Seiko's First Wristwatch Made 100 Years Ago
Japanese watchmaker Seiko celebrates this year its 100th anniversary of the Laurel, the company’s first wristwatch. Established in 1881 by Kintarō Hattori, the company was originally a humble watch and jewelry shop in Tokyo. Eleven years later in 1892 Hattori began manufacturing clocks under the name Seikosha, which roughly translates as “the house of exquisite workmanship.”
The Laurel, created in 1913, was not only the company’s first watch but also the first wristwatch made in Japan. The watch marked the start of a long tradition of innovation based on Hattori’s belief that Seiko should always be one step ahead of the competition.
In 1969 Seiko made the world’s first quartz watch, the Astron, which at the time cost roughly the same as a car. In 1988 the company released the Seiko Kinetic, which was the world’s first automatic winding system that not only supplied power to the movement but also allowed it to store power. In 2005 the company announced the Spring Drive, a new movement that provided 72 hours of power compared to the usual 40 hours for a mechanical watch and 3 years for a battery-powered quartz watch. The Spring Drive movement was also used for the Spring Drive Spacewalk, which was designed to be worn by an astronaut during a space walk. In 2012 Seiko released the Astron GPS Solar, another innovation as the first watch in the world to use GPS data to display the exact time anywhere in the world at the touch of a button and powered only by the nearest available light source.
Seiko watches have also surfaced in popular culture, having been featured during Roger Moore’s tenure and in the unofficial Sean Connery Bond film Never Say Never Again, as well as in Robert Ludlum’s novel The Bourne Identity in which the hero wears a Seiko Chronograph. The company has also been the official timekeeper of many international sporting events, including four world cup events, two Summer Olympics, and three Winter Olympics, and is the official sponsor of FC Barcelona.
Seiko has created various limited edition timepieces. These include the Seiko Kintarō Hattoro limited edition Astron GPS Solar, which features a solar-powered movement, and a GPS-controlled time and time zone function for accurate timekeeping worldwide. The Ananta 100th anniversary chronograph, inspired by samurai culture, features a hand-painted dial by the Japanese artist Isshu Tamura and is limited to 300 pieces worldwide. Another limited edition release, the Grand Seiko 44GS, was the first watch in the company’s history to embody the iconic characteristics of the GS brand. The 44GS is available in four different metals with the white gold version being limited to only 70 worldwide.