ew years often bring fresh starts. For Japanese movement-maker Miyota, this meant redefining its objectives and introducing a reworked brand identity. Speaking to Europa Star, Brand Manager Yoshio Miura said the decision reflects “changing expectations in the markets. Watch buyers are increasingly interested in mechanical movements and that includes Miyota’s segment of mid-range watches.”
Part of Citizen Group, Miyota is one of four or five giants in the global movement market (quartz and mechanical). It produces an estimated 100 million calibres annually, over 90% of which are quartz, at 17 factories which “for security reasons, mainly the risk of an earthquake”, are spread across Japan.
Citizen founded the company in 1959, in Miyota, near Nagano, to make movements for its own watches. The Miyota brand came later, in 1980, to supply the global watch industry – including Citizen’s direct competitors – with non-exclusive movements.
From quartz to mechanical
Initially these were quartz calibres. Then Miyota launched the 8 series of mechanical automatic movements, which today boast a track record stretching back more than 30 years. Part of this family, the 8215, is one of the most popular mechanical movements, equipping mid-range watches around the globe.
This robust calibre is a true workhorse. Automatically wound, it measures 11½’’’ (26mm) in diameter and 5.67mm thick, displays hours, minutes, seconds and date, beats at 21,600 vibrations per hour and delivers 42 hours of power reserve. Its precision is –20 to +40 seconds per day. By way of comparison, the COSC requires precision of –4/+6 and Longines – powered by ETA – says its watches are accurate to –5/+8 seconds per day.
- The 8N24 is a skeletonised automatic movement (which also exists in a hand-wound version). Three hands. Stop seconds. 11 1/2’’’, 5.55mm deep.
When we comment on this discrepancy between Swiss standards and the accuracy of the 8215, Miyota replies that it is “sufficient for mid-range mechanical watches and perfectly aligned with customer demand.”
Could Miyota do better? “Yes of course,” we are told. “However, in this segment it all comes down to price. Miyota movements are reliable, robust and provide consistent quality. For customers, these are our strengths.” And who are we to argue, at $20 for a highly reliable mechanical movement whose quality never varies, thanks to fully automated production lines (more on that below).
The move upmarket
Nevertheless, Miyota has introduced several upgrades and refinements to its 8 series: metal components only (although the cheapest calibre does still include some plastic parts), an extended 60-hour power reserve, well-executed decorations, blued screws (cal. 8315), date and day (cal. 8205), small seconds (cal. 8217), open heart (cal. 82S line), and even the skeletonised 8N line. Alongside a family of small automatic movements for ladies’ watches (from 8¾’’’), in 2000 Miyota introduced the 9 series of premium automatic and manual-winding calibres. Ultra-thin (3.9mm) and with improved precision of –10/+30 seconds per day, the 9 series currently extends across a dozen calibres, from the 9039 three-hander to the 9120 which, in an architecture 5.52mm high, displays hours, minutes, seconds, 24 hours, day, month and power reserve by means of hands plus date in an aperture.
- The 6T28 is a small mechanical movement perfect for small designs. 8 3/4’’’, 5.23mm in height. 3 hands, open heart. 40 hours running time.
A recent addition to the series, and certainly the most advanced, is the 9075: an automatic “true” GMT with a beat rate of 28,800 vibrations per hour and 42 hours of power reserve. On a “true” or “traveller” GMT, local time is adjusted independently by the crown without stopping the movement or disturbing the 24-hour hand.
Released in 2021 and slightly more exclusive than other Miyota movements, the 9075 is sold to “special customers”. Such as? Lip and Ikepod, for example. Given the design of their watches, it’s easy to see why brands such as these, which appeal to young collectors with limited means, can be of particular interest to Miyota as part of its new strategy to make the movement a selling point of a mid-range watch.
For this reason, particular care goes into decoration and finishing, with options for personalisation and special treatments. “We’re constantly improving and our new logo reflects this,” Yoshio Miura continues.
“The heart of the watch”
“We want to enhance the image of mid-price watches, promote development in this segment and show as many people as possible that the movement isn’t simply a component. It is the heart of the watch,” he explains.
Miyota has the industrial might (2,000 employees) to embrace such a strategy, not to mention the backing of Citizen Group (around 16,000 employees and turnover estimated in the region of $3 billion). It controls every aspect of production to maintain a consistent level of quality. There are “no surprises” with Miyota movements. They are robust, durable, reliable and repairable (and in this respect, not unlike Japanese-built cars).
Europa Star visited a Miyota factory in July 2019. This is what we wrote at the time: “From the bay window we can count dozens of assembly lines, ranging from 50 metres to 150 metres long. We were certainly expecting this when we visited the Miyota factory, opened only three years ago. But what is particularly striking is the very limited number of employees working on the lines, all equipped with safety masks that make them blend into this industrial landscape. ‘One or two operators are enough to manage a production line,’ we are told. The only operation that is still done by humans is moving components from one hall to another. But not for long: automation of transfers between the four production rooms is in progress, via conveyor belts.”
The assembly lines in question were for quartz calibres, but Miyota has taken the industrial expertise gained with quartz and applied it to mechanical. Operations from machining to pre-assembly and assembly, and everything in between, are done on automated lines. Quality inspections are carried out at every stage.
Such a high level of industrialisation means Miyota can supply Premium 900 movements for between $42 and $50, and its GMT calibre for between $60 and $70.
- The Miyota calibre 9075 is an affordable automatic “true” GMT movement with 24 jewels and a hi-beat rate of 28,800 vph. It is a member of the 9100 family (9 series) of Miyota calibers that the manufacturer categorises as “Premium Automatic” movements.
Yoshio Miura insists that “we do more than sell movements. We give our distribution partners full support and guarantee a consistent level of quality. We provide vital education in the mid-range segment. In all our markets, we organise training sessions in order to familiarise sales staff with the mechanical movement.”
Miyota movements are made and assembled at the 17 Citizen Group factories in Japan, which have the resources and expertise to produce every component, regulating organs and balance springs included. Only steel and certain jewels are sourced from third parties. The same factories also manufacture cases, dials, hands and bracelets.
From the head office in Tokyo, finished movements transit via Hong Kong to be delivered literally all over the world: to markets in Asia, of course, as well as via distribution partners to what are now strategic markets such as India, whose middle classes are more and more knowledgeable about mechanical watches, and, in Europe, Germany, for example.
The next step for Miyota is to “become a recognised brand” in its target markets, which range from emerging names to large-volume production. Its objective, set out in the company’s new byline, is to be “an absolute source of time” and for the end customer to take pleasure in admiring the movement that is the heart of their watch.