How Grand Seiko became the watch worn by serious collectors

Exclusivity is everything among the fraternity of watch enthusiasts. Hence why Grand Seiko is a name revered among these small and intimate circles. 

Sure, the average person might be familiar with its baby brother brand, Seiko. But Grand Seiko is in a totally different ballpark. Now, thanks to the fascination of watch fanatics, collectors and devotees alike, it made a highly anticipated leap into the Australia market only three short years ago. 

Since then, business has only been on the rise for the Grand Seiko brand.

A brief history of time

The Grand Seiko story begins in 1960 with the birth of its first mechanical watch, 'Grand Seiko.' Marking its entry into the luxury watch market, its purpose was not only to rival the Swiss in the field of crafting fine dress watches, but to create a timepiece that was unequivocally precise, durable, and enduringly beautiful - a mantra which is still relevant for the Japanese watchmaker today.

"Grand Seiko was born from a spirit forged by the desire to build the world's best watch. That spirit continues today as we continue to deliver the best in precision, legibility, beauty and usability," explains Vincent Cuche, Strategic Planning Manager, Seiko Australia.

"It [Grand Seiko] has brought new standards to the watchmaking industry through traditional Japanese craftsmanship and watchmaking innovation, establishing unique design codes through consistent product development along the way."

The time that matters

During its first decade, there were many revolutionary designs produced by Grand Seiko, but none more important than the 1967 44GS: an elegant, refined design that has not only endured half a century of changing trends, but is the model that established the aesthetic Grand Seiko is synonymous for today.

With the highest level of accuracy of any manually wound five beat watch in the world for the time, the 44GS saw a complex design idea – with rules about proportion, finish and angles – come together in an unprecedented way. It represented a modern attitude that was overwhelmingly versatile.

But it was the debut of its in-house Spring Drive in 1999 that truly captured the interest of the watch world. A movement that was 20-years in the making, engineer Yoshikazu Akahane endured countless setbacks creating over 600 prototypes until the Spring Drive calibre was perfect.

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"Spring Drive movement is easily recognised by its 'glide' motion sweep hand, elegantly moving across the dial," explains Cuche.

"This complex movement combines mechanical power and quartz precision allowing you to wear a mechanical watch with extremely high accuracy of +/- 15 second per month."

The journey down under

A move into the Australian market in 2016 saw the first-ever Grand Seiko boutique open in Sydney – a strategic and important move at that.

"Establishing Grand Seiko in Australia was important to us to help build the brand's profile on an international level, as well as our reputation in the Haute Horlogerie category in Australia," says Cuche.

"Prior to Grand Seiko being available in Australia, people would travel to Japan in order to purchase their dream Grand Seiko. But why travel this great distance simply for a watch? Because in today's market, people are knowledgeable and they know Grand Seiko offer outstanding craftsmanship, innovation, heritage, design and value, and have done so since 1960."

Fine details

Grand Seiko has become highly sort after in the watch world today partly due to its impeccable and distinguishable design features that make any of its lineup instantly recognisable. 

This includes features such as Zaratsu finishing – a style of highly reflective, hand-finished polishing that was first introduced to Seiko by watch designer Taro Tanaka, that, essentially, maximises the interaction of the light with the flat surfaces of the case, resulting in a super crisp watch face with extraordinary clarity and detail.

"Perhaps the artisanship for which Grand Seiko is the most recognised in Australia is Zaratsu polishing, which is an ancient technique that allows Grand Seiko to achieve an extremely high polish of watch cases while preserving very sharp edges which would not be possible using standard polishing or buffing techniques," says Cuche.

"This allows Grand Seiko to create exquisite and complex designs such as the famous 44GS watch case, which is still apart of our collection today. What regularly comes back to us as a brand when talking to collectors is not only the superior accuracy of our watches but the extraordinary level of hand finishing."