Seiko and Sports
Seiko’s involvement with sports goes back to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, when the brand was the official timekeeper. It was in that same year that Seiko introduced its first chronograph, a big step for the Japanese brand.
Having had a taste of sporting watches, Seiko began to work on specialized watches. Mr. Ikuo Tokunaga (picture above) is the man responsible for Seiko’s specialist watches and his achievements include the diving, pilot and adventure watches that Seiko has produced.
Under Tokunaga’s watch, Seiko received over 100 patents for specialty watches.
“We wanted to develop tools that professionals could use, so we started researching saturation diving and having long discussions with professional divers,” Tokunaga remembers. “In 1968, five years after I joined the company, we introduced our first diver’s watch, which was a high beat caliber water resistant to 300 meters.
“Then in 1975, we introduced the first professional diver's watch, water resistant to 600 metres, in a titanium case, to save weight,” he continues. “For this watch we designed an L-shaped gasket, one that was different from what everyone else was using, and we made it with a special rubber. We incorporated a ceramic outer bezel in 1986 and we developed Lumibrite in the early 1990s for better visibility under water. In 1986, the Pro series became 1000 meter water resistant. Seiko even pioneered the dive computer watch, the Scubamaster, which it introduced in 1990. It had a depth sensor, displayed the diving time, depth and other vital information for divers. In 2014, we introduced the Spring Drive professional diver’s watch. It’s been a good run.”
As early as 1989, Seiko made an aviation watch with a Rotary Slide Rule on it for pilot use. The watch featured a quartz movement and was water resistant to 150 meters. Seiko updated this watch in 2004, increasing the water resistance to 200 meters.
Seiko has a long history of developing watches for explorers, starting with the Landmaster Sagarmatha, developed for Ken Noguchi, who made a successful ascent of Sagarmatha (Everest) in 1998. This watch featured high legibility of the dial, hour and minute hands and a 24-hour hand. The bezel was made of ceramic to be impervious to scratches and had 24-hour markings in relief. The one-piece case and bracelet was made of high-intensity titanium. A commercial version of this watch was launched in the same year.
Then came the Landmaster SouthPole, originally developed for Mitsuru Ohba, a Japanese explorer who did a solo crossing of Antartica on foot. This watch was commercialized in 1999, in a limited edition of 800 pieces, powered by a kinetic movement.
Today, Seiko’s professional sports watch line is called Prospex, and it includes land, sea and air. The watches are great looking and well-priced (from 400 – 4000+ chf), all offering professional specifications and are designed to hold up under the most extreme situations.
And it’s all thanks to what Mr. Tokunaga started so long ago.