History of the Japanese Horological Industry

It was at least several thousand years ago that people began to think about time. Since obelisk in Egypt around 4000 B.C., various devices to measure time have been created -- sundials, water clocks, hourglasses and calibrated burning ("fire clocks").

In Japan, according to the Nihon-shoki (the "Chronicles of Japan"), Emperor Tenchi produced a water clock called Ro-koku and informed the people of the time on April 25, 671.
This date is June 10 when converted over to the solar calendar (the Gregorian calendar), and it is later marked as "Time Day." On the other hand, there is also a description stating that Prince Naka-no-Oe has developed a water clock in 660, which is 10 years before Emperor Tenchi. They both say "the first time" and the relationship between them remains unknown.
Based on these records, a water clock made in 660 or 671 is considered as the Japan's first clock.

Here is a brief introduction of how clocks first appeared in Japan, and how the Japanese horological industry grew out of them.

Yanagawa Yosen "Ro-Koku Setsu"Image by Oumi Jingu Shrine
Yanagawa Yosen "Ro-Koku Setsu"
Image by Oumi Jingu Shrine

Imagination drawing of Asuka Mizuochi excavation. A water clock called "Ro-Koku" of Prince Naka-no-Oe.Image by Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties
Imagination drawing of Asuka Mizuochi excavation
A water clock called "Ro-Koku" of Prince Naka-no-Oe
Image by Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties

1. Pre-Edo Period (1551-1602): Gifts of Mechanical Clocks Lead to Early Production

Photo by Kunouzan Toshogu
Photo by Kunouzan Toshogu

The start of the horological industry in Japan can be traced to the arrival of Christianity in the mid-16th century. The first mechanical clock in Japan is believed to have been one that, in 1551, Spanish missionary Francisco de Xavier presented to feudal lord Yoshitaka Ohuchi of Suo -- the old name for the eastern part of what is now Yamaguchi Prefecture. A Japanese Christian mission that visited the Pope in Rome then returned home with a clock for Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Other mechanical clocks followed. The oldest clock still in existence was a gift from Spain to Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu -- now at the Toshogu Shrine, on Mt. Kuno, Shizuoka Prefecture. Around 1600, at a combination educational-vocational school called the "Seminario," in Shiki, on Amakusa Island, Nagasaki Prefecture, Christian missionaries taught Japanese how to make clocks, organs and astronomical equipment. This was the start of clock manufacturing in Japan.

2. Edo Era (1603-1868): Unique "Japanese Clocks"

In the Edo Era, many highly ornamental clocks were crafted, called wadokei (literally "Japanese clocks"). They were unique in that, in the old Japanese time system, time was not measured in equal units (such as hours) as it was in Western countries. A day was divided into the daytime and the nighttime, in accordance with sunrise and sunset, and each was further divided into six segments. Time corresponded to the position of the sun, but the six daytime segments were not the same length as the six nighttime segments (other than at the equinoxes). Those segment lengths, moreover, changed slightly every season.

The Edo Era saw many master clock makers. Famous masters included Sukezaemon Tsuda, in the early Edo Era; Kichirozaemon Kono and Riemon Hirota, in mid-Edo; and Hisashige Tanaka (commonly known as "Karakuri" Giemon) and Norichika Ohno, all working for the government to produce wadokei.

Among these Japanese clocks were yagura-dokei, clocks on high stands to accommodate the weights; shaku-dokei, wall-mounted clocks with calibrations below, the time read from the position of the weights; and makura-dokei, spring-driven clocks that could be placed on shelves or cabinets. Yagura-dokei, in particular, reached a very high level of technical sophistication, with complex multiple functions, including chimes, alarms and calendars.

(For more information, please refer to "The World of Japanese Traditional Clock"
The World of Japanese Traditional Clock

3. Early Meiji Era through World War II (1868-1945): Birth and Growth of the Modern Horological Industry

Coating department of clock’s cases.
Coating department of clock’s cases.

When in 1872 the Meiji Cabinet, in Ordinance No. 453, adopted the solar calendar in place of the lunar calendar then in use in Japan -- by which December 3, 1872, became January 1, 1873 -- it followed naturally that old "Japanese time" system would also come to an end. On the other hand, with technology actively introduced from the West, the foundation for a modern horological industry in Japan was being built.

That modern industry began with the manufacturing of wall clocks (called bonbon-dokei) by Kingen-sha, in Azabu, Tokyo, in 1875; followed by Yujiro Nakajo, in Aichi Prefecture, around 1885; and Jisei-sha (which became the Hayashi Tokei Factory), headed by Ichibei Hayashi, in 1887. Wall-clock production occurred mainly in Nagoya, which, since Edo Era, had been a distribution center for timber coming down the Kiso River, and where there were many distinguished carpenters and craftsmen working in wood and metal.

Records indicate that Tokuzaburo Ohno, leading apprentice of Norichika Ohno, made by hand the movement and case for a pocket watch in 1879. In 1894, the Osaka Tokei Manufacturing Company, using production equipment obtained from a U.S. firm and under the guidance of an American engineer, began making pocket watches with lever escapements -- some several hundred units a month. Other factories to produce wall clocks, table clocks, alarm clocks and pocket watches soon sprang up. By the end of the Meiji Era, there were more than twenty factories throughout Japan turning out about 3.8 million timepieces annually. Although the industry at that time was typically handicraft manufacturing (in contrast to the mass production systems already established in the United States), technical skills improved and would serve as a driving force in future development. The next big step was the production of wrist watches, which began in the 1920's, the latter part of the Taisho Era.


4. Conspectus of Modern Japanese Horological Industry (1946-Present)

4-1. Preparation period for production recovery (after World War II to the late 1940s)

The horological industry was forced to go into a long dormant state during World War II, but as the war ended, the horological industry promotion theory was deployed notably along with Japan's permanent neutral peaceful country theory, being filled with optimism that pursued "Switzerland of the East."

However, the process was never easy. The war damaged the 60% watch production capacity and 30% clock capacity. Even machines that avoided damage degraded the performance or worn out due to the overuse for excessive munitions production. Under these circumstances, production resumed quickly by leveraging abundant workforce and a small amount of material left over from the war, but in August 1946, 15 factories which accounted for 70% of the entire production obtained reparations for the damage. The payment stopped in October, but there was a concern for a while that reconstructing the production would be impossible as there were still hurdles common to other industries including the unavailability and deterioration of materials, poor power supply, and labor issues.

However, the demand to cover the timepiece shortage was so strong both in and outside Japan that it was a complete seller's market, saying "whatever is produced will sell." The production increased continually year after year─it is said that there were almost 50 companies, 70 factories, and about 10,000 employees at that time.

This economic boom was temporary situation caused by short supply during the war. Meanwhile, the quality was considered inferior compared to the prewar level due to the exposed lack and gaps of aged mechanical equipment and the disruption of importing technologies from overseas.

The quality, which was the expression of technology back then, could be proved by the following facts. In 1948, the first quality competition (a timepiece contest) was hosted by Ministry of Industry and Trade for the purpose of quality improvement of made-in-Japan timepieces. It resulted in a large number of failures of stops, and the percentage was 34% for watches and 28.7% for clocks. The ratio improved to 21.6% and 14.9% respectively at the second competition in the following year, but the entire level was far from the prewar level.

Because of the poor conditions of facilities, materials, human resources, and technologies, the postwar rationalization made slow progress. In response, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry announced "horological industry rationalization goals and achievements" in early 1950 that includes the automation of 200 hand-operated machines and 300 semi-automated machines.

Nonetheless, most of companies in Japan's horological industry were small and medium sized businesses, therefore equipment funding for private companies were extremely difficult. In addition, the government seemed to be exceedingly passive about releasing governmental funds and engaging in substantive efforts though government assistance was described in the plan. This was because of the uncertain outlook of horological industry to be an export industry. Achieving the rationalization goals stalled.

However, supported by the high demands in Japan, the timepiece production increased and the industry was on the way to economic recovery because the Japanese market was secured by import restrictions as well as protective tariff. After the restart of trade in August 1947, timepieces were exported mainly to the Southeast Asian markets due to the favorable exchange rates instead of quality.

After this, the following conditions occurred in the domestic market.

  • 1. Domestic depression and purchase-power decline brought about by the financial and monetary contraction policy of the Dodge line.
  • 2. High-rate commodity tax. (For watches, a high-rate commodity tax rate was applied. From wartime until March 1947 the rate was 60%, then 50% until July 1948, and then 30% thereafter.)

Furthermore, the following conditions occurred for exports.

  • 3. After trade restarted, the Open General License System (a comprehensive import permission system) was stopped in March 1949 in India, which was the largest export destination.
  • 4. The two rates for timepieces (pocket watches, alarm clocks - ¥430, wrist watches, table clocks, wall clocks - ¥410) were set to the single strong-yen rate of ¥360 in April 1949.
  • 5. A devaluation of the British pound in September 1949 spurred a slump of exports for Japan, which at the time sent 70 percent of its clock exports to regions that used the British pound.

Due to these conditions, the horological industry suffered an enormous blow as it attempted to recover from stagnating domestic demand exclusively through exports.

Because of both internal and external factors including a drop in domestic demand and worsening of terms of trade, the timepiece production declined, but the stock increased. This period was a toughest challenge for the horological industry since the end of World War II, and there were a large number of liquidated and bankrupt companies, bringing about a drastic drop in timepiece production. The severe shakeout in the industry raised a serious production issue of rationalization in efficiency, quality, and cost.

As a result, the automation plan was amended in 1949 to achieve the plan within one year in order to promote the five-year horological industry recovery plan as well as the three-year timepiece automation plan announced in the previous year. The Japan Clock & Watch Association and timepiece machine tool makers discussed and planned to arrange 310 million yen loan to manufacture 1,000 automated machines designed only for timepieces within one year.

Automatic machine factory - Citizen Watch Company (around in 1945)

Rationalization objectives and state of progress for the horological industry
(reproduced from the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry documentation)

Item Progress of rationalization Future rationalization methods Remarks
1. Improvement of facility machines 1. New establishment of advanced automatic machines An objective of 20 to 30% is set for the cost reduction from the rationalization of the horological industry. To achieve this, approximately ¥300 million of capital is necessary to automate the facilities.
2. Maintenance and improvement of buildings  (a) Brown & Sharpe automatic lathes
3. Concentration of separate factories  (b) Petermann automatic machines
4. Improvement of work methods  (c) Single-purpose machines for main plates
 (a) Improvement of cutting processes  (d) Single-purpose machines for lantern pinions
 (b) Transition to punch work for part processes  (e) Multi-axis drill presses
 (c) Employment of limit gauge system  (f) Others
 (d) Part manufacturing using die casts 2. Preparation of inspection equipment
 (e) Strengthening of process management

 (a) Optical inspection equipment

 (b) Material testing machines
Improvement of
1. Improvement of design 1. Introduction of foreign technology
2. Improvement of material quality  (a) Foreign documents
 (b) Foreign catalogs
2. Purchases of foreign products
3. Deployment of engineers outside Japan
Improvement of
1. Reduction of sales costs 1. Establishment of pathfinding service
stations in foreign markets
2. On-site changeover of office employees 2. Replenishment of domestic sales network
3. Technical instruction for activities of subcontractor factories
4. Rationalization of small and medium sized businesses through cooperative facilities


4-2. Growth era from domestic demand (1950s)

The recovery of Japan's horological industry was triggered mainly by the Korean War arose in July 1950. By importing high precision machines from Switzerland accidentally and fortunately, the conventional aged machines were replaced with the latest machines and produced high-quality timepieces. Along with the rapid recovery of Japan's economy due to the Korean War, the brisk domestic demand led to the production of 5.6 million pieces in 1954, which marked the highest output since the prewar period. As the horological industry showed the indications of its recovery, a system was built for a stepping stone to the next growth at the end of 1950. The quality came closer to have full-fledged compatibility and the precision also started to pursue the Swiss-made timepieces. All these things happened after the Korean War.

The domestic market was protected from foreign timepieces by import restrictions and high tariff at that time, but used timepieces smuggled or brought by American soldiers drastically increased, flooded, and spread. Even after 1952 when importing timepieces was officially approved, the cheap smuggled timepieces disrupted the distribution order in the market and influenced the sales of Japanese-made timepieces. (There is no concrete data, but it is estimated that there has been 400,000 to 500,000 smuggled timepieces compared with 100,000 timepieces made in Japan). Reflecting this situation, annual timepiece exhibition started an active campaign in 1948 that suggested driving out the smuggled timepieces and using the Japanese-made timepieces regularly, while lobbying activities for the prevention of smuggling and exemption from commodity tax were carried out proactively to the competent government agency.

As previously mentioned, World War II inhibited the progression of timepiece production technologies and even brought the Japan's horological industry the technological backwardness, but the horological industry in a neutral country, Switzerland, made dramatic progress in five years during the war.

For example, the following topics were covered intensively and their level largely surpassed Japan.

  • 1. Completion of self-winding watches
  • 2. Achievement of practical use of dust and water-resistant systems
  • 3. Development and application of non-magnetic mainspring
  • 4. Generalized seismic-resistance mechanism

In Japan, three hands were first employed for men's wrist watches in 1949. Watches with date calendars in 1952, self-winding watches in 1955, and finally watches with seismic-resistance mechanism were introduced in 1956. In terms of performance, the parts' precision and finish was approaching the Swiss products by using imported-alloy mainsprings and succeeding in the production in Japan. However, Swiss timekeeping devices brought to Japan by regular import or smuggling were still taking a lead in quality and trend up to around 1957. In this era, the superiority of Swiss products was recognized in every way including performance, style, and cost.

For the Japanese horological industry, quickly escaping such technological backwardness also became urgent business from mid-1950s to mid-1960s, and the following policies appeared.

These include the establishment in 1956 of the Institute for the Development of Horological Production Technology, which aimed to improve and develop the clock production technology of small and medium sized clock businesses, the "Enterprise Rationalization Promotion Act" in 1957 to modernize businesses, and the industry-type designations of the "Extraordinary Measures for the Promotion of the Machine Industry" in 1959.

Meanwhile, on the nongovernmental side, research and analysis on escapement, speed regulators, die molds, stems, and bearings with the objective of improving quality to a higher level, and research and development of materials, parts, and tools proceeded through industry and academic cooperation. Businesses furthermore introduced high-performance automatic processing machines, high-precision measurement devices, machine tools, and other devices to plan for the rationalization of production. As a result, factory facilities were completely renewed over a period of several years. Not only did production efficiency simply increase, but processing precision also increased incredibly when it became possible to employ an assembly-line system using a belt conveyor system. Furthermore, quality management and other modern management technologies were employed for production processes, which standardized work and supplemented process management. As such, modern mass production systems were established as key industries and export industries that were the ultimate goal of the Enterprise Rationalization Promotion Act and Extraordinary Measures for the Promotion of the Machine Industry gradually solidified as a foundation. (See Figure 1.)

Inspection of alarm clocks Parts processing Adjusting a balance
Inspection of alarm clocks Parts processing Adjusting a balance

assembly lineassembly line

Figure 1

4-3. Development period from the growth of domestic demand and exports (1960s)

Technical trainee from India in 1962
Technical trainee from India

In the background mentioned above, quality increased to a level that rivaled that of foreign products, and there was a diversification of models. At the same time, the transition of clocks to battery models drew attention for the first time. There were many products with a variety of functions and designs. As domestic demand expanded from an increase of the general economy from 1959, production achieved a sudden rise in growth. In particular, the growth in the 10 year period from 1955 reached incredible levels: 5.9 times and 3.2 times for watches and clocks, respectively.

The sudden expansion of domestic demand naturally came from the improvement in quality of domestic products and their improved evaluations. However, there are believed to be three other causes. Firstly, the blank period after the war created a huge latent demand. Secondly, as income levels increased, the level of demand expanded to the lower age brackets. Thirdly, the recognition of clocks moved from valuables and luxuries to daily necessities, fashionable goods, and decorations.

However, because of the expectation of a peak in popularity and a reduction in the growth of domestic demand, it was decided that it would soon become necessary to prepare policies to expand exports in order to maintain growth force. Full scale surveys of foreign markets started from around 1959.
Overall clock production first exceeded 20 million items in 1963. At this time, exports started to the Virgin Islands of the United States, which was also the start of full-scale exports. In the same year, light-machine centers shared with seven other light-machine types were established in four cities: New York, Düsseldorf, London, and Bangkok, with the expectation of activities to promote exports and research the market. (The locations in London and Bangkok would be closed in later years.)

Inspection by a Vibrograf Automatic lathes
Inspection by a Vibrograf Automatic lathes

Japanese clocks had sufficient international competitive power around this time because their quality had reached international standards, and their prices had dropped due to cost reductions. However, a lack of information about the clock markets outside Japan, the reliability of Japanese products, and low brand image blocked export promotion. As a result, each center gathered information about local areas and advertised widely using local mass media. At the same time, the centers were producing problem-solving results, such as appealing to the US Congress about various issues in the United States, which was gradually getting on track as an export destination market. Issues included increases in import taxes, rules of origin , and establishment of a duty-free import quota framework for the Virgin Islands of the United States.

18th Olympic Games at Tokyo in 1964
18th Olympic Games at Tokyo in 1964

Furthermore, domestic sports timing system was first employed at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. This accurate and unified system immediately received increasing international attention. The advanced level of Japan's technology became recognized around the world. For example, Japanese watches captured the highest levels at a watch contest in Switzerland. At the same time, brand-name recognition also increased in a single burst. These changes became big factors in the increase of exports from mid-1960s.

As Figure 1 clearly shows, the growth of production from mid-1950s was supported and developed by strong domestic demand. However, from mid-1960s, the rapid and favorable expansion of exports contributed greatly to the growth of production.

Based on the expectation of a decrease in the growth rate of the Japanese market in the future, major Japanese businesses proactively developed sales routes throughout the world and planned to increase export products. Finished-product exports to Southeast Asia became progressive from the mid-60s. For the American market, travel alarm clocks were actively exported, and movement exports were started for watches. These were the best methods for Japanese watchmakers, who had limited brand and sales power at the time. In particular, it can be said that the relative ease of obtaining a foothold for market development through exports to the Virgin Islands of the United States, which had low import taxes, was fortunate.

Japan accomplished astoundingly rapid economic growth from the mid-1950s to mid-1960s, and foreign countries made strong requests for an open economic system, including the repeal of import restrictions and exchange control. In response, Japan joined the Article VIII Party of the IMF in 1964 and participated in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Although not on a full scale, trade liberalization also gradually progressed. Consequently, these actions brought about business efforts to strengthen international competitive power while restraining freedom, and on the contrary, brought about an increase in exports.

From the mid-1960s to mid-1970s, as one of Japan's exemplary export industries, the horological industry continued development and established a system that could use exports to cover troubles when domestic demand stagnated due to domestic economic downturns.

As a result, the export rate rose from 23% in 1963 to 31% in 1970, and then again to 42% in 1974. In particular, the growth of watches, with their strengthened brand images, was remarkable. In 1974, the export rate reached 56%, and was second to Switzerland in production and export countries. (See Figures 2 and 3.)

Figure 2

Figure 3


4-4. Development period from the combination with electronics (1970s)

In 1970, timepieces achieved significant progress to an extreme in its hundreds of years of history. Especially the mechanisms were said to reach perfection as they pursued high vibration and equipped additional mechanisms. Conventional mechanical watches were so precise that most of them were labor intensive. That characteristic was a great advantage for Japan as Japan's wage benefits gave the country a lot of competitive edge over its competitors.

However the gap was narrowed within five years. The rise in labor costs, which had been used to be a relative advantage, became a big issue in terms of international competition. Because the conventional mechanical watches had a limitation in rationalization through mechanization, and in order to improve function and to develop new products, further technological innovations were required.

The shift to electronic technologies began in 1950s from clocks, and for watches it began in 1960s. Watches driven by batteries instead of mainsprings emerged in 1966. Because the battery-driven watches had no need for winding, they were indeed innovative products in the watch industry where the self-winding was the major type back then. However it didn't necessarily make a contribution to accuracy.

The first Quartz Watch in the world
The first Quartz Watch in the world

In these circumstances, unique watches that newly fused mechanical technologies and electronics made an appearance in Japan. Electronic tuning fork watches having metal tuning forks as their speed regulators achieved the daily variance of two to three seconds. This innovation played a role in improving the accuracy of time, but it didn't set a world trend. On the other hand, quartz crystals that had been employed for clocks since 1962 and proved their high accuracy were used for watches tentatively. Progress was made in the study on how to form and contain a movement in a limited watch space and to make a watch small enough to be portable, and finally in 1967, a prototype of quartz watch was completed in Japan and Switzerland simultaneously. In 1969, the world's first analog quartz watch was commercialized in Japan and it achieved an outcome of pursuing the watch's innate characteristic─high accuracy of the daily variance of +/-0.3 seconds, which was 100 times more precise than mechanical watches. The application of the electronics revolutionized the horological industry not only in Japan but worldwide.

The combination of mechanical technologies and electronics accelerated the mechanization and automation of operation process. Japan took a lead in the both technologies and rapidly absorbed them, which made Japan one of the world-class watch manufacturers. At the same time, the lowered priority of mechanical technology as well as the surge in electronics enabled the supplement of accuracy. The trend towards electronics advanced rapidly and naturally.

The introduction of electronics forced companies to change their production systems, but improved their productivity at the same time, resulting in the creation of innovative products. In 1973, total electronic watches that had no mechanical parts, which was the world's first LCD watches, were produced on a commercial basis in Japan.

The advancement of watch's shift to electronics generated new demands in the saturated market, made more mass production lines available, and allowed entry from other industries, including two watch and four clock companies. Since the performance of each component improved quickly, costs reduced rapidly due to mass production, and prices dropped to the mechanical watch's price range, the severity of price competition was intensifying in and out of Japan.

Mounting IC to a circuit block Inspection room
Mounting IC to a circuit block Inspection room

Japanese businesses started advancing overseas from around 1968. These advances drove changes in the domestic industrial structure through not only the results of the transfer of production overseas, but also the results of reimporting from investment outlets and exporting capital goods and semi-processed goods to investment outlets.
The horological industry's motivations for advancing overseas were focused mostly on securing workforces and markets.

The expansion of labor requirements caused by the high growth in Japan from 1965 to 1975 caused workforce shortages and wage increases. Accordingly, the labor intensive industry of timepiece making required an abundant workforce and low wages and searched for secondary production bases in such places as Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Philippines. This contributed to the concurrent economic development of these developing countries, and the systemization of new international horizontal co-operative industries can be seen as a trend of the 1980s.

Another main factor for advancing overseas was to secure markets. The establishment of local production factories proceeded in the advanced nations of the West, as well as in Southeast Asia, which was viewed positively as a promising market, and Central and South American countries, where tariff barriers and other import restrictions were seen. This was not simply a plan to secure markets, but a way to take a major role in international economic development through interdependent cooperation.

Along with the advances in technological innovations, the development of production and export continued, and the total production in 1979 surpassed 100 million pieces, including 59.7 million watches and 43.5 million clocks. This achievement made Japan the world's leading producer of timekeeping devices in reality and in name. The path to this accomplishment was long and difficult as the industry faced and overcame obstacles since 1970 that included the followings.

  • 1. Aug. 1971: An import surcharge system (10%) along with US dollar defense measures.
    2. Aug. 1971: Shift to a float exchange rate system of the yen along with the dollar shock.
    3. Dec. 1971: Yen appreciation (308 yen to the dollar).
    4. Sep. 1972–Aug. 1973: Voluntary export restraint of watches.
    5. Feb. 1973: Re-shift to a float exchange rate system of the yen.
    6. Jan. 1974: Tightened restrictions on the use of oil and electricity as well as hard-to-get and high-priced raw materials due to the oil shock occurred in November 1973.
    7. Apr. 1975: Because of weak demand due to a recession caused by the oil shock, the horological industry was put under Employment Insurance Act and specified as depressed industry.
    8. Oct. 1977: Strong yen trend caused concerns about influence on export.
    9. Apr. 1978–Mar. 1979: Guidance on watch export control.
Development period from the combination with electronics

While Japan was facing these hurdles, the rival country, Switzerland, misjudged the future forecast of quartz watches and delayed in shifting to electronics. In addition, the soaring Swiss franc forced the country to slow down or recede. On the other hand, with price competitiveness and the advancement of quartz technology, Japanese-made watches steadily increased their market share in the world, and the production percentage of quartz watches which were assumed to be a mainstream in the industry increased every year; it was 40% in 1978 and 57% in 1954. (See Figure 4.)

The clock production kept increasing in line with the gradual growth of domestic demand until around 1965, and the growth rate expanded rapidly until the demand decreased due to the oil shock in 1973. This was because of the steep rise of domestic demand and the full-scale export derived from housing boom, the increased number of households due to more nuclear families, and the upsurge of domestic demand for gifts. However, after 1975, there was less demand at home and overseas due to the global economic slowdown and the demand remained unchanged.

The shift to electronics also changed clock types as seen in watches. (See Figure 5.) The number of mechanical and AC types decreased and the battery type including quartz grew rapidly in recent years. Quartz clocks reached 50% of entire clock production in 1979.

The progress to electronics brought a substantial change to watch and clock distribution, too. A conservative distribution order was maintained during the mechanical timepiece era as they were mainly sold at specialty stores. The electronics era made the sales battle more severe mainly among high-volume stores including shopping malls and discount houses as well as other industries' sales such as electronics stores. It made a significant impact on small watch and clock specialty stores.

Figure 4

Figure 5

4-5. Present Horological Industry (1980s to present)

Effort have long been concentrated on improving accuracy and reliability. Today, they are focused as well on creating products that help preserve global resources and protecting consumers from adverse environmental effects. For example, watches with an automatic power generating system or solar power system require no battery replacement and radio controlled, satellite radio controlled or cases and bands are being made from anti-allergy materials. Clock and watches, once just instruments for knowing the time, now range from creatively designed fashion accessories for individuals, to essential components in a diverse array of medical, telecommunications and other high-technology wearable information equipment.


  • Nihon-no Tokei ("Clocks in Japan"), by Ryuji Yamaguchi, Nihon Hyoron-sha, 1970
  • Tokei-shi Nen'pyo ("Horological Chronology"), compiled by Kawai Planning, 1973
  • Tokeikogyo-no Hattatsu ("Development of the Horological Industry"), by Hoshimi Uchida, The Seiko Institute of Horology, 1985
  • Tokei Hattatsu-shi ("History of Horological Development"), by Hyoe Takabayashi, Ariake Shobo, 1985
  • Tokei ("Timepieces"), by Osamu Shimizu, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, 1991
  • Nihon Tokei Kyokai 30-nen-shi ("Thirty-Year History of the JCWA"), by the Japan Clock & Watch Association, 1980
  • Kogyo Tohkei-hyo ("Industrial Statistics"), by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, 1998
  • Various historical data at the Seiko Institute of Horology