Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Small but persistent - the Japanese way

Wataru Hasegawa was the son of a Japanese Naval Force Chief Engineer. His father died when Wataru was a very young boy, and his only dream was to become an engineer; like his dad.

After graduating in 1928 he started his small machinery manufacturing businesses. The competition was fierce, with many similar manufacturing start-ups competing in the Japanese market. However, the Hasegawa Machinery Co. was different.  Unlike competitors who fiercely competed in medium to large lathes, Wataru focused only on the small watchmaker’s lathes.

Then came World War II and, like many other businesses, manufacturing halted. However, during the post-war rebuild of Japanese industry, and especially thanks to the optical industry, orders for small precision lathes started flowing in.

As they say - the rest is history…

Today, Hasegawa small lathes and mills are synonymous with both precision and quality. 

A couple of weeks ago, while visiting a machinery dealer in Geneva, I made a passing comment that I really liked the latest Hasegawa mill and that I wished they had an Australian dealership!  The Swiss salesman replied, "Well, it just happened that we have here, right now, an engineer from Hasegawa, Japan. Would you like to pass your comment on to him in person?"

Of course I would not miss such opportunity! However, I was shocked to find out that the young engineer I was introduced to was young Hiroaki Hasegawa, and with him there was his father, Mr. Toru Hasegawa, the Company President.

I have to say that I have never met a nicer, more polite, and considerate Company President than Mr Toru. While he had a number of meetings lined up, we spent almost 20 minutes talking about watchmaking. He said that he is personally aware that "a rebelde from Australia" made an inquiry a few months ago about their precision CNC mill. Unfortunately, they are yet to sell mills to Australia.  However, that may change if there is interest in precision machining, and especially watchmaking.  He loved rebelde (I was wearing the N00 Pilots prototype!). On that day he wore a Rolex, which is a very sensitive choice when doing business in Geneva. Hiro wears Seiko; the pride of the Japanese watchmaking industry.

The highlight of this unexpected meeting was a personal demonstration of the latest PM250 mill by Mr. Toru, followed with more “watch talk”.   I have to say that this affectionate exchange between Mr Toru and me left quite an impression on our Swiss host.  

What a truly humbling experience!

I wonder, however, if Mr Hasagawa is a bit of a rebel himself?  In the Japanese corporate world where bigger is better, he continues to makes the small CNC watchmaker machines, following his grandfather's dream. "Size is not everything" is his company’s motto.  But persistence surely is…

Happy Collecting,


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