The Springboard to success
In the early 60s Japanese products were a rarity in the western world. It was less than two decades since the end of the war, there was a prejudice that went with the war memories and it was generally believed that the Japanese were only good at copying western technology, do it cheaper and was inferior.
In the early sixties Seiko wanted to break into the western market and to do this they needed an affordable watch that was versatile and durable. An everyday device that could handle a wide variety of different situations and environments. So was born the ‘5‘ concept.
The ‘5’ came from the 5 features they wanted to incorporate into the watch.
1. Automatic winding
2. Day/date display
3. Water resistance
4. Recessed crown
5. Integrated metal bracelet
In 1963 the first ‘5’ was released, became an immediate success and has gone on to become the most successful line of mechanical watches in history.
This is a 1966 Seiko 5 Sportsmatic. A beautiful dial with exceptional polish on the index markers, the date window, “5” logo and hands. Quite unusual for Seiko is the corrugated bezel making it rather distinctive.
Now, of the 5 features mentioned, a recessed crown doesn’t seem too radical but if you look at this watch, it appears quite “clean” in style. I think that a big part of that is the fact that the crown is not visible.
Additional features of this watch are; hacking mechanism (stopping the watch when the crown is in the time set position allowing for precise setting of the time) and a quick date change feature. This is operated by another button in the 10 position, also recessed. This button operates the quick change for the date when pressed.
I believe that this watch was only released onto the Japanese domestic market. In support of this thought, I could only find one ad and that was in Japanese. Also, the day display is only in Japanese, not bi-lingual as was the case with watches marketerd in the West.
The ad suggests the price was ¥11,000, that’s about AU$130. The average Australian wage at the time was $57 per week. So at more than double the average weekly wage, this was an expensive watch, almost $2,500 in today’s value.
This is an exceptional example of an important watch in horological history, a good looking automatic watch with day and date, hacking and quick date change were stand out features that were rare in even the best Swiss watches of the day. It played a big part in making Seiko the even greater watchmaker that it was soon to become.