Watch collectors rightly worship at the altar of Swiss made watches as they represent everything that is collectible about any product; first class workmanship, superior, cutting edge design, choice and diversity from entry level through to the most exquisite haute horology concepts. The only country that can hold a candle to Switzerland in ingenious watchmaking is the Japanese, and what a massive contribution they have made.
What’s wonderful about Japanese watches is that there is always something new and intriguing on the horizon, the design concepts are every bit as advanced and desirable, yet importantly, in the main, they cater to the collector who simply hasn’t the resources to blow thousands upon thousands on sparkling, twinkling ever ticking watch wear. Along the way the Japanese have introduced ingenious and affordable solutions across many genres of watches and produced some all-time classic watches known, loved and respected throughout the world.
Let’s start with one of the major contributions by the Japanese to the watch world as we know it. The Casio F-91W has sold by the container load since it was first introduced in 1991. It’s truly an entry level set it and get on with it watch, low cost, unpretentious, some might say unsophisticated, but it does exactly what you want a watch to do; tell the time legibly, reliably and even give you an hourly alarm beep and a single daily alarm. The watch comes in several variants and has become a hugely popular retro collectible. Incidentally, holding down the right button displays the word ‘Casio’. You can pick up some models for as little as $20 or less.
Love or hate the G-Shock, it’s a work of sheer marketing genius. The bulky behemoths have become one of the most compulsive collectibles in all of watchdom. Not only that, some G-Shocks, like the Solar-GW3000B-1ACR, are extremely sophisticated. The G-Shock Solar Power dial watch in black and orange is one of the best in the entire G-shock collection. Being Solar it can run for days with just short exposure to sunlight, therefore not using up battery power. In terms of flexibility and performance, complete with world time, this edition is top notch. It is of course both shock and water resistant and entirely suitable for daily use. The only think not to like about this particular G-Shock is trying to get to grips with the manual, as there is so much going on.
Citizen ATTESA Eco-Drive radio controlled AT8044-56E
Citizen provide some of the most reliably accurate timepieces in the world. Without taking anything away from the wonders of purely mechanical accuracy, those who love their time to be down to the last nano second can receive regular time signal updates with this radio controlled watch. Made from lightweight titanium, this 43mm watch auto corrects itself around the world in 26 cities…provided those cities are in Europe, USA, Japan or China. If you’re in the Caribbean, well, you don’t really need to worry about the time. Some of the Eco Drive watches can become overly complicated, but this particular model, available only from Japan, still manages to look like an elegant sporty dress watch.
Orient manufacture all of their movements in house, and their classically designed elegant watches could be considered a worthy alternative to considerably more expensive Swiss counterparts. For around $100, this watch has practically everything you might want apart from size, as it’s only 36mm, however it comes complete with a day and date complication, and glows powerfully in the dark. At such a low price it’s hard to beat for an automatic timepiece. Orient also make the beautiful Mako, an affordable Rolex Submariner style tribute watch minus the cyclops date window, but with a personality all its own.
Seiko Orange Monster
The Orange Monster is perhaps one of the most popular and sought after watches ever to come out of Japan. The genius of the Orange Monster is that it is truly something of a loveable monster, with plenty of size and heft, as well as a simply unmissable orange dial, now made even more monster like with the addition of fearsome shark’s teeth indices. This reliable and affordable automatic watch is water resistant to 200 meters and shines like a beacon in the dark, making it the ideal cinema wearing watch when you are not busy inspecting coral on your latest scuba dive.
First Seiko developed a kinetic movement with a rotor similar to automatic movements, that depend on your daily activities of moving around, hailing taxis and pointing to stuff in order to store energy and keep on delivering reliable quartz controlled time. Kinetic watches are effectively battery driven watches that charge as you wear them. Kinetic watches also give you a power indicator, rather like a traditional power reserve indicator, for you to know how much juice you have left. Kinetic Direct Drive adds hand-winding to a Kinetic movement. This means that you can also charge the battery by winding the crown. This 44.5mm watch gives you all the accuracy of quartz but with the necessary interaction that some enjoy with a mechanical watch. The next step up from Kinetic Direct Drive is Seiko Spring Drive, another movement of sheer genius but also very costly. You should be able to pick up a Seiko Kinetic Direct Drive watch for around $450.
The story of Grand Seiko has been the story of a team’s dedication to perfecting the deceptively simple idea of creating the perfect watch. There is nothing flashy or obtrusive about a Grand Seiko watch. Though times change and Seiko’s watchmaking technology has evolved rapidly, the spirit and essence of Grand Seiko has remained the same. For 55 years, Grand Seiko has stood for the exacting ideals, to be, in every detail, the finest, purest watches Seiko can possibly create. Grand Seiko was first introduced as a concept in 1960. Some of the Grand Seiko watches run on Seiko’s high-end movement, the Seiko Spring Drive. It’s a movement that took engineer Yoshikazu Akahane over twenty years to perfect, during which time he endured countless setbacks and created over 600 prototypes. To date, it is the only commercially available wristwatch technology capable of truly creating a continuous movement of the second hand, instead of the traditional beats per time unit as seen in quartz or mechanical watches.