide one, but the biggest and most interesting names in modding complete watches and building custom parts for those modes include Yobokeis, Dagaz, Dave Murphy, and Damien Lau.

Learn More: Here

Orient

Founded in 1950, Orient found success in Japan and China focusing on mechanical watches throughout the 20th century. In 2009, it was bought by Seiko, and today continues making mostly mechanical watches, operating relatively freely from its parent company. Its designs and manufacturing are handled separately, and its movements are made in-house. Many of its watches feature a power reserve indicator or other complications, which in this case is done with remarkable affordability. Orient, like Seiko, is a wonderful value proposition, and an easy landing pad for Seiko fans who want a Japanese watch with a different look and appeal.

Learn More: Here

Orient Bambino

The Bambino has quickly become a darling of the affordable dress watch set, filling a notable gap among Japanese watches for a classically styled, handsome and elegant piece that cost less than $500. It’s available in a number of different iterations, including several different versions of the date-equipped three-hander, plus a version with a small seconds sub-dial and an “open heart” version with a slightly open-worked dial.

Learn More: Here

Orient Mako USA II

Orient’s flagship Mako was released in 2003 and has, just like the Bambino, become a dark horse hero of affordable Japanese watchmaking. As with the Seiko SKX007, it offers the right amount of dive watch features at an impulse-buy price. In 2014, the brand reached out to Reddit’s /r/watches subreddit looking for feedback. Among the requests: a sapphire crystal, a reworked bezel, and a bezel graced by a screaming bald eagle and an American flag. Orient used those requests (well, some of them) in its Mako USA and subsequent Mako USA II –both of which became cult classics (at least among reddit’s watch set).

Learn More: Here

Citizen/Miyota

Kamekichi Yakamazi

The early history of Citizen is actually one of a Swiss-Japanese partnership. The company was founded in 1930 by a group of Swiss and Japanese investors; it took over a Japanese factory founded in 1912 by Rodolphe Schmid, a Swiss. Citizen became a worldwide name after the second World War, but its impact on watchmaking worldwide really began in the 1970s and 1980s, when it made important innovations in electronic watches.

The other side of the Citizen coin is Miyota, one of the most ubiquitous mechanical movement makers in the world, which is a 65%-owned subsidiary of Citizen. Every year, Miyota makes 1.8 million watch movements, most of them affordable workhorses that find their way into not just Japanese watches, but watches produced worldwide. Together, these two names are a force of nature in both quartz and mechanical watchmaking.

Learn More: Here

Crystron Solar Cell

Citizen’s most famous feature is its EcoDrive movement, which uses light to keep a watch charged. That technology was pioneered in 1976 by the Crystron Solar Cell, a watch that had all the visual appeal of a rooftop solar panel but managed to extend its quartz-powered battery up to five years. Its four miniature solar wafers made it the first analog solar-powered watch and proved the Eco-Drive concept, paving the way for such hugely popular watches with the technology as the Promaster Diver, or, 40 years later, the EcoDrive One, the world’s thinnest solar powered watch, at just 2.98mm thick. (Visual solar wafers no longer included.)

Learn More: Here

Citizen X8 Titanium Chronometer

Photo: sweep-hand.org

As we’ve written before, titanium is an ultimate watch material: it’s lightweight, strong, and hypoallergenic. Citizen was the first to make a watch almost entirely out of the material (some 99.6%), using almost pure titanium for the case, bezel and crown — back when it was considered “space age” material. The X8 had an electro-mechanical chronometer movement, the Cosmotron 0820 — together with its swooping case shape, pale blue dial, and matte case material, it had visuals to make lucky wearers of the limited edition batch of 2,000 pieces feel like they were looking at a watch from the stars.

Learn More: Here

Miyota 9015

Miyota movements have been staples for small watch brands (often called “microbrands” or “boutique brands”) for many years now. In particular, watchmakers who aren’t making their own movements love Miyota’s 9015, which is thin, relatively expensive, and similar to the lauded Swiss-made ETA 2824-2. Compared to Seiko’s Nh45, it has a higher beat rate, which means it’s more accurate and its seconds hand sweeps more smoothly. When the price is right (such things fluctuate with demand), it’s a movement that nears Swiss quality, at roughly half the price.

Learn More: Here

Casio

The Four Kashio Brothers

The wonder of Casio is this: Before 1974, it solely dealt in computers, calculators, and a ring that allowed you to smoke a cigarette the whole way down. The quartz revolution diverted the river of watchmaking right into Casio’s waterwheel, if you will; the company began watchmaking with a bang in 1974, with a digital quartz watch called the Casiotron. Take a look at that Casiotron and you’ll see all the hallmarks that still make Casio great today: utilitarianism with style and brazenly embracing technology, rather than trying to make it fit in a classic package. No other watch company ran wild with technology this early on, from touchscreens to digital readouts to novel specific functions, like fitness trackers in the 1990s.

Learn More: Here

F91W

Want to know if a watch has been successful? Check to see if the original is still in production nearly thirty years later. The original F91W — 1/100th-second stopwatch, alarm, calendar, tiny metal pushbuttons and all –still is. You can buy one for $10. If you do, you’ll be wearing what’s been called “a modest masterpiece,” a little microcosm of everything that makes Casio great.

Learn More: Here

Casio Databank

Photo: watchshock.com

The calculator that put Casio on the map was the 14-A, which in 1957 was the world’s first all-electric compact calculator. But to watch nerds, there’s only one Casio calculator: the Databank. It was first released in 1984, after a number of other calculator watches, from Casio and others, had already been sold. But the Databank was special, in that it could store data, like phone numbers. It came to stand for the cool kind of nerd, like Marty McFly. Today, it and its progeny stand as icons of the fact that smart can be sexy.

Learn More: Here

G-Shock

The Casio name sparks a lot of conversations having to do with nerd culture. Rightly so. But it’s also worth noting that they’ve also made a number of watches favored by the coldest-blooded military types on the planet. That’s right: the Special Forces love Casio. But they’re not wearing calculator watches — they’re wearing G-Shocks. Casio designer Kikuo Ibe designed the first G Shock, the DW-5000C, in 1983, with the aim of creating a watch that could survive a 10-meter fall, had 10 bars of water resistance, and had 10 years of battery life.

Since then, G-Shocks have been made for all kinds of specialties involving toughness, most notably the Masters of G series, including the Frogman, Gulfman, Mudman, Riseman, and Rangeman. Those watches have clearly primed the pump for Casio’s successful smartwatches, like the Pro Trek, which incorporate connectivity, fitness tracking, and GPS navigation. And, in an odd twist, the decidedly utilitarian watches have also become street style icons, necessitating a whole range of whacky colorways and aesthetic spin-offs. This means that there’s a G-Shock for anyone, whether you wear it defusing mines underwater or to the next Jay-Z concert.

Learn More: Here

Small Companies

Grand Seiko

In 1960, Seiko handed a team of its master watchmakers a new assignment: Make a whole new sub-brand of watches with the same Seiko ethos, but at a higher level of excellence, and, of course, cost. In the almost sixty years since, Grand Seiko has maintained the kind of quality and excellence that makes it a favorite brand of watchmakers around the world. Today, every Grand Seiko is still touched only by master watchmakers as it’s made — their watches combine incredible finishing quality with a range of movements, including, interestingly, high-end quartz. Each movement meets a stricter accuracy requirement than the vaunted COSC standard.

Learn More: Here

Hi-Beat 36000 GMT

In 2014, this watch won the Petit Aiguille prize at the Grand Horlogerie de Geneve, an award given to the best watch of the year priced under around $8,000 — and stood out as the only non-European winner from that year (and any other). The Europeans are a pretty exclusive group, but the Hi-Beat 36000 GMT is just that good. Buyers know it too, which is why it’s one of Grand Seiko’s best sellers. It’s driven by the all-around beast 9S8X hi-beat movement; its name comes from the movement’s 36,000 vibrations per hour (which is quite high). Its finishing is pristine, and it’s available in a variety of versions.

Learn More: Here

9F Movement

The metaphorical hill that most horology nerds will die on is that mechanical watchmaking trumps quartz. It speaks to Grand Seiko’s abilities that it is perhaps the only brand to escape this non-starter. In an essay supporting the cost of Grand Seiko’s $2,300 Quartz SBGX061 watch, Hodinkee’s Jack Forster, ever the horological poet, argues that a Grand Seiko quartz is probably the most unique value proposition in all watchmaking (besides the SKX007, of course).

Indeed, the the process by which Grand Seiko has circumvents quartz’s pitfalls in its 9F movement constitutes watchmaking art. Grand Seiko grows its own quartz crystals; because temperature affects quartz’s timekeeping, the movement itself tests ambient temperature 540 times a day, and adjusts itself; there are loads of mechanical mechanisms within the movement, for controlling things like the date change and torque. The end result is a movement that loses or gains only ten seconds a year.

Learn More: Here

Tianjin Sea-Gull

The Tianjin WuYi watch factory was one of eight production facilities created by the Chinese government in 1958, and played a major role in Chinese watchmaking throughout the 20th century, in part thanks to it being granted an exemption from production of the Chinese government’s Chinese Standard Movement, the Tongji. It made one of China’s first noteworthy watches, the WuYi, based on Swiss designs, in the late 1950s. In the 1960s, with the Chinese army in need of a chronograph for its aviators, Tianjin was outfitted with tooling equipment purchased from the Swiss firm Venus, and eventually made the first Chinese chronograph, the ST3.

In 1966, it produced what was considered the first Chinese-designed and built wristwatch, the ST5, which was thin and dependable, and was prized for its bridges’ hand-engraved “seagull stripes. ” Later, during the chaos caused by the quartz crisis, the Tianjin factory was privatized, and since has been known as Tianjin Sea-Gull. Since then, it’s made a number of important movements, including a tourbillon, but its largest effect on the global watch market has been a huge number of ETA 2824 clones. Today, Tianjin Seagull’s most prominent watch is the 1963 chronograph, which uses an affordable chronograph movement and pays homage to the ST3.

Learn More: Here

Zelos

Zelos is a product of Kickstarter. But unlike other microbrands, it doesn’t just source its materials from Singapore — it’s also based there. Its founder, Elshan Tang, is a mechanical engineer who pairs a range of movement options from ETA and Seiko with divers made from unique case materials like bronze, carbon fiber, and Damascus steel. His Abyss 2 and Helmsman 2 are good examples of young and exciting watchmaking coming out of the East.

Learn More: Here

Kiu Tai Yu

China’s watchmaking industry has turned out several excellent watchmakers. Kiu Tai Yu is the most world-renowned. He was born in 1946 and, after a stint making watches in the state-run Suzhou factory, moved to Hong Kong and began designing and building his own, including China’s first ever tourbillon. His most famous watches, the “Mystery Tourbillons” of the 1990s, featured free-floating movements, without a cage or any visible means of support. These incredible watches earned him a place as an honorary member of the Academie Horlogere des Createurs Independants (Academy of Independent Creators in Watchmaking), which includes some of the best independent watchmakers in the world.

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The Hidden History of Swiss Watchmaking’s Biggest Rivals

There’s a reason you don’t hear the term “Asian watchmaking” often: watchmaking in the East, though powerful, is most easily grouped into Japanese, Chinese, and other country-focused categories. Studying these markets together is like lumping together British, Swiss, and German watchmaking — they have different histories, different priorities, and different meanings to the modern watch collector.

Yet there’s value in exploring the wide scene of watchmaking in Asia, if only because it’s understudied and under-appreciated. So let’s ask the question: what could we mean when we talk about these separate groups and their meaning to global watchmaking and watch ownership?

China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are important production hubs — not just for low-end, mass-produced pieces, but for many parts that go into watches made by worldwide microbrands and, yes, your “Swiss-made” beauty, since that label means that only 60% of each timepiece must have been produced in Switzerland. Hong Kong, for instance, was second only to Switzerland for watch exports by value in 2017. China, its industry at different times hobbled and intensified by intense government control, leads exports based on number of units, and exported 688 million completed watches worldwide between 2013 and 2017.

Asian countries are not just producing watches — they’re buying them at historic rates. Both China and Hong Kong are monsters of the luxury watch market share. Together, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, Asian countries accounted for 40% of the total Swiss luxury watches purchased worldwide in 2017 — more than $8 billion. With that sort of purchasing power, you better believe that the whims and taste of Asian buyers drive the market for the rest of us.

And then, of course, there’s the story of the East’s most iconic brands themselves. These center around Japan, whose history and modern prominence form the most important narrative for Western watch collectors. In the 1890s, Japanese watchmakers began building pocket watches with lever escapements; by the end of the Meiji era, in 1912, according to the Japan Clock & Watch Association, 20 factories turned out 3.8 million timepieces a year. Practically all Japanese watchmaking industry was destroyed during WWII, but in the 1950s and ‘60s, Japan determined it would become the “Switzerland of the East.”

Production during the Korean War boomed in the 1950s, and by the 1960s and ‘70s, technological innovation and quality had made Japanese watchmaking famous worldwide. There might have been a “Quartz Crisis” in Europe, but not so in Japan, where the new technology drove innovation of all kinds (a small wonder, since the Japanese invented the quartz watch). Today, Japanese makers are some of the largest manufacturers of mechanical movements and of completed watches, and shipped some 65 million timepieces in 2017.

Though there are much deeper histories of these watchmaking feats, burgeoning markets, and industrial powerhouses, the best way to study such a wide swath of watchmaking is to look at the watches themselves. This is truly what differentiates Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian watchmaking from the Germans, the British, the Swiss, and the Americans. Asian brands have strived, and in many cases succeeded, to match quality from these markets; they’ve become some of the largest manufacturers of watches, and mechanical movements, in the entire world; they’ve shaken the watch world to its very core with a technological revolution, and steered the way we think about our favorite kinds of watches, from divers to dress watches.

Here’s a quick primer on the brands you should know, and the watches that matter.

Some Background

China’s Long Road to Diversification: China began making watches in 1955. Designs were strictly based on Swiss pieces, but eventually, some original design and watchmaking occurred in the 1960s. Then, in the 1970s, the Chinese government forced all watchmaking, most of it focused in eight large factories, to begin work on a single, standardized movement called the Tongji that was meant to be affordable and accurate. In the 1980s and 90s, production changed and many factories closed because of the increase in quartz watches and the introduction of foreign-backed watchmaking companies in the Special Economic Zones. Today, nine large factories still exist and make their own movements for luxury mechanical watches, including Tianjin Seagull, which makes an affordable chronograph movement; smaller makers that import movements and serve the “affordable” market; and a few legendary individual watchmakers, too.

Hong Kong’s Luxury Market Share: If you’ve watched Crazy Rich Asians, you know Hong Kong is a crucible of immense wealth. The Swiss luxury industry, after planting seeds in the market in the 2010s, is reaping what it has sown today to the tune of $2.8 billion a year. (The U.S., by the way, bought just over $2 billion in high-end Swiss watches in 2018.)

Japan’s Movement Dominance: During a visit to the Seiko Instruments factory in 2015, Jason Heaton heard a distinct hum — the sound of a manufacturing line that turns out incredible numbers of quartz movements a day, all sold to third parties. This kind of manufacturing prowess stretches to Seiko’s and Grand Seiko’s mechanical watch movements, and to the mechanical movements made by Seiko’s competitor, Miyota. Together, the two produce a stunning number of movements per year, made possible by some of the most perfect vertical integration in the world. Turn over a mechanical watch not made by a big Swiss brand that costs over $150, and it’s likely you’ll see either Seiko or Miyota printed on the case back.

Large Companies

Seiko

Kintaro Hattori

Japan’s most iconic brand started its journey some 138 years ago, when Kintaro Hattori opened a small watch shop in Tokyo. It’s led Japanese watchmaking ever since, making Japan’s first wristwatch, its first chronograph and its first dive watch. And worldwide, Seiko has made some of the biggest marks on watchmaking of any company. It innovated quartz with one of the first quartz watches, the first six-digit LCD display quartz and the first analog quartz chronograph. It is a dominant force in movement making.

Though the company doesn’t publicly share production numbers, Seiko movements — both mechanical and quartz — drive a huge number of watches worldwide. For over fifty years, Seiko has made a steel sports watch that’s one of the most beloved affordable timepieces ever. There’s a lot of beauty to be captured at Seiko, but its most important and iconic watches all intersect at unique design, affordable prices, and bulletproof build quality.

Learn More: Here

Seiko 5

The first Seiko 5, released in 1963, ushered in a handful of exciting new innovations: a tougher mainspring, a shock resistant design, and solid water resistance. Still, even Seiko’s biggest fans could never have imagined the impact the Seiko 5 would have on watch fandom worldwide. The Seiko 5 was eventually expanded into hundreds of different watches, tied together by the specifications that comprised that “5” name: Diaflex mainspring, Diashock anti-shock system, automatic winding, day/date indication, and water resistance. (There is some debate over which specs constitute the 5—read more about that here.)

The steel watches with basic, bulletproof mechanical movements have remained popular because they can be bought for less than $200 today, and often for significantly less. Untold numbers of people who now obsess over Rolexes and Audemars Piguets started out watch collecting with a Seiko 5. Not that anyone ever really moves on from loving them.

Learn More: Here

Quartz-Astron 35SQ

Though the watchmaking world had toyed with non-mechanical watches prior to 1969, it was Seiko’s Astron that made quartz technology available to consumers. The watch had a gold case, sold for around $1,250 (at the time, the price of a small car), and, by using its quartz oscillator to turn a tiny stepping motor, was accurate to plus or minus one minute a year with a battery life of a full year.

The watch’s impact went far beyond the hundred or so watches it sold in its first week. Quartz, already more accurate than mechanical timekeeping, quickly became more affordable, too, precipitating what’s been called both a “Quartz Crisis” and a “Quartz Revolution” in watchmaking. The rest turned out mostly OK for mechanical watchmaking, and, of course, for quartz; today, Seiko continues to make loads of both, and watches like the Seiko Astron GPS Solar Chronograph continue the 35SQ’s legacy of innovation and utility.

Learn More: Here

SKX007 Dive Watch

The first Japanese dive watch might’ve been the reference 62MAS, first made in 1965, but Seiko’s made a number of iconic divers since then, like the Professional Diver’s 600m, affectionately called the “Tuna Can” for its chubby, encased appearance. Today, the brand’s most ubiquitous diver is the SKX007, which has the genetics of its forebears but a price that rivals the accessibility of the Seiko 5. The SKX007 was first produced in 1996, and it continues to be, as Jack Forster over at Hodinkee wrote about it in a brilliant essay, “the single best value at any price point” for a watch that qualifies as a dive watch under the ISO 6425 criteria.

The SKX007 encapsulates everything that’s beautiful about Seiko’s beautiful dive watches: a tank-like case, thick bezel, dial that’s infinitely clear and singular in style, unstoppable movement. Oh, and a price tag (around $200) that lets just about anybody afford it. Unfortunately, Seiko has recently stopped production of the SKX007, but so many were produced that finding a new one isn’t yet a problem.

Learn More: Here

Credor Eichi II

The Eichi I, when it was released in 2008, represented an entirely different approach to watchmaking than Seiko’s other watches: its platinum case, enamel dial and hand-painted markers looked not like something out of the perfectionist grand watchmaker’s high-tech studio, but like a single, perfect piece that was clearly hand-made by an artisan, probably cloistered atop a lonely mountain. The Eichi II makes the first watch’s minimalism even more austere. Inside is the hand-wound Spring Drive movement, which is both mechanical and quartz, powered by a “glide wheel” that’s unique even among hybrid movements. The highest-end Seiko-produced line of watches that you can buy.

Learn More: Here

Seiko Modders

The low cost, ubiquity, and modularity of Seiko timepieces has done more than just sell a lot of watches or build a large following. Over the years, tinkerers around the world, falling short of the training and toolset needed for full-on watchmaking, have become what we now call “Seiko modders.” The idea can be simple: take a Seiko watch, pull it apart, and swap in a different dial, maybe some hands from a different watch, to customize its look. Modders have explored these design refurbishments and thousands of others for years thanks to a good eye and an impressive Seiko part inventory.

Modding a Seiko can also be extremely heightened: hand-plane an extremely complicated dial, say, or custom-make your own bezels that can be popped on any Seiko diver. The world of Seiko modders is a wide one, but the biggest and most interesting names in modding complete watches and building custom parts for those modes include Yobokeis, Dagaz, Dave Murphy, and Damien Lau.

Learn More: Here

Orient

Founded in 1950, Orient found success in Japan and China focusing on mechanical watches throughout the 20th century. In 2009, it was bought by Seiko, and today continues making mostly mechanical watches, operating relatively freely from its parent company. Its designs and manufacturing are handled separately, and its movements are made in-house. Many of its watches feature a power reserve indicator or other complications, which in this case is done with remarkable affordability. Orient, like Seiko, is a wonderful value proposition, and an easy landing pad for Seiko fans who want a Japanese watch with a different look and appeal.

Learn More: Here

Orient Bambino

The Bambino has quickly become a darling of the affordable dress watch set, filling a notable gap among Japanese watches for a classically styled, handsome and elegant piece that cost less than $500. It’s available in a number of different iterations, including several different versions of the date-equipped three-hander, plus a version with a small seconds sub-dial and an “open heart” version with a slightly open-worked dial.

Learn More: Here

Orient Mako USA II

Orient’s flagship Mako was released in 2003 and has, just like the Bambino, become a dark horse hero of affordable Japanese watchmaking. As with the Seiko SKX007, it offers the right amount of dive watch features at an impulse-buy price. In 2014, the brand reached out to Reddit’s /r/watches subreddit looking for feedback. Among the requests: a sapphire crystal, a reworked bezel, and a bezel graced by a screaming bald eagle and an American flag. Orient used those requests (well, some of them) in its Mako USA and subsequent Mako USA II –both of which became cult classics (at least among reddit’s watch set).

Learn More: Here

Citizen/Miyota

Kamekichi Yakamazi

The early history of Citizen is actually one of a Swiss-Japanese partnership. The company was founded in 1930 by a group of Swiss and Japanese investors; it took over a Japanese factory founded in 1912 by Rodolphe Schmid, a Swiss. Citizen became a worldwide name after the second World War, but its impact on watchmaking worldwide really began in the 1970s and 1980s, when it made important innovations in electronic watches.

The other side of the Citizen coin is Miyota, one of the most ubiquitous mechanical movement makers in the world, which is a 65%-owned subsidiary of Citizen. Every year, Miyota makes 1.8 million watch movements, most of them affordable workhorses that find their way into not just Japanese watches, but watches produced worldwide. Together, these two names are a force of nature in both quartz and mechanical watchmaking.

Learn More: Here

Crystron Solar Cell

Citizen’s most famous feature is its EcoDrive movement, which uses light to keep a watch charged. That technology was pioneered in 1976 by the Crystron Solar Cell, a watch that had all the visual appeal of a rooftop solar panel but managed to extend its quartz-powered battery up to five years. Its four miniature solar wafers made it the first analog solar-powered watch and proved the Eco-Drive concept, paving the way for such hugely popular watches with the technology as the Promaster Diver, or, 40 years later, the EcoDrive One, the world’s thinnest solar powered watch, at just 2.98mm thick. (Visual solar wafers no longer included.)

Learn More: Here

Citizen X8 Titanium Chronometer

Photo: sweep-hand.org

As we’ve written before, titanium is an ultimate watch material: it’s lightweight, strong, and hypoallergenic. Citizen was the first to make a watch almost entirely out of the material (some 99.6%), using almost pure titanium for the case, bezel and crown — back when it was considered “space age” material. The X8 had an electro-mechanical chronometer movement, the Cosmotron 0820 — together with its swooping case shape, pale blue dial, and matte case material, it had visuals to make lucky wearers of the limited edition batch of 2,000 pieces feel like they were looking at a watch from the stars.

Learn More: Here

Miyota 9015

Miyota movements have been staples for small watch brands (often called “microbrands” or “boutique brands”) for many years now. In particular, watchmakers who aren’t making their own movements love Miyota’s 9015, which is thin, relatively expensive, and similar to the lauded Swiss-made ETA 2824-2. Compared to Seiko’s Nh45, it has a higher beat rate, which means it’s more accurate and its seconds hand sweeps more smoothly. When the price is right (such things fluctuate with demand), it’s a movement that nears Swiss quality, at roughly half the price.

Learn More: Here

Casio

The Four Kashio Brothers

The wonder of Casio is this: Before 1974, it solely dealt in computers, calculators, and a ring that allowed you to smoke a cigarette the whole way down. The quartz revolution diverted the river of watchmaking right into Casio’s waterwheel, if you will; the company began watchmaking with a bang in 1974, with a digital quartz watch called the Casiotron. Take a look at that Casiotron and you’ll see all the hallmarks that still make Casio great today: utilitarianism with style and brazenly embracing technology, rather than trying to make it fit in a classic package. No other watch company ran wild with technology this early on, from touchscreens to digital readouts to novel specific functions, like fitness trackers in the 1990s.

Learn More: Here

F91W

Want to know if a watch has been successful? Check to see if the original is still in production nearly thirty years later. The original F91W — 1/100th-second stopwatch, alarm, calendar, tiny metal pushbuttons and all –still is. You can buy one for $10. If you do, you’ll be wearing what’s been called “a modest masterpiece,” a little microcosm of everything that makes Casio great.

Learn More: Here

Casio Databank

Photo: watchshock.com

The calculator that put Casio on the map was the 14-A, which in 1957 was the world’s first all-electric compact calculator. But to watch nerds, there’s only one Casio calculator: the Databank. It was first released in 1984, after a number of other calculator watches, from Casio and others, had already been sold. But the Databank was special, in that it could store data, like phone numbers. It came to stand for the cool kind of nerd, like Marty McFly. Today, it and its progeny stand as icons of the fact that smart can be sexy.

Learn More: Here

G-Shock

The Casio name sparks a lot of conversations having to do with nerd culture. Rightly so. But it’s also worth noting that they’ve also made a number of watches favored by the coldest-blooded military types on the planet. That’s right: the Special Forces love Casio. But they’re not wearing calculator watches — they’re wearing G-Shocks. Casio designer Kikuo Ibe designed the first G Shock, the DW-5000C, in 1983, with the aim of creating a watch that could survive a 10-meter fall, had 10 bars of water resistance, and had 10 years of battery life.

Since then, G-Shocks have been made for all kinds of specialties involving toughness, most notably the Masters of G series, including the Frogman, Gulfman, Mudman, Riseman, and Rangeman. Those watches have clearly primed the pump for Casio’s successful smartwatches, like the Pro Trek, which incorporate connectivity, fitness tracking, and GPS navigation. And, in an odd twist, the decidedly utilitarian watches have also become street style icons, necessitating a whole range of whacky colorways and aesthetic spin-offs. This means that there’s a G-Shock for anyone, whether you wear it defusing mines underwater or to the next Jay-Z concert.

Learn More: Here

Small Companies

Grand Seiko

In 1960, Seiko handed a team of its master watchmakers a new assignment: Make a whole new sub-brand of watches with the same Seiko ethos, but at a higher level of excellence, and, of course, cost. In the almost sixty years since, Grand Seiko has maintained the kind of quality and excellence that makes it a favorite brand of watchmakers around the world. Today, every Grand Seiko is still touched only by master watchmakers as it’s made — their watches combine incredible finishing quality with a range of movements, including, interestingly, high-end quartz. Each movement meets a stricter accuracy requirement than the vaunted COSC standard.

Learn More: Here

Hi-Beat 36000 GMT

In 2014, this watch won the Petit Aiguille prize at the Grand Horlogerie de Geneve, an award given to the best watch of the year priced under around $8,000 — and stood out as the only non-European winner from that year (and any other). The Europeans are a pretty exclusive group, but the Hi-Beat 36000 GMT is just that good. Buyers know it too, which is why it’s one of Grand Seiko’s best sellers. It’s driven by the all-around beast 9S8X hi-beat movement; its name comes from the movement’s 36,000 vibrations per hour (which is quite high). Its finishing is pristine, and it’s available in a variety of versions.

Learn More: Here

9F Movement

The metaphorical hill that most horology nerds will die on is that mechanical watchmaking trumps quartz. It speaks to Grand Seiko’s abilities that it is perhaps the only brand to escape this non-starter. In an essay supporting the cost of Grand Seiko’s $2,300 Quartz SBGX061 watch, Hodinkee’s Jack Forster, ever the horological poet, argues that a Grand Seiko quartz is probably the most unique value proposition in all watchmaking (besides the SKX007, of course).

Indeed, the the process by which Grand Seiko has circumvents quartz’s pitfalls in its 9F movement constitutes watchmaking art. Grand Seiko grows its own quartz crystals; because temperature affects quartz’s timekeeping, the movement itself tests ambient temperature 540 times a day, and adjusts itself; there are loads of mechanical mechanisms within the movement, for controlling things like the date change and torque. The end result is a movement that loses or gains only ten seconds a year.

Learn More: Here

Tianjin Sea-Gull

The Tianjin WuYi watch factory was one of eight production facilities created by the Chinese government in 1958, and played a major role in Chinese watchmaking throughout the 20th century, in part thanks to it being granted an exemption from production of the Chinese government’s Chinese Standard Movement, the Tongji. It made one of China’s first noteworthy watches, the WuYi, based on Swiss designs, in the late 1950s. In the 1960s, with the Chinese army in need of a chronograph for its aviators, Tianjin was outfitted with tooling equipment purchased from the Swiss firm Venus, and eventually made the first Chinese chronograph, the ST3.

In 1966, it produced what was considered the first Chinese-designed and built wristwatch, the ST5, which was thin and dependable, and was prized for its bridges’ hand-engraved “seagull stripes. ” Later, during the chaos caused by the quartz crisis, the Tianjin factory was privatized, and since has been known as Tianjin Sea-Gull. Since then, it’s made a number of important movements, including a tourbillon, but its largest effect on the global watch market has been a huge number of ETA 2824 clones. Today, Tianjin Seagull’s most prominent watch is the 1963 chronograph, which uses an affordable chronograph movement and pays homage to the ST3.

Learn More: Here

Zelos

Zelos is a product of Kickstarter. But unlike other microbrands, it doesn’t just source its materials from Singapore — it’s also based there. Its founder, Elshan Tang, is a mechanical engineer who pairs a range of movement options from ETA and Seiko with divers made from unique case materials like bronze, carbon fiber, and Damascus steel. His Abyss 2 and Helmsman 2 are good examples of young and exciting watchmaking coming out of the East.

Learn More: Here

Kiu Tai Yu

China’s watchmaking industry has turned out several excellent watchmakers. Kiu Tai Yu is the most world-renowned. He was born in 1946 and, after a stint making watches in the state-run Suzhou factory, moved to Hong Kong and began designing and building his own, including China’s first ever tourbillon. His most famous watches, the “Mystery Tourbillons” of the 1990s, featured free-floating movements, without a cage or any visible means of support. These incredible watches earned him a place as an honorary member of the Academie Horlogere des Createurs Independants (Academy of Independent Creators in Watchmaking), which includes some of the best independent watchmakers in the world.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

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The Hidden History of Swiss Watchmaking’s Biggest Rivals

There’s a reason you don’t hear the term “Asian watchmaking” often: watchmaking in the East, though powerful, is most easily grouped into Japanese, Chinese, and other country-focused categories. Studying these markets together is like lumping together British, Swiss, and German watchmaking — they have different histories, different priorities, and different meanings to the modern watch collector.

Yet there’s value in exploring the wide scene of watchmaking in Asia, if only because it’s understudied and under-appreciated. So let’s ask the question: what could we mean when we talk about these separate groups and their meaning to global watchmaking and watch ownership?

China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are important production hubs — not just for low-end, mass-produced pieces, but for many parts that go into watches made by worldwide microbrands and, yes, your “Swiss-made” beauty, since that label means that only 60% of each timepiece must have been produced in Switzerland. Hong Kong, for instance, was second only to Switzerland for watch exports by value in 2017. China, its industry at different times hobbled and intensified by intense government control, leads exports based on number of units, and exported 688 million completed watches worldwide between 2013 and 2017.

Asian countries are not just producing watches — they’re buying them at historic rates. Both China and Hong Kong are monsters of the luxury watch market share. Together, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, Asian countries accounted for 40% of the total Swiss luxury watches purchased worldwide in 2017 — more than $8 billion. With that sort of purchasing power, you better believe that the whims and taste of Asian buyers drive the market for the rest of us.

And then, of course, there’s the story of the East’s most iconic brands themselves. These center around Japan, whose history and modern prominence form the most important narrative for Western watch collectors. In the 1890s, Japanese watchmakers began building pocket watches with lever escapements; by the end of the Meiji era, in 1912, according to the Japan Clock & Watch Association, 20 factories turned out 3.8 million timepieces a year. Practically all Japanese watchmaking industry was destroyed during WWII, but in the 1950s and ‘60s, Japan determined it would become the “Switzerland of the East.”

Production during the Korean War boomed in the 1950s, and by the 1960s and ‘70s, technological innovation and quality had made Japanese watchmaking famous worldwide. There might have been a “Quartz Crisis” in Europe, but not so in Japan, where the new technology drove innovation of all kinds (a small wonder, since the Japanese invented the quartz watch). Today, Japanese makers are some of the largest manufacturers of mechanical movements and of completed watches, and shipped some 65 million timepieces in 2017.

Though there are much deeper histories of these watchmaking feats, burgeoning markets, and industrial powerhouses, the best way to study such a wide swath of watchmaking is to look at the watches themselves. This is truly what differentiates Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian watchmaking from the Germans, the British, the Swiss, and the Americans. Asian brands have strived, and in many cases succeeded, to match quality from these markets; they’ve become some of the largest manufacturers of watches, and mechanical movements, in the entire world; they’ve shaken the watch world to its very core with a technological revolution, and steered the way we think about our favorite kinds of watches, from divers to dress watches.

Here’s a quick primer on the brands you should know, and the watches that matter.

Some Background

China’s Long Road to Diversification: China began making watches in 1955. Designs were strictly based on Swiss pieces, but eventually, some original design and watchmaking occurred in the 1960s. Then, in the 1970s, the Chinese government forced all watchmaking, most of it focused in eight large factories, to begin work on a single, standardized movement called the Tongji that was meant to be affordable and accurate. In the 1980s and 90s, production changed and many factories closed because of the increase in quartz watches and the introduction of foreign-backed watchmaking companies in the Special Economic Zones. Today, nine large factories still exist and make their own movements for luxury mechanical watches, including Tianjin Seagull, which makes an affordable chronograph movement; smaller makers that import movements and serve the “affordable” market; and a few legendary individual watchmakers, too.

Hong Kong’s Luxury Market Share: If you’ve watched Crazy Rich Asians, you know Hong Kong is a crucible of immense wealth. The Swiss luxury industry, after planting seeds in the market in the 2010s, is reaping what it has sown today to the tune of $2.8 billion a year. (The U.S., by the way, bought just over $2 billion in high-end Swiss watches in 2018.)

Japan’s Movement Dominance: During a visit to the Seiko Instruments factory in 2015, Jason Heaton heard a distinct hum — the sound of a manufacturing line that turns out incredible numbers of quartz movements a day, all sold to third parties. This kind of manufacturing prowess stretches to Seiko’s and Grand Seiko’s mechanical watch movements, and to the mechanical movements made by Seiko’s competitor, Miyota. Together, the two produce a stunning number of movements per year, made possible by some of the most perfect vertical integration in the world. Turn over a mechanical watch not made by a big Swiss brand that costs over $150, and it’s likely you’ll see either Seiko or Miyota printed on the case back.

Large Companies

Seiko

Kintaro Hattori

Japan’s most iconic brand started its journey some 138 years ago, when Kintaro Hattori opened a small watch shop in Tokyo. It’s led Japanese watchmaking ever since, making Japan’s first wristwatch, its first chronograph and its first dive watch. And worldwide, Seiko has made some of the biggest marks on watchmaking of any company. It innovated quartz with one of the first quartz watches, the first six-digit LCD display quartz and the first analog quartz chronograph. It is a dominant force in movement making.

Though the company doesn’t publicly share production numbers, Seiko movements — both mechanical and quartz — drive a huge number of watches worldwide. For over fifty years, Seiko has made a steel sports watch that’s one of the most beloved affordable timepieces ever. There’s a lot of beauty to be captured at Seiko, but its most important and iconic watches all intersect at unique design, affordable prices, and bulletproof build quality.

Learn More: Here

Seiko 5

The first Seiko 5, released in 1963, ushered in a handful of exciting new innovations: a tougher mainspring, a shock resistant design, and solid water resistance. Still, even Seiko’s biggest fans could never have imagined the impact the Seiko 5 would have on watch fandom worldwide. The Seiko 5 was eventually expanded into hundreds of different watches, tied together by the specifications that comprised that “5” name: Diaflex mainspring, Diashock anti-shock system, automatic winding, day/date indication, and water resistance. (There is some debate over which specs constitute the 5—read more about that here.)

The steel watches with basic, bulletproof mechanical movements have remained popular because they can be bought for less than $200 today, and often for significantly less. Untold numbers of people who now obsess over Rolexes and Audemars Piguets started out watch collecting with a Seiko 5. Not that anyone ever really moves on from loving them.

Learn More: Here

Quartz-Astron 35SQ

Though the watchmaking world had toyed with non-mechanical watches prior to 1969, it was Seiko’s Astron that made quartz technology available to consumers. The watch had a gold case, sold for around $1,250 (at the time, the price of a small car), and, by using its quartz oscillator to turn a tiny stepping motor, was accurate to plus or minus one minute a year with a battery life of a full year.

The watch’s impact went far beyond the hundred or so watches it sold in its first week. Quartz, already more accurate than mechanical timekeeping, quickly became more affordable, too, precipitating what’s been called both a “Quartz Crisis” and a “Quartz Revolution” in watchmaking. The rest turned out mostly OK for mechanical watchmaking, and, of course, for quartz; today, Seiko continues to make loads of both, and watches like the Seiko Astron GPS Solar Chronograph continue the 35SQ’s legacy of innovation and utility.

Learn More: Here

SKX007 Dive Watch

The first Japanese dive watch might’ve been the reference 62MAS, first made in 1965, but Seiko’s made a number of iconic divers since then, like the Professional Diver’s 600m, affectionately called the “Tuna Can” for its chubby, encased appearance. Today, the brand’s most ubiquitous diver is the SKX007, which has the genetics of its forebears but a price that rivals the accessibility of the Seiko 5. The SKX007 was first produced in 1996, and it continues to be, as Jack Forster over at Hodinkee wrote about it in a brilliant essay, “the single best value at any price point” for a watch that qualifies as a dive watch under the ISO 6425 criteria.

The SKX007 encapsulates everything that’s beautiful about Seiko’s beautiful dive watches: a tank-like case, thick bezel, dial that’s infinitely clear and singular in style, unstoppable movement. Oh, and a price tag (around $200) that lets just about anybody afford it. Unfortunately, Seiko has recently stopped production of the SKX007, but so many were produced that finding a new one isn’t yet a problem.

Learn More: Here

Credor Eichi II

The Eichi I, when it was released in 2008, represented an entirely different approach to watchmaking than Seiko’s other watches: its platinum case, enamel dial and hand-painted markers looked not like something out of the perfectionist grand watchmaker’s high-tech studio, but like a single, perfect piece that was clearly hand-made by an artisan, probably cloistered atop a lonely mountain. The Eichi II makes the first watch’s minimalism even more austere. Inside is the hand-wound Spring Drive movement, which is both mechanical and quartz, powered by a “glide wheel” that’s unique even among hybrid movements. The highest-end Seiko-produced line of watches that you can buy.

Learn More: Here

Seiko Modders

The low cost, ubiquity, and modularity of Seiko timepieces has done more than just sell a lot of watches or build a large following. Over the years, tinkerers around the world, falling short of the training and toolset needed for full-on watchmaking, have become what we now call “Seiko modders.” The idea can be simple: take a Seiko watch, pull it apart, and swap in a different dial, maybe some hands from a different watch, to customize its look. Modders have explored these design refurbishments and thousands of others for years thanks to a good eye and an impressive Seiko part inventory.

Modding a Seiko can also be extremely heightened: hand-plane an extremely complicated dial, say, or custom-make your own bezels that can be popped on any Seiko diver. The world of Seiko modders is a wide one, but the biggest and most interesting names in modding complete watches and building custom parts for those modes include Yobokeis, Dagaz, Dave Murphy, and Damien Lau.

Learn More: Here

Orient

Founded in 1950, Orient found success in Japan and China focusing on mechanical watches throughout the 20th century. In 2009, it was bought by Seiko, and today continues making mostly mechanical watches, operating relatively freely from its parent company. Its designs and manufacturing are handled separately, and its movements are made in-house. Many of its watches feature a power reserve indicator or other complications, which in this case is done with remarkable affordability. Orient, like Seiko, is a wonderful value proposition, and an easy landing pad for Seiko fans who want a Japanese watch with a different look and appeal.

Learn More: Here

Orient Bambino

The Bambino has quickly become a darling of the affordable dress watch set, filling a notable gap among Japanese watches for a classically styled, handsome and elegant piece that cost less than $500. It’s available in a number of different iterations, including several different versions of the date-equipped three-hander, plus a version with a small seconds sub-dial and an “open heart” version with a slightly open-worked dial.

Learn More: Here

Orient Mako USA II

Orient’s flagship Mako was released in 2003 and has, just like the Bambino, become a dark horse hero of affordable Japanese watchmaking. As with the Seiko SKX007, it offers the right amount of dive watch features at an impulse-buy price. In 2014, the brand reached out to Reddit’s /r/watches subreddit looking for feedback. Among the requests: a sapphire crystal, a reworked bezel, and a bezel graced by a screaming bald eagle and an American flag. Orient used those requests (well, some of them) in its Mako USA and subsequent Mako USA II –both of which became cult classics (at least among reddit’s watch set).

Learn More: Here

Citizen/Miyota

Kamekichi Yakamazi

The early history of Citizen is actually one of a Swiss-Japanese partnership. The company was founded in 1930 by a group of Swiss and Japanese investors; it took over a Japanese factory founded in 1912 by Rodolphe Schmid, a Swiss. Citizen became a worldwide name after the second World War, but its impact on watchmaking worldwide really began in the 1970s and 1980s, when it made important innovations in electronic watches.

The other side of the Citizen coin is Miyota, one of the most ubiquitous mechanical movement makers in the world, which is a 65%-owned subsidiary of Citizen. Every year, Miyota makes 1.8 million watch movements, most of them affordable workhorses that find their way into not just Japanese watches, but watches produced worldwide. Together, these two names are a force of nature in both quartz and mechanical watchmaking.

Learn More: Here

Crystron Solar Cell

Citizen’s most famous feature is its EcoDrive movement, which uses light to keep a watch charged. That technology was pioneered in 1976 by the Crystron Solar Cell, a watch that had all the visual appeal of a rooftop solar panel but managed to extend its quartz-powered battery up to five years. Its four miniature solar wafers made it the first analog solar-powered watch and proved the Eco-Drive concept, paving the way for such hugely popular watches with the technology as the Promaster Diver, or, 40 years later, the EcoDrive One, the world’s thinnest solar powered watch, at just 2.98mm thick. (Visual solar wafers no longer included.)

Learn More: Here

Citizen X8 Titanium Chronometer

Photo: sweep-hand.org

As we’ve written before, titanium is an ultimate watch material: it’s lightweight, strong, and hypoallergenic. Citizen was the first to make a watch almost entirely out of the material (some 99.6%), using almost pure titanium for the case, bezel and crown — back when it was considered “space age” material. The X8 had an electro-mechanical chronometer movement, the Cosmotron 0820 — together with its swooping case shape, pale blue dial, and matte case material, it had visuals to make lucky wearers of the limited edition batch of 2,000 pieces feel like they were looking at a watch from the stars.

Learn More: Here

Miyota 9015

Miyota movements have been staples for small watch brands (often called “microbrands” or “boutique brands”) for many years now. In particular, watchmakers who aren’t making their own movements love Miyota’s 9015, which is thin, relatively expensive, and similar to the lauded Swiss-made ETA 2824-2. Compared to Seiko’s Nh45, it has a higher beat rate, which means it’s more accurate and its seconds hand sweeps more smoothly. When the price is right (such things fluctuate with demand), it’s a movement that nears Swiss quality, at roughly half the price.

Learn More: Here

Casio

The Four Kashio Brothers

The wonder of Casio is this: Before 1974, it solely dealt in computers, calculators, and a ring that allowed you to smoke a cigarette the whole way down. The quartz revolution diverted the river of watchmaking right into Casio’s waterwheel, if you will; the company began watchmaking with a bang in 1974, with a digital quartz watch called the Casiotron. Take a look at that Casiotron and you’ll see all the hallmarks that still make Casio great today: utilitarianism with style and brazenly embracing technology, rather than trying to make it fit in a classic package. No other watch company ran wild with technology this early on, from touchscreens to digital readouts to novel specific functions, like fitness trackers in the 1990s.

Learn More: Here

F91W

Want to know if a watch has been successful? Check to see if the original is still in production nearly thirty years later. The original F91W — 1/100th-second stopwatch, alarm, calendar, tiny metal pushbuttons and all –still is. You can buy one for $10. If you do, you’ll be wearing what’s been called “a modest masterpiece,” a little microcosm of everything that makes Casio great.

Learn More: Here

Casio Databank

Photo: watchshock.com

The calculator that put Casio on the map was the 14-A, which in 1957 was the world’s first all-electric compact calculator. But to watch nerds, there’s only one Casio calculator: the Databank. It was first released in 1984, after a number of other calculator watches, from Casio and others, had already been sold. But the Databank was special, in that it could store data, like phone numbers. It came to stand for the cool kind of nerd, like Marty McFly. Today, it and its progeny stand as icons of the fact that smart can be sexy.

Learn More: Here

G-Shock

The Casio name sparks a lot of conversations having to do with nerd culture. Rightly so. But it’s also worth noting that they’ve also made a number of watches favored by the coldest-blooded military types on the planet. That’s right: the Special Forces love Casio. But they’re not wearing calculator watches — they’re wearing G-Shocks. Casio designer Kikuo Ibe designed the first G Shock, the DW-5000C, in 1983, with the aim of creating a watch that could survive a 10-meter fall, had 10 bars of water resistance, and had 10 years of battery life.

Since then, G-Shocks have been made for all kinds of specialties involving toughness, most notably the Masters of G series, including the Frogman, Gulfman, Mudman, Riseman, and Rangeman. Those watches have clearly primed the pump for Casio’s successful smartwatches, like the Pro Trek, which incorporate connectivity, fitness tracking, and GPS navigation. And, in an odd twist, the decidedly utilitarian watches have also become street style icons, necessitating a whole range of whacky colorways and aesthetic spin-offs. This means that there’s a G-Shock for anyone, whether you wear it defusing mines underwater or to the next Jay-Z concert.

Learn More: Here

Small Companies

Grand Seiko

In 1960, Seiko handed a team of its master watchmakers a new assignment: Make a whole new sub-brand of watches with the same Seiko ethos, but at a higher level of excellence, and, of course, cost. In the almost sixty years since, Grand Seiko has maintained the kind of quality and excellence that makes it a favorite brand of watchmakers around the world. Today, every Grand Seiko is still touched only by master watchmakers as it’s made — their watches combine incredible finishing quality with a range of movements, including, interestingly, high-end quartz. Each movement meets a stricter accuracy requirement than the vaunted COSC standard.

Learn More: Here

Hi-Beat 36000 GMT

In 2014, this watch won the Petit Aiguille prize at the Grand Horlogerie de Geneve, an award given to the best watch of the year priced under around $8,000 — and stood out as the only non-European winner from that year (and any other). The Europeans are a pretty exclusive group, but the Hi-Beat 36000 GMT is just that good. Buyers know it too, which is why it’s one of Grand Seiko’s best sellers. It’s driven by the all-around beast 9S8X hi-beat movement; its name comes from the movement’s 36,000 vibrations per hour (which is quite high). Its finishing is pristine, and it’s available in a variety of versions.

Learn More: Here

9F Movement

The metaphorical hill that most horology nerds will die on is that mechanical watchmaking trumps quartz. It speaks to Grand Seiko’s abilities that it is perhaps the only brand to escape this non-starter. In an essay supporting the cost of Grand Seiko’s $2,300 Quartz SBGX061 watch, Hodinkee’s Jack Forster, ever the horological poet, argues that a Grand Seiko quartz is probably the most unique value proposition in all watchmaking (besides the SKX007, of course).

Indeed, the the process by which Grand Seiko has circumvents quartz’s pitfalls in its 9F movement constitutes watchmaking art. Grand Seiko grows its own quartz crystals; because temperature affects quartz’s timekeeping, the movement itself tests ambient temperature 540 times a day, and adjusts itself; there are loads of mechanical mechanisms within the movement, for controlling things like the date change and torque. The end result is a movement that loses or gains only ten seconds a year.

Learn More: Here

Tianjin Sea-Gull

The Tianjin WuYi watch factory was one of eight production facilities created by the Chinese government in 1958, and played a major role in Chinese watchmaking throughout the 20th century, in part thanks to it being granted an exemption from production of the Chinese government’s Chinese Standard Movement, the Tongji. It made one of China’s first noteworthy watches, the WuYi, based on Swiss designs, in the late 1950s. In the 1960s, with the Chinese army in need of a chronograph for its aviators, Tianjin was outfitted with tooling equipment purchased from the Swiss firm Venus, and eventually made the first Chinese chronograph, the ST3.

In 1966, it produced what was considered the first Chinese-designed and built wristwatch, the ST5, which was thin and dependable, and was prized for its bridges’ hand-engraved “seagull stripes. ” Later, during the chaos caused by the quartz crisis, the Tianjin factory was privatized, and since has been known as Tianjin Sea-Gull. Since then, it’s made a number of important movements, including a tourbillon, but its largest effect on the global watch market has been a huge number of ETA 2824 clones. Today, Tianjin Seagull’s most prominent watch is the 1963 chronograph, which uses an affordable chronograph movement and pays homage to the ST3.

Learn More: Here

Zelos

Zelos is a product of Kickstarter. But unlike other microbrands, it doesn’t just source its materials from Singapore — it’s also based there. Its founder, Elshan Tang, is a mechanical engineer who pairs a range of movement options from ETA and Seiko with divers made from unique case materials like bronze, carbon fiber, and Damascus steel. His Abyss 2 and Helmsman 2 are good examples of young and exciting watchmaking coming out of the East.

Learn More: Here

Kiu Tai Yu

China’s watchmaking industry has turned out several excellent watchmakers. Kiu Tai Yu is the most world-renowned. He was born in 1946 and, after a stint making watches in the state-run Suzhou factory, moved to Hong Kong and began designing and building his own, including China’s first ever tourbillon. His most famous watches, the “Mystery Tourbillons” of the 1990s, featured free-floating movements, without a cage or any visible means of support. These incredible watches earned him a place as an honorary member of the Academie Horlogere des Createurs Independants (Academy of Independent Creators in Watchmaking), which includes some of the best independent watchmakers in the world.

Note: Purchasing products through our links may earn us a portion of the sale, which supports our editorial team’s mission. Learn more here.

This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io

The Hidden History of Swiss Watchmaking’s Biggest Rivals

There’s a reason you don’t hear the term “Asian watchmaking” often: watchmaking in the East, though powerful, is most easily grouped into Japanese, Chinese, and other country-focused categories. Studying these markets together is like lumping together British, Swiss, and German watchmaking — they have different histories, different priorities, and different meanings to the modern watch collector.

Yet there’s value in exploring the wide scene of watchmaking in Asia, if only because it’s understudied and under-appreciated. So let’s ask the question: what could we mean when we talk about these separate groups and their meaning to global watchmaking and watch ownership?

China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan are important production hubs — not just for low-end, mass-produced pieces, but for many parts that go into watches made by worldwide microbrands and, yes, your “Swiss-made” beauty, since that label means that only 60% of each timepiece must have been produced in Switzerland. Hong Kong, for instance, was second only to Switzerland for watch exports by value in 2017. China, its industry at different times hobbled and intensified by intense government control, leads exports based on number of units, and exported 688 million completed watches worldwide between 2013 and 2017.

Asian countries are not just producing watches — they’re buying them at historic rates. Both China and Hong Kong are monsters of the luxury watch market share. Together, according to the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry, Asian countries accounted for 40% of the total Swiss luxury watches purchased worldwide in 2017 — more than $8 billion. With that sort of purchasing power, you better believe that the whims and taste of Asian buyers drive the market for the rest of us.

And then, of course, there’s the story of the East’s most iconic brands themselves. These center around Japan, whose history and modern prominence form the most important narrative for Western watch collectors. In the 1890s, Japanese watchmakers began building pocket watches with lever escapements; by the end of the Meiji era, in 1912, according to the Japan Clock & Watch Association, 20 factories turned out 3.8 million timepieces a year. Practically all Japanese watchmaking industry was destroyed during WWII, but in the 1950s and ‘60s, Japan determined it would become the “Switzerland of the East.”

Production during the Korean War boomed in the 1950s, and by the 1960s and ‘70s, technological innovation and quality had made Japanese watchmaking famous worldwide. There might have been a “Quartz Crisis” in Europe, but not so in Japan, where the new technology drove innovation of all kinds (a small wonder, since the Japanese invented the quartz watch). Today, Japanese makers are some of the largest manufacturers of mechanical movements and of completed watches, and shipped some 65 million timepieces in 2017.

Though there are much deeper histories of these watchmaking feats, burgeoning markets, and industrial powerhouses, the best way to study such a wide swath of watchmaking is to look at the watches themselves. This is truly what differentiates Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian watchmaking from the Germans, the British, the Swiss, and the Americans. Asian brands have strived, and in many cases succeeded, to match quality from these markets; they’ve become some of the largest manufacturers of watches, and mechanical movements, in the entire world; they’ve shaken the watch world to its very core with a technological revolution, and steered the way we think about our favorite kinds of watches, from divers to dress watches.

Here’s a quick primer on the brands you should know, and the watches that matter.

Some Background

China’s Long Road to Diversification: China began making watches in 1955. Designs were strictly based on Swiss pieces, but eventually, some original design and watchmaking occurred in the 1960s. Then, in the 1970s, the Chinese government forced all watchmaking, most of it focused in eight large factories, to begin work on a single, standardized movement called the Tongji that was meant to be affordable and accurate. In the 1980s and 90s, production changed and many factories closed because of the increase in quartz watches and the introduction of foreign-backed watchmaking companies in the Special Economic Zones. Today, nine large factories still exist and make their own movements for luxury mechanical watches, including Tianjin Seagull, which makes an affordable chronograph movement; smaller makers that import movements and serve the “affordable” market; and a few legendary individual watchmakers, too.

Hong Kong’s Luxury Market Share: If you’ve watched Crazy Rich Asians, you know Hong Kong is a crucible of immense wealth. The Swiss luxury industry, after planting seeds in the market in the 2010s, is reaping what it has sown today to the tune of $2.8 billion a year. (The U.S., by the way, bought just over $2 billion in high-end Swiss watches in 2018.)

Japan’s Movement Dominance: During a visit to the Seiko Instruments factory in 2015, Jason Heaton heard a distinct hum — the sound of a manufacturing line that turns out incredible numbers of quartz movements a day, all sold to third parties. This kind of manufacturing prowess stretches to Seiko’s and Grand Seiko’s mechanical watch movements, and to the mechanical movements made by Seiko’s competitor, Miyota. Together, the two produce a stunning number of movements per year, made possible by some of the most perfect vertical integration in the world. Turn over a mechanical watch not made by a big Swiss brand that costs over $150, and it’s likely you’ll see either Seiko or Miyota printed on the case back.

Large Companies

Seiko

Kintaro Hattori

Japan’s most iconic brand started its journey some 138 years ago, when Kintaro Hattori opened a small watch shop in Tokyo. It’s led Japanese watchmaking ever since, making Japan’s first wristwatch, its first chronograph and its first dive watch. And worldwide, Seiko has made some of the biggest marks on watchmaking of any company. It innovated quartz with one of the first quartz watches, the first six-digit LCD display quartz and the first analog quartz chronograph. It is a dominant force in movement making.

Though the company doesn’t publicly share production numbers, Seiko movements — both mechanical and quartz — drive a huge number of watches worldwide. For over fifty years, Seiko has made a steel sports watch that’s one of the most beloved affordable timepieces ever. There’s a lot of beauty to be captured at Seiko, but its most important and iconic watches all intersect at unique design, affordable prices, and bulletproof build quality.

Learn More: Here

Seiko 5

The first Seiko 5, released in 1963, ushered in a handful of exciting new innovations: a tougher mainspring, a shock resistant design, and solid water resistance. Still, even Seiko’s biggest fans could never have imagined the impact the Seiko 5 would have on watch fandom worldwide. The Seiko 5 was eventually expanded into hundreds of different watches, tied together by the specifications that comprised that “5” name: Diaflex mainspring, Diashock anti-shock system, automatic winding, day/date indication, and water resistance. (There is some debate over which specs constitute the 5—read more about that here.)

The steel watches with basic, bulletproof mechanical movements have remained popular because they can be bought for less than $200 today, and often for significantly less. Untold numbers of people who now obsess over Rolexes and Audemars Piguets started out watch collecting with a Seiko 5. Not that anyone ever really moves on from loving them.

Learn More: Here

Quartz-Astron 35SQ

Though the watchmaking world had toyed with non-mechanical watches prior to 1969, it was Seiko’s Astron that made quartz technology available to consumers. The watch had a gold case, sold for around $1,250 (at the time, the price of a small car), and, by using its quartz oscillator to turn a tiny stepping motor, was accurate to plus or minus one minute a year with a battery life of a full year.

The watch’s impact went far beyond the hundred or so watches it sold in its first week. Quartz, already more accurate than mechanical timekeeping, quickly became more affordable, too, precipitating what’s been called both a “Quartz Crisis” and a “Quartz Revolution” in watchmaking. The rest turned out mostly OK for mechanical watchmaking, and, of course, for quartz; today, Seiko continues to make loads of both, and watches like the Seiko Astron GPS Solar Chronograph continue the 35SQ’s legacy of innovation and utility.

Learn More: Here

SKX007 Dive Watch

The first Japanese dive watch might’ve been the reference 62MAS, first made in 1965, but Seiko’s made a number of iconic divers since then, like the Professional Diver’s 600m, affectionately called the “Tuna Can” for its chubby, encased appearance. Today, the brand’s most ubiquitous diver is the SKX007, which has the genetics of its forebears but a price that rivals the accessibility of the Seiko 5. The SKX007 was first produced in 1996, and it continues to be, as Jack Forster over at Hodinkee wrote about it in a brilliant essay, “the single best value at any price point” for a watch that qualifies as a dive watch under the ISO 6425 criteria.

The SKX007 encapsulates everything that’s beautiful about Seiko’s beautiful dive watches: a tank-like case, thick bezel, dial that’s infinitely clear and singular in style, unstoppable movement. Oh, and a price tag (around $200) that lets just about anybody afford it. Unfortunately, Seiko has recently stopped production of the SKX007, but so many were produced that finding a new one isn’t yet a problem.

Learn More: Here

Credor Eichi II

The Eichi I, when it was released in 2008, represented an entirely different approach to watchmaking than Seiko’s other watches: its platinum case, enamel dial and hand-painted markers looked not like something out of the perfectionist grand watchmaker’s high-tech studio, but like a single, perfect piece that was clearly hand-made by an artisan, probably cloistered atop a lonely mountain. The Eichi II makes the first watch’s minimalism even more austere. Inside is the hand-wound Spring Drive movement, which is both mechanical and quartz, powered by a “glide wheel” that’s unique even among hybrid movements. The highest-end Seiko-produced line of watches that you can buy.

Learn More: Here

Seiko Modders

The low cost, ubiquity, and modularity of Seiko timepieces has done more than just sell a lot of watches or build a large following. Over the years, tinkerers around the world, falling short of the training and toolset needed for full-on watchmaking, have become what we now call “Seiko modders.” The idea can be simple: take a Seiko watch, pull it apart, and swap in a different dial, maybe some hands from a different watch, to customize its look. Modders have explored these design refurbishments and thousands of others for years thanks to a good eye and an impressive Seiko part inventory.

Modding a Seiko can also be extremely heightened: hand-plane an extremely complicated dial, say, or custom-make your own bezels that can be popped on any Seiko diver. The world of Seiko modders is a wide one, but the biggest and most interesting names in modding complete watches and building custom parts for those modes include Yobokeis, Dagaz, Dave Murphy, and Damien Lau.

Learn More: Here

Orient

Founded in 1950, Orient found success in Japan and China focusing on mechanical watches throughout the 20th century. In 2009, it was bought by Seiko, and today continues making mostly mechanical watches, operating relatively freely from its parent company. Its designs and manufacturing are handled separately, and its movements are made in-house. Many of its watches feature a power reserve indicator or other complications, which in this case is done with remarkable affordability. Orient, like Seiko, is a wonderful value proposition, and an easy landing pad for Seiko fans who want a Japanese watch with a different look and appeal.

Learn More: Here

Orient Bambino

The Bambino has quickly become a darling of the affordable dress watch set, filling a notable gap among Japanese watches for a classically styled, handsome and elegant piece that cost less than $500. It’s available in a number of different iterations, including several different versions of the date-equipped three-hander, plus a version with a small seconds sub-dial and an “open heart” version with a slightly open-worked dial.

Learn More: Here

Orient Mako USA II

Orient’s flagship Mako was released in 2003 and has, just like the Bambino, become a dark horse hero of affordable Japanese watchmaking. As with the Seiko SKX007, it offers the right amount of dive watch features at an impulse-buy price. In 2014, the brand reached out to Reddit’s /r/watches subreddit looking for feedback. Among the requests: a sapphire crystal, a reworked bezel, and a bezel graced by a screaming bald eagle and an American flag. Orient used those requests (well, some of them) in its Mako USA and subsequent Mako USA II –both of which became cult classics (at least among reddit’s watch set).

Learn More: Here

Citizen/Miyota

Kamekichi Yakamazi

The early history of Citizen is actually one of a Swiss-Japanese partnership. The company was founded in 1930 by a group of Swiss and Japanese investors; it took over a Japanese factory founded in 1912 by Rodolphe Schmid, a Swiss. Citizen became a worldwide name after the second World War, but its impact on watchmaking worldwide really began in the 1970s and 1980s, when it made important innovations in electronic watches.

The other side of the Citizen coin is Miyota, one of the most ubiquitous mechanical movement makers in the world, which is a 65%-owned subsidiary of Citizen. Every year, Miyota makes 1.8 million watch movements, most of them affordable workhorses that find their way into not just Japanese watches, but watches produced worldwide. Together, these two names are a force of nature in both quartz and mechanical watchmaking.

Learn More: Here

Crystron Solar Cell

Citizen’s most famous feature is its EcoDrive movement, which uses light to keep a watch charged. That technology was pioneered in 1976 by the Crystron Solar Cell, a watch that had all the visual appeal of a rooftop solar panel but managed to extend its quartz-powered battery up to five years. Its four miniature solar wafers made it the first analog solar-powered watch and proved the Eco-Drive concept, paving the way for such hugely popular watches with the technology as the Promaster Diver, or, 40 years later, the EcoDrive One, the world’s thinnest solar powered watch, at just 2.98mm thick. (Visual solar wafers no longer included.)

Learn More: Here

Citizen X8 Titanium Chronometer

Photo: sweep-hand.org

As we’ve written before, titanium is an ultimate watch material: it’s lightweight, strong, and hypoallergenic. Citizen was the first to make a watch almost entirely out of the material (some 99.6%), using almost pure titanium for the case, bezel and crown — back when it was considered “space age” material. The X8 had an electro-mechanical chronometer movement, the Cosmotron 0820 — together with its swooping case shape, pale blue dial, and matte case material, it had visuals to make lucky wearers of the limited edition batch of 2,000 pieces feel like they were looking at a watch from the stars.

Learn More: Here

Miyota 9015

Miyota movements have been staples for small watch brands (often called “microbrands” or “boutique brands”) for many years now. In particular, watchmakers who aren’t making their own movements love Miyota’s 9015, which is thin, relatively expensive, and similar to the lauded Swiss-made ETA 2824-2. Compared to Seiko’s Nh45, it has a higher beat rate, which means it’s more accurate and its seconds hand sweeps more smoothly. When the price is right (such things fluctuate with demand), it’s a movement that nears Swiss quality, at roughly half the price.

Learn More: Here

Casio

The Four Kashio Brothers

The wonder of Casio is this: Before 1974, it solely dealt in computers, calculators, and a ring that allowed you to smoke a cigarette the whole way down. The quartz revolution diverted the river of watchmaking right into Casio’s waterwheel, if you will; the company began watchmaking with a bang in 1974, with a digital quartz watch called the Casiotron. Take a look at that Casiotron and you’ll see all the hallmarks that still make Casio great today: utilitarianism with style and brazenly embracing technology, rather than trying to make it fit in a classic package. No other watch company ran wild with technology this early on, from touchscreens to digital readouts to novel specific functions, like fitness trackers in the 1990s.

Learn More: Here

F91W

Want to know if a watch has been successful? Check to see if the original is still in production nearly thirty years later. The original F91W — 1/100th-second stopwatch, alarm, calendar, tiny metal pushbuttons and all –still is. You can buy one for $10. If you do, you’ll be wearing what’s been called “a modest masterpiece,” a little microcosm of everything that makes Casio great.

Learn More: Here

Casio Databank

Photo: watchshock.com

The calculator that put Casio on the map was the 14-A, which in 1957 was the world’s first all-electric compact calculator. But to watch nerds, there’s only one Casio calculator: the Databank. It was first released in 1984, after a number of other calculator watches, from Casio and others, had already been sold. But the Databank was special, in that it could store data, like phone numbers. It came to stand for the cool kind of nerd, like Marty McFly. Today, it and its progeny stand as icons of the fact that smart can be sexy.

Learn More: Here

G-Shock

The Casio name sparks a lot of conversations having to do with nerd culture. Rightly so. But it’s also worth noting that they’ve also made a number of watches favored by the coldest-blooded military types on the planet. That’s right: the Special Forces love Casio. But they’re not wearing calculator watches — they’re wearing G-Shocks. Casio designer Kikuo Ibe designed the first G Shock, the DW-5000C, in 1983, with the aim of creating a watch that could survive a 10-meter fall, had 10 bars of water resistance, and had 10 years of battery life.

Since then, G-Shocks have been made for all kinds of specialties involving toughness, most notably the Masters of G series, including the Frogman, Gulfman, Mudman, Riseman, and Rangeman. Those watches have clearly primed the pump for Casio’s successful smartwatches, like the Pro Trek, which incorporate connectivity, fitness tracking, and GPS navigation. And, in an odd twist, the decidedly utilitarian watches have also become street style icons, necessitating a whole range of whacky colorways and aesthetic spin-offs. This means that there’s a G-Shock for anyone, whether you wear it defusing mines underwater or to the next Jay-Z concert.

Learn More: Here

Small Companies

Grand Seiko

In 1960, Seiko handed a team of its master watchmakers a new assignment: Make a whole new sub-brand of watches with the same Seiko ethos, but at a higher level of excellence, and, of course, cost. In the almost sixty years since, Grand Seiko has maintained the kind of quality and excellence that makes it a favorite brand of watchmakers around the world. Today, every Grand Seiko is still touched only by master watchmakers as it’s made — their watches combine incredible finishing quality with a range of movements, including, interestingly, high-end quartz. Each movement meets a stricter accuracy requirement than the vaunted COSC standard.

Learn More: Here

Hi-Beat 36000 GMT

In 2014, this watch won the Petit Aiguille prize at the Grand Horlogerie de Geneve, an award given to the best watch of the year priced under around $8,000 — and stood out as the only non-European winner from that year (and any other). The Europeans are a pretty exclusive group, but the Hi-Beat 36000 GMT is just that good. Buyers know it too, which is why it’s one of Grand Seiko’s best sellers. It’s driven by the all-around beast 9S8X hi-beat movement; its name comes from the movement’s 36,000 vibrations per hour (which is quite high). Its finishing is pristine, and it’s available in a variety of versions.

Learn More: Here

9F Movement

The metaphorical hill that most horology nerds will die on is that mechanical watchmaking trumps quartz. It speaks to Grand Seiko’s abilities that it is perhaps the only brand to escape this non-starter. In an essay supporting the cost of Grand Seiko’s $2,300 Quartz SBGX061 watch, Hodinkee’s Jack Forster, ever the horological poet, argues that a Grand Seiko quartz is probably the most unique value proposition in all watchmaking (besides the SKX007, of course).

Indeed, the the process by which Grand Seiko has circumvents quartz’s pitfalls in its 9F movement constitutes watchmaking art. Grand Seiko grows its own quartz crystals; because temperature affects quartz’s timekeeping, the movement itself tests ambient temperature 540 times a day, and adjusts itself; there are loads of mechanical mechanisms within the movement, for controlling things like the date change and torque. The end result is a movement that loses or gains only ten seconds a year.

Learn More: Here

Tianjin Sea-Gull

The Tianjin WuYi watch factory was one of eight production facilities created by the Chinese government in 1958, and played a major role in Chinese watchmaking throughout the 20th century, in part thanks to it being granted an exemption from production of the Chinese government’s Chinese Standard Movement, the Tongji. It made one of China’s first noteworthy watches, the WuYi, based on Swiss designs, in the late 1950s. In the 1960s, with the Chinese army in need of a chronograph for its aviators, Tianjin was outfitted with tooling equipment purchased from the Swiss firm Venus, and eventually made the first Chinese chronograph, the ST3.

In 1966, it produced what was considered the first Chinese-designed and built wristwatch, the ST5, which was thin and dependable, and was prized for its bridges’ hand-engraved “seagull stripes.” Later, during the chaos caused by the quartz crisis, the Tianjin factory was privatized, and since has been known as Tianjin Sea-Gull. Since then, it’s made a number of important movements, including a tourbillon, but its largest effect on the global watch market has been a huge number of ETA 2824 clones. Today, Tianjin Seagull’s most prominent watch is the 1963 chronograph, which uses an affordable chronograph movement and pays homage to the ST3.

Learn More: Here

Zelos

Zelos is a product of Kickstarter. But unlike other microbrands, it doesn’t just source its materials from Singapore — it’s also based there. Its founder, Elshan Tang, is a mechanical engineer who pairs a range of movement options from ETA and Seiko with divers made from unique case materials like bronze, carbon fiber, and Damascus steel. His Abyss 2 and Helmsman 2 are good examples of young and exciting watchmaking coming out of the East.

Learn More: Here

Kiu Tai Yu

China’s watchmaking industry has turned out several excellent watchmakers. Kiu Tai Yu is the most world-renowned. He was born in 1946 and, after a stint making watches in the state-run Suzhou factory, moved to Hong Kong and began designing and building his own, including China’s first ever tourbillon. His most famous watches, the “Mystery Tourbillons” of the 1990s, featured free-floating movements, without a cage or any visible means of support. These incredible watches earned him a place as an honorary member of the Academie Horlogere des Createurs Independants (Academy of Independent Creators in Watchmaking), which includes some of the best independent watchmakers in the world.

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Asia | Global Network | Company

Asia | Global Network | Company | Seiko Watch Corporation

Address

199, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh

Tel

+880 1787 675 100
+880-2-58816004-9 Extension – 189.

Fax

+880-2-8826268, +880-2-8829629

E-mail

[email protected]

Web

http://kallolgroup.com/

Thakral (Indo-China) Pte. Ltd.

Address

20 Upper Circular Road #03-06 The Riverwalk, Singapore 058416

Tel

+65-6339-7001

Fax

+65-6337-7001

Seiko Watch (Shanghai) Co., Ltd.

Address

16/F, Tower 2, Enterprise Centre, No.209, Gong He Road, Jing’an District, Shanghai 200070, P.R. of China

Tel

+86-21-6272-0688

Fax

+86-21-6272-0677

Web

Under Construction

Address

21/F., Stelux House, 698 Prince Edward Road East, San Po Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Tel

+852-2736-0235

Fax

+852-2730-5350

Web

http://www.thongsia.com.hk/

SEIKO WATCH INDIA PVT. LTD.

Address

Temple Vista, 874, Sree Krishna Temple Road, Indiranagar 1st Stage, Bangalore 560038, India

Tel

+91-80-4149-3900

Fax

+91-80-4149-3911

Web

http://www.seiko.in/

Address

12/16, Ablay Khan St., Almaty 050016, Kazakhstan

Tel

+77775528925

Fax

+77272277241

E-mail

[email protected]

Address

6th Floor, Gusan Bldg. 70-10 Nonhyun-dong, Kangnam-ku, Seoul, Korea 135-010

Tel

+82-2-511-3183

Fax

+82-2-511-3185

Web

https://seikokorea.com/

Thakral (Indo-China) Pte. Ltd.

Address

20 Upper Circular Road #03-06 The Riverwalk, Singapore 058416

Tel

+65-6339-7001

Fax

+65-6337-7001

Thong Sia Sdn Bhd (198201007297) (87055-A)

Address

CP27, Suite 2601-04, 26th Floor, Central Plaza, 34 Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tel

+603-2141-5163

Fax

+603-2148-8766

Web

http://www.thongsia.com.my

Address

Naran Department Store, Naran Building, Seoul Street, Sukhbaatar District, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia 

Tel

+976-11-328841

Fax

+976-11-320396

E-mail

[email protected]

Thakral (Indo-China) Pte. Ltd.

Address

20 Upper Circular Road #03-06 The Riverwalk, Singapore 058416

Tel

+65-6339-7001

Fax

+65-6337-7001

Pinki International Pvt Ltd.

Address

Seiko Showroom & Service Center, In front of Tindhara Pathshala, Durbar Marg, Kathmandu, Nepal

Tel

+977-1-4232-475

Fax

+977-1-4232-475

E-mail

[email protected]

Address

111-D, First Floor, Markaz Plaza, Main Market, Gulberg, Lahore, Pakistan

Tel

+92 42 35771742-43

E-mail

[email protected]

Web

find locator

Thong Sia Co. (S) Pte. Ltd.

Address

31 Ubi Road 1 #02-06, Singapore 408694, Republic of Singapore

Tel

+65-67376122

Fax

+65-67340284

Web

http://www.thongsia.com.sg

Wimaladharma Brothers (Pvt) Ltd.

Address

No 120, Front Street, Colombo 11, Sri Lanka

Tel

+94-(0)11-2325613/4

Fax

+94-(0)11-2447887

E-mail

[email protected]

Address

7F., No.90, Sec.1, JiangGuo N Rd. Taipei, 10491, Taiwan

Tel

+886-2-2504-6969

Fax

+886-2-2504-2609

Web

http://www.seiko.com.tw/

Seiko (Thailand) Co., Ltd.

Address

2032 Ital-Thai Tower Building, 2nd Floor, New Petchburi Road, Bangkapi, Huaykwang, Bangkok 10310

Tel

+662-255-1245

Fax

+662-254-9449

Web

http://www.seiko.co.th/

Address

Turkmenbashi St. 54, Business centre Yimpash, office 402. 744017 Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Tel

+993 12 45 22 12

Fax

+993 12 45 22 12

E-mail

[email protected]

Web

http://www.prestige.tm

Address

Pushkin Str 20-12, 100000 Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Tel

+998 71 237 34 76

Fax

+998 71 237 30 07

E-mail

[email protected]

Thakral (Indo-China) Pte. Ltd.

Address

20 Upper Circular Road #03-06 The Riverwalk, Singapore 058416

Tel

+65-6339-7001

Fax

+65-6337-7001

Asia | Global Network | Company | Seiko Watch Corporation

A Monumental Season of Luxury Watch Auctions in Hong Kong

Christie’s Retains Number One Position in the Asia Market

Christie’s Hong Kong continues its undisputed leadership in the luxury watch auctions market in Asia Pacific, with a phenomenal season in May 2021. In addition to achieving the highest ever sale total for a various-owner watches sale at Christie’s, alongside three online sales, each realising a remarkable 100% sell-through rate.

A total of 10 auction records were achieved for some of the most iconic luxury watch brands including Patek Philippe, Rolex, and F.P. Journe. Together with strong global participation in bidding by collectors from 32 countries, the results demonstrate Christie’s position as the premier destination in the Asia Pacific region for auction of the most valuable and coveted timepieces in the world.

The Legends of Time

The first ever watches Evening Sale held by Christie’s in Asia, The Legends of Time presented 18 exquisite horological treasures and some of the most extraordinary creations in the history of watchmaking. The star lot of the sale was Alan Banbery’s Unique Patek Philippe Reference 3448J ‘No Moon Phase’ Perpetual Calendar Wristwatch with Prototype Leap Year Indication, which set a new world auction record for the reference.

An Exceptional Season of Watches

Extremely rare vintage and modern timepieces from legendary and emerging brands were offered in this sale, which saw nearly half of all lots selling over their high estimates. The top lot of this sale was an important Patek Philippe, the only known 18K Gold Split Seconds Chronograph Wristwatch retailed by Gübelin, ref. 1436, manufactured in 1965, which was acquired for HK$5,500,000 / US$711,830, more than double its low estimate of HK$2,400,000 / US$310,617, setting a new auction record for the reference.

The selection of Rolex timepieces attracted passionate bidding, led by the extremely rare stainless steel chronograph triple calendar wristwatch, ref. 6036, “Jean Claude Killy” Model with “Red Depth”, circa 1953, which sold for HK$5,250,000 / US$679,474, more than double its high estimate of HK$2,400,000 / US$310,617. An impressive and rare 18k pink gold, diamond and rainbow-coloured multi gem-set automatic chronograph wristwatch with bracelet, Daytona Rainbow Model, ref. 116595RBOW, circa 2019, which realised HK$3,500,000 / US$452,982, topped the curation of modern timepieces.

The success of this spring season puts us yet again in a prime position to partner with you on your collecting journey. Please feel free to contact us for a complimentary and confidential valuation.


Interested in consigning?


We are now inviting consignments to our upcoming sales. Please contact us to arrange an appointment for a complimentary and confidential evaluation.




Asia | Global network | Company

Asia | Global network | Company | Seiko Watch Corporation

Address

199, Tejgaon I / A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh

Tel

+880 1787 675 100
+ 880-2-588 – 1816004 .

Fax

+ 880-2-8826268, + 880-2-8829629

E-mail

info @ kallolgroup.com

Web

http://kallolgroup.com/

Thakral (Indo-China) Pte. Ltd.

Address

20 Upper Circular Road # 03-06 The Riverwalk, Singapore 058416

Tel

+ 65-6339-7001

+ 65-6337-7001

Seiko Watch (Shanghai) Co., Ltd.

Web

Under Construction

Address

16 / F, Tower 2, Enterprise Center, No.209, Gong He Road, Jing’an District, Shanghai 200070, P.R. of China

Tel

+ 86-21-6272-0688

Fax

+ 86-21-6272-0677

Address

21 / F., Stelux House, 698 Prince Edward Road East, San Po Kong, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Tel

+ 852-2736-0235

Fax

+ 852-2730 -5350

Web

http://www.thongsia.com.hk/

SEIKO WATCH INDIA PVT. LTD.

Address

Temple Vista, 874, Sree Krishna Temple Road, Indiranagar 1st Stage, Bangalore 560038, India

Tel

-40009- 91-

Fax

+ 91-80-4149-3911

Web

http: // www.seiko.in/

Address

12/16, Ablay Khan St., Almaty 050016, Kazakhstan

Tel

25

755289000

Fax

+77272277241

E-mail

[email protected]

0-10 Nonhyun-dong, Kangnam-ku, Seoul, Korea 135-010

Address

Tel

+ 82-2-511-3183

Fax

+ 82- 2-511-3185

Web

https://seikokorea.com/

Thakral (Indo-China) Pte. Ltd.

Address

20 Upper Circular Road # 03-06 The Riverwalk, Singapore 058416

Tel

+ 65-6339-7001

+ 65-6337-7001

Thong Sia Sdn Bhd (198201007297) (87055-A)

9000-29148-87 +

Address

, Suite

CP27-04 Floor, Central Plaza, 34 Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tel

+ 603-2141-5163

Fax

Web

http: // www.thongsia.com.my

Address

Naran Department Store, Naran Building, Seoul Street, Sukhbaatar District, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Tel

+

11-328841

Fax

+ 976-11-320396

E-mail

[email protected]

-China) Pte.Ltd.

Address

20 Upper Circular Road # 03-06 The Riverwalk, Singapore 058416

Tel

+ 65-6339-7001

+ 65-6337-7001

Pinki International Pvt Ltd.

Address

Seiko Showroom & Service Center, In front of Tindhara Pathshala, Durbar Marg, Kathmandu, Nepal

Tel

-4997

Fax

+ 977-1-4232-475

E-mail

info @ pinkiint.com.np

57

900 Thousand 900 Sia Co.(S) Pte. Ltd.

Address

111-D, First Floor, Markaz Plaza, Main Market, Gulberg, Lahore, Pakistan

Tel

+92 35771742-43

E-mail

[email protected]

Web

find locator

Address

31 Ubi Road 1 # 02-06, Singapore 408694, Republic of Singapore

Tel

+ 65-67376122

+ 65-67340284

Web

http://www.thongsia.com.sg

Wimaladharma Brothers (Pvt) Ltd.

Address

No 120, Front Street, Colombo 11, Sri Lanka

Tel

+ 94- (0) 11-2325613 / 4

Fax

+ 94- (0) 11-2447887

E-mail

[email protected]

…, No.90, Sec. 1, JiangGuo N Rd. Taipei, 10491, Taiwan

Tel

+ 886-2-2504-6969

Fax

+ 886-2-2504-2609

http://www.seiko.com.tw/

Seiko (Thailand) Co., Ltd.

Address

2032 Ital-Thai Tower Building, 2nd Floor, New Petchburi Road, Bangkapi, Huaykwang, Bangkok 10310

Tel

+

-2000

Fax

+ 662-254-9449

Web

http: // www.seiko.co.th/

Address

Turkmenbashi St. 54, Business center Yimpash, office 402.744017 Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Tel

+993 12 45 22 12

Fax

9000 9006 +993 12 45 22 12 9000

E-mail

[email protected]

Web

http: // www.prestige.tm

Address

Pushkin Str 20-12, 100000 Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Tel

+998 71 237 3413 76

Fax

+998 71 237 30 07

E-mail

[email protected]

Thakral (Indo-China) Pte.Ltd.

Address

20 Upper Circular Road # 03-06 The Riverwalk, Singapore 058416

Tel

+ 65-6339-7001

+ 65-6337-7001

Asia | Global network | Company | Seiko Watch Corporation

Richard Mille RM 011 – find all prices for Seiko Watch Corporation

Richard Mille RM 011 watch on Chrono24

Richard Mille watches represent innovation in the watchmaking industry.The RM 11 series also shines with new technology and high functionality. The Le Breleu-based manufactory in Switzerland uses only the highest quality materials such as titanium, gold, platinum or ceramics. Titanium, gold, platinum, ceramics or proprietary materials – TPT carbon, TPT quartz and cermet – provide exceptional durability for these futuristic timepieces.

The centerpiece of the RM 11 collection is the ultra-sophisticated in-house calibers RMAC1 and RMAC3 with timer and flyback functions.The watch is equipped with a sapphire crystal back overlooking the painstakingly decorated movement. In addition to luxury, the manufacture attaches great importance to functionality. Therefore, each component of RM 011 is part of the aesthetic expression.

The highlight of the RM 11 collection is the McLaren RM 11-03. Limited edition of 500 pieces, Richard Mille designed this watch especially for the successful Formula 1 team from Great Britain. The case of this watch is made of carbon and quartz and demonstrates what is technically possible within the framework of haute horlogerie.

In 2020, Richard Mille introduced the RM 11-05 in a limited run of 140 pieces with an extremely scratch-resistant cermet bezel. According to the manufacturer, the hardness of this material is at the level of diamond, that is, about ten times higher than stainless steel.

Five reasons to buy a Richard Mille RM 11

watch

  • Striking, recognizable design
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  • High quality materials – rose gold, carbon, titanium
  • Technical watchmaking masterpieces
  • Prestigious collectibles with upside potential

90,000 Asia-s.Exhibitions of the jewelry industry and jewelry

International exhibitions in Asia: jewelry industry, precious, semi-precious stones, diamonds, jewelry, jewelry, watches … and similar exhibitions in America and Europe

10/05/2021 – 10/09/2021
Watch & Jewelery Middle East Show 2021 (Sharjah, UAE / Emirates)
International Middle East Exhibition of Watches, Jewelry, Gold, Gems, Sharjah

08.10.2021 – 15.10.2021
LifeStyle Vietnam 2021 – virtual. (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
Vietnam International Home Decor & Gift Exhibition

10/13/2021 – 10/15/2021
TIGS 2021 – Tokyo Gift Show Autumn (Tokyo, Japan)
Tokyo International Gift Show, Japan

10/14/2021 – 10/16/2021
JJF – Japan Jewelery Fair 2021 (Tokyo, Japan)
Tokyo International Jewelry Show

18.10.2021 – 20.10.2021
Tokyo Fashion Jewelery Expo 2021 Autumn (Tokyo, Japan)
Japan International Fashion Jewelry Show

21.10.2021 – 25.10.2021
China Yiwu Commodities Fair 2021 (Yiwu, China)
Yiwu International Consumer Goods Show (“Small Items”) in Yiwu, China

10/26/2021 – 10/30/2021
JWS 2021 – Jewelery & Watch Show (Abu Dhabi, UAE / Emirates)
Middle East International Jewelry & Watch Show, Abu Dhabi, UAE

27.10.2021 – 29.10.2021
IJT 2021 – Jewelery Yokohama (Yokohama, Japan)
Yokohama International Jewelry Show, Japan

11/13/2021 – 11/15/2021
Yiwu Imported Commodities Fair 2021 (Yiwu, China)
Yiwu International Imported Goods Show, China

11/14/2021 – 11/17/2021
VOD Dubai Jewelery Show 2021 – dates? (Dubai, UAE / Emirates)
International Middle East Jewelry & Jewelry Week, Dubai, UAE

23.11.2021 – 27.11.2021
Jewelery Arabia 2021 (Manama, Bahrain)
Bahrain International Middle East Gold, Jewelry & Watches Show

11/25/2021 – 11/28/2021
Hong Kong Jewelry Manufacturers’ Show 2021 (Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Hong Kong International Jewelry Manufacturing Exhibition

12/24/2021 – 12/27/2021
Jaipur Jewelery Show 2021 (Jaipur, India)
Jaipur International Gems & Jewelry Show, India

thirty.12.2021 – 02.01.2022
Toos GoldEx 2021 (Mashhad, Iran)
Iran International Jewelery and Gem Show, Mashhad

01/12/2022 – 01/15/2022
Girls Jewelery Tokyo 2022 (Tokyo, Japan)
Japan International Girls’ Jewelry Show

01/12/2022 – 01/15/2022
IJT 2022 – Jewelery Tokyo (Tokyo, Japan)
Tokyo International Jewelry Show, Japan

04/27/2022 – 04/30/2022
HKTDC Gifts & Premium Fair 2022 (Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
Hong Kong International Gift & Prize Show

Outlook 2017: Themes to watch in 2017 for the Asia thermal coal market

Perth –
Volatility is the watchword for the thermal coal market in 2017 following a turbulent 2016 when Beijing’s self-imposed production constraints fueled a massive rise in thermal coal prices right across the Asian seaborne market in the second half of 2016.

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As has been the pattern for the past several years, China – or more specifically the actions and influence of its central government – has been a strong deciding factor in the direction of the Asian market.

Standout examples over the recent years include its quickly implemented import tax, its trace elements testing procedure reserved for import cargoes that still stands, and of course its decision to limit domestic mines to 276 days of production in a year.

CHINA, THE X-FACTOR

With its track record, Beijing could perhaps be described as the Asian thermal coal market’s X-factor, or wild card.

Second-guessing the next steps of China’s central government will therefore be a major game plan of many Asia-Pacific market participants.

Price stability appears to be an overriding concern for central government policymakers, who are keen to avoid large rises or falls in prices for domestic thermal coal, in other words price volatility.

There are already signs that mine-gate prices are again rising in China, potentially setting the stage for more market interventions by Beijing in 2017.

EARLY TEST

An early test of Beijing’s intentions will come early on in the new year with the fate of its import tax.

Beijing is set to lift its 2% import duty on Australian thermal coal on January 1, 2017, as it keeps to its side of the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement.

The duty has weighed on Australian cargo prices in the Chinese seaborne market for the past three years, and the Australian government has said it is confident the tax will go.

PORTFOLIO DIVERSIFICATION

One important side effect of 2016’s market turbulence is that it has brought on a determination by Asian thermal coal buyers to diversify their supply sources away from Australia and Indonesia. This could be another theme to unfold in 2017.

The coming together of EDF Trading expertise and the buying power of Chubu Electric and Tokyo Electric in the JERA joint venture with its global reach has opened up possible new trade routes for thermal coal into East Asia in 2017.

Colombian thermal coal could in theory travel through the now enlarged Panama Canal, creating a new trans-Pacific route that could practically halve sailing times on the traditional Atlantic to Pacific route.

There are two drawbacks to shippers using the Panama Canal for thermal coal traffic if they choose the shorter trans-Pacific route.

Firstly, shippers would have to pay Panama Canal fees which amount to around $ 300,000 for a Capesize ship.

Secondly, due to the canal’s draft restrictions, only partially laden Capesize vessels can traverse the waterway, sources said.

MOZAMBIQUE TRADE

Another potential new trade route could include Mozambique, a relative newcomer to the seaborne thermal coal market.

Shipowners have seen an expansion of trade into the African country, and are keen to find Mozambique cargoes to haul back to Asia which might include thermal coal shipments, sources said.

Vessel owners are understood to be willing to reposition ships for use on the Mozambique trade route to Asia, and this could be a significant market development in 2017, sources said.

There is growing market talk that Japanese buyers may have received competitively priced offers of Mozambique thermal coal, after test cargoes were sent to power plants in Europe and India in 2016.

Blending might be an option for East Asian buyers seeking to diversify their portfolio of fuel sources with non-traditional origins of thermal coal such as from Mozambique, sources suggested.

PRODUCERS ‘RESPONSE

Price volatility has also triggered a response in some thermal coal producers as they try to manage quick-changing price expectations among buyers.

Some mid-tier Australian coal producers are understood to have adopted a more cautious approach of offering fewer spot cargoes into the forward trading space in a bid to draw out buyers, sources said.

Larger Australian producers have benefited from a strong recovery in metallurgical coal prices, and thermal coal sales have taken on a secondary importance for them. This focus may continue into the new year, depending on the length of time that the recovery lingers.

More US thermal coal could be seen arriving on Asia’s eastern shores in 2017, as US coal producers recover from a devastating domestic market depression that sent several miners into insolvency.

Russian eastern exports are constrained to some degree by existing infrastructure corridors and port capacity on the country’s Pacific seaboard.

In conclusion, one certainty for the 2017 year is that the seaborne thermal coal market will continue to develop, possibly in surprising ways, and that China has the potential to cause more upsets and volatility.

–Mike Cooper, [email protected]

–Edited by Irene Tang, [email protected]

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