Why we love the Grand Seiko
When most people think about Seiko they naively think of department store jewellery cases filled with reasonably priced watches. But the brand is so much more than that, and while the lower tier is still a big part of the brand’s business, Seiko has also been in the luxury watch business for quite a few years. It’s arguably the best-kept non-secret in the watch industry.
The Grand Seiko lines offer high build quality, gorgeous design, and technical innovation that’s just as impressive as Seiko’s Swiss competition. The biggest challenge the brand ends up facing is convincing those not in-the-know that luxury watchmaking doesn’t only come from Switzerland — Japan’s in on the act, too.
At Baselworld 2016, Seiko’s releases were all geared towards changing that perception. Rather than releasing a mass of entry-level watches as they have in the past, we were presented a small sample of new releases from each of the company’s luxury lines. The pick of the bunch for us was the Grand Seiko collection, the brand’s premier imprint.
Known for its ultra-traditional design values, the new, radical additions to the Grand Seiko SBGE037 (pictured above) collection are even more intriguing to watch fans. The collection offers quite the departure from its classical designs, first and foremost the inclusion of a black ceramic in its case. While it is not the first time that Grand Seiko has used ceramic in its watches, this is the first time it has been used as the main case material.
It’s true that the scratch-resistant properties of ceramic cases has been all the rage in other relatively high-end watches in recent years. But Grand Seiko’s approach is radically different. For the SBGE037 collection the case sides, lugs and bezel are all made of ceramic, while the main case barrel and caseback remain machined, high-intensity titanium.
The combination of these materials makes the watch remarkably light, considering its case is 46.4mm in diameter. Underneath the hood, the collection is fitted with a top-of-the-line 9R16 spring drive movement, an upgrade that is even more precise than its impressive predecessor the 9R66. This movement has been specially adjusted to deliver an even higher level of precision (+/- 10 seconds a month) and the inclusion of the Grand Seiko lion in 18K gold graces the oscillating weight to increase accuracy, and is a pleasant throwback to the Grand Seiko casebacks of the 1960s.
Aside from the black ceramic model, the release of the stainless steel strapped SBGH001G and SBGA001G models convey the subtle symbol of the provenance of this new design. Available in the UAE via Al-Futtaim Watches & Jewellery (the sole distributor for Seiko in the country since 1971), the sleek design, size (40.2mm for SBGH001G and 41.0mm for SBGA001G) of the watches and the fact that they cost Dhs22,000 and Dhs26,400, respectively, gives them a competitive edge over its Swiss rivals at higher price points.
So what does this all add up to? A powerful brand with great technical expertise, whose progress we should follow with interest.