Along with Switzerland, Japan is a global horology hub with a slew of well-known “Made In Japan” manufactures. According to the Japan Clock & Watch Association, Japan made 63.9 million watches in 2018 for both the domestic and international markets. Read on to discover our picks for the top 10 Japanese watch brands.
Following a successful career in product design, the self-taught independent watchmaker, Hajime Asaoka began making watches in 2005 and introduced his first tourbillon watch four years later. Over the next decade, Hajime Asaoka has continued to produce impeccably crafted timepieces and his collection ranges from the three-handed Tsunami to the complex Tourbillon Pura to the open-worked dial Chronograph.
Despite being a one-man operation, master watchmaker Masahiro Kikuno crafts his timepieces almost entirely by hand. From design to manufacturing to assembly, Masahiro Kikuno is one of only around 30 people in the world that has the skill set to produce his incredibly finished, complex, and thoughtfully designed watches.
A veteran of the Japanese watch market, Naoya Hida was not only key to F.P. Journe’s successful launch in Japan but he also made a career of establishing distribution channels in the country for prominent Swiss watch brands. Just this year, Naoya Hida unveiled his first luxury watch, the vintage-looking NH Type 1B, under his eponymous brand.
A niche Japanese watch brand formed in 2005, Minase only produces around 500 watches a year. Originally reserved for the domestic market, Minase is now set on offering its collection of Divido, Horizon, and Windows watches internationally. Minase watches adhere to a structure the company calls MORE, inspired by Japanese traditional wooden puzzles, where components fit like puzzle pieces so each part can be easily replaced without disturbing the overall architecture.
Minase became known to a broader public in June 2019 after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was spotted wearing a Minase Divido at the G20 summit in Osaka.
Although Casio’s early history focused predominately on making calculators, the Japanese company diversified into watchmaking in the 1970s with the introduction of the Casiotron electric wristwatch. This paved the way for the brand’s massively popular calculator watches that dominated 1980’s pop culture. The eighties also welcomed the super-tough G-Shock, which has since evolved to become Casio’s most successful line of watch models.
Inaugurated in 1950, Orient is Japan’s largest producer of mechanical watches and all watch components are made in-house. This may sound expensive, but Orient watches are priced very affordably. From Bambino dress watches to Mako divers to Defender field watches, Orient offers a wide range of budget mechanical watches.
The world’s leading producer of watches and movements, Citizen’s history began in 1918 and its dominance is still going strong. Among its impressive list of innovations, Citizen’s 1976 invention of the world’s first light-powered analog quartz watch—now known as the Eco-Drive—shaped the brand’s culture of looking to the future. Citizen recently announced the Eco-Drive Caliber 0100 as the most accurate watch ever made.
Yet another brand that sits under Seiko’s massive umbrella, Credor produces ultra-luxurious watches in very limited quantities. The Credor brand is still relatively unknown outside of Japan, yet the brand’s collection of watches – which range from refined time-only pieces like the Eichi to high complications like the Fugaku Tourbillon – showcase master craftsmanship.
In 1960, Seiko established a subsidiary brand called Grand Seiko and employed master watchmakers and other artisans to manufacture fine timepieces. Today, Grand Seiko watches are recognized as some of the best luxury watches in the market thanks to their exceptional finishing, impressive movements, and appealing designs.
Founded in 1881 first as a jewelry shop then as a clockmaker in 1892, Seiko has had a long history of leading Japan’s watchmaking culture. The brand boasts a long list of milestones such as making the first Japanese wristwatch, dive watch, and chronograph—not to mention the world’s first quartz watch, the Astron. With nicknames like “Tuna,” “Turtle,” “Sumo,” and “Samurai,” Seiko watches are favored by legions of watch enthusiasts across the globe.
Whether for wallet-friendly options or ultra-fine timepieces, it is clear that the Japanese watchmaking landscape has something for just about any type of watch buyer.
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