New York City’s Madison Avenue and Miami’s Design District are about to see another luxury upscale watch boutique join their ranks. This one, though, is not a Swiss brand. Instead, hailing from the Land of the Rising Sun, Seiko is revamping its stores this fall and transforming them into Grand Seiko boutiques (one of which can already be found in Beverly Hills), unveiling a new level of sophistication to a clientele of watch lovers who are highly anticipating the openings.
Grand Seiko has been a collection within the Seiko brand since 1960, but it was sold exclusively in Japan until 2010, when the watches were offered internationally. They became a hit globally, especially in America, where collectors with a discerning eye saw something special. That may be why about a year ago, the Grand Seiko collection split from the mother ship in America and is now its own Grand Seiko brand.
So just what is it about Grand Seiko that has so many watch enthusiasts clamoring for it? For one thing, the watches in the collection boast high-tech mechanical movements—including the unique Spring Drive—that offer superb precision. With prices that range from $2,200 to $60,000, there is something for everyone. Additionally, a host of other important factors come into play, running the gamut from visionary technology to clean aesthetics, along with some good old-fashioned Japanese beauty and style.
A prime example of the blending of Japanese elegance and high-tech movements is evident in the newest collection being unveiled this fall. The second U.S.-exclusive series Grand Seiko has brought forward, the Four Seasons, features watches that represent fall, winter, spring, and summer. In Japan, 24 mini-seasons are celebrated, but to gear the series toward Americans, the brand scaled it down to our four. The watches are also intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the brand’s first self-winding watch: the 62GS. The 40mm cases take their design inspiration from that 1967 watch but are updated and slimmed down.
The winter version features a dial crafted to reflect snowfall, thanks to a silver-white raised pattern. The spring model has a pale pink shimmering dial that is also textured and meant to recall the cherry blossom season. These two watches are fitted with the revolutionary Spring Drive caliber, a mechanical movement with an electronic component, making it one of the most precise automatic movements on the market. The first Spring Drive was unveiled 20 years ago, after a decade of research and development.
The summer and fall watches are powered by Grand Seiko’s mechanical Hi-Beat caliber, whose 36,000 vibrations per hour make it accurate from minus-three to plus-five seconds per day. The fall watch has a rich blue high-polished dial that denotes the fall equinox, while the summer watch’s dial is verdant green to emulate the season’s grass and foliage. Each of the Four Seasons models retails for $6,300.
Grand Seiko, a fully integrated brand that makes all of its components and watches in-house, has several different studios and workshops throughout Tokyo and the outlying regions. For instance, the Spring Drive technology watches are assembled in one studio, and the Hi-Beat calibers are made in another. Yet another workshop, the Micro Artist Studio in Shinshu, specializes in the creation of the haute horology Credor minute repeater, sonneries, and pocket watches. With the same extraordinary level of care brought to the hand assembly of all of the movements and watches, the artistic dials are carved, painted, and crafted by the finest
This year, backing up its Heritage Collection, Grand Seiko unveiled two new pillar collections. The Elegance line features—among others—watches with hand-painted Japanese urushi lacquer dials. The urushi is created after collecting a sap from the urushi tree that can be harvested only once each year, and then thinning and curing it over the course of another year before being able to paint with it. The new Grand Seiko Sport Collection highlights the brand’s commitment to legibility, durability, and precision, with chronographs, GMT watches, and more.
“Our goal at Grand Seiko is to make fine timepieces that combine innovative modern technology with traditional Japanese craftsmanship,” says Brice Le Troadec, president of Grand Seiko Corporation of America. “We highlight this philosophy through the introduction of all Grand Seiko models and more dramatically with our masterpieces. We are seeing more appetite for luxury products here than ever before, and we are happy to cater to that demand by introducing watches that consumers will appreciate.”