2020 is the 60th anniversary year for Grand Seiko, a brand that is rapidly establishing itself as one of the world’s finest luxury watchmakers, capable of taking on the Swiss giants at their own game and capable of developing a formidable network of premium retail partners.
The origin story goes back a little further than the official launch year of 1960.
It began a few years earlier when a small team of watchmakers from Seiko — the company that later decimated the Swiss mechanical watch industry with its quartz creations — was given a mission to make the very best watch they could. There would be no compromise, just a focus on creating watches with the highest possible levels of precision, legibility, durability and ease of use.
The first commercially available watches from this pilot project were launched sixty years ago under the Grand Seiko name, but you could be forgiven for wondering where it was for the first 50 of those years because, until 2010, the brand’s output was marketed exclusively to customers in its native Japan.
Grand Seiko had correctly concluded that in order to get the sort of traction it was enjoying in Japan, it needed to get closer to Western markets, so Akio Naito was dispatched to the United States in 2016 to research what it would take to establish the brand as a separate and successful company to Seiko.
Mr Naito convinced the parent organisation that Grand Seiko needed to operate as a proper subsidiary outside of Japan, and opened its first corporate office outside of Asia in the United States in 2018. This was followed by a subsidiary in the UK in 2019. This year France will open its first Grand Seiko boutique in Paris. London will also convert what is currently a Seiko boutique in Knightsbridge to a Grand Seiko showroom.
Grand Seiko will capitalise on this growing momentum with a huge anniversary push this year.
This will formally kick off in the first week of March with a summit for the world’s media and retail partners in Tokyo. But, ahead of that, Grand Seiko has already unveiled four 60 anniversary watches in its signature blue.
Each model, the company says, exemplifies a different aspect of the wide range of expertise and craftsmanship that Grand Seiko commands today.
Hi-Beat 36000 creation from the Heritage Collection
The 60th anniversary celebration starts with two automatic watches; one for men, one for ladies. The men’s watch pays homage to the 44GS from 1967 whose design was the first-ever expression of the classical Japanese Grand Seiko style. It features the High-Beat Caliber 9S85 which delivers an accuracy of +5 to -3 seconds a day and a 55-hour power reserve.
In honor of the 60th anniversary, the Grand Seiko symbol is in gold and the seconds hand is in a vivid red, colours that, together, symbolize a sunrise and all the new energy that a new dawn brings.
The women’s automatic watch is powered by Caliber 9S27, an automatic movement specifically designed for Grand Seiko’s women’s collection.
It has a mother of pearl dial in Grand Seiko blue, and diamonds as hour markers which is framed on its bezel with 45 diamonds.
Both creations will be available in February 2020 as limited editions; 1,500 for the men’s watch and 300 for the women’s, although the ladies’ watch is not expected to be available in the UK.
Grand Seiko started with mechanical watches in the 1960s, but was also a pioneer of quartz movements. To remember this history, it has made a new quartz movement for its anniversary year, the Caliber 9F85, which has an hour hand that can be adjusted without affecting the seconds han; a useful feature when people are travelling across time zones.
This new caliber makes its debut in two 60th anniversary designs. The first has a version of Caliber 9F85 that is specially adjusted to a level of accuracy of ±5 seconds a year. This high precision is marked by the five pointed star at the six o’clock position.
The dial, too, has a unique marking with a 2020 pattern, reminding the wearer of this special year.
The case design is modern in its execution. Its bezel is thin which allows the dial to be wider and therefore more legible. The case side has a sharp curve so that more light reflects off it and adds to the “sparkle of quality” that is an essential part of the Grand Seiko Style. The seconds hand of this timepiece is also in a vivid red.
It will be available in March 2020 as a limited edition of 2,500.
A second watch using the Caliber 9F85 will be added to Grand Seiko’s Sport Collection. In addition to the Grand Seiko blue dial, it features a ceramic bezel of the same colour that is almost impervious to scratches.
The markers as well as the hour and minute hands are coated with LumiBrite so as to increase the legibility of the time even in low light conditions.
It has 20 bar water resistance, magnetic resistance of 16,000 A/m and a screw-down crown for enhanced security.
It will be available in April 2020 as a limited edition of 2,000.