The nine years of war faced by Japan between 1937 and 1945 were a major turn in the economic history of the country. 1 On the one hand, if one takes only a short-term view this period was an important break that put an end to the growth of numerous competitive industries. While exports peaked in the late 1930s, war abruptly broke this worldwide expansion. But on the other hand, when one follows a long-term perspective it must be noted that institutions set up during the interwar years to ensure the industrial independence of Japan and which enabled the shift to a war economy survived the confl ict. After 1945, they supported the quick reconstruction of a competitive industry and contributed to make Japan the second industrial power of the world during the 1960s. 2
The Japanese clock and watch industry was itself an excellent example of the twofold dimension of WWII. The beginning of the war against China in 1937 had direct effects on clock production, which was largely oriented towards foreign outlets: the share of production volumes exported dropped from 51 per cent in 1937 to 25.7 per cent in 1943. It amounted to less than 1 per cent in 1944 and 1945. This collapse of exports, together with the decrease of domestic consumption, explains the shrink of production. Additionally, the authorities intervened in 1938 and forbade the manufacture of table clocks in order to limit metal consumption, excepting products for export for a short time. 3 In 1942 the production of clocks amounted to less than one million items, that is, the level of the industry’s beginning in the 1920s.