Having pioneered quartz wristwatches with the trailblazing Astron in 1969, Seiko set about developing digital models that paved the way for an array of new devices.
Early digital watches were prohibitively expensive and used light-emitting diode displays or dynamic scattering mode liquid crystal displays (LCDs) that consumed a lot of power. Seiko saw yet another opportunity to do much better for users, and decided to use a field-effect LCD that would be more energy efficient.
The result of this effort was the 06LC, which Seiko commercialized in 1973. This was the world's first six-digit LCD quartz watch. Key user features included a lamp that made the display legible in the dark and the ability to reset the hour and minute independently.
Seiko continued to perfect its digital watches in keeping with its user-friendly ethos, taking advantage of the tremendous potential of multifunctionality.
That effort led to the 0634, which the company launched in 1975 as the world's first multifunctional digital watch, incorporating a chronograph. Then the A159 alarm chronograph watch came out, proving an incredibly popular advance on the 0634.
Within a few short years, Seiko (and, it should be noted, many other watchmakers) had begun exploring multifunctional models, with Seiko stunning many in 1982 with the world's first TV watch. In 1983, Seiko came out with the world's first sound-recording watch and introduced the world's first computer watch in 1984.
In the four decades or so since the first digital electronic watches appeared, digital timepieces have not taken over the world. But they do coexist with or complement analog models, a good example being digital models in the SEIKO Professional line that offer world time, a range of alarm settings, and 1/100th stopwatch performance.
Seiko's efforts to develop ICs and LCDs were in perfect sync with the company's founding ethos of always being one step ahead of the rest. This was what truly motivated its developers and unleashed their imaginations, as this commitment has indeed guided progress throughout Seiko's history.
The commercial potential of innovations only became evident when the marketplace spoke, helping to cultivate numerous large businesses throughout the Seiko group. They include such fields as LCDs and ICs, printers, and information systems.
In the next installment of this series about the Seiko Museum, we look at two-hand watches, which Seiko found were surprisingly successful in the market.