Takano, the Phantom Japanese Watch Manufacturer

Actually this should be an article about automatic movements of the Japanese watch manufacturer Ricoh. However, it soon became apparent that the history of Ricoh’s watch division is so exciting that it deserves its own contribution. Therefore, the Japanese company Takano will be in the limelight here, without which there would probably have been no mechanical watch movements made by Ricoh!

The history of Ricoh begins in 1936 with the founding of Riken Kankoshi Co. Ltd., which became the Ricoh Co. Ltd. in 1963, with some intermediate stations. A multinational corporation which is still active today. The origins of the watch division of Ricoh but come from the Japanese Takano Seimitsu Kogyo Co., which was founded in 1938 and whose history reaches back to 1899.

Founded by Takano Kotaro in Nagoya in 1899 as Takano Clock Manufacturing, the company initially produced wall clocks. 1913 a second company was founded, Takano Metal Manufacturing, which produced table clocks made of metal.

Takano Advertising from 1919 / Source: commons.wikimedia.org

After the death of the founder, his son merged the two companies in 1924 and produced precision instruments for the Japanese military. Due to the increasing need of the military, the production of watches was discontinued in 1936. In 1956, after the end of the Korean War, business with the military came to a standstill and Takano began producing wristwatches. The production started in February 1957, the first watches were sold in September 1957.

Takano Precision

And here it gets interesting: these first Takano watches do not have a self-developed movement, not even one from Japan or Switzerland, but a Durowe from Germany! The movement in the Takano Precision is a hand-wound, center-second, 17 jewels Durowe 522 with a diameter of 11 1/2´´´ (French lines). In the Takano Precision Super it is a Durowe 522 with 19 jewels, in the Takano Precision Superior Deluxe it has 23 jewels.
From 1959 Takano has also used the slightly smaller Durowe 422 with 10 1/2´´´ and 17 jewels as caliber Takano 123 in rectangular watches. Incidentally, the Durowe 422 is largely identical to the Enicar 410, so it was probably taken over by Durowe from Enicar.

I could not find a reliable source whether Takano has only sourced the movements from Durowe or if there was a further cooperation with the company Laco (Lacher & Co), the watch manufacturer belonging to Durowe. But there is some information on the Internet that suggests that there was a cooperation between Takano and Laco.

Left: Takano, right: Durowe 522 (= Laco 522)

Some of the 17 jewels Takano movements are also marked with the number 124 on the train wheel bridge, some with 19 jewels with a 125.
These are the Takano caliber numbers. In other Takano movements with the same Durowe basis, the caliber number can be found next to the balance.

Takano 17 Jewels, caliber 124
Takano 19 Jewels, caliber 125
Takano 17 jewels, caliber 211 from a Takano Precision Prime

Also in 1957 there was a cooperation between Takano and the American watch manufacturer Hamilton Watch Co. for the production of Hamilton watches in Japan.

In October 1959 Takano brought his first watch on the market, which had an in-house developed movement. These watches were branded as Chateau, Takano Chateau, Chateau Nouvel, Chateau Deluxe, Chateau Frontier and Chateau Calendar. With a height of 3.5 mm, the watch was marketed as the thinnest Japanese wristwatch.

Takano Chateau
Hang tags from Takano

The manual winding movement with center second was available with 19, 21 or 23 jewels. The movements with 19 jewels are marked with the caliber number 521, those with 21 jewels with 531, 533 or 535, and those with 23 jewels with the caliber number 541. The 531 has ruby cap-jewels on some jewel bearings, the 535 on the other hand has Girocap combined in-setting.

Girocap combined in-settings

The 533 was used in rectangular watches and has a smaller diameter of 10 1/2´´´ compared to the 531 with 11 1/2´´´.

Movement of a Takano Chateau with 19 jewels, caliber 521, 11 1/2´´´
Movement of a Takano Chateau with 21 jewels, caliber 531, 11 1/2´´´
Movement of a Takano Chateau with 21 jewels, caliber 533, 10 1/2´´´
Movement of a Takano Chateau with 23 jewels, caliber 541, 11 1/2´´´
Title page of a watch catalog by Takano, circa 1960

There were also variants of the movement with date indication, the caliber 524 with 19 jewels, the 534 with 21 jewels and the 544 with 23 jewels. Here we have a Chateau Calendar with 21 jewels:

Takano Chateau Calendar
Takano caliber 534 with date, 13 3/4´´´

Due to the date dial, the main plate has been increased from 11 1/2´´´ to 13 3/´´´ (31 mm).

There were also women’s watches from Takano, here’s one of the brand Opal:

Takano Opal

Others are difficult to recognize because they only carry the brand name Sabrina or Etoile on the dial side:

Sabrina and Etoile brands from Takano
Takano Sabrina caseback

Only the Takano T logo on the case back and the inscription of the movement reveal the origin:

Movement in a Takano Sabrina
Movement in a Takano Etoile

The movement in the Sabrina is a Hamilton 911. I could not yet identify the one in the Etoile. Maybe it’s from a Japanese manufacturer like Seiko, Citizen or Orient …

Economically, Takano was not doing well. Sales were sluggish, facing strong competitors in the Japanese market, such as Seiko or Citizen. Finally, in September 1959, the Ise-wan typhoon caused damage to Takano of 110 million yen – about 5 million euros today – and a one-month loss of production. In the summer of 1961, the company was finally insolvent.

On May 8, 1962, Kiyoshi Ichimura, president of Riken Optical Co. Ltd., the predecessor company of Ricoh (see above), took office as president of Takano. In August 1962, Takano Seimitsu Kogyo Co. became Ricoh Tokei Co. Ltd., which, being renamed again to Ricoh Elemex Corporation in 1986, still exists today.

From the transitional period between Takano and Ricoh, there are watches that carry the brand Chateau, but whose Takano 524 movement is marked with Ricoh:

Chateau Calendar 4000
Takano 524 marked with Ricoh in a Chateau Calendar

This variant of the Takano movement is likely to be the first Ricoh movement in a wristwatch. This is where the history of Takano as a manufacturer of wristwatches ends after almost five years, and that of Ricoh’s watch division begins! Due to its short history as a watchmaker, Takano is sometimes referred to as a phantom watchmaker.

At least the story of the brand name Takano Chateau goes a bit further. In 1998, on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Takano, the Ricoh Elemex Corp. issued the Takano Chateau 1960 with a Swiss ETA 2801-2 manual winding movement, with 17 jewels and the caliber designation 7120:

Takano Chateau 1998
Takano Chateau 1998 – Takano 7120 = ETA 2801-2

Again in 2018 for the 80th anniversary, there was a reissue of a Takano with a Miyota 9039 automatic movement with the designation 7150 and 24 jewels:

Takano Chateau reissue 2018
Takano Chateau reissue 2018 – Takano 7150 = Miyota 9039

Let’s be surprised if there will be another anniversary watch in 2028 or 2038!

Finally, a list of all Takano watch movements I could find so far. By the way, all Takano movements from the 1950s and 1960s have a balance which beats at a beat rate of 18,000 bph (beats per hour).

Caliber Size Jewels Base Year Features
121 11 1/2´´´ 17 Durowe 522 1957 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: Unishock
122 11 1/2´´´ 17 Durowe 522 1959 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: Neutro-Shock
123 10 1/2´´´ 17 Durowe 422 1959 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: Neutro-Shock
124 11 1/2´´´ 17 Durowe 522 1959 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: Neutro-Shock
125 11 1/2´´´ 19 Durowe 522 1960 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: Neutro-Shock
126 10 1/2´´´ 19 Durowe 422 1960 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: Neutro-Shock
211 11 1/2´´´ 17 Durowe 522 1961 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: Ruby-Shock, KIF 210 Trior
213 10 1/2´´´ 17 Durowe 422 1959 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: ?
221 11 1/2´´´ 19 Durowe 522 1961 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: Ruby-Shock
223 10 1/2´´´ 19 Durowe 422 1961 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: Ruby-Shock
321 11 1/2´´´ 23 Durowe 522 1959 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: Neutro-Shock
331 11 1/2´´´ 19 Durowe 522 1959 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: Neutro-Shock
521 11 1/2´´´ 19 Takano 1959 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: Neutro-Shock, Ruby-Shock, KIF 210 Trior
524 13 3/4´´´ 19 Takano 1962 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second, Date
Shock protection: Neutro-Shock, Ruby-Shock, KIF 210 Trior
531 11 1/2´´´ 21 Takano 1959 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: Neutro-Shock, Ruby-Shock, KIF 210 Trior
533 10 1/2´´´ 21 Takano 1959 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: KIF 210 Trior
534 13 3/4´´´ 21 Takano 1962 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second, Date
Shock protection: KIF 210 Trior
535 11 1/2´´´ 21 Takano 1962 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: KIF 210 Trior
Difference to 531: 535 has Girocap combined in-settings
541 11 1/2´´´ 23 Takano 1960 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: Neutro-Shock
541 S 11 1/2´´´ 23 Takano 1961 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Shock protection: KIF Flector
544 13 3/4´´´ 23 Takano 1962 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second, Date
Shock protection: KIF 210 Trior
7120 11 1/2´´´ 17 ETA 2801-2 1998 Manual Winding, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
7150 11 1/2´´´ 24 Miyota 9039 2018 Automatic, Hour, Minute, Sweep Second
Mvmt in Sabrina watch 22/0 size 17 Hamilton 911 ? Manual Winding, Hour, Minute
Mvmt in Etoile watch 6 3/4 x 8 1/4´´´ 17 Unknown ? Manual Winding, Hour, Minute

Sources about the history of Ricoh and Takano:

  • Pierre-Yves Donze: Industrial Development, Technology Transfer, and Global Competition: A history of the Japanese watch industry since 1850 (https://books.google.de/books?id=IiMlDwAAQBAJ&lpg)
  • Ricoh Fact Book 2006 (PDF)
  • Buch 森年樹: 国産腕時計タカノ・リコー (Domestic Watches: Takano・Ricoh), Verlag: トンボ出版 (Dragonfly Publishing), Jahr: 2019, ISBN 9784887161191

 

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