Friday, November 29, 2019

We've got it!

It's been ages since we spoke about pocket watches, and today I'm very pleased to share some good news.

After many months, a very special long awaited pocket watch has finally arrived. It is a Showa 3 (1928) Seikosha railway pocket watch. What a beauty! Known as type 19 (52mm case size), it became the official railway pocket watch of Japanese National Rail from 1928 to 1945. In 1945, type 19 was then replaced with Seikosha 9119, featuring the same mechanism but in a slightly smaller case (50mm). Type 19 was the El Primero of the Japanese railway saga.

Of course, Seikosha was not the only watch to be used on Japanese Rail as a time keeper. From the late 1880s, Japan imported high grade pocket watches from both the USA and Switzerland. Waltham, Omega and Longines were already well established in the land of the rising sun. But one can only imagine the euphoria which culminated with Seikosha's technical mastery to manufacture a high grade pocket watch as good as foreign.

Proving itself as robust and reliable in less than a decade, Seikosha established itself as the official JNR supplier. While foreign railroad pocket watches remained in service until their 'expiry date', National Railway favoured Seikosha over all other suppliers.

Externally, design-wise, the Seikosha type 19 is heavily inspired by the 1920s American Illinois Bunn railroad pocket watch. The most prominent feature is the crown bow which clearly is not an imitation of American style, but rather one of the most elegantly designed European inspired bows, rooted in the Art Deco era.

The best way to understand and appreciate the true value of a high grade railway pocket watch is to remind ourselves of what such high precision instruments cost in the 1930s. While a top of the range Rolex Oyster Perpetual was advertised for 14 pounds, the cheapest Illinois Bunn was sold for $65 USD. And the Seikosha type 19 was not any cheaper than its American equivalent.

A high grade pocket watch, especially a railway issued piece, should be a corner stone in any ambitious watch collection. If you are yet to acquire your first piece, the time to look for one is now while the prices remain very reasonable. If you are interested in a pocket watch from a particular year, send us an email and we will keep an eye out for you! 

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