Kintaro Hattori’s entrepreneurial vision
Posted on December 22 2021
The success of a business hinges on the level of dedication, commitment, and resilience of a company along with creative and critical thinking, practical knowledge, and expertise. At times of catastrophe, an act of God or a global pandemic, some enterprises may appear to be sinking in the high seas of adversity. At the same time, successful enterprises with an entrepreneurial vision – and a bit of luck, appear to set sail towards a horizon of opportunities.
Born in 1860 Tokyo, the young Kintaro Hattori grew up in a time of rapid social and industrial advancement that propelled Japan towards modernity. By the age of 13, Hattori decided he wanted to be a clockmaker and was repairing and selling second-hand clocks from his home at 17. At the time, he also gained experience by working at a clock shop under an expert technician, and founded his own company importing wholesale clocks and watches four years later. In 1892, Hattori established his flagship Seikosha factory to manufacture his own wall clocks, and established evening classes on sight to train technicians in Japanese, mathematics, and calligraphy in 1900.
Hattori understood the dire need to modernise production in the Japanese timepiece industry by switching to mechanisation that western producers had done already. Lagging behind their western competitors, Japanese clockmakers used dated machinery and a slow and laborious horizontal production system to manufacture their clocks and timepieces. In 1893, Hattori set out to acquire steam engines (which he upgraded at successive stages) and the most advanced techniques and tools available to modernise his factory. He set up a vertically integrated production system to streamline the production and assembly of a variety of clocks and watches in-house. This reduced production time without compromising the quality and precision of Hattori’s timepieces. With the tools and components made in-house, Seikosha acquired 60 per cent in market share of Japan-made clocks by 1911. It also mass-produced timepieces like the Time Keeper pocket watch in 1895, and the Laurel wristwatch in 1913, the latter becoming high in demand with the outbreak of World War l.
Hattori’s nickel-plated alarm clocks, a better alternative to the iron-cased German alarm clocks, overtook the Japanese and Chinese markets due to being rust-proof and gained Seikosha wide appeal. As the First World War broke out in 1914, Japanese technological advancement continued, as did Hattori’s good fortunes. While German exports halted, the demand for Japanese exports and Seikosha’s clocks and timepieces surged leading to an economic boom. As the years of war lingered, some Japanese clockmakers faced material shortages and consequently suffered economic downturn. Hattori planned ahead with the outbreak of war by importing enough material to sustain his production during this period. Seikosha became a leading competitor of western timepieces in the Asian market and, in turn, earned Hattori the title of ‘the King of Timepieces in the East’.
To learn more on Seikosha's history visit http://www.smokingsamurai.com/HATTORI_KINTARO.html