Grand Seiko Makes The Best High-End Watches Outside of Switzerland. Here are 5 Reasons Why!

by Karlton Miko Tyack  |  in Watches

If you’re looking for your next luxury timepiece, you might want to try looking outside of Rolex, Omega, and Patek, and check out Seiko!

Offering a unique design sensibility and innovative technology, we’re going to explore five reasons why Grand Seiko makes the best high-end watches outside of Switzerland. After all, it came about for the purpose of matching these Swiss hard-hitters!

Let’s start by answering a few questions…

night sky background with grand seiko
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What’s the Difference Between Seiko and Grand Seiko?

Grand Seiko is one of several product sub-lines under the larger Seiko brand.

Watches from Seiko’s core line are horologically impressive but definitely bang-for-buck, while Grand Seiko creates hand-crafted luxury timepieces, way on the other end of the market than their regular Seiko cousins.

The first Grand Seiko was released in 1960, almost 80 years after Seiko’s founding. Nothing Seiko does is an accident, and this model was meant to challenge the Swiss and elevate Japan’s watchmaking reputation.

Running on Seiko’s 25-jewel 3180 caliber, the original Grand Seiko is accurate within +12 and -3 seconds a day.

It was the first watch in Japan to meet the standards of the Bureaux Officiels de Contrôle de la Marche des Montres, making it the first ever Japanese Chronometer. Only 36,000 pieces were created.

Today, Grand Seiko continues to be built by master craftsmen and uses exclusive high-end movements.

Their design sensibilities are similar to the Swiss in that they focus on form simplicity and understated elegance.

However, they have a recognizable Japanese approach focusing on harmony and sleekness for overall smoother, flatter watches with a lot of light play. Many timepieces are even inspired by nature.

Most Grand Seiko watches include a case with smooth curved sidelines, a perfectly flat dial, and a half-recessed crown for an overall refined, insular, and polite design. 

How Much Does Grand Seiko Cost?

Anywhere from $2,000 to $200,000. A rare Grand Seiko can fetch far more at auction.

Does Grand Seiko Hold Value?

It’s difficult to tell since Grand Seiko watches have only been in the global market since 2010.

From what we’ve seen so far though, they retain their value as well as any high-quality hand-crafted timepiece, for the most part. This is especially true of limited editions, and if you initially get them on sale.

One great example is the Grand Seiko Snowflake. Since it’s so popular, you can easily find a SBGA211 selling for more than its original $5,800 price tab. 

What is the Grand Seiko Spring Drive?

The spring drive is one of Seiko’s unique hybrid innovations, a movement powered by a mainspring just like a mechanical, but a reference quartz signal regulates the power sent to the watch hands. 

The result is a movement with a mechanical watch’s high torque, but the acute precision of an electronic watch

Basically, the brand replaces the traditional escapement and balance wheel with their special Tri-synchro Regulator system, which keeps the hands super precise. The movement has a yearly rate of ±10 seconds! 

Their different spring drives are called 9R movements. These include the 9R86 movement which boasts a chronograph and GMT, and the 9R01 which has a whopping 8-day power reserve, just to name a few.

It’s unsurprising that Seiko invented the hybrid 9R spring drive, since they’re one of the few brands that’s mastered both quartz and mechanical watches.

Speaking of, Grand Seiko also builds the following calibers:

  • The 9F quartz movements, with crystals that are grown in-house. The movement and hands are hand-crafted by two artisans. 
  • The 9S movements, highly-precise, purely mechanical, and built with 200 to 300 parts.

What’s the Best Grand Seiko?

It depends on your tastes! Currently, there are four distinct collections:

The Heritage Collection

Refined, harmonious, and simple, the Heritage Collection offers uniquely Japanese design sensibilities. Many are reimagined classics, and others are inspired by nature. For example…

Grand Seiko Four Seasons Spring SBGA413

Running on the 9R spring drive and built with high-intensity titanium, this exquisite timepiece features an elegant dial inspired by Japanese sakura blossoms. It’s the perfect yin and yang of clean modernity and organic textures.

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02/14/2023 02:23 pm GMT

The Sport Collection

The Sport Collection features robust and durable sport watches that stay within Grand Seiko’s smooth, flat, and slick design philosophy. You don’t get a lot of luxury divers and chronographs like that! Just take a look at the limited edition SBGE251: 

Grand Seiko Sport SBGE251

With this 44mm tool watch, you’ve got the GMT, the rotating bezel, the 72-hour spring drive, and the 200m of water resistance, all wrapped up with a sleek and elegant construction. Inspired by the Japanese sunset, the 18k rose gold bezel is partnered with a beautiful stark black dial.

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02/14/2023 12:38 pm GMT

The Elegance Collection

The Elegance Collection is Grand Seiko’s traditional dress watch line, offering dignified timepieces that will last forever.

Grand Seiko Elegance SBGH213

Classic but not stuffy, this Elegance timepiece features a soft and cool cream dial and a chic brown croco-embossed leather strap. The royal blue second-hand adds an aristocratic pop of color that doesn’t interrupt its understated aesthetic. It runs on the 55-hour 9S85 automatic movement.

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02/14/2023 10:48 pm GMT

The Masterpiece Collection

This special collection is made by the luxury watch studio, Micro Artist Studio. The Masterpiece line focuses on craftsmanship and innovative horology, making each timepiece a genuine piece of art.

Grand Seiko 140th Anniversary SBGZ007

A truly special watch, the SBGZ007 is inspired by Japan's Shinshu mountains, so the speckled dial represents the stars seen from that elevation. The platinum case is hand-engraved and polished, and the movement is none other than their spring drive. With only 50 pieces available, the SBGZ007 is a unique horological triumph.

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To wrap it up…

5 Reasons Grand Seiko is the Best High-end Brand Outside of Switzerland

1. Hand-crafted designs

The cases are finished by hand, with artisans holding each individual piece to the polishing machine to achieve the Zaratsu technique, resulting in a mirror-finish.

The indices are individually inspected using a mirror, then applied onto the dial by hand. Single hands are placed on a hot plate, and are removed when they get to the desired color. 

And of course, the movements are assembled by master watchmakers, sometimes in teams and sometimes individually. Which leads to the next reason…

2. Innovative and high-quality movements

Whether it’s their original spring drive movement, their 9F quartz movements, or their mechanical 9S movement, you’re getting the kind of quality one would expect from a Swiss heritage brand.

3. Good investment

Especially if you get it on sale, and especially if you go for the limited editions! Since it can’t rely on its name as much as Rolex or Patek, Grand Seiko serves up a whole lot of value for your money.

4. A unique luxury watch

Most luxury watches come from Swiss brands. Grand Seiko offers a distinctly Eastern design language, while still arguably serving up Swiss-level horology.

Sure, classic Rolex watches and Grand Seiko watches both exude the simplicity of form loved by collectors looking for timeless pieces, but Grand Seiko’s focus on balance, yin and yang if you will, gives their watches a distinctly Asian harmony.

5. There are many lines for different tastes

Do you want a uniquely slick tool watch? Go for something in the Sport Collection. Looking for a genuine one-in-a-million (or one in 50!) piece of art?

The Masterpiece Collection boasts excellent choices. Despite how much time and work goes into building each individual watch, Grand Seiko still produces a respectable range of designs.

Seiko’s Crown Jewel 

So while the core Seiko line takes a stab at classic Swiss technique and efficiently experiments with old and bought movements, Grand Seiko is specific to Japan, unique, and focused. Definitely worth adding to any grail list! 

Do you own any Grand Seiko timepieces? Which ones are your favorites? Let us know by hitting us up on Facebook or Instagram!