I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday Season.
I would like to share with you my delightful and surprising experience of learning more about two famous Japanese watch brands. Up until this point, my knowledge was mostly in Swiss and other European watch brands so I truly enjoyed this journey of delving into some special Japanese timepieces.
Over the summer, a client contacted me after he decided to sell his watch collection. Due to the traveling requirements of his job, his more than 100-piece collection included pieces from all over the world—from Japan to Cuba and dozens of other places in between. Within his collection, I noticed several striking vintage pieces from Citizen and Seiko that included intriguing design elements such as pushers at 12 o’clock, square subdials, winding crowns at 4 o’clock, and even hidden winding crowns. These watches were all from the 1970s and their designs certainly showed that.
As I was doing my in-depth research into these watches to write the descriptions that would accompany the photos on Laurent Fine Watches, I learned a lot about both Citizen and Seiko.
The history of Citizen started with a man named Shinpei Goto, who was the former mayor of Tokyo. The production of Citizen timepieces started in 1924, first with pocket watches followed by wristwatches. In 1956, Citizen unveiled a model that would go on to become an icon—the Citizen Parashock, which was, in fact, the first Japanese shockproof wristwatch. Citizen’s first mechanical alarm watch joined the company catalog in 1958, followed by the water-resistant Citizen Parawater in 1959. However, 1966 was an even more important year for Citizen and Japanese watchmaking at large with the introduction of the first electronic wristwatch, the X-8. A decade later, in 1976, Citizen produced a quartz watch with an LCD screen, in addition to the first solar-powered analog quartz watch. The 1980s proved to be a busy decade for the Japanese watch brand with innovations such as the thinnest watch water resistant to 100 meters in 1982 and the first diving watch with an electronic depth gauge in 1985. Today, the Citizen Group is the largest watchmaker in the world thanks in part to its subsidiary movement-maker, Miyota, and its purchase of the Bulova Group in 2008.
Citizen Chronograph Automatic
The story of Seiko, the main competitor of Citizen, is just as intriguing. Its history began in 1881 when founder, the Kintaro Hattori, opened a clock repair and retail store in Tokyo. In 1892, the young entrepreneur purchased a factory and established the Seikosha plant to produce the company’s first clocks and in 1917, K. Hattori & Co. Ltd became a public company. By 1924, the company’s wristwatches included the name Seiko. From then on, progress was steady and the company developed in stages to become the world’s leading clock producer with 350 million movements a year rolling off the Seiko Epson production lines. In the early 1930s, the company was already displaying its goods in Tokyo’s fashionable Ginza district. In 1964, Seiko was named the official timekeeper of the Tokyo Olympics. In 1971, Seiko introduces the world’s first automatic chronograph, along with an early quartz wristwatch. From then on, electronics dominated timekeeping at Seiko.
Once I had discovered the amazing history behind two of Japan’s biggest watch brands, I turned my attention to the specific watches placed in front of me. Right off the bat, I was impressed by the quality of these watches from the seventies with thick, yet, comfortable cases. Measuring 40 mm in diameter, these cases fit today’s standards for men’s watches despite being close to 50 years old. Although the watches within this personal collection all have their distinct design touches, there is a common style and proportion theme that runs through them.
I noticed that Seiko dials tend to be more colorful, with green subdials, a yellow chronograph hand, and a blue and red “Pepsi” tachymeter. What’s more, while the dials pack plenty of information like the time, day, date, tachymeter scale, subsidiary dials, and so on, they are still well balanced and easy to read.
Crowns and pushers are well designed with ease of use and responsiveness in mind. These watches typically come with screwed-down casebacks and most of them are water resistant. Movements powering these timepieces are very good with fantastic durability and high-quality parts. For instance, Caliber 6139 is an automatic movement with 17 jewelers and operates at a frequency of 21,600A/h. The Kanban production philosophy is also evident as displayed by identical pushers, crowns, and other components. Furthermore, the different style bracelets still hold up well even after 50 years of existence.
Seiko Caliber 6139
The 1970s was an experimental decade for design and as such, many of the watches from this era were creative and avant-garde for their time. A great example of this is the Seiko Sportura Kinetic, which has garnered plenty of attention from collectors recently and consequently, is enjoying an increase in value in the market.
Seiko Sportura Kinetic
After dedicating hours to looking, writing, researching, and photographing these Citizen and Seiko watches, I realized that I love these pieces for their designs, style, quality, and most importantly, their value. Available at very reasonable price points, these watches still offer great value with prices less than $1,000 (with the exception of the Sportura that normally sells for over $2,000).
However, I would not be surprised if 1970’s Citizen and Seiko watches pick up in value in the near future since collectors are paying more attention to them. Cherished for their appealing blend of design, quality, and price, these will undoubtedly become more collectible by attracting the growing vintage watch enthusiast crowd.
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year. Also, if you’re looking for a special gift to put under the tree this year, don’t miss the fantastic collection of watches now available at Laurent Fine Watches.
Your dream watch became a reality? I’d love to hear from you so send me an email and share with me your dream timepiece search journey.
Until next time…
Laurent Martinez ✦ Laurent Fine Watches ✦
Tel: (1) 203 863-9168 | Cell: (1) 203 561-2763
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