About Grand Seiko Watches
In 1960, Seiko started producing the first Grand Seiko variants with the goal to match and beat the quality of watches that were being produced in Switzerland at the time. That lofty goal was achieved, and still guides the company’s product development today. The first watches were produced in 1960, and featured a 25-jewel, manual-wind 3180 caliber. Despite its early design, the watch set the tone for all Grand Seiko timepieces to come.
Company watchmakers focused on several key design elements that continue to define the brand and its timepieces today. Grand Seiko’s watches are clean and upscale but rugged enough to stand up to daily wear. They feature strong, contrasting angles with cases that are shaped differently than the company’s closest competition from Switzerland. Finally, Grand Seiko watches adopted the now-famous Zaratsu polishing method that can be seen on several of the company’s timepieces.
That technique can be found on several of Grand Seiko’s watches today. Timepieces with Zaratsu polishing carry an almost perfect mirror finish. The process, though completed by machine, takes years of training for a craftsperson to learn.
Through the 1960s, Grand Seiko continued to refine its product and develop new models. Having dominated every chronometer competition on its home turf in Japan, Grand Seiko trained its focus on the Swiss watch industry. In 1967, Grand Seiko showed off its first automatic movement, and in 1968 the company took home best mechanical watches honors, besting Switzerland’s finest.
Grand Seiko’s early movements are now the stuff of legend, but at the time they were regarded as groundbreaking. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the company’s V.F.A. (Very Fine Adjusted) movements were astonishingly accurate and were able to reach a monthly time deviation of just one minute. Company watchmakers continued iterating on the designs throughout the 1970s, which also included women’s mechanical watches.
The advent of quartz watches brought new challenges to the entire watch industry, especially to those at the pinnacle of pricing and exclusivity. Some watchmakers folded entirely or drastically modified product offerings to stay afloat, but Grand Seiko was able to roll with the punches. In 1988, the company released its first quartz watch, which featured a shockingly accurate 95GS movement. With every component for the movement made in-house, Grand Seiko was able to achieve an accuracy of +/- 10 seconds per year, while also building a watch that had excellent temperature and shock resistance.
In the 1990s, Grand Seiko continued to press forward with developing higher levels of accuracy and precision in its timepieces. The company devised its own accuracy rating and testing system which is more stringent than the one used to certify chronometers in Switzerland. Known as the GS Standard, the system requires more testing in more positions, and exposure to a larger range of temperatures over time. Today, every Grand Seiko must pass muster in these tests before being boxed up for customer delivery.
Over time, that drive for accuracy and innovation yielded some of the most advanced watch movements ever made. Spring Drive movements, a Grand Seiko invention, took decades to develop and dozens of prototypes to perfect. Spring Drive movements combine a traditional mainspring with an electronic regulator, which brings the best of both quartz and mechanical watches. Power originates form the wearer’s movements as it does with mechanical watches, but timekeeping is regulated electronically for the ultimate in wearability and accuracy.
The Spring Drive family of movements has grown over the years to include a variety of styles and case shapes. Grand Seiko developed chronograph and GMT versions of the movement and started putting it in watches of all types, including the super-popular SBGA211 "Snowflake" watches.
With such a variety of styles and configurations, a dedication to accuracy, and industry-leading finishing quality, Grand Seiko has established itself as not just a competitor to the old-guard Swiss watch industry, but as an innovator and a disruptor. The company’s timepieces are among the most accurate and most innovative watches on the market today, and feature hand finishing that is hard to find anywhere outside of top-tier brands.
Video: We FINALLY have Grand Seiko
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