7 Reasons Why The Grand Seiko Is The Ultimate Cult Watch
December 6, 2016 | BY Sherwin Chua
Japanese-made watches might not enjoy the same cachet as their Swiss counterparts, but they deserve your attention.
Why would anyone be willing to splurge a couple of thousands of dollars on a Japanese timepiece? The truth is, there aren’t many who would. Not unless you’re a seasoned watch aficionado who understands and appreciates the subtle virtues of a Grand Seiko.
If you already possess a refined palate for the crème de la crème of timepieces but haven’t given the exotic Grand one from the Iwate manufacture in Japan a fighting chance, here are seven reasons why you should add it to your buffet of horological delicacies, without the need for a sampling.
It passed the Grand Seiko Inspection Standard with flying colours
The Grand Seiko forged its cult status by surpassing battery after battery of one of the world’s most stringent performance tests, the Grand Seiko Inspection Standard. These exams are more rigorous that those required by COSC, the Swiss chronometer certification body, and last a good 17 days. Explains the Japanese manufacturer: “Every Grand Seiko is subjected to tests in more positions, at more temperatures and for more days than any COSC-certified chronometer.”
Every part is made and assembled under a single roof
Every single part in every single Seiko watch is made entirely in-house by the vertically integrated manufacturer. The Grand Seiko, for instance, features hand-made manufacture movements with Seiko parts that include balance wheels and hairsprings. An influential watch collector and journalist one remarked: “Seiko’s high-end brand built entirely in Japan by their most skilled watchmakers is a meme unto itself.”
It’s been around for a long time—a really long time
The Grand Seiko may have made its debut in 1960, but the Japanese manufacturer has been making mechanical timepieces since 1895. When it comes to mechanical wristwatches, the Iwate manufacture has been at it doggedly since 1913—in fact, it started a few years earlier than most of its Swiss counterparts.
It’s constantly outdoing itself
Since the unveiling of the original mechanical Grand Seiko movement in 1960, the Japanese watchmaker has its hands busy experimenting with upgrades and improvements. In 2004, Seiko launched its Grand Seiko Spring Drive, a timepiece that combined all the merits of a mechanical watch with the accuracy of a quartz-driven ticker. In 2014, the Grand Seiko Hi-beat—Seiko’s most recent innovation to date—was launched, beating at an elevated rate of 36,000vph.
You don’t have to go to the ends of the Earth to find one
Before 2010, you had to travel to Japan (or to a handful of other Asian markets) to purchase a Grand Seiko. It limited most of its supply to the domestic market, and the rarity of the timepiece contributed to its cult status. Post-2010: the Japanese watchmaker has made Grand Seikos available in 20 markets worldwide. They do the travelling so you don’t have to.
It rivals Switzerland’s finest
The Grand Seiko has been the winning hearts and minds of fans the world over because of the many recent accolades—namely, the “Petite Aiguille” at the 2014 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève, and the 2012 European Watch of The Year (watches from £2,500 to £8,500) award. It didn’t only just begin to challenge the Swiss status quo. In the late 1960s, Seiko—then Suwa Seikosha—watches consistently dominated the Swiss chronometry trials (Neuchâtel Observatory and Concours de Genève), frequently finishing in the top 10 positions.
It is a natural conversation starter
An erudite and well-respected watch maker once said: “Ignorance. That’s why most don’t put their money on a Grand Seiko... but if only they knew.” The Grand Seiko’s elevated status among horological aficionados makes it a catalyst for conversation, simply because people recognise the understated symbol of horological wisdom on your wrist.
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