It’s true that not all timepieces are worth their price! But what about the beauties from Grand Seiko? Are they worth your money? Do Grand Seiko watches hold their value? Are Grand Seiko watches just as good as Rolex? This post has all the answers you need!
Grand Seiko is a Japanese watch brand that was started in 1960. Both the Seiko and Grand Seiko brands existed under one umbrella until 2017 when the Grand Seiko became an independent brand. A good comparison would be the automobile manufacturer Toyota Motor Company.
Both the Toyota and Lexus brands are owned by Toyota but are two distinct entities. Just as the Toyota brand appeals to the everyday driver, the Lexus brand is a higher-priced luxury offering for a more sophisticated consumer. Think of Seiko as Toyota, and the Grand Seiko as the Lexus.
The Seiko watch corporation has accomplished much during its rich history. From Seiko’s inception in 1895 to the introduction of its first mechanical watch in 1913, the company set out to manufacture highly precise timepieces.
In the 1960s, Seiko beat out many high-end Swiss brands at Observatory Competitions in Switzerland, often placing in the top five for mechanical accuracy. 1960 also saw the launch of the Grand Seiko collection. A collection conceived with the goal of crafting a superior timepiece and reflecting the finest materials, finishes, technology, and accuracy.
The First Quartz Watch
In 1969, Seiko invented the very first quartz movement. The original model was the Seiko Quartz Astra. The accuracy of these movements was +-5 seconds per month. Far more accurate than the mechanical wind and automatic movements that were being produced. This level of accuracy in a wristwatch was unprecedented. The other great draw to the brand was its affordability.
The quartz introduction would provide a great challenge to the established Swiss watch brands. The follow-up introduction of the Twin Quartz and the Superior Twin Quartz models would further Seiko’s success in delivering highly accurate movements.
The “Twin” refers to the two quartz oscillators that were incorporated into the movement, one compensating for the other during temperature changes. The Twin Quartz introduced in 1978 was accurate to +-10 seconds per year and the Superior Twin Quartz to +-5 seconds per year.
Over the past sixty years, Seiko has improved upon many previous watch manufacturing processes. In 2020, Grand Seiko created the T0 (T-Zero) movement which was the world’s first. Amongst the innovations achieved, a totally different approach was applied to the manufacture of the movement’s gears. Gears are vital in the precision of the movement.
Whereas previously gears were machined, Grand Seiko employed a process known as MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems). This technique is employed for making semiconductors. Metal films are layered like plating to produce perfect gear teeth. Gear teeth precision is measured in microns. This process was also used to manufacture Grand Seiko’s pallet fork and escapement wheels.
The T0 movement features a fully integrated constant-force tourbillon on the same axis in the movement. Constant force preserves power in a small spring called a constant force spring which is different from a mainspring. It uses the repulsive power of the small spring to power a pendulum or balance. The constant force mechanism ensures stable torque which increases accuracy.
The Grand Seiko collection is comprised of five sub-collections. These are Masterpiece, Elegance, Evolution 9, Sports, and Heritage. The starting retail price for a Grand Seiko is $2200.00. All stated prices are suggested retail prices.
Every Grand Seiko watch houses one of three types of movements The “9S” is a mechanical movement that offers Grand Seiko Specification Standards of the accuracy of +4/-2 seconds per day. These standards are achieved over seventeen days of testing in six different positions and at three different temperatures (exceeding COSC testing criteria).
The “9S5A” movement is the automatic version with an accuracy of +8/-3 seconds per day. The second movement is the “9S”. This movement is based on the unique technology of a spring drive. This technology combines electronic and mechanical watchmaking methods within one movement.
Watches carrying these movements are accurate from a minimum of +-.5 seconds per day to +-15 seconds per month. These movements are also highly resistant to magnetism, changes in temperature, and shock.
Lastly is the “9F” which is a hand-assembled quartz movement. Most quartz movements are machine manufactured, so this is a very unique feature. These watches also boast accuracy readings of +- 10 seconds per year.
One of the questions this article will seek to address is whether the Grand Seiko is a worthwhile alternative to purchasing a Swiss-made luxury brand such as Rolex. To answer this query, I will provide some background information on the Rolex brand.
Rolex, surprisingly, has been around for a shorter time than the Seiko brand and compared to many other luxury Swiss brands. As mentioned earlier, Grand Seiko has been developing its higher-tier niche for just over sixty years.
Rolex is probably the most recognized Swiss luxury watch brand in the world and is an even greater testimony to the marketing success of the Rolex brand and the reputation the company enjoys today. Much of this success is attributable to Hans Wilsdorf, the English entrepreneur responsible for the creation of the brand.
Though conceived in England, Wildorf created the Rolex brand in 1908 and would ultimately move the entire operation to Geneva, Switzerland, where he would create the first water-proof self-winding wristwatch with a perpetual rotor. A patent was issued to Rolex in 1926 for the world’s first waterproof watch, which today is the oyster case.
500 Patents and Counting
Rolex has filed for more than 500 patents over the history of its existence. These patents showcase their innovations that range from internal movements to their exclusive Cerachrom bezels and bezel inserts. Cerachrom is a ceramic material that is virtually impervious to scratches and its color is unaffected by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
Rolex today is a completely vertically integrated company with every step of the watch’s conception to completion performed by the Rolex team. To assure the continued success and commitment to producing the highest quality timepieces, Rolex has an exclusive training center that educates, trains, and acclimates every employee to their culture of excellence as well as one of the most rigorous testing labs to ensure the integrity of every watch.
There is even a department of tribology where the scientific study of friction, wear, lubrication, and how moving parts interact in every aspect of a watch’s movement and physical parts exists to continue Rolex’s constant perfection in watchmaking.
Another attribute of the Rolex collection is its commitment to precision and accuracy. In this aspect, every Rolex is not only a certified chronometer but a superlative chronometer as reflected by the certificate and green seal that accompanies each wristwatch. The parameters of accuracy exceed those required by the COSC. which are -4/+6 seconds per day. The superlative identification reflects a deviation of -2/+2 seconds daily.
Grand Seiko vs. Rolex
Both brands offer excellence in both watchmaking processes and innovation. Grand Seiko has made significant technological strides in incorporating semiconductor manufacturing practices in the production of its watch components and materials. Also, in the field of combining both mechanical and electronic movement technology, Grand Seiko has achieved world-class results for accuracy.
Grand Seiko is also one of the only watch brands that offer a hand-assembled quartz movement. This coupled with a virtually “Blink of an eye” date change function are significant advancements. In most watches, when the date is going to change at midnight, the numeric function is either gradual or can be viewed in real-time.
The Grand Seiko anticipates the coming midnight hour and changes at the precise moment the day turns over quietly and with seamless aplomb. In the discussion of high-end complications, Grand Seiko has made contributions and advancements concerning the incorporation of the tourbillon with its T0 (T Zero) Constant Force Tourbillon. For the most part, both Rolex and Great Seiko are not necessarily renowned for their complications.
When comparing both brands for technical prowess, you have a long history of Swiss movement development and innovation juxtaposed with a virtual newcomer to the watch world in the Grand Seiko brand.
I believe the Japanese work ethic and ability to approach watchmaking with a new and fresh mindset have contributed to their success in producing watches that have the ability to compete and even exceed many Swiss luxury brands based on technology, accuracy, and aesthetics.
Both of these brands have built reputations for producing high-end luxury timepieces, but Rolex is miles ahead in brand recognition and has a greater perceived value in the marketplace. I believe a consumer seeking a Rolex will choose to stay on that path and not consider a Grand Seiko as an alternative choice. The Grand Seiko, though an excellent watch, does not offer the allure of a Rolex.
Frequently Asked Questions
As referenced in this article, Seiko and Grand Seiko have existed together under the same roof, so to speak, until recently when the Grand Seiko brand became its own distinct entity. Each may share the Seiko name but they are distinctly different.
You can purchase a Seiko for as little as $100.00 at retail. Given their massive distribution and easy availability, prices may vary considerably. If you are in the market for an accurate everyday watch that looks good and tells time, then this brand fits the bill. If you don’t care if your watch is of Swiss or Japanese origin, any Seiko watch is a good choice.
Grand Seiko would be your choice if you wanted a more sophisticated timepiece that reflects the highest level of Japanese watchmaking. The finishes and materials, as well as the quality of the movements position these models in the luxury watch market.
I believe Grand Seiko is a luxury watch. Albeit a more fair question would be, what level of luxury? Unfortunately, the luxury watch market is dominated by Swiss brands that have been around for far longer than Grand Seiko, and have built brands and names that are highly sought after and in demand.
I will also make the assumption that when wearing a Grand Seiko, anyone noticing the watch might have the immediate observation that they are looking at a much more luxurious Seiko watch. In the U.S. market and others, the name Seiko would not elicit thoughts of luxury.
A consumer needs to be educated that the Grand Seiko, though carrying Seiko in its name, is unlike the Seiko of their father’s generation. No one mistakes the prestige of a Rolex or an Omega, for instance. These brands are easily recognizable and reflect the wearer’s taste and success.
The Grand Seiko collection offers far more sophisticated movements in many of its models. The Rolex models house movements that are manufactured in-house and are high quality in their own right but lack the sophistication of Grand Seiko’s complicated models. Both brands look and feel luxurious.
Rolex, in large part, is not only in high demand for its watch designs but because the brand has had great success carefully building a successful luxury brand name. Through high-end sponsorships in sports such as golf and the equestrian community and targeted advertising towards a wealthy and sophisticated consumer, Rolex enjoys a status other brands do not.
Grand Seiko would benefit greatly from a targeted campaign promoting their brand as the iconoclast’s choice rather than trying to compete head-to-head with the various Swiss luxury watch brands available. Grand Seiko suffers from a lack of visibility to a wider audience who may appreciate the quality of their timepieces.
Both are quality timepieces. Both use the highest quality materials and are impeccably finished. Each brand is completely vertically integrated producing all of its components and movements and assembling its watches. The Rolex collection is distinguished by its oyster case whereas the Grand Seiko watches offer more variety in styles.
In comparing quality, I believe each is as good as the other when it comes to quality. The allure of a Rolex is not so much the quality comparison but the statement it makes for the wearer. The Rolex name on the dial of any one of the company’s models speaks quality, expensive, and luxury and I have arrived at a certain station in life.
Most watches should not be purchased as investments. There are models amongst collectors and watch experts that have appreciated in value over time as evidenced in the secondary market and at auctions, but this is an area of speculation that you should not merely gamble in. Values tend to fluctuate with economic booms and busts and changes in consumers’ tastes.
That being said, some watches do hold their value better than others. Two such brands are Rolex and Patek Phillipe. Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of depreciation that occurs after the purchase of a Grand Seiko watch. If you want to purchase a Grand Seiko for yourself, a well-cared-for used timepiece might be a prudent decision if you can appreciate the quality of one of the watches and don’t have an indiscriminate budget.
As mentioned in my answer to the previous question, Grand Seikos experience a measure of depreciation after purchase. The secondary market for Grand Seikos is not as strong as Rolex for instance. There is a better chance of retaining value with a Grand Seiko if one purchased a limited edition piece, but there is no guarantee of this either.
If you are not searching for a brand that people will easily recognize on your wrist, then a Grand Seiko is a great choice. Wearing a Swiss-made luxury watch typically makes a statement as to the wearer’s success in life. Sophisticated taste, class, and wealth are words used in describing the wearer of a fine Swiss-made timepiece.
If you do desire superior accuracy, this is an area where the Grand Seiko models excel. You will not find this level of accuracy in either Rolex or most high-priced Swiss luxury brands. What you do get with the purchase of a Grand Seiko is great value for exceptional watchmaking and craftsmanship. You may even get some people to ask about the watch you are wearing and you can sing the praises of an alternative choice to the luxury brands that they might be more familiar with.
This is an interesting question because when it comes to luxury brands, the high cost is a subjective decision for the purchaser. Luxury brands exist so that a statement can be made by the one who purchases the item.
Whether it be automobiles, watches, neighborhoods people desire to live in, or anything that is not affordable to most individuals, they exist to reflect a person’s success and class in life. If a brand is successful at crafting an image of luxury and exclusivity, there is then a margin of value that will often exceed the cost of making that item. A customer will pay a premium to own the item.
There are many Swiss-made luxury brands that people will willingly pay that premium to own a watch. This is not to say that there are also many handmade watches where countless hours of watchmaking, research, and design as well as the use of costly materials have been invested and these costs become quite expensive.
Grand Seikos are crafted from the finest quality materials and are superbly finished. The research and design reflected in any of the models of the collection are worth a premium. You must ultimately determine for yourself if these attributes are worth spending the extra money on or just getting an inexpensive watch to merely tell the time. What you get in a Grand Seiko will most likely be less expensive than what you would pay for in a comparable Swiss luxury brand.
In conclusion, both the Rolex and Grand Seiko brands are of the highest quality. Rolex has a distinct edge because of its successful advertising and marketing and the reputation it has built over time. The Grand Seiko timepieces are great reflections of superior Japanese watchmaking but lack the cache and luxury brand recognition that Rolex enjoys.
If you do not have your heart set on a particular brand and are open-minded about your next luxury watch purchase, make part of your due diligence a trip to your jeweler or watch shop to try on and learn more about what the Grand Seiko has to offer. You might pleasantly be surprised by the Grand Seiko collection.