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Inside Seiko: The Micro Artist Studio

The Micro Artist Studio
by Peter Chong on January 11, 2019
Inside Seiko: The Micro Artist Studio

The final part of our Media Experience trip to Japan with Seiko concludes with the crown jewel of the brand. The Micro Artist Studio. In Part 1, we visited Seiko in Morioka, where the mechanical watches are made. Part 2 is a peek into the manufacturing facilities at Shiojiri, where Seiko Epson makes the Spring Drive and 9F Quartz watches. And in this final episode, the crowning glory of the Seiko Watch Corporation – the Micro Artist Studio.

The Micro Artist Studio

The Micro Artist Studio at Seiko Epson Corporation’s Shiojiri plant is one of the four main facilities which together make up the Shinshu Toki-no-Waza Studio, alongside the Dial Workshop, the Takumi (Mastery) Studio and the Case & Jewelry Studio. We covered the Dial Workshop, the Takumi Studio and the Case Studio in last week’s report.

The Micro Artist Studio was established in the year 2000 for the purpose of passing on the skills required in the watchmaking craft to the next generation. The studio is not a very large facility. The photograph above shows the main room, where the offices of the craftsmen are located. In the same room is also where the design and drafting works are being performed. And it also doubles up as a meeting room. Off to each side of this main room are two other rooms. One is the room for the watchmakers, and the other contains the room for the enamel and dial artisans and finishing works.

Technical experts from an array of different fields have gathered at the Micro Artist Studio, and since 2004 they have applied their many and varied talents to producing exclusive watches. The studio is known for having created the Spring Drive Minute Repeater and Sonnerie and the two Eichi watches.

Watchmakers

We met with two of the watchmakers in attendance during our visit. Master Yoshifusa Nakazawa, who joined Suwa Seikosha in 1978. I had earlier met with Nakazawa-san in various occasions and have been always impressed with his skill, knowledge but also with his humble attitude.

Grand Master Watchmaker Nakazawa and his Master Watchmaker “apprentice” Masuda focus on making and finishing the most wonderful movements. Photographed at the Micro Artist Studio, Autumn 2018.

Nakazawa-san has taken on the additional responsibility of training the next generation. He has taken under his wings, Master Watchmaker Masuda-san as his “apprentice”. We also have first met Masuda-san in Singapore in 2010 as a young watchmaker, where she showed her expertise in assembling a Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph movement from component parts to a fully operational watch in a very short period of time, basically the time it took for us to mingle and settle down before the opening presentation. And she did this without using a loupe.

Masuda-san in 2010 showcasing the assembly of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph.

Dial and hands specialists

The dials and hands on the Micro Artist Studio watches are made in the studio. While the first generation Eichi carried a Noritake manufactured porcelain dial, the Eichi II has a dial which is made in-house. We observed Master Craftsman Mitsuru Yokosawa as he worked on such a dial.

Hand painting the enamel markers on the enamel dial of the Eichi II is performed in-house at the Micro Artist Studio in Shiojiri.

Finishing of the movement is also done within the same premises.

Finishing the movement. Here the watchmaker is applying the anglage manually with a piece of pith wood.
The small portrait on the mantlepiece shows where the inspiration for the work here is from.

The Credor Repeater

The Credor Sonnerie and Minute Repeater is perhaps the most representative of the work of the Micro Artist Studio. It was the first product that came out of the Seiko-Epson investment in top class watchmakers who are under no pressure to produce commercial products, but to focus on making the best watches possible.

I don’t have more photographs of the Sonnerie other than the video above of the movement taken out of the watch. The slow, deliberate strikes are demonstrated by Nakazawa-san. And it said to mimic the strikes of the temple bells in Japan. However, we did a detailed review of the Repeater and here are two more photographs taken at the Studio.

The Credor Repeater.
The Credor Repeater, shown here the rear side, epitomises the spirit of the Micro Artist Studio.

Concluding thoughts

With that we have come to the end of our Media Experience. It was an enriching week spent well with the folks at Seiko Corporation.

Sadao Watanabe live at the Cotton Club, Tokyo. The event was part of the annual celebrations of the Seiko Club of Japan.

And it ended with a wonderful dinner and jazz performance at the Cotton Club in Tokyo with legendary saxaphonist Sadao Watanabe. The event was hosted by Seiko Corporation CEO Shinji Hattori.

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