Hands On: New Grand Seiko Watches from Watches & Wonders 2023

Hands On: New Grand Seiko Watches from Watches & Wonders 2023

In only its second year as an exhibitor at Watches & Wonders, Japanese high-luxury watchmaker Grand Seiko has become one of the must-visit headliners at Switzerland's biggest watch fair. This year was no exception, as Grand Seiko unveiled several buzz-worthy timepieces from each of its modern collections — Elegance, Sport, Masterpiece, and the new Evolution 9, which memorably made its debut at Watches & Wonders 2022. Here are our highlights from the Grand Seiko collection in 2023.

The Background:

Better known for its accessibly priced watches with wide distribution, Seiko has been around since 1881, but in 1960, the company produced what it called its “king of watches,” aimed at the connoisseur and achieving standards of accuracy, beauty, legibility, and durability that would meet or surpass those of its Swiss competitors. The first Grand Seiko model — sold only in Japan —  was distinguished by its elegantly understated yet undeniably upmarket design: a round, slim-profiled gold case with a narrow stepped bezel; long, faceted golden appliqués at the hour markers; stylized razor-shaped gold hands; a curved, box-type sapphire crystal; and a high-precision in-house movement. Until 2010, Grand Seiko was Japan’s best-kept horological secret, not exported to markets outside the country. Seven years after its international expansion, having cultivated a loyal and avid audience worldwide, an entirely new and distinct customer base apart from mainline Seiko’s, Grand Seiko firmly established itself as an independent brand apart from parent Seiko. 

What’s New:

Elegance Collection Spring Drive 3 Days Manual Winding “Hana Ikada” SBGY026

Grand Seiko enhances its dressy  Elegance collection with a new rose-gold-cased timepiece that features the pink-hued, lavishly textured dial that first appeared on the brand’s much-beloved Shunbun edition from the original 4 Seasons series in 2021.The new “Hana Ikada” edition derives its name from the Japanese term for sakura petals blanketing the tranquil waters of Japan’s lakes, streams and rivers, an image from nature that inspires the dial motif. Its 38.5mm case is an understated 10.2mm thick and the features a new, more mirror-polished execution of Grand Seiko’s Zaratsu finsihiing. Inside the case is the Spring Drive Caliber 9R31, a manually wound movement with a 72-hour (three-day) power reserve, which is indicated by an analog display on the back side and thus visible through the watch’s sapphire caseback. From a technical standpoint, Caliber 9R31 boasts the same impressive accuracy of +/- 1 second per day — and +/- 15 seconds per month — as the automatic movements within the Spring Drive series. The “Hana Ikada,”a limited edition of 100 pieces, comes on a dark red leather strap that echoes the pink tones of the dial and retails for $27,500.

Sport Collection Spring Drive GMT Triple Time Zone “Mount Hotaka Peaks” SBGE295

The green dial of this GMT-equipped watch takes its eye-catching texture from the summertime vegetation that blooms on the peaks of Mount Hotaka in Japan’s Nagano prefecture, which loom over the skyline of the city of Shinshu and are visible through the windows of Grand Seiko’s watchmaking studio there. The stainless steel case is 44mm in diameter, 14.7mm thick, and 50.8mm lug to lug. The 24-hour bicolor GMT bezel has a durable ring made of sapphire that is underpinned by a generous coating of Grand Seiko’s proprietary LumiBrite, which imparts a bright glow to the numeras in the dark. The dial has large indexes and hands, also LumiBrite-coated, and a 24-hour chapter ring on the flange which can be used to track a third time zone, The movement inside is Caliber 9R66, a descendant of the original Caliber 9R65 from the first generation of Grand Seiko Spring Drive timepieces, Caliber 9R65, Caliber 9R66 features all the attributes of its parent, including a three-day power reserve, and also adds a fourth, independent hand to indicate a second time zone, which can be adjusted to the local time without stopping the movement. The watch is mounted on a three-link steel bracelet and retails for $6,200.

Evolution 9 Collection Spring Drive 5 Days Diver’s 200M “Ushio” SLGA203

Following up Grand Seiko’s 2022 launch of its Evolution 9 collection, which takes inspiration from a trend-setting Grand Seiko model of 1967, the Japanese manufacture releases a new, luxuriously appointed divers’ watch with an entirely new dial texture. The “Ushio” (from the Japanese word for “tide”) is distinguished by its 43.8mm case made of the brand’s high-intensity titanium, its blue rotating divers’ bezel made of ceramic, and by the cascading-waves dial texture that lends it its name, which visually references the ocean currents in the coastal waters of Japan. The prominent hands and markers are all coated in Lumibrite, helping to maintain legibility deep underwater; the watch is water-resistant to 200 meters. The 13.8mm-thick case holds the recently introduced Spring Drive Caliber 9R05 with five full days of power reserve, a 60 percent increase from that of its predecessor, Caliber 9R6. It also offers an even higher monthly precision rate — +/- 10 seconds, up from the +/- 15 seconds baseline established by earlier Spring Drive calibers — and a quicker date change. The 120-hour power reserve is stored in two mainspring barrels of different sizes, better for torque and for optimizing the use of space. Caliber 9RA5 is the first Spring Drive movement equipped with a sensor to monitor its internal temperature and to compensate for any related changes in the crystal’s oscillation rate. It's priced at $11,600.

Masterpiece Collection Spring Drive Limited Edition “Majestic White Birch” SBGZ009

From Grand Seiko’s Micro Artists studio comes this 50-piece limited edition with a 950 platinum case and a nature-inspired “white birch” textured dial, both fully hand-engraved. The white birch motif, which made its first appearance on a popular steel-cased edition with a Hi-Beat automatic movement in 2021, takes it aesthetic cues from the forests at the foot of the North Yatsugatake Mountains in Japan in the height of winter. The case, which is slightly less than 10mm thick, is first Zaratsu polished to achieve a distortion-free mirrored surface, then painstakingly hand-carved by artisans with long grooves to create the bark-like birch texture. The dial’s hands and markers are made of white gold, while the minute track is engraved into the dial’s surface. The manually winding Spring Drive Caliber 9R02 inside is notable for its two mainsprings, set in parallel inside a single barrel, which are linked to a Torque Return System. In practical terms, this system allows the movement to amass a power reserve of 84 hours and to deliver an accuracy of +/- 1 second per day. The Torque Return System, which activates for 48 hours after the watch is fully wound, redirects otherwise wasted energy to rewind the mainspring, resulting in an increased power reserve. The “Majestic White Birch” is priced at $79,000 in the U.S.

Evolution 9 Collection Tentagraph SBGC001

For those of us who have been waiting patiently for Grand Seiko to deliver an honest-to-gosh mechanical automatic chronograph — no quartz or Spring Drive — our wait is finally over with the introduction of the Tentagraph, powered by the newly developed high-beat Caliber 9SC5, with a column wheel, a vertical clutch, and a dual-impulse escapement that transfers energy indirectly through the pallet fork, and directly through the balance wheel, to the free-sprung balance. The name “Tentagraph” derives from the model’s array of attributes: TEN beats per second, i.e., the frequency of 36,600 vph; Three days, i.e. the power reserve; and Automatic chronoGRAPH. It makes its debut in a 43.2mm case (15.3mm thick) made of Grand Seiko’s high-intensity titanium, with the same material used for the bracelet. The blue dial bears the classical tricompax chronograph arrangement — 30-minute counter at 9 o’clock, 12-hour counter at 6 o’clock, running seconds at 3 o’clock, plus a date window at 4:30 — and sports the “Mount Iwate” pattern first used by Grand Seiko in 2006 as an outward indication of the high watchmaking savoir faire within. A box-shaped sapphire crystal covers the dial, whose central chronograph seconds hand is gently curved toward its surface so that its tip points as closely to the indexes as possible for a legible reading of elapsed times. The tachymeter scale bezel is made of ceramic, and a clear sapphire caseback showcases the new automatic movement, with its beautiful finishing and openworked, decorated rotor. The Tentagraph is expected to hit the market in June 2023, with an MSRP of $13,700.

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