The company started in 1881, when Kintarō Hattori opened a watch and jewelry shop called "K. Hattori" (服部時計店 Hattori Tokeiten?) in the Ginza area of Tokyo, Japan. Eleven years later, in 1892, he began to produce clocks under the name Seikosha (精工舎 Seikōsha?). According to Seiko's official company history, titled "A Journey In Time: The Remarkable Story of Seiko" (2003), Seiko is a Japanese word meaning "exquisite," "minute," or "success." (The meaning "exquisite" is usually written 精巧, while the meaning "success" is usually written 成功.)
The first watches produced under the Seiko brand appeared in 1924. In 1969, Seiko introduced the Astron, the world's first production quartz watch; when it was introduced, it cost the same as a medium-sized car. Seiko later went on to introduce the first quartz chronograph. In 1985, Orient Watches and Seiko established a joint factory.
Grand Quartz, produced in 1978.
The company was incorporated (K. Hattori & Co., Ltd.) in 1917 and was renamed Hattori Seiko Co., Ltd. in 1983 and Seiko Corporation in 1990. After reconstructing and creating its operating subsidiaries (such as Seiko Watch Corporation and Seiko Clock Inc.), it became a holding company in 2001 and was renamed Seiko Holdings Corporation as of July 1, 2007.
Seiko is perhaps best known for its wristwatches, all of which are produced entirely in-house. This includes minor items such as the oils used in lubricating the watches and the luminous compounds used on the hands and the dials.
Seiko produces both quartz and mechanical watches of varying prices. The least expensive are around ¥4,000 (US$45) (Alba); the most expensive (Credor JURI GBBX998) costs ¥50,000,000 (US$554,000). Seiko's mechanical watches are highly prized by collectors—from the Seiko "5" series (the 5 reflects the five essential features of the watch, namely shock resistant, water resistant, automatic, and day and date display), which is the most common; the Seiko automatic Chronometer series; the "Bell-Matic," with a mechanical alarm; to the highly prized luxury "Credor," "King Seiko," and "Grand Seiko" lines. Seiko Kinetic watches account for a large proportion of sales nowadays and combine the self-energizing attributes of an automatic watch with quartz accuracy. The watch is entirely powered by its movement in everyday wear. On 7 October 2005, Seiko announced the launch of the Seiko Spring Drive, a new movement that provides 72 hours of power compared to 40 hours for mechanical and 3 years for battery powered quartz watches. This new movement uses a "Tri-synchro Regulator". The power from the spring is used to turn the gear train and a generator. The generator powers a circuit that includes a low consumption (~25 nanowatts) quartz crystal oscillator. The oscillator is a part of a continuous feedback circuit, which holds the speed of the generator close to eight revolutions per second. According to Seiko records the resulting movement delivers accuracy commensrate with other quartz timed watch movements.
Seiko Pyramid Talk, the world's first quartz talking clock, from 1984.
The Hattori Clock Tower in Ginza, Tokyo, former headquarters and main store building of K. Hattori & Co., currently houses Wako.
To the frustration of collectors, Seiko does not release all of its watch lines in every region; some are exclusively available in Asia, for instance. Many online retailers will ship watches overseas, though.
Seiko Corporation of America is responsible for distribution of Seiko watches and clocks, as well as Pulsar brand watches, in the United States. The models available in the United States are normally a smaller subset of the full line produced in Japan. Seiko Corporation of America has its headquarters (and Coserv repair center) in Mahwah, New Jersey. In the United States, Seiko watches are sold primarily by fine jewelers and department stores as well as 19 company stores located in various cities.
Seiko's 2004 marketing campaign emphasized that a watch, as opposed to other traits (such as what car they drive, for example), tells the most about a person.
Various Seiko watches were worn by the cinematic James Bond 007 in four films starring Roger Moore from 1977–85. Also, a Seiko watch was worn by Sean Connery in the 1983 Bond film Never Say Never Again. A Seiko Chronograph is also worn by Jason Bourne in the book "The Bourne Identity" by Robert Ludlum.
Seiko also produces other electronic devices. Notably, during the 1980s, the company produced a range of digital synthesizers, such as the DS-250, for use in electronic music. Today, the music division, a part of Seiko Life Sports, produces metronomes & tuning devices.
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