Grand Seiko launched in 1960 as an early attempt by Japanese watchmaking to answer the challenge of Swiss watch brands. Today, Grand Seiko is the best known Japanese luxury watch brand and distributes to all major markets. Alongside Switzerland's Rolex, Omega, and Breitling, Grand Seiko stands as one of the finest mainstream luxury watchmakers in the $5,000-$15,000 price range. Today's show examines the strengths and weaknesses of the Grand Seiko watch brand.
Grand Seiko's strengths as a watchmaker are many. The company's dial quality is a standout that warrants comparison to Rolex. Both brands represent the highest level of materials, detailing, and design imagination luxury watch brands that produce dials in-house. From Grand Seiko's SBGA211 "Snowflake" to the SLGH005 "White Birch" to the new SLGH017 "Night Birch," there's no lack of quality in the lineup of Seiko's senior brand. Other dials have channeled the spirit of Japan's cherry blossoms, Genbi Valley, and Lake Suwa. Hands, hour indices, logos, date apertures, and more dial features are immaculately hand finished and set into place on Grand Seiko watches. While Rolex dials are clinically perfect, they lack the charm and cultural grounding of Grand Seiko's watch faces.
Grand Seiko movements are technical tours de force. The Spring Drive system remains one of the marvels of modern watchmaking with its combination of mechanical and quartz mechanisms that retain the best features of both. The new Grand Seiko 9RA2 spring drive increases power reserve to a robust 120 hours and precision to ten seconds per month. The mechanical caliber 9SA5 provides 80 hours of power reserve, chronometer-grade accuracy, a 36,000 VpH beat rate, a unique dual-impulse escapement, and robust architecture suitable for a sports watch. Grand Seiko quartz caliber 9F offers thermocompensation, lifelong longevity for the owner, and the ultimate in precision with accuracy of up to five seconds per year.
Case finish is a signature strength of Grand Seiko. Whether assembled at the Shinshu (quartz, Spring Drive) or Shizukuishi (mechanical movements) factories, Grand Seiko watches bear evidence of the company's "Zaratsu" tin plate polishing method. This hand craft requires three years to master, and it involves holding the watch component to be polished directly against a spinning tin plate. The process ensures a degree of hand-crafted beauty simply not offered by Swiss watchmakers in the same price range.
The Grand Seiko watch brand also has several flaws. First and foremost is the number of special edition and limited edition watches. Given total production volume between 30,000 and 40,000 watches, the flood of special edition Grand Seiko models dominates the company's product line. This excess creates the impression that more special editions than regular editions actually exist.
Moreover, Grand Seiko bracelets do not feel as robustly constructed as those from Rolex and Omega. Especially where Grand Seiko's titanium bracelets are concerned, watch buyers discover that exotic movements, world-class dials, and elaborately finished cases entail sacrifice elsewhere. The titanium bracelets feature removable links held by pins and sleeves - an arrangement expected on far cheaper watches. Grand Seiko dive watch models such as the SBGA229 and SBGA231 use diving clasps that are as suspect as their bracelets. While not a risk to fail or break, these stamped metal clasps feel cheap and unworthy of the timepieces to which they are attached.
All of this plus watch collector wrist shots will be featured in this episode of "Watches Tonight!"
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