Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

The Ornate Secrets Inside Japan’s Seiko Masterpieces

High watchmaking isn't reserved for the Swiss. Japan has been crafting some of the world's best timepieces for well over a century, and today, Credor (a division of Seiko) is making the very best Japan has to offer. The watches at the top of Credor's lineup are the Spring Drive Minute Repeater and the Eichi II. They couldn't be more different: The former is an ornate creation that chimes the time, and the latter is a restrained watch that gives only hours, minutes, and seconds. Here's an inside look at both.

  1. As Simple As It Gets

    As Simple As It Gets

    The Eichi II ($52,500) is about as simple as a watch gets. Three hands, a flat dial with painted stick markers, and a two-tone white-and-blue color scheme in a platinum case. If you didn't know what you were looking at, it would be easy to say, "nice watch," and move on. You'd be very wrong.

    Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

  2. A Superlative Movement

    A Superlative Movement

    Turn the watch over, and you'll see a thing of beauty. The Eichi II's movement is about as highly finished as a movement can get; every detail is attended. Credor's style of brushing on the bridges, the particular blue color of the screws, and the shapes of the bevels are all unique to Japanese watchmaking. It's far more than a copy of Swiss work.

    Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

  3. Every Surface Matters

    Every Surface Matters

    No corner of the Eichi's movement has gone unfinished. A signature treatments is the sharp, deep bevels along the edges of the plates. You can see how they're beveled on top and bottom, coming to a sharp point in the center. This cannot be done by machine and takes hours of careful hand work to achieve.

    Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

  4. One More Indicator

    One More Indicator

    The original Eichi had a power reserve indicator on the front. For the II, Credor cleaned up the dial and moved it backward to the movement. The watch is manually wound and has a 60-hour power reserve. Even if you take it off on Friday night, it should be good to go on Monday morning with a quick wind.

    Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

  5. An Open Barrel

    An Open Barrel

    The power for the watch is stored in the barrel, essentially a tube that contains a tightly wound spring. As the spring unwinds, it pushes power to the timekeeping part of the movement. Credor's barrels are almost always cut open, with a flower pattern that lets you see the spring unwind inside. It's an additional excuse for showing off that beveling technique.

    Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

  6. A Hand-Painted Dial

    A Hand-Painted Dial

    The Eichi II's dial isn't white enamel. It's Japanese porcelain. The blue markers and Credor name are hand-painted with traditional deep blue dyes that stand out against the bright white of the aluminum oxide porcelain. The alligator strap and hands perfectly match the shade of blue.

    Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

  7. Something More Complicated

    Something More Complicated

    As simple as the Eichi II is, the Spring Drive Minute Repeater ($320,000) is complicated. The dial is entirely open-worked, so you can see the nearly 700 components keeping time. At most, three of these watches are produced each year. Getting to see one in person is something you don't want to turn down, if opportunity appears.

    Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

  8. The Other Side

    The Other Side

    While the Eichi's movement is ornately finished, the Minute Repeater is a little more sober. The bridges and plates are still brushed, but the bevels are smaller. And because such items as the flower-cut barrel sit on the dial side, the overall appearance is relatively understated.

    Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

  9. The Gongs

    The Gongs

    This minute repeater chimes out the time on demand via the button on the side of the case. The gongs have a special sound that's extremely clear because they are made by a family artisan that's been making Japanese wind chimes for 850 years. It's also a decimal repeater, meaning that it chimes the hours, 10-minute intervals, and minutes, instead of the usual hours, quarter-hours, and minutes. It's harder to build but much easier to use.

    Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

  10. A Different Style

    A Different Style

    Such a watch is a great way to see how Japanese watchmaking differs from Swiss or German watchmaking. Bringing in techniques from other traditional crafts, making every component a tiny work of art, and pursuing technical innovation that enriches the customer's experience of the product are the highest priorities here.

    Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg

  11. Spring Drive

    Spring Drive

    Both watches use Seiko's proprietary spring drive movement, which combines quartz and mechanical components to create an accurate movement that doesn't tick at all like a traditional mechanical movement does. The seconds hand sweeps cleanly across the dial; here you can see the flywheel whir away. Think of it as the best of both worlds.

    Photographer: Stephen Pulvirent/Bloomberg