Are you contemplating a Japanese watch purchase? Learn a thing or two about Japanese watch movements right here!
In the watch world, I know that the coveted Swiss movement gets a lot of the glory. But, I think it’s fair to say that Japanese watchmaking is the Swiss industry of Asia. They’re certainly unmatched, with tons of excellent brands.
Many exhibit Japanese discipline and efficiency, offering high-value pieces, and others provide a harmoniously artistic eastern sensibility to their designs.
For instance, you have the Seiko Group, which, between Seiko and Grand Seiko, offers time-honored, quality pieces.
Basically, no matter what you’re looking for in a watch, you can find it within Japanese brands. They’re an especially great industry to turn to if you’re horologically curious.
You’d be surprised how many high-value timepieces, regardless of where they’re assembled, are powered by Japanese quartz or mechanical movements.
Let’s learn more about Japanese watch movements.
What Is Japanese Watch Movement?
What is a Japanese movement?
I know that this sounds like a silly question. But, the Swiss-made moniker is famously regulated. Read all about that here.
Japanese movements and Japanese watches are more often than not made and assembled in Japan. However, brands like Seiko will make the same model in different factories, some of which aren’t in Japan.
A perfect example is their now legendary SKX007. There’s the SKX007K and their SKX007J.
They’re identical watches in form and function. Still, the J is likely made in the Japanese factory for their domestic market, and the K likely is made elsewhere. It’s not clear where they’re made, but it could be Korea or Malaysia.
I say likely because all we know for sure is that each model is designated for different regional markets. Since they’re identical, it would make sense that they’d utilize the factories closest to or in the intended market.
The J has Japan WP embossed on the back, while the K simply reads WP.
Now that being the case, regardless of where it’s made, all of the movements are crafted to the same standards.
So unlike the Swiss Made label, a lot of watch collectors consider calibers labeled Seiko, Miyota, or Citizen as being Japanese movements regardless of whether they were actually made in Japan.
And I’m sure part of this has to do with the fact it’s just an easier way to categorize something difficult to track.
What is clear is that these watches were certainly designed in Japan and built the same way the Japanese assembly lines are. And at the end of the day, most of them probably are physically made domestically.
You can rest confident that the highest-end movements, like the ones from Grand Seiko, are indeed made in Japan.
Japanese Movement in Watches
You’d be surprised at how often non-Japanese brands utilize Japanese watch movements. It’s because they have an emphasis on precision at a high value.
Here are some important types of movements to take note of.
Seiko 7S Series
The 7S movements are out of production but are often considered the brand’s “heritage caliber.” It runs on a lot of their classic models, like the aforementioned SKX007. It’s a robust workhorse, often described as “bulletproof.”
However, it doesn’t hack or manual wind, but its successor, the 4R movements, does.
Seiko 4R Series
The 4R movements are one of the most common entry-level automatic movements in Japanese watchmaking. They power many Seiko 5 models, and unlike the 7S, all 4Rs except for the 4R15 and 16 offer hacking and manual winding.
They’re better finished, affordable, fairly reliable, and can often be viewed via an exhibition caseback.
Seiko 6R Series
Seiko utilized their 6R movements on their “affordable luxury” pieces. They’re more accurate and reliable than the 4R movements and have power reserves of up to 70 hours.
If you see any non-Seiko watches powered by an “NE” movement, that’s just the third-party name for a 6R.
Grand Seiko Spring Drive Movement
Seiko’s Spring Drive movement, from their 9R series, is arguably one of the innovations that put Japanese watchmaking on the map. It’s powered by a mechanical spring, so it has the torque of a mechanical watch.
However, it’s regulated by a quartz crystal, so it’s as accurate as a quartz watch. It’s fair to say that only a brand like Seiko, who has mastered both quartz and mechanical movements, would think up something so creative.
And yes, you also get that buttery smooth secondhand sweep.
Grand Seiko Quartz Movement
The calibers from the 9F series from Grand Seiko aren’t your average quartz movements. They’re wildly accurate, even for quartz movements, and are embossed and decorated. Most brands wouldn’t bother doing this with their quartz watches.
Even more, The quartz crystals are all grown in-house with meticulous detail and specificity.
Grand Seiko 9S Series
The 9S series is a line of high-end hand-wound mechanicals (if you love the tactility factor), automatics, and GMTs. They’re impeccably finished and come with high beat rates, which makes them exceptionally stable, with easy recovery.
Citizen’s Miyota 9000 Series
If your Japanese movement isn’t a Seiko, it’s probably a Miyota, which Citizen makes. The Miyota 9000 series is their higher-end automatic offering. They’re popular among microbrands as being a relatively affordable mid to high-end automatic caliber.
They’re about as accurate as any Seiko 6R movement. I will say that finding spare parts for Miyotas is a bit more difficult than finding parts for a Seiko. So, they aren’t as easily serviceable.
Citizen’s Miyota 8000 Series
The 8000 series is a workhorse line filled with entry-level automatics. Some hack and wind, while others don’t.
I have no complaints about the 8000 series since they’re fairly priced for what they are, and they’ve helped democratize automatic watches.
Oddly, most Citizen watches don’t even run on Miyota’s movements. Watch collectors go to Citizen for accurate, honest workhorses.
That being the case, many of their models are powered by their Eco-Drive quartz caliber. It’s an innovative technology that converts any type of light into power for the watch. It stores extra energy in a cell and can run for months without the need for battery replacement.
Japanese Movements Offer Discipline and Efficiency
In conclusion, unless you’re looking for a Swiss-made label, you can find anything a watch can offer in the world of Japanese watchmaking.
You’ll notice that a lot of microbrands use Japanese movements in their upgrade models, too.
Do you own any Japanese watches or watches powered by a Japanese movement? Let me know what you think of it in the comments!