For most Americans who know Seiko, the name evokes affordably priced, mass produced, durable quartz watches in an enormous variety of designs –but, surely, not something a Haute Time regular would find exciting. But there’s another side to Seiko. It’s been in business continuously since Kintaro Hattori started the company in 1881, and in that time they’ve given the Swiss a run for their money, to put it mildly. The very first quartz watch was a Seiko –on Christmas in 1969, they released the quartz Astron, which at the time cost as much as a new car –and Seiko was also one of the first companies to create a self-winding chronograph, in the same year. Today, Seiko, under the Credor brand name, manufactures a number of beautiful, exotic, and extremely costly watches (the Credor Minute Repeater and Credor Sonnerie are both built in only a few examples a year) and the Grand Seiko mechanical watches are, among watch enthusiasts, some of the most highly respected watches made anywhere, at any price. Seiko’s enormous resources allow it to create all components for its watches in-house, including the all important escapement components that regulate the accuracy of a watch –making the Grand Seiko watches some of the most accurate mechanical watches in the world as well, routinely exceeding Swiss COSC (the office for certifying chronometers) standards.
Grand Seiko watches were for many years unavailable in the United States but last year, Seiko began introducing them to the US through a few key retailers –much to the delight of American watch enthusiasts. At this year’s BaselWorld Seiko debuted a new version of one of the most popular Grand Seiko models, the Grand Seiko GMT. The new model is a limited edition celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Grand Seiko GMT, and it’s a stunner –a deep blue dial sets off the gold GMT hand gorgeously, and the oscillating weight for the automatic winding system is constructed of blued titanium, which in addition to its lovely color also offers some shock resistance advantages as well; titanium’s flexibility and low mass reduces the transmission of shock from the rotor to the movement if the watch is dropped.
The movement itself is the Seiko calibre 9S66, a self-winding mechanism that offers a 72 hour power reserve. In keeping with the core Grand Seiko philosophy of making a watch that is easy to read, easy to wear, and both accurate and durable, it’s also constructed of materials which aid its resistance to magnetism, and has an antimagnetic rating of 10,000 A/m.
The essence of Grand Seiko watches is to take the most fundamental aspects of a watch and go as far as it’s possible to go in refining them. In this respect, the Grand Seiko watches are reminiscent of another iconic Japanese object: the katana, the sword used by the samurai. The sword, certainly, is like the watch a utilitarian object, but in the hands of Japanese master smiths (the best swordsmiths in Japan hold the title of Living National Treasure) its functionality takes on an aesthetic that could not be achieved by any other means and which is the subject of intense connoisseurship. The Grand Seiko watches are made with the same ceaseless pursuit of refinement and perfection of the fundamentals. Just one example of this is the slight difference in design between the Grand Seiko GMT Anniversary edition designed for a bracelet, and the one designed for a strap; the bracelet mounted version is slightly smaller in diameter, with the 24 hour track on the bezel rather than on the dial, and with a sweeping shape to the case flanks that integrates it perfectly with the bracelet; most other companies would have contented themselves with making the two versions the same. We’re sure no Haute Time reader would want to limit themselves to only one watch, but if you did decide you had a taste for that sort of horological purism, the Grand Seiko GMT is a watch you could wear every day, for the rest of your life, with greater appreciation for its integrity every time you put it on.
The Grand Seiko GMT is available in stainless steel with either a steel bracelet (39.2mm) or strap (39.5mm). $6700 with the bracelet; $6300 on the crocodile strap.