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SpotlightThe Rise Of Grand Seiko And Their Best 2017 Watches

A producer of some of the most accurate mechanical wristwatches, Grand Seiko takes precision and class to the next level with its 2017 timepieces

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The Japanese have always celebrated their country’s autumn foliage. People make their way to see the beautiful and rich colours of the maple leaves, as they turn the countryside into a vibrant carpet of reds, golds and oranges. I was fortunate to have visited Japan for the third time in October this year to enjoy the glory of nature Japan has to offer.

The moment I landed at Tokyo Narita, I was transported back to 2008 when I was hosted by Seiko to visit their manufactories that are known to create some of the finest timepieces in the world. And during the lengthy discussions I had with the top management of Seiko then, the only request I remember having made was to take their famed Grand Seiko models international. Yes, born in 1960, Grand Seiko as a brand was highly coveted in the Japanese market but had still not travelled offshore till as late as 2010. I am not taking any credit but I guess requests like mine have all contributed to their decision to take Grand Seiko global.

An offset of the Seiko group, Grand Seiko has the same DNA but has successfully evolved into a separate brand. Born in 1960, Grand Seiko only hit international market in 2010.

As expected, Grand Seiko has been a raging success since then in the world market. The best analogy borrowed from another industry could be that of Lexus and Toyota. Yes, Grand Seiko may take all the strength from the might of group Seiko but has successfully evolved as a separate brand, feted and revered by collectors worldwide.

Seiko’s priceless horological landmarks include: the first mechanical watch, Laurel (1913), the world’s first quartz wristwatch, Astron (1969), their Kinetic and Spring Drive movements (1988 and 2005 respectively), among others. Ever since the Tokyo 1964 Olympics, Seiko has been at the forefront of timekeeping, having kept time for six Olympic Games, 16 IAAF athletic games, four FIFA World Cups, six Commonwealth Games and seven Asian Games.

Seiko has a rich heritage and has been credited with many firsts, one of them is the world’s first quartz wristwatch, the iconic Astron (1969). Their quartz movements are still a matter of great pride for the company. Seiko has also been the official timekeeper for the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, Commonwealth and Asian Games.

The story that began with a clock repair store in central Tokyo, today boasts of over 13,000 employees. The Seiko Holdings Corporation has an annual turnover of over JPY 260bn. The Seiko Watch Corporation, based in Tokyo, takes care of designs, brand marketing and sales. Its two pillars of technology – the Spring Drive and the mechanical movements – are produced by two different subsidiaries, namely Seiko Epson Corporation, based at Shiojiri in the Suwa region and Seiko Instruments, based at Morioka in the north.

Though it was first a model under the Seiko segment, the dial of the very first Grand Seiko watch carried the name Grand Seiko at the 12 o’clock position as a symbol of its unique identity and superior quality.

Coming back to Grand Seiko, right from its international launch in 2010, the reaction of the watch retailers and aficionados was overwhelmingly positive and the brand has enjoyed a prolonged period of rising demand and growing consumer interest. Since its inception 1960, Grand Seiko has been distinct in its design, its character, its distribution and its presentation. Indeed, the dial of the very first Grand Seiko watch carried the name Grand Seiko at the 12 o’clock position as a symbol of its unique identity and superior quality.

The History Of Grand Seiko

Grand Seiko was called so because the original model – manual winding, with three hands – was just a model and not a collection. It’s only later that many more models came up – including automatic and quartz models, with features, with different frequencies and various features. Soon, Grand Seiko became a brand of its own.

A set of rigorous tests in the 1960s established Grand Seiko movements as some of the most accurate mechanical wristwatch movements in the world

But to be among the best, one needs to triumph over others in one’s category and there is no better way to achieve this than by being at the top in the chronometer testing competition by the famed Neuchatel Observatory those days. Grand Seiko religiously competed in the tests since 1964. And within three years, Seiko’s ranking improved from a low of 144 to top 10, eventually topping the ranking in 1968, after which the Neuchatel chronometer trials were abandoned. They repeated the same feat later in the chronometry competitions in Geneva. All these rigorous tests in the 1960s established Grand Seiko movements as some of the most accurate mechanical wristwatch movements in the world.

Movements

What sets the Grand Seiko watches apart is the accuracy of their movements – synonymous with Seiko’s legendary Spring Drive movements, which manage to integrate the fine finishing and assembly of a mechanical Grand Seiko from the 1960s with an exceedingly unique, high-tech, tri-synchro regulator. In simple terms, these movements have no batteries; store the entire energy in a mainspring. Also, I may dare to add, despite being mechanical movements, their accuracy beats that of most quartz watches.

Hundreds of different components form a mechanical watch and the Micro Electro Mechanical Systems (MEMS) technology used by Grand Seiko ensures ultimate accuracy

Seiko is also the brand that invented quartz movement way back in 1969. And the quartz movements are still a matter of great pride for the company. Grand Seiko models also come fitted with great quartz movements. The 9F movement stand for great accuracy, the best of them lose only up to 5 seconds per year.

But a good movement needs great parts, particularly the small ones. Seiko has invested heavily in developing their metallic alloy called SPRON which comes with enhanced properties.  The hairspring and mainspring are made out of this alloy.

Grand Seiko is also known for its mechanical, high-frequency Hi-Beat movements. To reduce the increased wear and tear typical of high-frequency movements, Seiko came up with special oil-retaining grooves.

These technological advances make every Grand Seiko watch movement count.

Aesthetics

Although we talk about movements, a collector never picks up a watch if it doesn’t have aesthetic appeal. Looks are very important, as is the finish. Each Grand Seiko watch is made with utmost care, and it shows in the final product. For instance, every part of a Grand Seiko is polished by master watchmakers using the famed Japanese zaratsu technique, derived from the art of sword making. So when you buy a Grand Seiko watch, you will get a case hand-polished using this zaratsu technique.

Why do all Grand Seiko watches shine bright and stand out? It is owing to the famed Japanese zaratsu technique that is used in sword making.

Testing

Each Grand Seiko watch is also hand-assembled by master watchmakers and later goes through rigorous tests for chronometry. A normal COSC certification needs a watch to be tested in five positions, while a typical Grand Seiko watch goes through one additional test to nullify effects of gravity. Very few high-end watches go through this kind of stern testing. It’s no wonder then that the testing and adjustment of a Grand Seiko takes up to 17 days.

Each Grand Seiko watch is also hand-assembled by master watchmakers and later goes through rigorous tests for chronometry. Very few high-end watches go through this kind of stern testing.

New Introductions – The Best Of 2017

2017 is a milestone in Grand Seiko’s history. A new display of the Grand Seiko name on the dial of all models has been introduced this year. The other notable introductions are watches in stainless steel, over and above the gold and platinum cases, which Grand Seiko models have been known for over the years. Though the basic look of the case has been retained, the watches have gone bigger, marginally, to 38mm. The dual-curved sapphire crystal continues to lend a gentle appearance to the models.

The year 2017 marks a major change for Grand Seiko and comes as a milestone year. A new display of the Grand Seiko name on the dial, as well as stainless steel models have been introduced.

The platinum version uses Platinum 999 and has 18-carat gold hour markers, just as on the original. All three versions incorporate the 9S64 manual winding calibre, but the platinum version has been adjusted to an even higher level of precision, from minus one to plus five seconds per day. All of them are offered as limited editions, each with a special ‘Inspection Certificate’ and are available from March 2017.

Six Special Timepieces

Now let’s talk about six outstanding Grand Seiko timepieces. Three are equipped with quartz movements, while the other three run on automatic movements. Whatever you choose, you are assured of the best quality, which Grand Seiko watches stands for. And to assure you get the best, each of these watches come with a three-year year warranty, while other Seiko models usually come with a two-year warranty.

Model Number: SBGC203G

A part of the 2017 collection, this watch comes with a chronograph, date and GMT. Available in steel, the 43.5mm case houses a quartz movement, has a black dial and a sapphire crystal glass. The sporty watch comes with a water resistance of 100m.

This sporty quartz model has a perfect mix of aesthetics and performance. The watch is available in a 43.5mm steel case, with a deep black dial.

Model Number: SBGD202J

Here’s a quartz watch from the collection for all those who love the colour brown. With a rose gold case, brown dial and leather strap, the watch is every bit for the gentleman who wants to have a bit of fun. The water resistance is at 100m and the glass is in sapphire crystal. This watch comes in a smaller size of 43mm.

In rose gold, with a brown dial and leather strap, this watch is for the classic man who also likes to have fun
The water resistance of this watch is at 100m and the glass is in sapphire crystal. The rose gold case comes in a smaller size of 43mm.

Model Number: SBGH255G

The first of the two automatic watches in this list comes in a large size of 46.9mm, in titanium – case and bracelet. The black dial and the titanium bracelet are a great combination, but the highlight of this series of automatic pieces is the impressive 600m water resistance – perfect for diving.

A striking automatic watch from the 2017 collection, this one has a mammoth 46.9mm case that will sit perfectly on a masculine wrist
The black dial and the titanium bracelet are a great combination, but the highlight is that the watch is water resistant to 600m

Model Number: SBGH257G

This model is identical to the earlier one in all respects, but the dial colour – seen here in an impressive blue. This one also sports a titanium 46.9mm case and bracelet, offering water resistance of 600m. Both the automatic models use sapphire crystal glass.

Also in titanium, this model is identical to previous watch in all respects, but the dial colour, seen here in blue
The watch is protected by sapphire crystal glass and runs on Seiko’s impeccable automatic movement

Model Number: SBGJ217G

The fifth watch is a lovely automatic one in a classic look and size of 39.5mm. The features include date and a GMT indicator, making a perfect travel companion. The brown leather strap perfectly complements the silver dial. And you don’t need a water resistance of more than 30m for a classical piece like this.

Part of the 2017 collection is a lovely automatic timepiece with a classic look, at a size of 39.5mm. The features include date and a GMT indicator, making a perfect travel companion.
The brown leather strap perfectly complements the silver dial. This watch is water resistant to 30m.

Model No: SBGC205G

The last piece in discussion today is a sporty watch powered by a quartz movement and loaded with features like date, chronograph, and GMT indicators and is water resistant to 100m. The watch comes in a robust size of 43.5mm and black dial. The titanium case and bracelet keep the watch light and easy to wear.

Ending on a high, this is a robust watch powered by a quartz movement and loaded with features like date, chronograph, and GMT indicators, and is water resistant to 100m.

Available in various sizes and materials, movements and features, Grand Seiko watches allow watch collectors the beauty of a watch with aesthetic appeal, along with high-level accuracy.

Which 2017 Grand Seiko wristwatch stood out for you? Tell us in the comment section below.

Explore the complete Grand Seiko 2017 collection available at Ethos Watch Boutiques

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