Japanese Quartz Watches- Help settle a debate!
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  1. #1
    Member Nate Johnson's Avatar
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    Question Japanese Quartz Watches- Help settle a debate!

    I've been having a "discussion" with someone on another non-watch site about watches. He claims that after 14 years of working on watches that, and I quote, "I can tell you this, make sure you get a japanese made watch. They are the finest made in the world as far as the movement goes. The cases are built good too (citizen better than seiko). Do not buy a swiss made quartz watch. They are the worst of all the better quality qaurtz wathces out there. When buying a Rado, Rolex, Tag Heuer or Tissot, you are paying more for the name and/or gold and diamonds than you are buying a good quality watch."

    Are there any comparable experts who share this view? Anyone have any specific examples?
    WIS In-training

  2. #2
    Member Bruce Reding's Avatar
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    Re: Japanese Quartz Watches- Help settle a debate!

    Hello Nate. I can't speak definitively, as I do not have years of watchmaking experience. Here's my take, though...

    1. It is certainly true that the Swiss cannot make a blanket claim of superiority in quartz watches. To the uninitiated, this may be surprising, given the aura of peerless quality that the Swiss have cultivated for many years. The best Swiss quartz watches are better than the worst Japanese quartz watches in terms of movement and casing quality, but the reverse is true as well.

    2. I personally see the Japanese leading the Swiss in terms of timekeeping technology and related technologies such as power (e.g., solar/kinetic) and radio control. They were much more aggressive in embracing and pushing quartz technology, whereas the Swiss shied away for quite a while. Having said this, the recent ETA Thermoline movements are competitive with the best of the Japanese movements.

    3. I have seen a number of Swiss watches with very pedestrian movements plunked into a "case with a name". Perhaps this is your friend's experience as well. Can't say the Japanese haven't done this too, but perhaps they're less guilty of attempting to exploit their rep.

  3. #3
    Member ppaulusz's Avatar
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    Re: Japanese Quartz Watches- Help settle a debate!

    I agree with Bruce's comments in general.
    I also like to mention that there is a myth among watch enthusiasts (including myself) that the Swiss are somehow behind the Japanese in high-end quartz technology. Strange enough, history and facts are not necessary supporting that general view.
    Just briefly, I'd like to point out some technological milestones with dates and manufacturers:
    - In the 1970s both the Japanese (Citizen Crystron Mega 4MHz AT-cut crystal) and the Swiss (Omega Megaquartz 2.4MHz AT-cut crystal) offered leading edge technology that resulted exceptional accuracy.
    - From the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s the Swiss had the technological adventage with the 1984 release of the Longines VHP (ETA 255.561 movement that employed dual-oscillator and digital "inhibition" scheme). In that period that was the best (most advanced) technology (Seiko had twin-quartz design from the late 1970s but it was not using digital "inhibition" technology as far as I know. It used analog method that by nature could not be as accurate as the later digital schemes.).
    - In these days the manufacturers (Swiss and Japanese) are using a technology that very similar to the dual-oscillator VHP but instead of a second oscillator they use a thermistor built on the IC to measure temperature. The digital "inhibition" scheme is still there (although it might got fine-tuned for better performance). The current technology is dated back to the mid 1990s (The Citizen - A660 and Longines VHP Perpetual Calendar - ETA 252.611).
    Having said that, it seems to me that the current technologies were based at least(!) as much on the Swiss know-how than the Japanese know-how. (I must admit that the Japanese manufacturers don't give away any technological info regarding thermocompensation schemes used by them. In that case all we could do is make observations, speculate and try to find logical explanations. That resulted that many of us in this great forum believe that the Japanese manufacturers must be using similar thermocompensation technology to the well documented ETA Thermolines. I would be more than happy to correct my standing on this issue if new information from reliable sources would prove our speculation wrong.)
    - The ETA Thermolines offer wider range of movements' designs than the Japanese manufacturers (eg: digital/analog display, digital chronograph, analog chronograph).
    - ETA was the first manufacturer that introduced long-lasting 3V lithium battery in a quartz watch (Longines VHP) to replace the ordinary 1.55V battery.
    - The Japanese are the winner when we talk about alternative (battery-less) power supply. No question that currently nothing beats Citizen's Eco-Drive technology. The most advanced Eco-Drive models can run for upto 5 years(!) in the dark without any light source (truly amazing!).

    Well, I promised to be brief and I failed...:oops: . Anyhow, I tried to make a point that the Swiss are not necessary losing the match against the Japanese even in the game of "quartz technology". One thing is sure, the Swiss prefer to market their mechanical watches over quartz... and that could be one of the reasons why there are urban myths about Swiss quartz watches being inferior to Japanese ones.
    Last edited by ppaulusz; May 10th, 2006 at 11:32.
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  4. #4
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    Re: Japanese Quartz Watches- Help settle a debate!

    I agree that the Japanese are the leaders in quartz and RC technology.

  5. #5
    Member ppaulusz's Avatar
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    Re: Japanese Quartz Watches- Help settle a debate!

    Quote Originally Posted by ronalddheld
    I agree that the Japanese are the leaders in quartz and RC technology.
    The German manufacturer, Junghans, has also been involved with the RC technology and its RC watches are very popular mainly in Europe.

  6. #6
    Member Bruce Reding's Avatar
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    Re: Japanese Quartz Watches- Help settle a debate!

    George makes good points. At the high end, if the Japanese lead (which was my contention), it's by a hair. My major point was to undercut the perception common among non WIS's that the Swiss are untouchably superior in all things related to watches.

    Not at the high end, I do believe that it's true that the Swiss are more often guilty of plunking a so-so quartz movement into a so-so case (in terms of functionality as measured by things like water resistance) and charging a lot of money because of a name. Can't blame them for that though. In fact, I sort of admire them for it. How many can say they're succeeding with manufactured goods (especially in a country like Switzerland with high labor costs) against countries like China? Not many. The Swiss are good businessmen.

  7. #7
    Member Nate Johnson's Avatar
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    Re: Japanese Quartz Watches- Help settle a debate!

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Reding
    The Swiss are good businessmen.
    So true.

    Thanks for the comments everyone. Imagine my suprise when I heard that there was something "better" than my Omega SMP with Omega 1538 movement!
    I'm just trying to learn as much as I can. So, thank you all for helping with that.
    WIS In-training

  8. #8
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    Re: Japanese Quartz Watches- Help settle a debate!

    This is such an interesting question that I feel I have
    to put in a comment despite that the subject has been
    thoroughly discussed.

    I don't claim to be an expert in the quartz field in any way
    but in my opinion the Japanese are more into research and
    their quartz watches are in general more technologically advanced
    than the Swiss ones.

    The high-frequency watches were mentioned for example. Although
    both the Citizen Crystron and the Omega Marine Chronometer had
    AT-cut hf-crystals the Crystron was four (!) times as accurate (+/- 3 sec/year
    vs +/- 12 sec/year for the Marine Chronometer) as the Omega MC and what I know
    of it still is the most accurate non-rc wristwatch in the world.

    And how about the Grand Seiko that has a theoretical service interval of
    50 years. Or the the Citizen with the highest accuracy specs of any non-rc
    wristwatch produced today. And then there is the Spring Drive, what a milestone
    in watch-making history (it would be really cool if they released a thermo-comp
    Spring Drive).

    I don’t know about you guys but these things impress me.
    Breitling Airwolf
    Citizen Crystron 4 Mega (Cal 7370)
    Longines Conquest VHP Perpetual Calendar
    Omega Marine Chronometer (Cal 1511)
    Rolex Datejust Oysterquartz (Cal 5035, Mark I)
    Seiko Prospex Perpetual Calendar
    Seiko Twin Quartz (Cal 9923)
    Sjöö Sandström ORC Extreme Black

    Panos
    Stockholm, Sweden

  9. #9
    Member Gerry.GEG's Avatar
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    In my experience...

    I have owned many Japanese watches and many Swiss. Just like European Cars vs. Japanese. Now, I only own cars from the rising sun. Will I migrate to all Japenese watches? I don't know, but everytime I look at a $3000+ watch I highly consider that I might be very happy with a GS instead of a Rolex.

    I think the Japanese have put considerable time and R&D into quartz when they were kicking the butts of the Swiss in the late seventies. I bought a Seiko 100 in 1980 and have never had a better watch. I can't say that about any Swiss quartz. So, on average are the Japanese better now? Good question. I would guess yes although, by how much is anyone's guess. My Campanola is a good example of Japan's ability to hand make a fine quartz watch.

    Keep in mind, there are always exceptions to this theory.


    Gerry in Spokane
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  10. #10
    Member ppaulusz's Avatar
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    Re: Japanese Quartz Watches- Help settle a debate!

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Reding
    ...Not at the high end, I do believe that it's true that the Swiss are more often guilty of plunking a so-so quartz movement into a so-so case (in terms of functionality as measured by things like water resistance) and charging a lot of money because of a name. Can't blame them for that though. In fact, I sort of admire them for it. How many can say they're succeeding with manufactured goods (especially in a country like Switzerland with high labor costs) against countries like China? Not many. The Swiss are good businessmen.
    Your points are taken, Bruce!
    No question that a new $250 Japanese quartz watch (either from Citizen or Seiko) represents much better value than a new $250 Swiss quartz. My Seiko Perpetual Calendar (8F32) cost about $250 and no Swiss brand could offer the features and quality of my Seiko for the same amount (probably not even for twice as much!).

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