The Seiko-Epson Micro Artist Studio

The Micro Artist Studio in Nagano prefecture is where Seiko-Epson make their Sonnerie luxury watch. I was up there for a story earlier this year.

Each Sonnnerie costs 15.7 million yen and is made from 630 parts over 12 months.  There are 12 “micro-artists” in the workshop but all the watches are assembled by this man:

Japanese watchmaker

Until this job I didn’t know that Epson (or rather, Seiko) started off making watches. Apparently that’s where all the precision technology they use in their printer nozzles etc started out.

They also make other Spring Drive watches up in Nagano. (The Spring Drive is a rather complicated hybrid mechanical quartz mechanism). Many of the watchmakers are women. I was told they are more patient and dexterous than male artisans.

making Japanese watches

This guy really looked the part:

Japanese watch craftsman

Unfortunately, I only had a few minutes for photos, and these were all taken from behind glass in a corridor running alongside the workshop. I guess they don’t want some ham-fisted photographer like me knocking a tray of precision parts onto the floor with his 70-200 2.8 ! Would love to go back with a macro lens, more time and more access one day though.

While I was researching this story I came across this post on master watchmaker Philippe Dufour who was involved in making the Sonnerie. I never really understood how people could spend such obscene amounts of money on watches, but I’m beginning to get an inkling why now.

I wonder if there freelance watchmakers in Japan?

Making Seiko-Epson luxury watches, Micro Artist Studio, Shiojiri, May 2009

– Images by Tony McNicol

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