In the early 1960s, SEIKO had already been
in the clocks and watch business for more than 80 years: a house-hold
name and a market leader in Japan, with ambition for global expansion.
The secret of Seiko's growth, was in demand: the citizens of the modern,
post War world were hungry for modern, accurate and fashionable wrist
watches. A mechanical wrist watch was a necessity; a device that ruled
the lives of a working man and women. Yet unlike Swiss brands, Seiko was
not burdened by fancy horological tradition and an outdated and
inefficient, cottage industry business model. Seiko was thinking "big
and forward" heavily investing in R&D; perfecting mechanical
watches, while embracing quartz technology and building manufacturing
plants capable of outputting millions of units.
In Japan, Seiko had no real competition. In order to promote competition
and product development within the company, in 1960 Seiko split up
their Suwa subsidiary into two separate entities: Suwa Seikosha and
Daini Seikosha. Both factories operated separately, with the idea that
they would not share knowledge and would therefore try to one-up each
other and produce better products. This unorthodox business model worked
surprisingly well, and this internal competition propelled Seiko to the
cutting edge of design and technology. In 1960, Suwa Seikosha released
the first Grand Seiko Chronometer, Seiko’s first high-end dress watch.
In response, Daini Seikosha released the first King Seiko in 1963.
The original King Seiko case was designed in the 1960s by young designer
Taro Tanaka. Tanaka wanted to outshine the Swiss, figuratively and
literally: inspired in part by the art of gem cutting, Tanaka developed a
series of rules known as the “Grammar of Design.” "The Grammar of
Design boiled down to four basic tenets. First, all surfaces and angles
from the case, dial, hands, and indices had to be flat and geometrically
perfect to best reflect light. Second, bezels were to be simple
two-dimensional faceted curves. Third, no visual distortion was to be
tolerated from any angle, and all cases and dials should be
mirror-finished. Finally, all cases must be unique, with no more generic
round case designs."
A few weeks ago, Seiko released a new King Seiko: a tribute of the
original KSK. The key feature: the sharp, bold faceted lugs, with large
flat planes and razor sharp angles, Zaratsu polished to a
distortion-free mirror finish. A true Taro Tanaka tribute to the
“Grammar of Design”.