Project 001 Watch: wn-2 logo_Think the Earth Project

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Enjoy! wn-2


gwn-2h Behind-the-Scenes Interview

gTakumih, an expert craftsperson, plays a leading role

  Assembly factory blessed with clean air and water

November 8, 2007

We went to Ninohe city in Iwate prefecture to observe the final manufacturing process - the assembly - of the "wn-2". The factory, Ninohe Tokei Kogyo Co, Ltd., is located in an area endowed with nature and it faces gentle rolling hills.

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This factory assembles popular quartz watches (retail price up to JPY 30,000-), middle-grade quartz watches (up to JPY 150,000-), and other parts (such as movements and coils for analog quartz watches).

Popular quartz watches are assembled automatically by robots developed by Ninohe Tokei Kogyo. There is no other system like it in the world. The middle and higher-grade watches are hand-assembled by craftspeople.

ƒCƒ“ƒ^ƒrƒ…[[Žε–π‚͏ ‚Μ‹Z]"We are very proud of our craftspeople and their outstanding ability to manufacture watches. We are committed to delivering Made-in-Japan quality from Ninohe" said Mr. Ogasawara, the division manager. Their commitment to gMade in Japanh is also expressed in the nametags their staff wears. Ninohe is renowned for its lacquer (it boasts #1 output in Japan), and as such their nametags are also made of lacquer. But they must be coated five times in four months before they are ready for use. So, if they lose their nametag, they have to work for four months without one!

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  "wn-2" assembled with craftsmanship

"Today we will show you how we place the movements into the case" said Mr. Taguchi, the manager of the manufacturing section, as he led us into the factory.

The assembly section is located in a clean room.
First we must put on dust-proof uniforms and take an "air" shower.
Not having entered a clean room ever before, we were completely clueless as to how we were supposed wear these uniforms.
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Finally, we got dressed properly
c and took our first air shower!

As we entered the room, we noticed that there was a continuous hissing noise and also noise coming from the automated assembly lines. Next to the lines, a group of people was working at their desks.
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The "wn-2" is assembled on these desks.
As we would expect from factories that create precision machines microscopes occupied the right side of the desks.

ƒCƒ“ƒ^ƒrƒ…[[Žε–π‚͏ ‚Μ‹Z]Assembly requires delicacy.
"Takumi", an expert craftsperson in charge of the "wn-2", works with a serious expression on her face.

ƒCƒ“ƒ^ƒrƒ…[[Žε–π‚͏ ‚Μ‹Z]Earth-hands waiting to be assembled

ƒCƒ“ƒ^ƒrƒ…[[Žε–π‚͏ ‚Μ‹Z]They are mounted carefully.

After the Earth-hands were mounted, she checked carefully to see that they were mounted correctly.
She first set the indicator pointing at the Arabian Peninsula, which happens to be the easiest point for her to use as a guide. And then she made the indicator travel around the world, stopping at Akashi, Hawaii, Cuba, and finally Greenwich.
She looked through the microscope as she continued to scrutinize.
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Finally, the finished watches will be sent to the laboratory to undergo waterproof and performance tests.
It takes fourteen days from the beginning of the assembly to the final check. This is twice as long a time required to assemble regular watches.

  Interview with a "Takumi"

ƒCƒ“ƒ^ƒrƒ…[[Žε–π‚͏ ‚Μ‹Z]The craftsperson in charge of assembling the gwn-2h is Ms. Michiko TAMURA, who is the master assembler at the Ninohe Tokei Kogyo. She may have a cute smile, but she is a gTakumih (an expert craftsperson) who has been in this line of work for 23 years!
The expression on her faces changes into a serious one, once we started talking about her work.

You worked on "wn-1", too. Did it upset you when you were asked to assemble another complicated watch?

"I thought, 'again' !? (laugh)"

What is the most challenging part in the assembling process of the "wn-2"?

"It involves more steps than regular watches, but I would say the most difficult part is mounting the Earth-hands correctly. When I first worked on it (checking if the position indicator points to certain locations on the Earth-hand correctly), I also had to brush up on my geography, for instance, "where is Cuba?"
Dome-shaped hands are difficult to set time, and the hands rotate anticlockwise unlike regular watches.
The originality of "wn-2" makes it tough to deal with."

Now we have silver Earth-hands. How do you feel about them?

"Well, they make me feel uncomfortable (laugh).
I have to keep looking at my face reflected on the surface of the silver dome as I work, which makes me feel pretty nervous."

Ms. Tamura has been dispatched to Ninohe from Morioka Seiko Instruments Inc. to train their staff. She has trained most of the staff in this factory who are currently in charge of assembly.

One of the challenges of being a Takumi is training your successors. In this respect, what do you especially find difficult?

"Well, everything! How should I describe itc
You have manuals that tell you what to do, but only to a certain extent. There are things that can't be explained in words.
So, sharing what is unwritten is challenging."
"Watch-making often requires an intuitive approach," added Mr. Taguchi.

Of course you need to work hard to acquire a Takumifs skill, but it seems that is not enough.
Prior to coming to Ninohe, I visited Shizukuishi Watch Studio at Morioka Seiko and had an opportunity to watch their craftsperson adjusting one of the most important parts in the watch, the part that makes mechanical watches tick. gThis is a very difficult, delicate work. Only one out of ten craftspeople can do it right. So sheer effort is not enough. You must have a special talenth explained Mr. Fukushi, the manager of Planning & Promotion Section, Shizukuishi High-Class Watch Division at Morioka Seiko.
Here I caught a glimpse of the world of the "Takumi". It is a world where the five senses and a sophisticated, delicate touch are required even with the help of various equipment and tools manufactured by the latest technologies.

Lastly, Ms. TAMURA, would you give a message to the users of "wn-2"?

Please enjoy your watch as long as possible! I made it with love and care.

Report: Tomoyuki Yamaguchi, Think the Earth Project