For a lot of people, brand recognition is a priority when it comes to strapping a watch on their wrist. They want to been seen wearing a baller watch. We’ll admit, that’s why we love our Rolex watches. Even models that aren’t a Submariner or Datejust are recognized by non-watch people vaguely as a nice watch that is relatively expensive.
So, where does that leave Grand Seiko, the higher end line by Japanese giant Seiko?
Its devotees are very devoted, let’s just say. Its detractors are just as opinionated. Those that love Grand Seiko note the samurai sword case polishing technique, zaratsu, and carefully considered details. Those that aren’t fond of Grand Seiko point out its conservative design and brand name that casual observers will equate with cheap watches sold at malls.
One thing is for certain. Those stock images that Grand Seiko (and Seiko) provide to dealers are terrible. You have to see these watches in real life to even judge them properly. Our visit to the Seiko boutique on Madison Avenue gave an appreciation of how Grand Seiko watches look and feel. The finishing is remarkable and when you see the various models in one place, it’s easier to appreciate the consistency of the design language that permeates the entire line. The superb polishing on those sharp hands standout in particular.
Since Grand Seiko became its own brand, the dials have changed. There is less writing. While there are some who say the new dials look too sparse or are unbalanced, our general opinion is not too strong either way. It’s more a matter of preference.
Bracelets are good enough for a watch in the $5,000 range. Not on par with Rolex’s newer bracelets, but not many brands in any range match up well with Rolex bracelets of today.
Grand Seiko watches come in Spring Drive (in short, an automatic movement with electronic regulation) that produces a very smooth seconds hand movement and accuracy that is better that COSC. Spring Drive watches move very gracefully. The downside is that cases housing Spring Drive movements are on the thicker side.
Our favorite, and everyone else’s (it seems), is the Snowflake model, which has a dial texture that evokes freshly fallen snow. Our team had a chance to handle this watch. It wears well at 41mm and is very sublime with a titanium case.
GS, as it’s abbreviated, also offers Hi-Beat (a 36,000 BPH automatic that allows for greater accuracy with its higher beats per hour count) and regular old automatic movement watches (including a manual wind model).
Their quartz line is one of the best in the industry, offering 10 seconds (plus or minus) accuracy over a whole year. The 9F quartz movements use crystals that are grown by Grand Seiko themselves, which is pretty much all you need to know.
So is it worth adding a Grand Seiko to your collection? If you want something recognizable (by non-watch collectors) then definitely skip GS. But if you collect for personal satisfaction, Grand Seiko is definitely worth investigating (in person, if possible). The quartz models start at $2,300 retail and it’s great way to get a taste of what Grand Seiko is all about. It’s also an excellent brand to have in your rotation when you don’t want to be perceived as wearing something expensive.
Our friends at Worn & Wound are visiting the Grand Seiko factory and will have plenty of excellent coverage on their site