SEIKO's Shizukuishi Watch Studio Visit - Appendix

Feb 21, 2011,04:26 AM

Here is the appendix to SJX’s comprehensive report on SEIKO Shizukuishi Watch Studio – Trivia Version.
See SJX's report here: /

The season has changed.  This part of Japan tends to have relatively lots of snow.  But this year is heavier than average, I hear.

The plate that signifies the area of "Shizukuishi Watch Studio".

Now, let me dig some trivia about this SEIKO Factory.

I. Geography and History

(1) Where is Shizukuishi, Iwate?
Iwate is one of 47 prefectures (like the States in the US) of Japan and located in the northern part (Tohoku or Northeastern Region) of Honshu island which is the biggest one of Japan. Morioka City is the capital of Iwate, and Shizukuishi is one area around Morioka. The legal name of this big factory is Morioka SEIKO Instruments Inc. (“MSI”) and “Shizukuishi Watch Studio” is the name of a division within MSI.

(from MSI's PR package)

(2) SEIKO history and Morioka Factory
SEIKO was established in 1881 – as "K. Hattori", from the founder’s name. This year, 2011, celebrates its 130th Anniversary (there will be some Anniversary models, I am sure).  Then, "SEIKO-sha" was established in 1892 as a CLOCK manufacturing factory for "K. Hattori", and later in 1932 "Dai-Ni (The Second) SEIKO-sha" was established as a watch factory.  (by the way, "SEIKO" means "Precision Manufacturing" to begin with... "sha" means "company"...)

[fast forward...]

...then it came out with GRAND SEIKO in 1960 while SEIKO had already commercialized its first quartz CLOCKS for broadcasting use since 1959
In 1964, SEIKO introduced the world's first portable quartz chronometer, and SEIKO served as official timer of the 18th Olympic games in Tokyo and provided 1,278 stopwatches. 
In 1968, SEIKO achieved the highest ever score in the Geneva competition and was awareded the "best mechanical wrist chronometer". 
And then, in 1969, SEIKO introduced the world's first quartz watch, "SEIKO Quartz Astron".

MSI was created in such timing to accommodate the need for massive quartz movement manufacturing in 1970. The location was picked for its environmental advantage – weather, clean water and air.  Unfortunately, in early 70s, Grand SEIKO line disappeared.....

[fast forward...]

In early 90s, SEIKO started restoring its prestigious mechanical watch production in Chiba prefecture (next to Tokyo), and then all the equipment and skill/ talent were transferred to MSI in around 2000, and Shizukuishi Watch Studio was created in 2004. Between its inception in 1970 and 2000, MSI was making mostly quartz movements. MSI still makes 100,000,000 (100 million) quartz movements (for SEIKO group brands as well as for the third party brands) while 10,000 (10 thousand) mechanical movements are hand-assembled per annum.   Quartz manufacturing is almost completely automated and I did not have chance or time to see the facility.

II. Philosophy and Approach

It is SEIKO’s philosophy and approach that the pursuit of accuracy comes from pursuit of precision of each parts. Even the world’s best watchmaker cannot make the watch more accurate than the sum of the parts. SEIKO today uses MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems) to manufacture certain parts in its “Prestige” watches. MEMS utilizes Photoresist technology (just like the semiconductor manufacturing) and the result is super precision. For example, the escape wheel and the anchor striker used to be made with machine cut and shave but the center hole of the escape wheel must be exactly in the center; otherwise of course it affects not only its accuracy but also durability. By using Photoresist technology, this parts is now made exactly as drawn by CAD, and does not need to be polished at all.

The process of MEMS

Comparison of the results: the escape wheel on top is made with the conventional cut and shave, the one on the bottom is made with the MEMS

Furthermore, thanks to MEMS, for 10-beat caliber, this parts is made with harder material, made much lighter (notice lots of “holes”) and has “pockets” to store extra lubricants so that the higher speed would not result in more frequent servicing.
This approach goes for any parts of the Prestige models from caliber base to escape wheel, balance wheel to spring.

Notice the "pocket" on the tip of the wheel, and the holes to reduce the weight.

Close-up of the lubricant pocket

III. People

There are a few watchmakers schools in Japan. But almost all of SEIKO's watchmakers are young fresh graduates from other normal schools with no experience whatsoever in horology.  New hires are equally educated and trained from scratch. Requires at least three years of training even for the experienced new hires (i.e. graduated watchmakers school) to be in the clean assembly room (the youngest watchmaker in the clean room is 21 years old!), or at least five years for engraving.  All are home grown watchmakers and so far there has been no turnover from or to other brands.

The "Clean Room" assembly room

SEIKO wants to preserve the skill of the watchmakers and promote its passing to the next generation. SEIKO created and began the watchmaker exam/ certification for all the Japanese watchmakers, regardless with SEIKO or not, four years ago, which is no
w endorsed by the Governor of Iwate prefecture. There is the national exam, but it is mostly for repair of quartz watches and doesn't mean much here. This SEIKO's exam is made extremely difficult – the applicants have to assemble, disassemble, plus detect and determine the defect and correct it in the limited time - the first class watchmaker certificate test passing ratio is about 30% (40 applicants last year, and 12 passed) and the meister watchmaker certificate test pass ratio is almost nil (only ONE passed in the past 4 years).

Gold Meister, Silver Meister, and Meister Specialist

IV. Future Direction
The direction of SEIKO’s prestige wa
tch making – pursuit of accuracy and practicality will not change. All the parts are made in-house and can develop them from the selection of the material/ metal or alloy is the huge advantage. The new 10 beat (36,000 Hz) movement was made possible by newly developed springs, for example.
The reason for more automatic watches and more bracelet watches is simple – they sell more in Japan while they are aware that the true horology lovers do like manual winding and leather strap – I made a request to make manual winding 10-beat GS smile

Balance wheel, balance spring, and ancher assembly flow, for example

Mainspring/ Balance Spring processing flow - SEIKO makes in-house (from another 100% subsidiary nearby)

Barrel comparison - 9S85 is the latest 10 beat movement

Mainspring Comparison - 9S85 is the 10 beat movement, a little longer, but not that much

Balance Spring comparison - uncoiled previous balance spring - about 4cm

Balance Spring for 10 beat movement (9S85) - 4cm, not much difference.

BUT look at the result of the uncoiling - previous generation spring doesn't retain the original shape (on the right) while the newly developed balance spring for 10 beat movement retains perfect shape (on the left) after such uncoiling above!

V. Q&A

Q1: Why such a clean room?
A1: We want to do everythi
ng possible to increase the efficiency/ productivity. Even the swiss watchmakers do care a lot about avoiding dust when assembling and take time and great care to collect or blow away the dust anyway. We simply want to save time and focus more on assembling. The required spec of the room is Class 50,000 (less than 50,000 dusts with diameter of 0.5 micro meter in 1 cubic feet) level, but in reality it is rather closer to 5,000.

Q2: It seems that the benches are lower than conventional watchmakers' bench
A2: we use more microscope than loupes these days. So, our watchmakers do not need to be close to the caliber. Loupe gives 2 to 3 times magnification while microscope gives 15 times magnification. The desks are adjusted to each watchmaker, as you can see

Q3: Aren't you going for the more complicated watches?
A3: we pursue the accuracy and precision with practicality in GS line and more jewelry and contemporary design in Credor line. We believe that it is SEIKO’s originality and we do not have a plan for the time being to go into the complicated watches (e.g. perpetual, tourbillon, minute repeater, etc.)

Q4: How is your GS global distribution being implemented?
A4: we are gradually expanding the distribution channel to US/EUR.  We also aim to have our own service center/ watchmakers locally in the future, so that the customers wouldn’t have to wait for many months for simple repair or servicing if it had to come back to Japan.

VI. Misc.
Mr. Hiraga – chief in GS caliber assembly - does not need loupe or microscope when he showed disassembling of the 10-beat caliber (9S85). He said, “I sometimes use loupe and microscope when assembling the caliber from the scratch or inspecting them closely, but just disassembling the once-completed caliber and re-assembling it doesn’t require loupe.” Oookay….

Half naked 9S85 - disassembled by GS chief with naked eyes smile

A poster on the wall that shows the history of 9S mechanism

Unfortunately empty bench of Gold Meister Mr. Sakurada- he is not always here....

Ah!  What a beautiful place SEIKO has its most advanced factory!

Lastly, here is my love for SEIKO:

Hope this report supplement SJX's more technically detailed report, and you enjoy reading these trivia which you didn't know before like I didn't!

I also would like to express my special thanks to:
Mr. Takahashi and Mr. Ishikida: Morioka SEIKO Instruments Inc.  Shizukuishi Watch Studio
Mr. Mitamura: SEIKO Instruments Inc. Watch Division
Mr. Hara: SEIKO Watch Corp. Public Relations

for the warm welcome, taking time to organize the tour, and to patiently answer my questions.


This message has been edited by MTF on 2011-02-21 08:12:27 This message has been edited by KIH on 2011-02-21 15:15:24 This message has been edited by MTF on 2011-02-23 23:20:27

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SEIKO's Shizukuishi Watch Studio Visit - Appendix

 By: KIH : February 21st, 2011-04:26
Here is the appendix to SJX’s comprehensive report on SEIKO Shizukuishi Watch Studio – Trivia Version. See SJX's report here: / The season has changed. This part of Japan tends to have relatively lots of snow. But this year is heavie...

A reminder to bring out my GS

 By: MTF : February 21st, 2011-08:44
Ken, Thank you for the supplementary report. It has reminded me to find my GS (manual wind and leather strap) that I use to wear when trying to be a 'salaryman' in Tokyo My watch was so accurate and precise that it matched the train departure times on JR ...

Thanks ken for your additional report.......

 By: Topcat30093 : February 21st, 2011-09:04
Which I found very useful at this present time, when I'm contemplating getting a GS. Have you got any thoughts on expanding your current collection of GS pieces? Regards Tony

Sure, I asked for a manual winiding Hi-Beat :-)

 By: KIH : February 21st, 2011-09:26
... not sure if they will actually make it, though Ken

Thanks so much for the report. Did you ask them

 By: cazalea : February 21st, 2011-09:17
if they have plans to accept visits like the Swiss do? A PuristsPro Grand Seiko tour, perhaps, for the lowly, non-moderator collectors? (wink) Cheers Cazalea...

Actually, they do.

 By: KIH : February 21st, 2011-09:25
They have been doing that. The tour is routine, as there is a shop for such visitors, selling the special editions only available at the factory, and I hear that they accept foreign collector visitors, too. You may want to contact your local Seiko or Seik...

Would you include the lowly moderator non-collectors . . .

 By: Dr No : February 21st, 2011-12:54
. . . in your tour, Mike? Sign me up!

I will be happily a tour guide for you guys! [nt]

 By: KIH : February 21st, 2011-21:21
No message body

We will have a PuristS on Tour of SEIKO

 By: MTF : February 21st, 2011-23:23
.....eventually. With only one PoT (PuristS on Tour) a year, we have to prioritise our factory visits. I need to decide........... but one good point is that 2011 is an anniversary year for both Seiko and PuristS, which means they are too busy to accept u...

Superb report, Ken. Thank you so much for that! [nt]

 By: boa2 : February 21st, 2011-09:44
No message body


 By: Adamska : February 21st, 2011-09:47
thank you very much for this excellent report! You managed to perfectly complement the previously posted content. Best, Filip

a very informative and enjoyable read:)

 By: playtime : February 21st, 2011-10:29
thanks for sharing J

Thanks Ken

 By: fernando : February 21st, 2011-18:52
Very informative & appreciate the bit abour the history of the brand and its development. How did they respond to your request for the 10-beat caliber manual wind BTW? cheers fernando

They smiled back :-)

 By: KIH : February 21st, 2011-20:32
From "practicality" stand point, automatic movement is very logical for them and Japanese users love it or couldn't care less. But I conveyed PursitS' message and they heard it. So, I still have hope Ken

Keep our fingers crossed then.:) [nt]

 By: fernando : February 21st, 2011-20:41
No message body

Thank you so much for your awesome review!

 By: sklim8 : February 21st, 2011-22:34
I am liking GSs more and more

Additional Information

 By: HIROTA, Masayuki : February 22nd, 2011-01:12
Thanks, SJX-san and Ken-san. There are noting to add your excellent report, but I try to add some interesting information. SII and EPSON have own "Baked Machine" to increase hardness of steel parts. Now steel parts made by them have over 700Hv To be exact...

Hirota-san is one of the most knowledgeable writers

 By: SJX : February 22nd, 2011-01:28
for those who are unaware of his background. Hirota-san, great to read you on this forum! - SJX This message has been edited by SJX on 2011-02-22 01:30:11

Thanks, SJX-san!

 By: HIROTA, Masayuki : February 22nd, 2011-01:50
Hope to meet you in Tokyo! HIROTA

Aside : reverser-type automatic

 By: HIROTA, Masayuki : February 22nd, 2011-02:08
Cause of poor durability, I personally do not prefer "Reverser". But I`ve phrased three automatic movements which carries reverser system. One is Rolex. 1570, 3000 (except non-chronometer 3000) and current 3100 are just marvelous. It`s not difficult to mi...


 By: KIH : February 22nd, 2011-05:30
Hirota-san, thank you very much for posting. Come and drop by more often. You are such a spring of knowledge. Your knowledge will enlighten us all on many front. As SJX says, Hirota-san is really a knowledgeable watch journalist. Best, Ken

Arigato, Ken-san

 By: HIROTA, Masayuki : February 26th, 2011-02:20
I`m not a expert, but a watch geek.... By the way, Thank you for your excellent report! See you in Tokyo, Ken-san HIROTA, Masayuki This message has been edited by HIROTA, Masayuki on 2011-02-26 02:21:53

That is hardly an appendix!

 By: SJX : February 22nd, 2011-01:27
Thanks for the wonderful additional detail KIH. - SJX

Thanks again for this very interesting post.

 By: VMM : February 22nd, 2011-01:41

MTF, perhaps you could both do something...........

 By: Topcat30093 : February 22nd, 2011-02:25
To celebrate both the anniversaries? Or maybe you have......... already?

Thanks for the highly informative report. (nt)

 By: Ronald Held : February 22nd, 2011-04:56

thanks for the info, its always good to see and read details of a companies work

 By: G99 : February 22nd, 2011-09:27
they made a handwind hi beat 36000 in the 1960's so there is no real reason why they cant make one now. this is no longer mine, but it was for over a year. thanks again Graham...

Thank you - brings back memories!

 By: wisemoth : February 22nd, 2011-17:01
Great post - thank you! I went there with my brother last October (though I couldn't take photos, so well done!). It was a fascinating tour, and it was brilliant to go to the home of a couple of my GSs (SBGW001 and SBGR037). Did you buy one of the special...

Generally, photograph is not allowed....

 By: KIH : February 23rd, 2011-06:07
.. and I heard that after my visit They even ask you about the firm you work for - they specifically bans visitors who work for other watch brands. About the photo, I introduced myself as a moderator for PuristS and told them of the purpose of the visit (...

excellent reporting and access..

 By: ocwatching : February 23rd, 2011-07:28
love the wall of certificates... thanks for sharing the unique insights to a great watchmaker

excellent reporting Ken

 By: Hororgasm : February 24th, 2011-06:08
thoroughly enjoyed this post. brings colour to SJX's earlier thread. best, Horo

Fantastic post, Ken! Don't know how I missed all this...

 By: dxboon : February 26th, 2011-09:49
...action on HoMe the last few days (Busy at work and then at home with general contractor repairing things is the excuse I'll go with, I guess. LOL!). I'm always impressed by the workings of Seiko. They seem very dedicated to achieving precision and reli...

My pleasure...

 By: KIH : February 26th, 2011-15:26
These people are really serious. Only home grown talents, but they know the world and will get there. I am much impressed, too. Thank you! Ken