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Watch Wars

Japan Japan

The Japanese had the first quartz watch on the market.

Although the Swiss were the first to make a quartz watch prototype, the Japanese Seiko 35SQ Astron was the first analog quartz watch to reach the market. Seiko had been a maker of mechanical watches since the end of the 19th century, introducing the first Japanese pocketwatch in 1895 and the first Japanese wristwatch, the Laurel, in 1913.

While continuing to produce mechanical watches, Seiko turned its attention to quartz timekeeping in 1958 with the development of a quartz crystal clock. A team was assembled in 1959 to develop a quartz watch. The primary objectives of the project were to reduce the size to that of conventional mechanical watches, and to achieve reasonable prices through volume production. The result of this project was the world's first quartz watch, the Seiko 35SQ Astron, introduced to the Japanese market on Christmas Day, 1969.

Japanese companies excelled at improving watch technology.

Investing in new equipment and banking on the success of the new watches, Seiko and other Japanese watch companies like Citizen and Casio, quickly and successfully switched to electronics. As a result, Japan took the lead in worldwide watch production in 1978. They excelled at perfecting new technologies to be more appealing to consumers. From the earliest, they worked on two major problems: the bulky watch case and short battery life. They drastically reduced both the volume of the case and power consumption . These successes helped to create new markets aimed at consumers interested in watches that do more than tell time, like Seiko's TV watch or Citizen's radio-controlled watch.

As with the U.S., Japan eventually lost its lead in the world market.

Japan's labor costs, though, were no match for cheaper labor pools elsewhere, and Hong Kong became the world's leading exporter of watches.

United States --- Switzerland --- Hong Kong

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