Watches

Get to Know Grand Seiko, The Japanese Luxury Watchmaker Making Understated Wrist Candy

Grand Seiko emphasizes the poetry and performance of the Japanese spirit.
IMAGE SEIKO
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It takes 60 seconds to manifest a minute, 60 minutes to realize an hour, and for Grand Seiko, it took 60 years to perfect time. The premium Japanese watch brand emphasizes philosophy, poetry, and performance in its guiding principles. Here’s what you need to know about the understated watchmaker, which celebrates its 60th year in 2020. 

Grand Seiko Celebrates Takumi

“Every Grand Seiko watch tells the story of the Japanese spirit and fine Japanese craftsmanship or takumi. We express our culture inside every product, and that’s what differentiates Grand Seiko [from] other luxury watches from our friends from Switzerland or Germany,” explains Yoshikatsu Kawada, senior vice president of the Seiko Watch Corporation.

The SBGA375 from the Grand Seiko Heritage Collection.

Photo by SEIKO.
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Introduced to the world eight years ago, the brand hits the sweet spot for collectors because of its Japanese identity. Its modest, minimalist aesthetic offers an alternative to more established (and sometimes flashy) Swiss darlings. 

“I don’t think we consider ourselves as a competitor. In fact, we complement each other. You can say that, for a luxury brand, Grand Seiko is the entry-level before you reach the luxury Swiss brands that are more established worldwide. I know it’s a different take, but that’s how I see it,” says Karl Dy, president of Timeplus, the exclusive distributor of Seiko in the Philippines.

Grand Seiko Has Very Specific Design Elements

The fabled Grand Seiko Style involves nine foundational design elements, which are present in all of the brand’s timepieces. 

There is the double-wide 12 o’clock index, which is beveled to capture light and shadow for readability and elegance, as well as multi-faceted rectangular markers that appear clear in even in low-light conditions. Its beveled hour and minute hands reflect the day’s changing light for an easier read, too. 

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The SBGA373 from the Grand Seiko Heritage Collection.

Photo by SEIKO.

The bezel is polished using the zaratsu technique to increase the smoothness and clarity of the surface, while the case showcases Grand Seiko’s disposition for reflection and silhouette (largely inspired by Japanese shoji screens) to create crisper impressions on otherwise two-dimensional planes. 

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The half-recessed crown is thoughtfully developed for increased wrist comfort. Its flat dial not only leaves an understated impression, but also makes the markers and hands more prominent. 

The SBGE201 from the Grand Seiko Sport Collection.

Photo by SEIKO.

The curved profile, seen in the bevel outline and the case side-line, showcases a softer and more sensual finish, as well. And finally, the reverse slanted walls of the bezel and the case side make every watch look dramatically thinner and lighter. 

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This deliberate design language, found in all of its mechanical, quartz, and spring drive watches, heightens Grand Seiko’s masterful grasp for precision and beauty, legibility and accessibility 

Grand Seiko Captures Tradition and Innovation

All these come alive in Grand Seiko’s three collections: Heritage, which celebrates the styles of its earliest timepieces, Elegance, which highlights understated luxury, and Sports, which underscores durability and performance.

Grand Seiko employs two workshops with different specializations. Its Shizukuishi Watch Studio produces the brand’s mechanical timepieces, while its Shinshu Watch Studio creates innovations for its quartz and Spring Drive watches.

Recently, the brand flew in master craftsman Takuya Nishinaka to display the commitment it takes in assembling a Grand Seiko timepiece.

Grand Seiko master craftsman Takuya Nishinaka assembles the mechanisms of the iconic Grand Seiko Snowflake.

Photo by SEIKO.
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“To make a Grand Seiko watch, it requires many craftsmen with many different skills. To make a single watch requires more than six months,” he says. “That is why craftsmanship is very important for us.” Nishinaka, who has won the Contemporary Master Craftsmen award given by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, is also in charge of training a new generation of Grand Seiko artisans, 

In 60 years, Grand Seiko was able to capture tradition and innovation in an understated package. “The Japanese are known for these two things: They value time and they value nature. Grand Seiko harmonizes these distinct qualities in its watches. Grand Seiko encompasses the perfection of time itself and the beauty of nature,” explains Dy.

Kawada adds, “Sixty years is like the full-circle revolution of a watch, so now, we’re celebrating a beginning of a new chapter.”

Glorietta 1, SM Aura Premier, SM Seaside Cebu

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John A. Magsaysay
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