Certainly one of the most storied watch makers as well as one of the most trusted brand names in the world, Seiko, like many great enterprises, grew from a modest beginning to what is projected to be more than three billion dollars in sales in 2010. A Seiko watch has become synonymous with high-tech, reliable, accurate and affordable.
Seiko officially began in 1881 when Kintaro Hattori, a 21-year-old Tokyo businessman opened a jewelry store, K. Hattori & Co., Ltd in Tokyo's Ginza district. He chose jewelry after keenly observing: "On a rainy day, every retail shop will have less customers. However, jewelers can make good use of these slack days by repairing timepieces and thus not waste precious time." The first Seiko watch would not be built until years later, but the remarkable efficiency for which Seiko is now renowned was presaged by this early philosophy. Years spent repairing watches and clocks laid the foundation for the eventual establishment of the Seikosha clock manufacturing plant in 1892. Pocket watches were added to the companies' product line in 1895.
Disaster struck in 1923 when a massive earthquake struck Tokyo destroying the Seikosha factory. With production in 1924 down to 10% of 1922 levels, the first wristwatch bearing the Seiko brand name was introduced. Following World War I, the wristwatch had replaced the pocket watch as the timepiece of choice and amid destruction and reconstruction K. Hattori & Co., Ltd found its niche.
In 1930, building upon its expertise with micro-mechanics, the company branched out into the manufacturing of camera shutters, eventually becoming one of the world's largest suppliers of camera products, although they were never marketed under the company's own brand. Today the Seiko has further diversified into printers, optics and electronics.
In 1934, following the death of Kintaro Hattori, his successor, son Genzo Hattori, shifted the company's business model to allow private plants to develop and manufacture watches and clocks to be marketed by K. Hattori Co. and carrying the Seiko name. In 1936, the company sold more than two million watches and clocks, nearly two thirds of Japan's total production of watches and clocks.
In the 1950s, Seiko watches began to attract international attention, and the brand began marketing its products in the United States. The first Seiko automatic watches were introduced in 1955. By 1959, Seiko was producing three million watches a year.
In the 1960s, Seiko enlarged its presence in the US by successfully positioning itself between cheaper American brands such as Timex and more expensive Swiss brands at an average price tag of around $50.00.
The event which propelled Seiko to dominance was the introduction of the world's first production quartz watch in 1969.