Japanese Watch Brands – when did it all start?
Before we can talk about the best Japanese Watch Brands, we think we need to understand the history of watchmaking in Japan and how did this industry started. The history of Japanese watchmaking dates back to the early 1900s when the first Japanese watchmakers began to emerge. One of the earliest and most prominent brands was Seiko, founded in 1881 as a small watch and clock repair shop. Over time, Seiko became a leading innovator in the industry, introducing new technologies such as quartz movements and solar-powered watches.
Another notable brand is Citizen, founded in 1918 and quickly established a reputation for precision and reliability. Throughout the 20th century, Japanese watchmakers continued to expand and refine their craft, developing new techniques and innovations that would revolutionize the industry. Seiko almost “destroyed” the Swiss watchmaking industry when it launched the first quartz movement watch, the Astron, which became one of the most sought-after “gadgets” of its time.
Today, Japanese watch brands are known for their high-quality, precision-made timepieces, which are sought after by watch enthusiasts around the world. In addition to the well-established brands, Japan is also home to many microbrand watchmakers making waves in the industry. This article reviews Japanese watch brands, from the big names like Seiko and Citizen to rising microbrands and high-end independent watchmakers.
Japanese Watch Brands – are they any good?
The short answer is – Yes. Japanese watches are widely considered some of the best in the world. As we mentioned above, Japan has a long watchmaking history, and its watch brands have built a reputation for their quality, reliability, and innovation.
Japanese watchmakers such as Seiko, Citizen, and Casio are known for their attention to detail, their use of high-quality materials and advanced technologies.
They offer a wide range of watches to suit different tastes and budgets, from affordable quartz watches to high-end mechanical watches. Japanese watches are also known for their accuracy, with many models featuring movements that are precise to within seconds per day. Overall, Japanese watches are an excellent choice for anyone looking for a high-quality timepiece that is both stylish and reliable.
Grand Seiko for example is considered by many as one of the best watchmakers in the world, with some models which are considered Haute Horlogerie, with some innovations that you can’t even find among Swiss Watchmakers.
Japanese watch brands are offering watches that cover all the price levels, from low-end and entry level, such as Casio, Seiko, Citizen and Orient to high-end level such as Grand Seiko.
The Best Japanese Watch Brands
Seiko is one of the most iconic Japanese watch brands, known for its precision and innovation. The company was founded in 1881 by Kintaro Hattori and began producing wall clocks before expanding into wristwatches in the early 1900s. Seiko’s breakthrough came in 1969 when it introduced the Seiko Quartz Astron, the world’s first quartz watch. This revolutionary timepiece used a quartz oscillator and a battery to keep time with incredible accuracy, setting a new standard for the watchmaking industry. Seiko has continued innovating over the years, introducing new technologies such as solar-powered and GPS-controlled watches. The brand’s Prospex and Presage lines are trendy among watch enthusiasts, offering a range of high-quality, reliable timepieces at various price points. Today, Seiko is widely regarded as one of the best Japanese watch brands and is recognized as an industry leader.
Seiko has some iconic watches that got their own nicknames, models such as Tuna, Turtle, Monster, Samurai, Shugon, Arnie (named after Arnold Schwarzenegger, who wore it) and many others, who gained a huge popularity among watch enthusiasts.
Grand Seiko is the luxury arm of Seiko, renowned for its exceptional craftsmanship and attention to detail. The brand was established in 1960 to create a timepiece that was accurate and beautiful and to prove that High-End watchmaking can exist also outside of Switzerland.
Over the years, Grand Seiko has become known for its high-end mechanical watches made in-house and crafted by skilled artisans. Each Grand Seiko watch is subject to rigorous testing and inspection, ensuring it meets the brand’s exacting standards for accuracy and performance. Grand Seiko’s design aesthetic is characterized by its clean lines, sharp angles, and understated elegance, making it a favorite among watch collectors and enthusiasts. In recent years, Grand Seiko has expanded its offerings to include a range of quartz and Spring Drive watches, cementing its status as one of the top luxury watch brands in the world.
Citizen is a Japanese watch brand that has been making waves in the industry since its founding in 1918.
The company’s mission is to create functional and beautiful watches, and it has built a reputation for its innovation and precision.
one of the most popular and well-known models from Citizen are the Eco-Drive watches, which use light as a power source for the watch movement, and do not require a battery change.
This environmentally-friendly technology has been a game-changer in the industry and has helped to cement Citizen’s status as a leader in sustainable watchmaking. Citizen also offers a range of other watches, including mechanical, quartz, and smartwatches, catering to a diverse range of tastes and budgets.
The brand’s signature models include the Promaster, Nighthawk, and Satellite Wave, all popular among watch enthusiasts. Citizen is a top choice for anyone looking for a reliable and stylish timepiece.
Citizen is using famous ambassadors, like Indian cricket captain Rahul Dravid pose, the famous tennis-player Naomi Osaka and Kareena Kapoor, Indian Actress.
Casio is a Japanese watch brand founded in 1946 and has become known for its innovative and affordable watches. The company’s first watch, the Casiotron, was introduced in 1974 and was the world’s first watch with a fully automatic calendar. Since then, Casio has continued to push the boundaries of watchmaking with new technologies and features, such as G-Shock shock-resistant watches, Pro Trek outdoor watches, and Edifice watches with smartphone connectivity. The brand has also gained a reputation for its digital watches, which feature various functions, including alarms, timers, and world time zones. Casio’s watches are often favored by outdoors enthusiasts, athletes, and adventurers due to their durability and functionality. With its focus on innovation and value, Casio has become one of the most well-known Japanese watch brands and a popular choice for anyone looking for a reliable and affordable timepiece.
Casio probably doesn’t want anyone to mention this watch. Still, Casio Bin Laden, a watch that the notorious terrorist Osama Bin Laden wore, is one of its most famous watches. This is one of the most affordable watches from Casio, and it has become a cult watch since it was spotted on him.
Orient is another famous Japanese watch brand, that has been producing timepieces since 1950. Orient is known for its quality craftsmanship and affordable prices. The company is offering various mechanical, quartz, and hybrid watches to suit different needs and preferences.
Orient watches are often praised for their classic designs and reliable movements, with many models featuring automatic and hand-wound activities made in-house by skilled artisans.
The brand’s signature models include the Bambino, a classic dress watch, and the Mako, a popular dive watch that offers excellent value for its features.
In the last years, Orient has made some big technological advancements, including a special collaboration with Seiko Epson, trying to develop a new type of quartz movement.
With its commitment to quality and affordability, Orient has become a favorite among watch collectors and enthusiasts.
In 2009, Seiko made Orient Watch into a fully-owned subsidiary. 8 years later, in 2017, Orient Watch was totally merged with Seiko Epson.
Naoya Hida is a Japanese watchmaker who has gained international recognition for his expertise in traditional watchmaking techniques. After studying at the Hiko Mizuno College of Jewelry in Tokyo, Hida began his watchmaking career at a Swiss watch company before returning to Japan to establish his own workshop in 2004.
In 2019, he started a watchmaking company, named after him. his watches are known for their exceptional craftsmanship and attention to fine details, with each timepiece taking months or even years to complete. Hida is exceptionally skilled in the art of hand-engraving, a technique that involves carving intricate designs onto the watch’s metal components.
His dedication to preserving traditional watchmaking techniques has earned him numerous awards and accolades, including the prestigious Meister Prize in 2018. Today, Hida continues to create bespoke timepieces for clients worldwide, cementing his reputation as one of Japan’s most talented and innovative watchmakers.
His first watch, the the NH Type 1B, used 904L Steel – stainless steel which is harder than the more common 316L stainless steel. 904L is mostly recognized with Rolex. Surprisingly, he used a Swiss hand wound movement for his first watch, which was sold for around $17,600.
Koue is a microbrand watchmaker, similar to what we see in different countries worldwide. Kyoto-based Koue (pronounced KUO – the e is silent) makes retro-inspired watches that are often small in diameter, as we’re used to from Japanese watchmakers. Kuoe also uses outsourced Japanese automatic movements, like many microbrand watchmakers, to emphasize local pride.
The price tags of the company’s watches range from $250 to $650, making them very affordable.
A Microbrand Called Mirco? yes. Mirco is another microbrand watchmaker, although their watches are more expensive than those made by Kuoe. With movements from Seiko and Miyota, Kuoe’s watches are characterized by a retro-sporty style from the 1970s.
Currently, the company offers two lines of watches: Type-03, a diving watch priced around $1,650 USD, and Type-02, a vintage-inspired chronograph priced around $2,100 USD.
Japanese Watch Brands – To Sum It Up
In summary, Japanese watchmaking is much younger than watchmaking worldwide. There are no old names like those found among American watch brands such as Hamilton or Bulova, and there are no names with the prestige of names found among English watch brands such as Arnold & Son or Graham.
If you want to compare it to German Watch Brands, Japan might not have prestigious names such as A Lange & Söhne, but Japanese watch brands are offering excellent quality and precision, and great value for money, and as we mentioned above, they can be proud of being home to one of the most luxurious brands in watchmaking – Grand Seiko.
What about Minase?