Seiko Company FAQs

Photo of the Seiko store in Ginza, Tokyo, taken in April 2021.
The Seiko store in Ginza, Tokyo.

How do you pronounce Seiko?

Seiko is pronounced as two syllables: “say-koh”, with more emphasis on “say”. In Japanese, the “koh” is an extended sound so it’s actually more like “say-kor” when native Japanese speakers say it. Note that the spelling of Seiko is sometimes misspelt as Sieko.

What does Seiko mean in English?

The word “seiko” has several meanings in Japanese. According to “A Journey In Time: The Remarkable Story of Seiko”, an official company history published in 2003, the meaning most relevant to the company is 精巧 meaning “exquisite”. It can also be written as 成功 which means “success”.

What name was Seiko shortened from?

The name Seiko was shortened from Seikosha (精工舎), which roughly means “House of Exquisite Workmanship” or, with a bit of Japanese wordplay, “determined to succeed (成功) in producing precision (精巧) clocks”. The name was officially changed to Seiko in 1924.

When was Seiko founded?

Seiko was founded in Tokyo, Japan, in 1881 by 21 year-old Kintaro Hattori, as a clock retailer and repairer using the name "Seikosha". It became a production company 11 years later in 1892, making wall clocks.

The first Seiko pocket watch, 'Time Keeper', and the first Seiko wristwatch, 'Laurel'.
"Time Keeper" and "Laurel", the first Seiko pocket watch and wristwatch.

When did Seiko start making watches?

The first Seiko pocket watch (then branded as Seikosha) was made in 1895, and Seiko later produced Japan’s first wristwatch in 1913, named “Laurel”. It was a hand-winding watch, and the first Seiko automatic watch was produced in 1959 called “Gyro Marvel”. 10 years later, Seiko created the world’s first quartz watch, the Astron, in 1969.

Is Seiko older than Rolex?

Yes, Seiko is older than Rolex. Wilsdorf and Davis, founded in 1905, created watches using the brand name “Rolex” in 1908. The company name was then changed to Rolex Watch Co. in 1915, so the Seiko/Seikosha company, founded in 1881, is older. However Rolex produced wristwatches before Seiko/Seikosha (1905 as opposed to 1913).

Who owns Seiko?

Seiko is a public company, registered as Seiko Group Corporation (セイコーグループ株式会社) in Japan, and not owned by another company. It is a Japanese company, not Swiss, and has multiple subsidiaries, including Seiko Watch Corporation and Seiko Instruments (SII). Seiko owns several watch brands including Orient, Alba and Wired, but does not own Citizen. Note that Seiko Epson Corporation has a shared history but is run as a separate company.

Are Seiko and Grand Seiko the same company?

Grand Seiko started as a model produced by Seiko in 1960 (caliber 3180). It represented the very best watch that Seiko could create at the time. It developed into a subbrand of luxury watches and became an independent brand in 2017, although still owned by Seiko Watch Corporation.

For more information, the official website has a nice graphical guide to the history of Seiko.

Still have questions? See FAQs about Seiko watches.

If you liked this, check out more articles about repairing, restoring and enjoying Seiko watches.