Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Japan: Clocker of the Games Time Magazine, Oct. 16, 1964

The following article appeared in Time Magazine, Oct. 16, 1964 and provides an interesting insight into Seiko production figures in 1963:

"Next to the athletes, the most vital ingredients in the Olympic Games are the precision timepieces needed to clock the contests, whose outcomes sometimes depend on milliseconds of difference. Last week, as the 18th Games got under way in Tokyo, the official timepieces were not European for the first time in Olympics history. They were Japanese, and they all bore one name: Seiko, the brand mark of K. Hattori & Co., Ltd., Japan's biggest watchmaker (1963 sales: $98 million).The switch made sense. Duplicating its efforts in cameras and transistor radios, Japan has quietly become a top producer of watches, aggressively competing around the world against the long-unchallenged watchmakers of Europe. Japanese watch production has ticked upward from 2,000,000 annually to 11,700,000 in a decade, now ranks fourth behind that of Switzerland, Russia and the U.S.Split-Second Timing.

Hattori, founded in 1881 by a clock salesman of that name, started out as a shoestring importer of foreign timepieces, later pioneered Japan's own watch industry. Destroyed by a 1923 earthquake, Hattori rebuilt, only to be leveled again by U.S. bombers. That disaster proved to be a blessing. In starting from scratch the third time, the company virtually scrapped hand-assembly methods, today makes 75% of its watches by machine. As a result of its super-efficiency, Hattori claims to have been for five years the non-Communist world's largest maker of jeweled-lever watches. Last year it turned out 5,900,000 wristwatches, 53% of the Japanese total, this year expects its output to rise to 7,000,000.In 1959, when Tokyo was selected as the 1964 Olympics site, Hattori shrewdly picked a delegation of technicians to attend the 1960 Games in Rome, where they carefully studied timing problems and techniques. When the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee asked whether there was a Japanese company capable of providing time clocks for the 1964 Games, for the sake of national honor, Hattori was ready.

Last week, after an investment of $850,000 in research, Hattori's men unveiled 1,300 ingenious Olympic time devices. They ranged from nine varieties of split-second stop watches to an electronic judge of swimming events that: 1) clocks swimmers to 1/1,000th of a second; 2) memorizes individual lap times of up to nine swimmers at a time; and 3) prints all scores on a sheet of paper the instant the race is over, thus eliminating time-consuming human calculation.Pushing the Undersell. For its services Hattori is paid only in prestige. "I hope some of the foreign visitors will remember us after the Olympics," says Company President Shoji Hattori, 64, second son of the late founder.

To refresh their memories, Hattori salesmen are stepping up their export drive, in the past year have broken the Swiss monopoly in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, where Seiko watches now sell at the rate of 9,000 a month. Another target is the U.S. market, which Hattori has heretofore tapped largely by supplying movements to Benrus. Despite forbidding U.S. tariffs, Hattori is beginning a U.S. sales campaign for Seiko, retailing 17-jewel wristwatches for $29.75, just over half the price of a Swiss equivalent."

The following are contemporary 1964 US ads:

(Source: eBay)


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