15 x 80 mm Straight-Through Binoculars
Nikko and Toko represent the two prominent brands of binoculars in Japan during WWII. These Japanese military giant big eye binoculars were widely used on naval ships for scanning the horizon for impending dangers.
Diagrams of Japanese Navy vessels during WWII show 13 of these giants mounted on the deck. They were quite common in the collector market for 50 years after the war, but as collectors saw the value and beauty of these binoculars, they became harder to find.
Nikko (Nippon Kogaku KK)
While Nikko and Toko supplied the most optics during the war, Nikko became the largest supplier for the Japanese military. This relationship began in during WWI when Japanese officials mandated local manufacturers like Nippon Kogaku (Japan Optical Company) to design and produce lenses. The process began in 1918 (end of WWI) after several smaller optic companies merged to form Nippon Kogaku KK, the forerunner of the modern-day Nikon.
Many optics manufacturers produced photography lenses during the period between WWI and WWII. Throughout the 1930s, camera companies, including Nikon, started selling to the public. But in 1942, governments forced them to manufacture optics for the military, halting all commercial sales. It is said that photographic equipment was mainly used to gather aerial photos for map making.
The Nikko brand was always heavily influenced by the military. Nippon Kogaku was prompted by the Imperial Japanese Navy in 1917 to merge with Iwaki Glass Seisaku-sho, Fujii lens Seizo-sho, and Tokyo Keiki Seisaku-sho for the purpose of producing prisms for products like binoculars. They were then known as Nippon Kogaku KK and used the Nikko stamp on their binoculars.
Toko (Hattori Tokei Ten)
Toko was a brand marked on binoculars during WWII by the Tokyo Optical Company. It was founded in 1932 because of a merger of the measure instruments section of Seikosha, the manufacturing branch of Hattori Tokei Ten, and Katsuma Kogaku Kikai Seisakusho. The purpose of the merger was to manufacture clocks.
Just like Nippon Kogaku, they were first an optical company that found themselves transformed due to a series of events out of their control.
Toko binoculars supplied the Imperial Japanese Army, while Nikko binoculars supplied their Navy.
Functional nautical pieces fit perfectly in any luxury home, retreat, or C suite of corporate offices. Quite large in stature, original pieces are polished down to the bare metals giving them a rich shine that demands attention from anyone entering the room. Brass pieces can be coated with a layer of gold to add more to the story.
These are not just superior binoculars to use for spotting ships on the horizon from your deck. Their beauty transcends time and will soon become an heirloom for generations to come.
While original WWII binoculars are rare to find in the open market, hand crafted, high quality reproductions can also be found from companies like Luxxoptica. Whether original or reproductions, the story of these giants are sure to be great conversation starters.