What is the difference between SII, TMI, and Seiko Epson Watch Movements?
There is a lot of confusion in the watch community about Seiko and Seiko-related watches and movements. Most of the confusion from the consumer level comes from how Seiko is a parent company and uses the same name in many of the companies in the group. Although not directly related, and not sharing the same management or facilities, anything produced or marketed by one of Seiko’s core companies or subsidiaries are considered to be affiliated with Seiko.
What is SII, TMI, Epson, etc?
To answer this, first let’s look at the Seiko Group conglomerate based in Tokyo, Japan. According to Investopedia: “A conglomerate is a corporation made up of a number of different, seemingly unrelated businesses. In a conglomerate, one company owns a controlling stake in a number of smaller companies which conduct business separately.”
The Seiko Group is comprised of three core companies, each having various subsidiaries of their own:
Seiko Holdings Corporation aka Seiko is based in Ginza, Japan
SII aka Seiko Instruments Inc is based in Chiba, Japan
Seiko Epson Corp. is based in Suwa, Japan
Then this happened:
“On January 26, 2009, Seiko Holdings and Seiko Instruments announced that the two companies will be merged on October 1, 2009 through a share swap. Seiko Instruments became a wholly owned subsidiary of Seiko Holdings on October 1, 2009.” –source
What about TMI?
Of course fans of the caliber NH35A cannot forget about Time Module, Inc. which is based in Hong Kong.
“Time Module (H.K.) Ltd. was established in 1987 with original funds from Seiko Corporation, Seiko Instruments Inc. and Seiko Epson Corporation. Effective from 1st of December, 2015, Time Module (H.K.) Ltd. is wholly-owned by Seiko Holdings Group, and is dedicated to offering high quality watch movements manufactured by Seiko Instruments Inc..”
“Seiko Group is a Japanese corporate group consisting of three core companies Seiko Holdings Corp. (Seiko), Seiko Instruments Inc. (SII) and Seiko Epson Corp (Epson). They were independent companies linked together by the common thread of timepiece technology. Although they have some common shareholders including the key members of the Hattori family, the three companies in the Seiko Group are not affiliated. They are managed and operated completely independently. Epson has established its own brand image and rarely uses “Seiko.”
This excerpt mentions that the three companies are not affiliated, which may be true in a technical business sense, but not in the eyes of the consumer who learns that the three companies are ultimately owned by Seiko.
Seiko Watch Corp adds to the confusion:
“Seiko Watch Corp., a subsidiary of Seiko Holdings Corp., markets SEIKO watches while Seiko Instruments Inc. and Seiko Epson Corp. manufacture their movements.” –source
Hattori Seiko Co., Ltd.
You may have also seen some Seiko calibers sold with the name Hattori. This is not only the last name of the founder of Seiko Kintaro Hattori, but also used as a label for movements sold by some resellers. We’re still actively researching this subsidiary and will update this post with more information later.
Are SII/TMI/Epson movements made in Japan?
No. Not all Seiko movements are made in Japan. Seiko calibers are made in Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore. They also manufacture watch parts and components in China, which are then used to assemble movements in the aforementioned locations with a mixture of human-made, machine-made, and part human part machine made. As it turns out, few Seiko watches are actually entirely made in Japan.
“Seiko is perhaps best known for its wristwatches, all of which were at one time produced entirely in-house. This includes not only major items such as microgears, motors, hands, crystal oscillators, batteries, sensors, LCDs but also minor items such as the oils used in lubricating the watches and the luminous compounds used on the hands and the dials. Seiko watches were originally produced by two different subsidiaries. One was Diani Seikosha Co., (now known as Seiko Instruments Inc.), and the other was Suwa Seikosha Co. (now known as Seiko Epson Corporation). Having two companies both producing the same brand of watch enabled Seiko to improve technology through competition and hedge risk. It also reduced risk of production problems, since one company can increase production in the case of decreased production in the other party.
Currently watch movements are made in Shizukuishi, Iwate (SII Morioka Seiko Instruments), Ninohe, Iwate (SII Ninohe Tokei Kogyo), Shiojiri, Nagano (Seiko Epson) and their subsidiaries in China, Malaysia and Singapore. The fully integrated in-house production system is still practiced for luxury watches in Japan.”
“…..due to the nature of customs and labor laws in Japan, products are generally allowed to be stamped with Made in Japan if they are produced outside the national boundaries as long as they are manufactured in a wholly owned Japanese firm where the work is overseen by Japanese nationals. Generally speaking, watches priced below about 90000 yen (currently $838 US dollars) do not contain enough profit margin to be made in Japan. This is not just for Seiko, but for all major Japanese manufacturers. Watches priced roughly from 90000 to 250000 yen (currently $838 to 2328 US dollars) are often finished or with final assembly done in Japan and higher end watches above this point are often fully assembled in Japan. …..”
Example of a Seiko Time Corp caliber 7S26C made in Malaysia:
Extra: Are Orient Watches Made By Seiko?
Orient is a Japan-based watch brand that started as an independent brand in 1950. In March 2009, Orient Watch became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Seiko Epson. Seiko Epson’s parent company is Seiko Group. So ask yourself, are Orient watches made by Seiko?