In the land of the rising sun, Japan has been a technological powerhouse throughout the years. Pioneering the technological movement, providing high-quality electronics at competitive prices, the Japanese changed the landscape and paved the way for the future and what it was going to look like. They also changed the landscape of wristwatches, which were once dominated by mechanical watches made in Switzerland.
Dubbed by watchmakers around the world as ‘The Quartz Crisis’ of the 1970s, the Japanese watchmakers started a revolution, producing quartz-made timepieces which were more accurate as the mechanical counterparts for competitive or sometimes, more affordable, pricing than the competition.
The movement, which almost put Swiss-made watch production to a standstill, changed how people perceived technology coming from Japan and put them in a different league above everyone else. Let us give you a rundown of some of Japan’s most popular watch brands and a curated selection from each brand.
Seiko was one of the companies in question that help lead the ‘Quartz Crisis’, fighting and clawing their way towards recognition of being known as a serious competitor.
Battling for acknowledgment of having accurate chronographs, Seiko kept entering the Superbowl-equivalent of chronometry: the time trials run by the Neuchâtel Observatory in Switzerland. These time trials were prestigious in the era of mechanical watch glory, but that went into a tailspin when Seiko entered the contest in 1963 and placed tenth overall. That historic victory signified the first non-Swiss company placing a top ten finish.
Seiko kept racking up the wins, slowly climbing up the manufacturer rankings, with one year, taking up 2nd and 3rd place overall. 1968 was the last year the Neuchâtel trials were held before Seiko could go for the gold. They then set sights on Geneva in 1969, finishing very well in Concours de Genève. (Un)surprisingly, Geneva canceled the event a year after.
Grand Seiko SBGA-025
The pinnacle of Seiko design on your wrist.
Seiko after that wanted to compete with the luxury Swiss manufacturers and created the Grand Seiko. Built with strict specifications that must be met before carrying that name, Grand Seiko watches are regarded as Japan’s ‘cream-of-the-crop’ watches, matching if not, excelling, in Swiss-made wristwatches in the same price bracket. One particular example that comes from that line is the SBGA-025. This watch contrasts the most famous Grand Seiko watch, the SBGA011, dubbed the ‘Snowflake’ for having a snowflake-like textured dial.
The SBGA-025 has a more structured, almost tailored-texture dial, and also featured crown guards, which are sometimes known as ‘crown shoulders’. While it does not have an exhibition back like the Snowflake, it has the same Spring Drive technology developed by Seiko, which provides mechanical movements but with electromagnetic technology with a quartz oscillator, basically creating a watch equivalent of hybrid technology.
Grand Seiko strives itself on being known as one of the best watches available out there, but it’s typically difficult for North Americans to get a hold of one. Grand Seiko is primarily exclusive to Asian markets, and so not a lot of horologists have seen one in person, let alone, touch one. While that may be the case, the exclusivity alone puts it above most wristwatch makers and the mechanism within it is unlike anything offered in the market today. The Grand Seiko lineup is a crown jewel for Seiko but doesn’t discount other brands as they have something of their own to offer.
Next up is Citizen. Another Japanese innovator, Citizen has created world firsts throughout the years since the inception in 1918. The company had the same drive and determination to push themselves beyond the comfort zone and had something to prove to the world that they should be taken seriously as the other manufacturers.
The company created the first quartz divers’ watch in 1982 with water resistance up to 1300 m, and innovated the light-powered technology called ECO-DRIVE, converting solar power into electricity to power the watch. This eliminated the need for batteries, which was a distinct advantage over mechanical/automatic watches, but still had the accuracy of a quartz watch.
1993 also provided them with a new sales segment, the world’s first “radio-controlled watch”. What that meant was that wherever you traveled, from Tokyo to Dubai, it would automatically synchronize with the atomic clock of that region so that you will have accurate time, anytime, anywhere.
Citizen Skyhawk Blue Angels
Feature-rich watch with an aviation theme devoted to the Blue Angels.
The continued push for innovation is ever present in our curated pick for Citizen: The Skyhawk Blue Angels A-T. The Skyhawk itself prides on being a feature-rich watch and provides great value for the money. Not only it has the atomic timekeeping technology we mentioned earlier, but it has the ability to provide a second-time zone, a perpetual calendar, and chronograph features.
To top it off, it has an Eco-Drive movement, providing the wearer up to 6 months of hassle-free power. The Blue Angels motif, paying homage to the United States Navy’s flight demonstration squadron of the same name, is a nice touch to typical Skyhawk watches, which are black/white/red. The blue/yellow theme adds uniqueness, the knockout punch, to an already great-looking timepiece.
Citizen will always be at the forefront of innovation when it comes to wristwatch technology and has the makings of becoming a strong multi-faceted brand. With luxury brand Bulova as part of their portfolio, Citizen has a significant market share to make an impact and has coverage in multiple price tiers to be recognizable. Let’s see where the future will take them and see if they can continue to keep the momentum going to change the state of watch technology for the better.
You might be a little bit ‘shocked’ with our next contribution (thank you all, I’m here all night!), but hear us out! Casio is a pioneer in the electronics game, creating electronic calculators, keyboards, and digital watches. One of their innovative lines is G-Shock.
Created to prove that wristwatches can be durable if, given the right foundation, Casio G-Shock watches have been so popular with the modern crowd lately that G-Shock is basically seen as their own brand- with some people forgetting they’re made by Casio.
Designed to withstand shock and vibration, G-Shocks are typically cased in rubber-silicone and current iterations of G-Shock still offer that type of protection, but with more features such as atomic clock capabilities, solar power integration, and chronograph functionality. The ruggedness of the G-Shock makes it popular with individuals with an active, sometimes high-risk occupations such as:
- Police Officers
Casio G-Shock MR-G
If the Terminator needed a reliable watch made out of the same components as their arm.
While lesser G-Shocks are dime a dozen, our curated pick stands out from the sea of neon purple and fluorescent yellow bands: The G-Shock MR-G.
Created with the priority of durability, the MR-G series have been built and forged with a titanium case and band. This strong yet lightweight element provides a unique shine but way stronger than steel. The bezel is also coated with a cobalt-based alloy, to provide another layer of protection that’s twice harder than stainless steel and has platinum-like shine. The MR-G also has a sapphire crystal, which as we all know, is very scratch-resistant.
The MR-G also has smartphone connectivity, GPS, and radio wave synchronization capabilities for accurate timekeeping anywhere in the world. Beautiful and durable in their own right, we shouldn’t overlook what G-Shock has to offer in terms of technology and is known as one of the best Japanese manufacturers.
Last but not least is Orient. A niche Japanese brand, they create timepieces that could rival what the previous three have to offer but with a more competitive price tag.
That statement is debatable as Orient is part of the Seiko Epson umbrella, but design-wise, Orient has several pieces that stand out from the crowd that some Seiko watches (minus the Grand Seiko line) cannot compare against.
Orient Watches has a different demographic than Seiko and their designs reflect the type of customer they are trying to attract: The watch aficionado that doesn’t want the same watch as their dad. Wait. Does that sound right? I guess before we go into the nitty-gritty, let’s dive into why you should care about Orient.
Orient was an independent watchmaker before being gobbled up by Seiko in 2007. Their design philosophy is more liberal than the conservative Seiko designs and was always seen as ‘modern’ or ‘aggressive’. To this day, Orient still builds their own movements, so in a way, they are still their own entity. Their design language is more on the modern side, and somewhat close to pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable or not. Depending on where you lie, that could work in favor as you can get a high-quality, reliable piece that has modern, eclectic tastes.
Orient Sun and Moon
For the Seiko customer who doesn’t like Seiko watches.
Our pick for forward-thinking design is the Sun and Moon automatic. Typical sun and moon dials are usually at 6 o’clock but the Orient changes things up a bit with these features taking up real estate between 2 and 3’ o clock. This creates a design that’s unlike any other but still has somewhat of a traditional flair with the Roman numeral markers. With a navy blue and silver motif, it has a level of class that mainline Seiko watches can’t match and we personally like how this Orient carries itself. This could look well with a suit or with a t-shirt.
When compared to the big watchmaker, Orient is nothing like Seiko when presentation comes into play. Compare a Seiko and an Orient side-by-side and the presentation are totally different between the two manufacturers, but one thing is for certain: Orient reliability is on-par with Seiko. Whatever speaks to you is truly in your hands, and it’s time to let your money decide if Orient should belong in your collection. We think it should and we hope we successfully echoed that sentiment.