Seiko’s Grammar of Design

Seiko’s Grammar of Design 

Welcome to the first week of 'Samurai's Tea Time', Samurai Vintage Co's ongoing series exploring history and design within the watch world. The first week of our series, we will put the spotlight on our favorite watch brand Seiko and its history that shapes the brand into what it is today. 

Founded in 1881, Seiko was focusing on wall clock and pocket watches in its early days. The first Seiko branded wristwatch was no there until 1924, just one year after the Great Kanto Earthquake. Since then Seiko watch has taken off in the Japanese Domestic Market and was already hugely successful by the 1950s. Seiko's international sales, however, were a very different story. Design with round case and basic lugs coupled to drab, standard dials, Seiko's watches are less compelling to its Swiss competitor back in the time.


All that changed in 1959 after Seiko on-boarded Taro Tanako, a recent design graduate as the first trained designer to the brand. Tanaka has taken the Seiko design studio from dials to encompass the entire watchmaking process. The reform of design studio coverage together with what he proposed later have completely changed the company and shape Seiko into the corporate we known today.

By 1962, Tanako developed the 'Grammar of Design' that will be adopted to the later Seiko watches.

1) All surfaces and angles from the case, dial, hand and indices had to be flat and polished to best reflect light

2) Bezels were to be simple two-dimensional faceted curved

3) No visual distortion was to be tolerated from any angle, and all case and dials should be mirror finished

4) All case must be unique, with no more generic round case designs

(King Seiko 44-9990)


The design started to adopt from the top line watches Grand Seiko and King Seiko and the design methodology later on pass to the lower end of the series Lord Matic and Seiko5 which will ultimately shape the modern high-end Seiko we saw today too.


(King Seiko 5625-7110)


(Grand Seiko GBGH413)


Mr. Taro Tanaka holds a very special position in Seiko and modern wristwatch history, he is the one who brought Japanese Domestic Watches up to its Swiss competitor's standard.


Thank you Mr. Tanaka.


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