Grand Seiko makes some gorgeous watches. Some of their dial and hand combinations are some of the most stunning timepieces in our cases. However, Grand Seiko earned its esteemed place in the horological community by their award winning movements. Born to be the greatest, most accurate watch in the world, Grand Seiko boasts timekeeping accuracy that outperforms most all of their peers.
In the middle of the 20th Century, Switzerland was dominating the watch market. Brands such as Girard Peregeaux, Omega, and Longines were becoming household names all over the world. Knowing that they could compete in timekeeping trials against the Swiss, a group of watchmakers from Seiko got together to develop an extremely accurate watch. By 1968, the last year of the Swiss Observatory trials, the watchmakers from Seiko had developed the most accurate mechanical movement. Grand Seiko, a separate faction of Seiko aiming to produce the ideal wristwatch, was born soon after.
Fast forward 50 years, and Grand Seiko is still striving to get better. They still find ways to improve both the form and functionality of their watches. Each of their pieces are constructed by a single watchmaker; blurring the lines between technician and artisan.
Grand Seiko makes watches around three distinct movements: the 9F Quartz, the 9S Mechanical, and the 9R Spring Drive. Each movement level occupies a specific price point. As far as the bang to buck ratio goes, Grand Seiko is an amazing value.
The 9F Quartz movement is light-years ahead of other battery powered movements. It starts out being built by hand; in stark contrast to most other quartz movements that are built in mass quantities by machines. Quality in workmanship is evident the first time you pull out the crown. Setting the time with pinpoint accuracy is possible due to each hand traveling on its own axis. Known as an independent axis structure, this design allows each hand to travel without inadvertently touching the other. This allows for very precise time setting. And once the time is set, your watch won’t waver. Grand Seiko’s 9F movement is rated to +/- 10 seconds per year.
The next level up from the 9F Quartz is the 9S Mechanical. The 9S is a direct descendant of the movement put together to compete against the Swiss in the 60’s. Grand Seiko uses Micro-Electro-Mechanical System, or MEMS, technology to produce parts that are lighter and more efficient.
In a mechanical movement, parts that are lighter require less force to operate, thus increasing the length of power reserve a mainspring can provide. The mainspring of the 9S Mechanical movement is made from a proprietary material Grand Seiko calls Spron. A cobalt-nickel alloy, Spron boasts superior elasticity, strength, and high heat resistance. These innovations allow the 9S movement to be more accurate than the Swiss standard for a chronometer; the 9S runs +4/-2 per day and a chronometer averages +5/-3.
The final movement employed by Grand Seiko is the 9R Spring Drive. A Spring Drive movement is a hybrid of mechanical and quartz technology. An oscillating weight winds a mainspring just as a standard mechanical movement would. In a Spring Drive movement, the energy from the mainspring is passed through a Tri-Synchro regulator that uses a quartz crystal as an oscillator to apply both forward pressure and an electromagnetic brake. The combination of forces provides for both an exceptionally smooth second hand rotation and an extremely accurate watch. In real world applications, wearers have noticed +4/-1 seconds a month. Spring Drive movements, in relation to traditional watchmaking technology, is truly space age technology.
In most ways, Grand Seiko embodies the epitome of Japanese culture. The understated dials, hands, and case materials blend together in a Zen like manner. Coupled with their overwhelming desire for more accurate timekeeping, these watches wear more like an extension of ones being versus a tool or accessory. For more information on this super exclusive brand (JB Hudson is the only dealer in Minnesota!), please contact us here. Whether it is your first nice timepiece or missing hole in your collection, Grand Seiko is a wonderful choice.