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Hi SEIKO-lovers! I recently had the privilege to visit SEIKO and I thought it would be nice to share my experience with you.

I have like many others born in the 70s/80s always been influenced by Japan and their youth culture. When I was a teenager, me and my friends watched a lot of Manga, Akira and Ghost in the shell was on repeat on the video. If you are in to Manga, then I’m sure you have noticed that my avatar since the last 7 years on this forum has been Tetsou from the movie Akira. Most of the other movies we watched had some sort of connection to Japan or Japanese culture. Shogun assassin, Kung Fu the legend, Karate kid, Bloodsport, and so on. Video games and music also followed this theme; Streetfighter, Mortal Kombat, Wu-tang and so forth. Even as a child, I mostly wanted to play with Transformers. The same goes with my sports activities as a martial arts practitioner. A lot of time has been spent watching K-1 (kickboxing) and Pride (MMA).

It is also safe to say that “Made in Japan” is considered a “proof of quality” both for my generation and for my parents’ generation here in Sweden. Who doesn’t remember the first Sony MD-player or the yellow “waterproof” freestyle?

My watch interest is easily summed up by SEIKO > the rest, even if I of course own watches from other brands as well.



Day 1



As soon as I had arrived I went to a nearby bar to eat dinner and to have a well-deserved beer. Jon Henrik, founder of the Norwegian watch forum Tidssonen texted me and asked me if I wanted to “take a stroll”. I had already planned a shopping route so he joined me.



Uniqlo was followed by Dover Street Market.


I did of course want to visit the Grand Seiko flagship-store at the ground floor of the Wako-Store in Ginza even if we planned to visit there later during the week. What we didn’t know was that the store planned to re-open after a refurb at the end of the week.



https://youtu.be/3SgyPHGe6Gs
https://youtu.be/H5Msm819wwI
After that we went to Bic Camera in Ginza which is one of the largest electronics stores in Japan. I was on the hunt for a specific LE-watch but it had been sold out in 3 days. Bic Camera is a pretty cool place and the watch floor is pretty crazy. You can find most watch brands there and the cheap brands are mixed with the more luxurious brands.


After all the shopping (I didn’t buy much), me and Jon went for a few beers and some ribs. I spent most of the night awake and throwing up, I blame it on the ribs (because the dumplings were very tasty).


Day 2 – Design
First we went to the SEIKO head-office for a briefing about the company layout, different movments produced by SEIKO and general information about the brand.

Then we got a briefing from designer Nobuhiro Kosugi, who explained the basic principles of SEIKOs design philosophy “Grammar of design” and the difference and clear patch from the 60s/70s Grand SEIKOs to the current line-up.



The Zaratsu technique is basically the same now as it was during the 60s, but the craftsmanship and the tools have improved, resulting in new possibilities when it comes to complexity of case design. As an exapample, Mr Kosugi explained the challenges faced when polishing the SBGJ003/203 case where four different plat surfaces meet in “one tip/point”. This case demands a very high level of craftsmanship to be executed perfectly.

The SBGJ005 pictured above (which uses the same case) is a limited edition released 2014. It is a modern reinterpretation of the 44GS (1967) and gave Grand SEIKO a lot of attention when it won the "Petite Aiguille" design price 2014. Personally, I like the case a lot since I think it’s a great example to describe the Grammar of design design-language with flat high polished surfaces and sharp edges.


Mr Kosugi also had some original sketches with him which were very nice to see.


SBGR023 (1998) Grand Seikos first modern mechanical watch.


SBGM001 (2002) Grand Seikos first mechanical GMT.


SBGH001 (2009) Grand Seikos first modern mechanical hi-beat.





SBGJ001 (2014) Grand Seikos first mechanical hi-beat GMT.


57GS & SBGJ001

Credor Fugaku Tourbillon


(SBGJ001)



Portrait of Mr Nobuhiro Kosugi

Mr Kosugi has worked as a designer for SEIKO since 1993. Some examples of designs he is responsible for are: SBDS001 (Flightmaster), SBGJ003, SBGH003, SBGR053, Credor “Fugaku” and the SLA017/SBDX019 released 2017.

His favourite material for watches is steel since it can be polished over and over again. Today Mr Kosugi works with as a tutor to the current Grand SEIKO designer Shinichiro Kubo.


After this very interesting start of the day we took the Shinkansen to Morioka where Seiko has the SII-factory where the mechanical Grand SEIKOs, the mechanical Credors and the other “higher end” mechanical movements are produced and assembled.





Dag 3 - Shizuku-ishi watch studio, SII (SEIKO Instruments Inc, formerly known as Daini), Morioka.


Buss trip means Japanese language school.


Above is an old picture from SEIKOs website, nowadays there is a SII-logo on the top left corner of the front of the building. As I previously mentioned, this is where the mechanical Grand SEIKOs, the mechanical Credors and the other “higher end” mechanical movements like the 8L are produced and assembled. And by produced, I mean most parts, I believe all parts except for the hairsprings and some other time regulated parts which are produced at other SEIKO-factories in Japan. SII is also known for producing and distributing watch movements to other brands, one example is the 6R15 which is named SII NE15 when sold to other watch manufacturers.


I wore my SII-anniversary model which was handed to the staff in 1997. The watch got some fun reactions when I showed it to the SII-management but I think they took me for crazy when I told them that I also have another one but full set with box and papers in my wardrobe at home.




After a quick introduction it was time to see the production. One of the workers who worked with heat-treatment of parts wore a limited edition Credor GCBP-chronograph.


Internal ranking system for the watchmakers.

The GS-rotors are made of brass and Tungsten and are then plated and finished.


Different types of SPRON springs.

SLA015 vs SBDX001/017

After the long walk through the factory and the main production we got to see some dials and other Grand SEIKO and SEIKO parts produced at the SII-factory. Note that the dial of the SLA017 has stamped, not applied indexes, just like the old 6105 models.


The heart of the assembly and adjustment

We were all lucky when we got our new fashionable dust-free clothes before we entered the assembly room.


The man who helped us with the clothes sported a Credor GCBR997.



This is the room where the mechanical Credors, Grand SEIKOs (and a few others like the 8L) movements are being assembled and adjusted. This is the room that most people think of when they think about Grand SEIKO. The Shizuku-ishi high end watch studio is of course more than this room, but this is where the “magic happens”.


The 24 watchmakers (or thereabout) all have their own personalized watchmaker-tables, specifically crafted to each individuals size and preference. The view outside the window has inspired many dial designs and you can really sense the serenity of the room.




Watchmaker Katsuo Saito, Credor movement assembly (wearing a SEIKO Landmaster).


Grand SEIKO movement assembly.


Hands assembly, only two watchmakers work with this task.


Adjustment of the movements.



Masanobu Horoiwa – Casing and final assembly.



https://youtu.be/qQEDYJtlxhk
Tsutomu Ito demonstrates how a hairspring is adjusted by hand to ensure the best possible time-keeping. All the Grand SEIKO hairsprings need to be adjusted by hand.



Portrait – Master watchmaker Mr Tsutomu Ito


(Wearing his SBGJ013)
(SBGJ013 på armen)

Mr Ito is today responsible for the assembly and adjustment of the Shizuku-ishi studio. He started working for SEIKO with quartz assembly but has been working at the studio since the studio opened, year 2000. Mr Ito personally inspects all the Grand SEIKOs before they are allowed to leave the studio. It takes Mr Ito 3 minutes to manually adjusts a hairspring which is very impressive since it takes 30 minutes for the other watchmakers at the studio (during the WOSTEP-test, a watchmaker has about 4 hours to complete the same task).



Day 4 – SEIKO Epson (formerly known as Suwa)

Time to learn the weekdays in kanji, but no need after owning all the vintage SEIKOs. 


Epson, meaning “electric printer son” is where the quartz and springdrive are produced, meaning most quartz watches, from cheap run of the mill quartz movements to Astron, solar-quartz, 9R and 9F. One thing that surprised me is that the production is parallel to the production at SII, meaning Epson also makes dials, indexes, hands and other parts (but only for quartz & springdrive.


First we got a run down of the 9R and the 9F movments, luckily I have written tons about that before so I’ll only do a summary this time.

Grand SEIKO 9F quartz movement: Thermo-compensated +-10 seconds/year (+-5 seconds/year for some special edition models), double stepping motor to enable larger hands, auto “backlash” function disabling the twerk.
Grand SEIKO 9R Springdive movement: Mechanical powered movement with quartz regulation, ±1 second per day (±15 seconds per month), 72 hrs power reserve for standard models.



Let’s start with the details and work out way up. The picture above shows the sunburst dial production. The dials are being polished individually by combining vertical and horizontal polishing, pretty cool.


Dial transfer printing, also done individually and by multiple procedures.


Indexes are cut by a worker lathing all the complex angles in multiple repetitions, a very complex pattern and procedure which I won’t even try to explain.



The hands for Credor and Grand SEIKO watches are being blued individually. The worker puts one hand at a time on a heated table until the hand has the exact right blue colour. Timing can not be used since the humidity and temperature varies during the day and from season to season.


The brushed top surface of the hands are being done individually. The employee brushes one single hand and checks it over and over again during the procedure to make sure it turns out perfect.


Zaratsu polishing



The zaratsu polishing technique is done by hand using either a case-holder or by freehand. The polishing technique requires a high level of craftsmanship and is a very important aspect to be able to utilize the “grammar of design” which means using flat mirror-polished surfaces in sharp angles to reflect the light.


The brushed surfaces are also made by hand.

9F assembly


SBGX065 casing. After casing, the Grand SEIKOs are tested for water resistance for two days in -10*c & +60*c.



Micro Artist Studio


The Micro Artists Studio is basically where the haute horology happens, some of the special Credor och Grand SEIKOs with Spring drive movement are being hand finished and assembled here. So far there has been only one Grand SEIKO made in this studio and that is the 8-day springdrive.

SBDG202


High gloss polishing of the bridge for the 9R01 movement.


Brushing of the 9R01 movement bridge. Every bridge takes between 8 and 10 hours to finish.

9R01 assembly.



Credor Eichi 2 (platinum case).


The Eichi dials are painted by hand.



Portrait of Mr Nakazawa Yoshifusa

The poster boy of the Micro Artist Studio. Mr Yoshifusa won the gold medal of the watchmakers Olympics in 1981. He also has his workplace under a set of stairs. The Micro Artist Studio is very low key in it’s execusion but the watchmakers working there enjoys their studio. Small spaces apparently helps to avoid distractions and is good for the concentration.



Day 5 – Prospex
I was very surprised and excited when I learned that Mr Tokunaga was the one to hold the presentation for SEIKO Prospex. It’s not cut in stone when the history of Prospex starts but from my point of view it starts with the release of the 300m SEIKO diver’s watch 6215 (1967).


The 6215 was replaced by the hi-beat (36k vph) 300m diver’s watch 6159-7000/7001 (1968). The 6159 is basically a Grand Seiko movement slightly modified to be able to carry larger/heavier hands. The 6159-7000/7001 was discontinued 1969 when Seiko got a letter from a Japanese who considered the watch useless since it couldn’t handle the problem with helium-gas mix used during SAT-diving. The 6159 was also a very expensive diver’s watch which helped with the decision.


(7c46)

The first Tuna, the 6159-7010 was release 1975, after 7 years of development led by Mr Tokunaga. The L-shaped gasket under the crystal in combination with the one-piece case made the case impenetrable to helium and thereby eliminated the need for a helium escape-valve. The first “Tuna” described above was followed by numerous variations of models, the 300m and 600m cal 7549 (1978) and the 300m/1000m cal 7c46 (1986) and so on. The “Tuna”-line is still a very active line with SEIKO and one of the most recognizable.



Back to present time: Mr Tokunaga started by giving us a short history lesson of the SEIKO diver’s watches and then explained the basic principles of SAT-diving and the problems related to watches.


SAT-diving.


Tube exposed to 1000m pressure.


Mr Tokunaga special, a 7549 Tuna with 6159 movement and a blue ceramic outer case.



Portrait Mr Ikuo Tokunaga

Best WIS-buddies forever. I sneaked inside to have a chat with Mr Tokunaga when the others were out synchronising Astrons. Mr Tokunaga is a true watch nerd, very friendly and of course extremely knowledgeable when it comes to watches, the technical aspects of watches in general and diver’s watches specifically. He has written books about the technical developments of SEIKOs divers watches but these are sadly only written in Japanese and they are all sold out (and discontinued).
Mr Tokunaga has catalogued his watches on his website *********

I took advantage of the situation and asked Mr Tokunaga a few questions which I have had for a long time.

  • Mr Tokunaga likes ceramics and titanium, these are the best materials for diver’s watches.
  • SEIKO sets their maximum depth standard to 1000m for a reason. 500m is the deepest any diver has dived and SEIKO therefore doubled their standard to 1000m which will be most sufficient to any human.
  • The reason for SEIKO using silicone instead of natural rubber for the straps is simply because it’s better. Natural rubber will break and can’t handle the ISO/JIS/Seiko divers watch standard. Silicone is also better when it comes to heat-exposure.
  • Before SEIKO as the first manufacturer in the world (1993) started to use lumibrite , they used Prometium, NEVER Tritium. The reason for this was the very strict Japanese restrictions regarding radioactivity which only promitted max 3,7 Becquerel.
  • The reason for SEIKO using a gasket under the bezel is simply to get the right friction.
  • It takes 24 hrs to adjust to the depth of 300m-600m but it takes approximately 12 days to readjust to atmospheric pressure after SAT-diving.



Wako Store


We then went to visit the Wako store which had been re-opened (after renovations) the same day. After a quick look-around at the store we went to the rooftop of the building to enjoy the view and to take some nice photos.



The walk back to the hotel was short and offered some time to buy gifts for my son waiting back home.


I didn’t impress this lady.


The evening was spent with a very nice dinner with the Seiko management. Mr Hattori was in charge of taking care of us and also in charge of the entertainment.


I sat across Mr Shuji Takahashi who is in charge of pretty much everything concerning SEIKO since 1 April 2017. He was very friendly and was wearing a SBGJ203. We had a good laugh about it since I was wearing my SBGJ003.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
Re: SEIKO Travel report 2017 (pic-heavy)

Day 6

Day 6 started with individual interviews with Mr Shuji Takahashi, or more accurately waiting for the interview. As we waited, Mr Shinichiro Kubo, Grand seikos current designer came by and we had a chance to interview him about the design of the Grand SEIKO hi-beat diver’s watch SBGH255.




Mr Kubo started by explaining the basic principles of “grammer of design” and he made some great sketches explaining how light is reflected on flat surfaces compared to on convex surfaces (my poor copy above). He then continued telling us that he went diving for the first time when he was working on the design of the SBGH255.


Mr Kubo was wearing a Seiko Tuna with gold accents and he noticed that colours and contrasts change under water, the gold accents are the first to disappear.
He liked this effect and the fact that the legibility of the watch improved during the dive when the gold “disappears”, resulting in the hands and indexes becoming more prominent.



He also liked the shape of the air bubbles visible from below as they ascended towards the surface. The structure of the dial is inspired by this experience and if you look closely you can see that the structure on the dial has been shaped with the bubbles in mind.



Portrait Mr Shinichiro Kubo

(No picture available so here’s a picture from Shogun Assassin instead. Mr Kubo was wearing a SBGH037)
Mr Kubo is young and he started working for Seiko right after design college 1999. His first design for Seiko was a pilots watch and the first Grand Seiko he designed was the SBGE001. He has since designed many Grand Seiko models including SBGA029, SBGX117, SBGA127/SBGH037, SBGA011 aka “The Snowflake”, SBGH255 and numerous other






Interview with Mr Shuji Takahashi

https://youtu.be/RMQIhcAcWL8
The interview was a great experience for me, being able to interview the person in charge of the brand I love the most is of course a little surreal. My enthusiasm can of course be heard during the interview and I even forgot to mention the quartz-anniversary.





The SEIKO museum
https://youtu.be/k3EDjQDaVKU
https://youtu.be/8ZwjRbXLYls


Pictures from museums are of course very boring but the visit was of course nice, I bought a book for my son in the shop, they sadly no English literature.



Portrait Robert Wilson

Mr Wilson has worked for SEIKO since 1981 and today he works at SEIKO UK.

What’s the first watch you remember wearing?
An Ingersoll Ana/digi, I was 12 years old.

What is the favourite watch in your collection?
My Grand SEIKO SBGA003, it’s so good that it’s hard to wear anything else.

What type of watch movement do you prefer and why?
Springdrive, the seconds hand is mesmerising. I also has a few kenetic watches which I like, my next purchase however is an automatic.

Do you have a grail watch?
Credor Eichi 2


What are the advantages of Grand SEIKO being separated from SEIKO?
There are a few watch models missing from the Grand SEIKO line-up, separation from SEIKO means that these models will have an easier way of complementing the existing line-up.
To have “Grand SEIKO” at the 12 o clock position on the dial also makes sense from an international point of view. In Japan, SEIKO is very respected as a brand, so there is no conflict, but for the international market, this change makes a positive difference.





After lunch I took a 20min cab ride to see the Gundam statue which was the only sightseeing I had decided not to miss. The satue is 20m high and very impressive.




After getting back to Ginza I jumped in the bathtub and got ready for the “jazz event”. I was however not prepared for it to be a GS9-event with a large part of the SEIKO management present. GS9 is the Japanese fan-club for Grand SEIKO, they host events to which the members can win tickets and they release magazines with lots of great articles about Grand SEIKO. You can apply to a membership if you buy a mastershop edition Grand SEIKO and if you live in Japan.


After a drink at the hotel bar we went for a walk in the heavy rain to raid the Ginza 7/11 stores which was a nice way to round of the trip.



Day 7


Day 7 meant flying back to Sweden so not much to say about that. The trip was amazing and I found the production interesting, however I appreciate even more to get to know the people behind the watches, both the management of SEIKO and the designers, engineers, watchmakers and other employees. It is safe to say that my SEIKO addiction is now worse than ever, the first thing I did on the plane back home was to buy back a SBGX117 and a 7c46 Tuna.

Thanks for reading and I hope I presented some news to you even if you have previously read other SEIKO trip reports.
 

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I read this thread on TZUK (where I am not a member), via a link from SCWF(?) and I must say this was one of the best posts I have ever read. I thoroughtly enjoyed. Such an amazing insight into a world oft talked about but seldom seen.

I loved the little features, portrait of a watchmaker etc. And so well written. I am not sure if you have but you should start a blog.

Really enjoyed seeing various workers,their wristshots and they seemed genuinely pleased to have their photo taken.

Many questions come to mind, but the most important is... how did you get on this tour? If you don't want the secret out then please PM me!

Amazing thread.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
I read this thread on TZUK (where I am not a member), via a link from SCWF(?) and I must say this was one of the best posts I have ever read. I thoroughtly enjoyed. Such an amazing insight into a world oft talked about but seldom seen.

I loved the little features, portrait of a watchmaker etc. And so well written. I am not sure if you have but you should start a blog.

Really enjoyed seeing various workers,their wristshots and they seemed genuinely pleased to have their photo taken.

Many questions come to mind, but the most important is... how did you get on this tour? If you don't want the secret out then please PM me!

Amazing thread.
Thanks a lot, appreciate it! It was the people behind the watches that made the biggest impression on me, truly a dream come true to talk watches and have lunch with Mr Tokunaga and the others.

I have a blog, yonsson.com , but that's mostly a summary of what I write online. I like writing online since it's easy and interactive, you don't get the same response if you write for a magazine. And then there's all the hassle around layout and stuff like that, so I prefer online.

I got the invitation from a seiko representative who knows I love SEIKO.
 

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thank you for letting us share your great experience with Seiko...

this reaffirms my desire to one day have a grand seiko on my wrist
 

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Amazing read! I loved seeing the design sketches, and reading about the different applications of the "Grammar of Design." Seiko seems to be very open about their process.
 

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Bravo! Just a fantastic post. Thank you for sharing the detail of your experience.
 
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Fascinating reading your journey! Thanks!

Btw, I recognize all the 70s and 80s stuff especially the manga's and the movies, I'd like to add the movie 'Black Rain' to that list :)
 

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Thanks for putting this up mate, one of the most enjoyable threads ive read in a long time on WUS, outstanding read and pictures.
 
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