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Grand Seiko - Grand Seiko grand debut

Grand Seiko Grand Seiko grand debut

Why a Grand Seiko is different from a Seiko.

Covering a floor space of more than 700 square feet or 65 square metres, the flagship Seiko boutique at Takashimaya Shopping Centre in Ngee Ann City Singapore may not be as large as other Seiko stores around the world but it does have much to offer to fans of the brand. For those familiar with the brand, the trademark blue and silver finishings offer an obvious hint as these colours are representative of Grand Seiko and are therefore a clear indication that its higher-end range of timepieces can be found within this store. 

Officially opened in early August 2019 by Thong Sia Group’s Chairman Joseph Wong and Minoru Ishiguro, director and chief executive vice president of Seiko Watch Corporation, the dedicated Grand Seiko section is located at the back of the boutique and its area is clearly demarcated by a different coloured set of floor tiles. The Seiko boutique is operated by Thong Sia, a trusted and long-term partner that has been the brand’s exclusive distributor in this part of the world since the early 1960s.

Les grands débuts de Grand Seiko

© Seiko

Officially opened in early August 2019 by Thong Sia Group’s Chairman Joseph Wong and Minoru Ishiguro, director and chief executive vice president of Seiko Watch Corporation, the dedicated Grand Seiko section is located at the back of the boutique and its area is clearly demarcated by a different coloured set of floor tiles. The Seiko boutique is operated by Thong Sia, a trusted and long-term partner that has been the brand’s exclusive distributor in this part of the world since the early 1960s.

Grand Seiko is not new to Singapore; the collection was first offered in this city-state in 2005. Back then, Grand Seiko timepieces were sold only in Japan and Singapore was an exception. It was only in 2010 that Grand Seiko was launched on an international level. In 2017, Seiko Watch Corporation’s Chairman and CEO Shinji Hattori announced that Grand Seiko was henceforth an independent brand, distinct from Seiko. 

One obvious change was seen on the dials of the 2017 Grand Seiko collection. Prior to 2017, a larger “Seiko” branding at 12 o’clock was featured while “GS” and beneath it, “Grand Seiko” in a smaller font type, were placed at 6 o’clock. As an independent brand, “Grand Seiko” now takes the place of where “Seiko” used to be at 12 o’clock. This marked a grand return, if we may add, to its origins as the very first Grand Seiko wristwatch of 1960 already had its branding proudly displayed at 12 o’clock.

The move to become an independent brand also explains the recent spate of Grand Seiko mono-brand boutiques opening up in various cities around the world. However, the Seiko boutique space being co-shared with Grand Seiko in Ngee Ann City in Singapore is an exception as it suits the market needs here, from what we understand. 

What’s truly surprising is the popularity of Grand Seiko in this part of the world. “In terms of luxury watch markets, Singapore is an important one. Singapore may be amongst the top 10 markets but it is neither in the top two or three. For this shop with Grand Seiko, it was one of the top three performing in the world for the brand during the first three months,” Joseph Wong reveals.

At the boutique, three Grand Seiko models from the 2019 collection were made available as “opening specials”: the SBGY003, the SBGC231 chronograph and the SBGA403. All three models feature movements with the famed Spring Drive system as these are part of the editions commemorating the 20th anniversary (1999 to 2019) of the Spring Drive.

Les grands débuts de Grand Seiko

Models SBGA403, SBGC231 and SBGY003 © Grand Seiko

Apart from the obviously dearer pricing, what makes a Grand Seiko different from a Seiko?

Unlike high-volume Seiko timepieces, Grand Seiko watches are made in low volumes and are put together by trained and skilled craftsmen with years of experience. In a nutshell, as compared to regular Seiko timepieces, there is much more handcraftsmanship, quality and care put into Grand Seiko watches. 

A fully-integrated Manufacture, Grand Seiko timepieces are produced at two of its studios: the Shizuku-Ishi Watch Studio for mechanical watches including hairsprings and Shinshu Watch Studio for quartz and Spring Drive watches. The Shizuku-Ishi Watch Studio, as its name implies, is located in Shizukuishi, a town known for its craftsmen skilled in fine lacquer wares just outside Morioka City. The Shinshu Watch Studio is in Nagano.

Grand Seiko is focused on the essential functions of a watch where precision, legibility, beauty and ease of use take top priority, explained Shinji Hattori who also added that high complications are not the direction of Grand Seiko. While there are mini complications such as the second time zone, power reserve indication and moon phase displays including integrated chronographs, collectors will probably not see a Grand Seiko tourbillon for instance. However, Credor, another high-end brand from Seiko, does have the tourbillon and minute repeater.

“Grand Seiko was created in 1960. Right from the start, the goal of Grand Seiko was to create something special. That is why the best people, technology and techniques were put together to create a watch with new levels of performance,” says Hattori.

For example, the SBGY003 20th Anniversary Spring Drive model from the Elegance Collection and limited to 700 pieces, is equipped with the new Calibre 9R31 manual-winding movement that has a high precision of one second a day.

Meanwhile the SBGC231 Chronograph, limited to 500 pieces, housing the Calibre 9R96 automatic movement and the SBGA403, limited to 500 pieces, equipped with the Calibre 9R15 automatic movement from the Sport Collection both with Spring Drive systems have the precision of 0.5 seconds. Thanks to the Spring Drive, the watches have high resistance to shocks including thermal shocks.

Aesthetics-wise, Grand Seiko watches have a certain sense of Japanese charm and can be an acquired taste for some. Most importantly and what shouldn’t come as a shock (pun intended) is that in our opinion, Grand Seiko watches can rightly be on par or even exceed the quality of comparable Swiss-made ones especially in terms of precision. 

The brand

From the very beginning, Grand Seiko has been pursuing the essential characteristics of a watch: precision, beauty, legibility. Its design reflects the unique Japanese sense of beauty. The brand will continue to reach new heights as a global brand.

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