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Orient Watch Company: Pre-War History

Orient and watches go back, way back.

In fact, the Orient Watch Company, though not officially called that at the time, dates back to 1901 in Tokyo, Japan.

On March 4, 1901, a man named Shogoro Yoshida opened a wholesale watch shop in one of Tokyo's downtown commercial districts, Ueno. Yoshida Watch Shop was extremely successful, selling imported pocket watches and developing innovations to the standard watch of the time.

A classic pocket watch circa 1901

In 1912, Yoshida began producing wristwatch cases, which at the time were made of gold. This switch to manufacturing in addition to importing and selling watches led to the development of Toyo Tokei Manufacturing, which began in 1920, originally producing table clocks and gauges.

It was not until 1934 that Toyo Tokei Manufacturing started the production of wristwatches. This isn’t to say that Toyo Tokei was behind the times. Though the first wristwatch was created in 1868, such watches did not become a popular alternative to pocket watches until the 1920s and ‘30s when John Harwood exhibited the first automatic wrist watch in 1926 and Rolex introduced the Perpetual in 1931.

The first automatic wristwatch was exhibited by John Harwood at Basel in 1926

To accommodate Yoshida’s growing watch company, the Hino Factory was built in 1936 in Tokyo.

For several years, Toyo Tokei Manufacturing boomed at the Hino Factory. But following the tragedies of World War II paired with the Allies’ defeat over the Axis powers, Tokyo’s struggling economy did not fare well for Toyo Tokei Manufacturing, and the company shut down and suspended business in 1949.

Of course, things didn’t end there for Orient. Stay tuned to find out what happened next!

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