Interview: Mr. Yoshifusa Nakazawa, Watchmaker At Seiko’s Haute Horlogerie Micro Artist Studio

ThinIn the world of watchmaking, there are many watchmakers out there, none however quite like Mr Nakazawa. Mr Nakazawa is one of the key ingredients that makes Seiko’s Micro Arist Studio tick, and one of the crucial elements in some of the finest watches to leave said studio. None the least would be the truly magnificent Credor Eichii watches (make sure to read about one of them right here). If you are not yet familiar with the revered Micro Artist Studio, they are essentially an All Star team responsible for some of the most beautiful and complicated watches made by the company. 

Mr Nakazawa’s career spans over four decades in the industry and he started his career at Suwa Seikosha. Very early in his career he was “crowned champion in the Watch Assembly and Repair Section of the 1981 World Skills Olympics held in Atlanta, USA”. Fast forward and in 2006, Mr. Nakazawa joined the star-studded cast at Micro Artist Studio where he is still working to this day as the apex watchmaker. Since then he was also awarded the Yellow Ribbon by the Japanese emperor. 

Please note that Mr Nakazawa has provided his answers in Japanese. In order to avoid small nuances getting lost in translation we also list the full Japanese interview below the English translation which follows.

Sincere thanks to Mr Nakazawa for taking the time to do this interview!

Jan: You have an impressive record and career to date. Can you highlight some of your personal highlights so far?

Yoshifusa Nakazawa: Thank you. I would say there are three highlights in my career. First is the period I trained and improved my adjusting skills for the World Skill Competitions in Atlanta during 1978 to 1981. I was awarded the gold medal and got to know the joy of fine tuning of a watch. 

Second is the experience when I was the manufacturing representative in one of our factories abroad from 1991 to 1997. I have fond memories of this experience even today. 

Thirdly, I have been working in Micro Artist Studio since 2006 and have been in charge of the assembly for Credor Spring Drive masterpieces like Sonnerie and Eiichi Ⅱ. I would say that Sonnerie is the result of working closely with other members to evolve my watchmaking skills and experience accumulated so far. As a result, I was honored to be awarded the Yellow Ribbon by the Japanese emperor and that is the biggest highlight in my entire life so far. 

Jan: You started your career in 1978. After all these years, what still motivates you when you go to work on any given morning?

Mr Nakazawa: To think about what I am going to do on the day in the morning. We have all kinds of tasks in the process of watchmaking in Micro Artist Studio. I even dream about solutions sometimes. I believe trying those ideas has added to my experience and lifted me up whether they eventually worked or not. Also, I play golf for health and refreshment. I practice golf for a little while at the driving range every day before work. It warms me up and I can concentrate on the detailed work.

Jan: You are part of the Micro Artist Studio now, can you detail how working in this studio is different from your work before being part of this elite team? 

Mr Nakazawa: When I was one of the members working on the assembly of Grand Seiko and Credor watches, we were required to work efficiently and produce a given number of pieces within each schedule. On the other hand, Micro Artist Studio consists of specialists who represent different parts of Shinshu Watch Studio (where all Grand Seiko Spring Drive and quartz watches are made) and every one of us are involved in all the processes from designing to manufacturing. 

When it comes to the Micro Artist Studio, I would say we are ‘’the specialists of the manufacture’’ who pursue the creation of complicated yet durable watches, incorporating Japanese aesthetics and hand-finishing. 

In one word, Micro Artist Studio is all about bringing the very unique watches to life, and in my opinion, this is something one can only experience there.

Jan: From your perspective wherein lies the biggest difference between working on Grand Seiko watches versus working on Credor watches such as the Eichii II?  

Mr Nakazawa: In my impression from the past, Grand Seiko was a durable watch with high accuracy while Credor was thin and stylish. However, there has been less of a gap in the accuracy since the quartz and Spring Drive caliber was born. Also, Credor’s water resistance has been enhanced, which makes it closer to Grand Seiko in some sense.

Having said that, I notice the difference between the two when assembling them. For Grand Seiko, I always keep in mind the completeness in the usability, legibility and long-term durability, which goes toward making a perfect watch. When making Credor watches, I try to respect each one’s characteristics and uniqueness.

Jan: Having become a Master Craftsman, part of your task is to pass on the knowledge you have gained to the future generations of watchnakers. Is it difficult to find the next generation of motivated watchmakers in Japan?

Mr Nakazawa: Sometimes, even if there are talented young people, there may be problems with timing, staff allocation etc. I believe this may happen in every industry. 

The task of passing on the know-how for producing a complicated watch arises as soon as the watch is born. This is exactly why Micro Artist Studio was established. But as I just mentioned, it is not easy because of many elements. Work in here is challenging but we are trying to simplify and construct a more standard process. Little by little, we are building up the system of passing on the knowledge to the next generation. 

Jan: It seems that during the quartz crisis (or the quartz revolution) Seiko was threatening the Swiss Watch industry with its quartz watches. At present, one might reasonably argue that Grand Seiko & Credor are doing much the same. From your perspective, what made this possible?

Mr Nakazawa: This is a tough question. In Japan, Swiss brands are very popular and there are many fans, but it is also true that some prefer Grand Seiko because of the robustness and other characteristics such as the high accuracy of the 9F caliber. I believe a ‘’good’’ watch is one that never makes the wearer get bored of it even if he or she wears it every day, and a ‘’happy’’ watch is one that will be passed down to the following generations. Both Grand Seiko and Credor are durable and made by dedicated craftsmen like us. I really hope people can understand that and become a fan in the future.

Jan: Short question, we have to ask, which watch are you currently wearing?

Mr Nakazawa: I wear the radio wave solar Brightz watch (Brightz is one of Seiko’s product brands for Japan only). It has a titanium case and a black dial with Arabic numerals. It almost feels like a living thing like a vegetable or plant to me because it absorbs the sunlight and gets charged. It doesn’t require any care on my part and I always wear it to golf. ​

Original Japanese Interview:

Jan: 中澤さんは長く、そして素晴らしいキャリアをお持ちですね。これまでのキャリアで、個人的なハイライトを教えていただけますか。

Mr Nakazawa: 

長い仕事の中でいろいろな経験をしました。ハイライトとして挙げられるものが3つあります。
1) 1978~1981にかけて技能五輪世界大会に向けて、毎日時計精密調整を訓練し、技能五輪国際大会アトランタ大会に出場し金メダルをとりました。機械式時計の精密調整の面白さを知りました。
2) 1991~1997にかけて海外赴任し、時計工場で製造責任者として活躍しました。 世界のなかで仕事する経験をさせていただきました。
3) 2006~現在に至るマイクロアーティスト工房(以下“MA”と表記)にて、スプリングドライブソヌリと叡智Ⅱの組立担当として活躍しました。 今まで積み上げた技術と経験をMAメンバーと一緒に進化させ、ソヌリが完成しました。 その結果、黄綬褒章を受章し、人生の最大のハイライトになりました。

Jan: キャリアを1978年にスタートされて、長い年月が経ちましたが、毎朝仕事に向かうモチベーションをどのように保っていますか。

Mr Nakazawa:

今日は何をやろうと具体的に考えることです。MAでの時計作りでは毎日いろいろな課題が発生します。その課題をどうやれば解決できるかを寝ていながらもアイデアが浮かんでくることがあります。そのアイデア(改善)を実行し成功しても失敗しても自分の経験になることがモチベーション向上に繋がります。
また、体の健康やリフレッシュのためにゴルフをやっています。会社に行く前にドライビングレンジで練習するのが日課になっています。体が温まり朝から細かい作業に入れます。

Jan: いまマイクロアーティスト工房に所属されていますが、その前の職場とどう違いますか。

Mr Nakazawa:

以前のGS・クレドールの高級時計組立職場では計画通りに一人一人決められた業務をこなし、効率よく成果を出すことが求められています。MA工房の職場員は、事業所の主な組織を代表するスペシャリストから構成され、それぞれの知識・経験・人脈によって時計の設計~生産まで携わっています。
したがってマニュファクチュールのなかのマニュファクチュールと言え、日本的な魅力の追及や手仕上げのすばらしさの探求、複雑な時計でも壊れにくい時計作りを目指しています。今までと一番違うのは、より良い“もの作り”を具現化していくことができることです。

Jan: 中澤さんの考える、GSと(EiichiⅡなど)Credorを組み立てる際の違いについて教えてください。

Mr Nakazawa:

かつてのGSは高精度で壊れにくい時計という印象。クレドールは薄型でおしゃれな時計であったと思います。しかし時計精度に関してはクオーツが登場してからは差がなくなっています(スプリングドライブも含めます)。半面、防水構造が標準化されクレドールも防水構造になりましたのでGSに近くなっています。
私が心掛けている組立の際の違いは、GSは使いやすさの機能、視認性、長期信頼性を考えた完成度を上げること。したがって全てスキのない高品質に作り上げることです。 クレドールは一つ一つ個性を尊重する作り方となります。

Jan: マスタークラフツマンとして、後進の育成も中澤さんのお仕事かと思います。日本でモチベーションを高くもち、組立師になりたいと思う次世代を見つけるのは難しいと思いますか。

Mr Nakazawa:

次世代の人材を見つけるのが難しいのではなく、事業の仕組みが必要とされる人材を教育しようとする優先度を下げていると思います。どの業界も同じと思います。
複雑時計やこだわりのある時計はその時計が世の中にでたときから、次世代に技能を引き継ぐことが命題となります。そのような仕事により失われつつある技能継承を目的にMA工房が発足したのですが、実際は簡単ではありません。前述で述べたように次世代の候補はいますが、組織的に人材をタイミングよく供給することが難しいというのが実情です。MA工房の仕事は難しい仕事ですが簡単にできる工夫や標準化をして引き継ぎしやすい工夫をしています。少しずつですが継承のステップを歩みはじめました。

Jan: クオーツ革命により、Seikoはスイスの時計業界を危機に追いやりました。いま、GSとCredorも同じように彼らに危機感を与えていると思います。それはどうしてだと思いますか。

Mr Nakazawa:

難しい質問ですね。日本ではスイス時計の人気は明らかに高く多くのファンがいます。半面GSの作りの良さや9Fクオーツの精度の良さを好むファンも多くいます。
私は、毎日使って飽きの来ない時計が好まれる時計と思います。そして、人生を共にした時計が子供や孫に引き継がれたら幸せな時計となりますね。真摯な物つくりで使いやすい時計、壊れづらい時計がGS・クレドールにはあると思います。そのような理由でGS・クレドールのファンが増えたら嬉しいです。

Jan: 最近どのモデルを好んで着用していますか。

Mr Nakazawa:

SEIKOブライツの電波ソーラー(チタンケース、黒DLでインデックスはアラビア数字) を普段使いにしています。太陽の光をあびて、充電しているかと思うと野菜か植物のようだなと感じることがあります。世話がなくて軽くゴルフにも着用します。

4 thoughts on “Interview: Mr. Yoshifusa Nakazawa, Watchmaker At Seiko’s Haute Horlogerie Micro Artist Studio

  1. That Quartz revolution question… Jan asking the real questions 😎🤘 Great read guys, thank you! Love my Snowflake

  2. So humble, thanks for this interview! Seiko is doing beautiful work across all brands under their umbrella, easy to see why after reading this.

Leave a Reply (No Login Required)