toki no waza The Artisan of Time

Pushing the Limits to Produce the Ultimate Watch

When did you first transfer to the Shizuku-ishi Watch Studio to work as a mechanical watchmaker?

Around 2000, I think. I came over to Shizuku-ishi when the quartz watch line, I was in charge of, was transferred. From the time I joined Seiko, I knew about the Grand Seiko as a high-quality mechanical watch and I always wanted to try my hand at it. When I actually transferred to the studio I felt very proud.

When you first started working at the studio, what were you in charge of?

For about half a year I worked on the process of lubricatinga fixed amount of oil into parts. The work setting was different from what I was used to in producing quartz watches, and I had a difficult time at first. Later I worked intently on balance spring adjustment. I continue to do such work.

The balance spring is the key part that determines accuracy, isn't it?

Yes it is. Most people can adjust other parts if given enough time, but few are able to adjust the balance spring.

It's that difficult, is it! What other parts are you in charge of?

The Grand Seiko is well known for having particularly strict standards. I am in charge of readjustment when those criteria are not met.

It would seem that such adjustment is very difficult. Would you say it requires a high level of skill?

Of course! In most cases, the requirements are missed by only a tiny margin, and in those cases it is easy to make adjustments. But in some cases, even if the criteria are met, the watch may run the slightest bit fast, for example. I make such adjustments keeping the general usage conditions of the user in mind.

Training people is an important part of the job as well. What kind of qualities do you look for in individuals that tells you they are suited to becoming a watch craftsperson with advanced skills?

Being good with one's hands, dexterity, is naturally a great advantage, but actually the eyes, especially kinetic vision, are critical.

What do you mean by kinetic vision?

When you adjust a balance spring you have to watch the movement under a microscope and observe where the eccentricity lies. Also, this type of work is not so much about doing repetitive tasks. If you are able to figure out what is wrong you can get a job done quickly and efficiently. Someone who is able to think creatively and wants to produce the highest quality would be suited for the job.

What steps do you take when performing adjustments?

I make adjustments in the balance area and escapement, adjust the gearing of the pallet and escape wheel, then the amount of shake in each part (unsteadiness in the gearwheel stem, etc.). In particular, the balance and MEMS-produced pallet and escape wheel have a significant effect on the watch overall, so I will take great care with the balance to improve the accuracy.

Are those the kind of skills you cultivate in your work from day to day?

Those, yes, but truthfully you can't learn enough just during working hours. In the studio my superiors show me how to do things, but I study horology on my own. I study so that I can enter competitions or earn qualifications. What I learn I then use in my work. It's a constant building process.

So you are taking it into your own hands to develop your potential. What qualifications do you currently hold?

I have a Grade 1 Watch Repair Technical Expert classification and a Mechanical Watch IW Meister* from Iwate prefecture. I passed in 2013, the fourth year the test for the IW Meister was held. There were 250 written questions, a live chronograph examination, an explanation of the problem to the customer that you had to do, and lastly making the adjustment. It was very tough. But it was a title that I really wanted, so when I passed, all I could think was "Finally!" (laughs)

* Between 2006 and 2013, only two people earned Iwate prefecture's Mechanical Watch IW Meister title.

That is a very high-level qualification. It speaks to your advanced skills. What do you feel are the good points about a mechanical watch?

It works without electricity. The watch runs just by winding it and is only off by seconds per day. That is a great mystery. With a watch that you wind by hand, if you don't wind it at the same time every day, the timekeeping will deviate in a big way. Or with a self-winding watch, if your lifestyle involves a lot of lying around and lack of movement, there will be more error. A mechanical watch adapts to the lifestyle of its user. People love it for that feel of it being alive and in sync with one's own personal rhythms. I would say that is one of its biggest attractions.

What are your goals?

First and foremost I want to maintain the Grand Seiko brand. But thinking only to maintain it is not enough. I want to work toward a level of craftsmanship and skill that meets to the GS special standard, which is even stricter than the normal Grand Seiko requirements, as well as the vintage V.F.A.(Very Fine Adjusted).

That is a very positive approach to craftsmanship! Thank you very much!