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Where Seiko Watches Are Really Made - A Juicy Mistake?

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About a year ago I became interested in purchasing my first really high end diving watch and began researching many of the better known brands. That lead me to look into the construction of the Spring Drive movement a few months later, and I sent some detailed questions to Seiko, not really expecting to hear back. But, low and behold, a few days later, a female engineer who works for Seiko named Keiko Matsumoto sent me some replies and we kind of struck up a correspondence. (we are both university trained engineers and we both spent some of our education at Tokyo University) In the past seven months or so, I have occasionally received valuable insight from her about not only Seiko products but also watchmaking and their industrial manufacture in general. Because of a thread asking about the SKX007 J and K versions a few days back, I decided to email her to get the low down. She said she could not comment but directed me to a Seiko executive who she said might be helpful. I emailed the guy and this is what he sent back (although, he asked not to be named):

".....due to the nature of customs and labor laws in Japan, products are generally allowed to be stamped with Made in Japan if they are produced outside the national boundaries as long as they are manufactured in a wholly owned Japanese firm where the work is overseen by Japanese nationals. Generally speaking, watches priced below about 90000 yen (currently $838 US dollars) do not contain enough profit margin to be made in Japan. This is not just for Seiko, but for all major Japanese manufacturers. Watches priced roughly from 90000 to 250000 yen (currently $838 to 2328 US dollars) are often finished or with final assembly done in Japan and higher end watches above this point are often fully assembled in Japan. ....."

He then went on to talk about a few other sales points, but then he included a 2013 list for me of where well known Seiko divers are made. Here is the list by price range:

(RP - Raw Parts, MIM= Made in Malaysia, MIC = Made in China, MIJ = Made in Japan, RA = Robot Assembly, HA = Hybrid Assembly (robot and human), HuA - Human Assembly)

Generally Seiko divers and many other models less than about $175 dollars are made of raw parts from China, with assembly done by robots in Malaysia and are overseen by Malaysian technicians.

SKX007 K = Raw Parts made mainly in China, MIM, RA, Oversight from Malaysian Technicians

SKX007 J = Raw Parts made mainly in China, MIM, RA, Oversight from Japanese Technicians (which allows the J version to be labeled as Made in Japan)

SBDC001 (Sumo) -almost all Sumo versions - Raw Parts made mainly in China, MIM, RA, Oversight from Japanese Technicians on assembly line

SNM031, 033, etc... (Samurai) - Raw Parts mainly from China, MIM, RA, Oversight from Japanese Technicians

SBDC007 (Shogun) - Raw Parts from mainly China, Titanium case machined and finished in Malaysia, MIM, HA, with final oversight done in Japan by human hands

MarineMaster

SBDX001 (MarineMaster 300m) - Raw Parts mainly from Japan and Malaysia, MIM, RA with final oversight by Japanese technicians in Japan (bet this will surprise many as the 8L35 in this watch is robot assembled)

SBDB001 (MarineMaster 600m Titanium) - Spring Drive made in Japan, MIJ, HuA with all assembly overseen by Japanese technicians in Japan

MarineMaster Tuna

SBBN017 - Quartz movement made in Malaysia, MIM, HA with final inspection by Japanese technicians

SBBN015 - Same as SBBN017

SBBN013 - Quartz movement made in Malaysia, MIJ, HuA with all assembly done by Japanese technicians in Japan

(The list also mentions a few other quartz 1000m resistant models. These models all seem to be fully made in Japan by human hands)

SBDX011 - Raw Parts from Japan and Malaysia, MIM, HA with final oversight by Japanese technicians in Japan

SBDB009 - Raw Parts from Japan and Malaysia, Spring Drive made in Japan, MIJ, HuA with all assembly overseen by Japanese technicians in Japan

Grand Seiko

Almost all the Grand Seikos are made from Japanese or Malaysia parts, although some of the quartz movements are made in Malaysia. They are all assembled in Japan by Japanese technicians. Most are hand assembled. The models which receive the most attention are the Hi-Beat models and next are the Spring Drive models.

And the funny thing was, after I received this juicy tidbit, I got another email a few hours later, saying "The previous listing is from production records in the past and does not reflect current Seiko manufacturing standards". The executive even apologized for sending me incorrect information and when I asked him for updated info, he said that he probably could not comment. And I have not heard back since then.

Maybe his accidental release of "old records" will help solve a few WUS Seiko questions. You decide.

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Interesting. A friend's father who works for a Japanese firm commented on the QC standards they have compared to firms from other companies.

He said Japanese companies would accept a defect rate of 1 out of 10000 whereas standards for other manufacturers were 1 out of 500 or thereabouts. And this is for manufacture outside of Japan.

Nothing to do with Seiko but I thought it interesting nonetheless.

 

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Yeah, seems like quite a bit of info. Good info for us, but I certainly hope it didn't cause anybody too many headaches. It does make total sense regarding the price brackets though, and I think finally clears up the K/J confusion people tend to keep having.

The only one that surprised me a little was the Shogun and how they seem to put a bit more care into it than the Sumo. After holding both in the hand and owning one, it makes sense.

 

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