In a sea of Swiss watch brands, one Japanese watchmaker stands out among the pack: Grand Seiko.
Seiko watches already have a well-deserved reputation for quality. Seiko is to watches what Audio-Technica is to headphones or the Toyota Corolla is to cars: affordable, reliable, and high-performing devices that are just as, if not more worthy, than their expensive competitors.
But Grand Seiko is a cut above normal Seikos, and a cut above even other luxury brands out of Europe. Since 1960, Grand Seiko has set the benchmark for modern horology with their somewhat conservatively styled but consistently beautiful, precise wristwatches.
Celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, Grand Seiko has released a variety of limited edition models, including special editions of popular Hi-Beat and Spring Drive designs. However, the pièce de résistance of their 60th Anniversary celebrations is their re-release of the original Grand Seiko chronometer in four striking colourways.
The beautiful, understated design of the original Grand Seiko belies the impeccable artistry and lofty goals that underpin the brand. Seiko set out to make the world’s best watch, harnessing the best traditions of Japanese craftsmanship, fusing tradition and innovation. In the same way, this 2020 re-release stays true to the original while subtly bringing the storied model into the 21st century.
The case shape and the softly curved dial and hands are entirely faithful to the 1960 original, but the case back is now in sapphire, revealing the beautiful finish of the manual-winding Calibre 9S64 movement, a highly-precise movement first introduced in 2011.
Somewhat ironically, manual movements are having a bit of a moment in 2020, making this choice of movement paradoxically both period-correct as well as suiting modern tastes. Also in line with today’s aesthetic, the case diameter has been increased from 35mm to 38mm, and a clever three-fold clasp makes the watch easy to wear.
Something else that will appeal to modern watch fans is its clean, highly legible design: legibility has always been a focus of the Grand Seiko brand, and in a market dominated by diver’s watches and fussy watch faces, these models stand out.
The original Grand Seiko re-release will be offered in four different designs, each with a different case metal: a Platinum 950 (ref. SBGW257, 57,000 AUD), an 18k yellow gold (ref. SBGW258, 38,950 AUD), a titanium model with a dark blue dial (ref. SBGW259, 11,950 AUD) and a 18k rose gold (ref. SBGW260) limited to only 350 models globally.
2021 also marks the 160th anniversary of Seiko’s founder Kintaro Hattori, and to celebrate the life and achievements of their founder Grand Seiko have also created a limited edition of 50 watches – the SBGZ005. Superficially, it resembles the SBGW257, but appearances are deceiving: unlike the manual-wound 60th Anniversary watches, the SBGZ005 features a Spring Drive movement – which combines all the benefits of an automatic manual movement with the precision and longevity of a quartz battery movement.
The SBGZ005’s softly rounded case is slightly smaller and thinner than its 60th Anniversary brothers, and doesn’t feature the ‘Diashock 24 jewels’ text the others boast either – instead letting its beautifully textured dial speak for itself. It’s made from platinum 950, ‘zarastu’ polished to a perfect distortion-free finish, and retails for 154,000 AUD. It’s inarguably the pinnacle of classic Japanese watchmaking and is sure to be in hot demand.
The SBGW257, SBGW258 and SBGW259 are already available at Australian Grand Seiko boutiques, with the SBGW260 and SBGZ005 arriving in January next year. To find out more, head on into your nearest Grand Seiko boutique.