Rolex vs. Grand Seiko: Comparing Luxury Watch Icons of Switzerland and Japan

Rolex vs. Grand Seiko: Comparing Luxury Watch Icons of Switzerland and Japan

Switzerland's Rolex and Japan's Grand Seiko are both among the most prestigious watch brands on the market today, though they have very little in common with each other, at least at first glance. Though the two maisons have taken different approaches throughout their histories to areas like movement making, watch design, and even marketing, they share some attributes as well, such as a dedication to constantly improving important elements like timekeeping accuracy, high-end finishing, and robust water resistance. In this feature, we examine the differences and similarities between Rolex and Grand Seiko, from their origins and their historical impact on the industry to each company's approach to watches in several key categories. 

Watchmaking History

Hans Wilsdorf: Revolutionizing Watchmaking from London to Geneva

Rolex founder Hans Wisldorf

Rolex, by most standards the most famous Swiss watch brand in the world, was originally not even Swiss: it was founded by a German in the United Kingdom. Hans Wilsdorf (above) was raised in Kulmbach, Germany and began his career in the Swiss watch industry in 1900 as a clerk at the watchmaking firm of Cuno Korten in La Chaux-de-Fonds. In 1905 Wilsdorf, then living in London, partnered with another businessman named Alfred Davis to establish Wilsdorf & Davis, the company that would become Rolex. Wilsdorf & Davis, based in London’s Hatton Garden commercial district, was founded with a mandate to make reliably precise watches at affordable prices. In 1914, days before the outbreak of World War I, Wilsdorf changed the name of the company to “Rolex” — the name coming to him out of the blue during a carriage ride, Wilsdorf later claimed — and moved its HQ to Geneva in 1919. Rolex’s offices and main manufacturing hub remain in the Canton of Geneva today, in the suburb of Plan-les-Ouates. Rolex’s early 20th-century innovations, like the waterproof Oyster case and self-winding “perpetual” movement, as well as its trendsetting designs, have impacted the whole of the watch industry and the company continues to play a leading role in watchmaking, and watch marketing, in the modern era. Landmark models like the Explorer, Submariner, GMT-Master (all launched within a few years of each other in the 1950s) and Cosmograph Daytona (launched in 1963) have proven to be the blueprints for many other watches in their segments. 

Kintaro Hattori: Putting Japan on the Horological Map

Seiko founder Kintaro Hattori

Before Grand Seiko came Seiko, the Japanese watchmaking firm that traces its origins to 1881, the year 21-year-old entrepreneur Kintaro Hattori opened the K. Hattori watch and clock shop in Tokyo’s Kyobashi district for the assembly and repair of pocket watches and clocks. Hattori was 31 when he and his partner Tsuruhiko Yoshikawa set up the Seikosha watch factory, the forerunner of today’s Seiko, in 1892 — 13 years before Wilsdorf established his watchmaking business in London. During his tenure, until his death in 1934, Hattori was responsible for several watch-industry milestones, including the first Japanese-made wristwatch, the Laurel, in 1913. The company he founded, named “Seiko” (which translates to “Exquisite” in English), continued to innovate, creating the first Grand Seiko watch in 1960. It was distinguished by its elegantly understated yet undeniably upmarket design: a round, slim 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. From the beginning, Seiko’s aim with its so-called “King of Watches” was to achieve standards of accuracy, beauty, legibility, and durability that would meet or surpass those of its Swiss competitors. That watch, Ref. 57GS, was the first of many Grand Seikos that followed: what they all had in common was that they were Japan’s best-kept horological secret for half a century. In 2010, however, Seiko started selling Grand Seiko outside of Japan and it quickly developed an avid worldwide following among watch connoisseurs — so much of one, in fact, that Grand Seiko spun off from the parent Seiko brand — which is still known for mass-market appeal and approachable pricing more than high horological exclusivity — to become its own brand in 2017.

In-House Expertise and Movement Making

Rolex: Pioneers of Perpetual

Rolex and Grand Seiko (as part of its parent company Seiko) are among the very few watch producers recognized as fully vertically integrated manufactures — meaning that they make nearly all of their watches in-house, from movement parts to cases and dials to final assembly. Both have been at the forefront of technical innovation for a long time, each claiming important strides not only in the making of watch movements but also in making them more reliable, more solid, and more accurate. 

Rolex Perpetual Caliber 1931

Rolex was an early leader in the quest for timekeeping accuracy, winning numerous chronometry competitions starting 1910. In 1931, just a few years after Wilsdorf’s invention of the waterproof Oyster case (detailed below), the Rolex founder’s other quest came to fruition with the development of a patented, self-winding movement with a weighted mass that served to wind the mainspring via the motion of the wearer’s arm. Because this type of movement (above) kept the watch constantly wound as long as it was being worn, it was referred to, then and now, as “Perpetual.” It wasn’t the first self-winding, or “automatic” movement in a wristwatch — that would be the one patented by British watchmaker John Harwood in 1923 — but it was a development that spurred other watch manufacturers to begin adopting the technology in their own products. Most of Rolex's most popular models today are equipped with Perpetual movements, and the movements themselves have remained on the cutting edge of horological technology. Rolex Blue Parachrom hairspring

In the 21st Century, as Rolex moved closer to full vertical integration in its watchmaking, the company developed a host of technical innovations, many of them patented, like the antimagnetic blue Parachrom hairspring and energy-efficient Chronergy escapement, and boosted the standard power reserve in its in-house movements to a lengthy 70 hours. In 2015, Rolex established its own standard for chronometric accuracy and reliability, the “Superlative Chronometer” certification, whose criteria include an average daily rate variation of a very precise -2/+2 seconds per day as well as a host of other attributes. Rolex watches are tested in its own laboratories in the areas of Precision (the aforementioned -2/+2 rate variation), Power Reserve (according to the stated specs), Waterproofness (10 percent extra safety margin for watches rated at 100 meters, 25 percent extra for divers’ watches rated to 300 meters and above), and Self-Winding (ensuring the perpetual rotor operates with no friction or other obstructions). 

Grand Seiko: Traditional Meets Tech

Seiko Quartz Astron

Seiko can claim two game-changing movement technologies for which it was the leading force, one of which remains solely its own. By far the most disruptive and transformational to the watch industry was the first quartz movement in a wristwatch, the Caliber 35A, which made its debut inside the Seiko Quartz Astron in 1969. Unlike a mechanical movement, which stores its energy in a wound mainspring inside a barrel and releases it through a complex series of gears to move the hands, a quartz movement derives its power from a small electrical charge from a battery, which then passes through an integrated circuit that applies the charge to a tiny quartz crystal shaped like a tuning fork. The incredibly high rate of that crystal’s vibration dwarfs that of a mechanical movement (32,768 times per second, as opposed to the 3 or 4 times per second of  most mechanical oscillators), and drives the second hand only once per second with the aid of a tiny motor, a development that had never before been seen in watches, conserving energy and ensuring an accuracy of just -/+ 5 seconds per month. Quartz movements are still common throughout the watch industry in many lower-priced watches; Grand Seiko, as the maker of the most reliable and sophisticated quartz calibers, still uses them in some of its high-end watches.

Grand Seiko Spring DriveThe other Seiko invention, which now plays a key role in the Grand Seiko collection, is Spring Drive, which Seiko’s engineers began working on as early as 1977 and finally made its way to a commercial product in 1999. The Spring Drive movement combines the high torque of a traditional mechanical watch movement with the high precision of a quartz one — in other words, a mainspring-powered watch that can achieve the accuracy of a battery-powered one. It accomplishes this chiefly through the use of a trio of in-house inventions: the Spron 510 mainspring, made of a proprietary high-elasticity material engineered to deliver more power, more smoothly, and for a more extended period, to the regulator; the so-called Magic Lever, affixed directly to the shaft of the rotor for a more efficient winding motion; and the Tri-Synchro regulator, which replaces the escapement and regulates the three types of energy generated by the movement — the mainspring’s mechanical energy, the quartz crystal oscillator’s electrical energy, and the resulting electromagnetic energy that turns the glide wheel, which replaces a traditional balance wheel and rotates uniformly over an electromagnetic coil. The first Grand Seiko watch with a Spring Drive movement debuted in 2004. In the wake of Grand Seiko’s relaunch as an independent brand, the braintrust at parent company Seiko has continued to produce new and even more optimized versions of the Spring Drive calibers, which we explore in detail in this article. Grand Seiko watches are unique in the luxury watch world, as they offer three different movements: quartz, Spring Drive, and fully mechanical calibers. 

Elegant Dress Watches

Rolex Day-Date

Rolex Day-Date

The Rolex Day-Date, introduced in 1956, was the first wristwatch that displayed both the date (in the now-familiar 3 o’clock position under the Cyclops lens) and the current day of the week (in a curved window above the Rolex logo at 12 o’clock). The Day-Date’s 36mm gold Oyster case had the fluted bezel emblematic of its stylistic predecessor, the Datejust, and housed the automatic Caliber 1055. Starting in the 1970s, Day-Date watches were outfitted with other mechanical movements and eventually with quartz movements as part of Rolex’s “OysterQuartz” series of the late 20th Century. In keeping with trends of the early 2000s, Rolex began offering Day-Dates with larger 41mm cases in 2008 (now referred to as the Day-Date II models). Today, the two sizes available are the 36mm version, which carries on the spirit of the original, and the 40mm models, which are aimed at larger wrists; both are equipped with the ultra-modern Rolex automatic Caliber 3255. The Day-Date is also known as the “President,” a nickname that it began earning as early as the 1960s when President Lyndon B. Johnson wore one regularly in office.The “President” has become a luxury badge for powerful people real and fictional: actor James Gandolfini famously sported a gold Day-Date in his role as mob chieftain Tony Soprano on the HBO series “The Sopranos.” The sturdy three-link bracelet that made its debut on the original Day-Date also bears the nickname “President” and remains reserved for Day-Date models and for certain ladies’ Datejust models.

Grand Seiko Heritage “Snowflake”

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBG211The first Grand Seiko watch nicknamed “Snowflake” was one whose release preceded not only Grand Seiko’s establishment as an independent brand but also Seiko’s distribution of Grand Seiko watches outside of Japan. The Ref. SBGA011 launched to the Japanese market in 2005 and established the familiar template, with a stamped brass dial whose special, silver-plated finish approximated the look and texture of the fresh snow that blanketed the peaks of the Hokata Mountains that surround Seiko’s Shinshu Watch Studio in Japan’s Nagano Prefecture. (The first attempt to create such a dial dates back to the 1970s; it was modern watchmakers’ discovery of the prototype that inspired the 21st-century version.) Grand Seiko has since made the “snowflake” dial a mainstay of some of its most elegant and most coveted timepieces (you can read about some of them here). The SBGA211 released in 2017, is the first “Snowflake” to bear the Grand Seiko logo solo on the dial rather than accompanied by the Seiko logo. The 41mm case and three-link bracelet are constructed from Grand Seiko’s “high intensity” titanium, an alloy that’s stronger but 40 percent lighter than stainless steel, and finished to a high gloss with Zaratsu polishing, a painstaking process executed by hand that allows for sharp, ridged borders between mirrored and hairline surfaces. The faceted indexes and razor hands are silver-polished, while a blued steel seconds hand provides a cool, subtle contrast as it sweeps around the snowy dial. The highly accurate Spring Drive Caliber 9R65 inside provides a three-day power reserve.

Dive Watches

Rolex Submariner

Rolex is undeniably a pioneer in both the development of waterproof watch cases and the purpose-built dive watches that use them. In 1926, several decades before the rise of diving as a recreational activity, Rolex developed the now-familiar Oyster case (below), which combined a threaded, hermetically sealed caseback and a crown that screwed securely into the side for a water resistance never before achieved in watches. The following year, in what would be the first of many celebrity-driven marketing initiatives over the years, Rolex partnered with British swimmer Mercedes Gleitze, who famously wore a Rolex Oyster watch on a necklace in her bid to become the first woman to swim the English Channel. In the 1930s and ‘40s, Rolex supplied Oyster cases to the Italian firm Panerai, which used them for watches worn by military divers.

Rolex Oyster case watch 1926

By the early 1950s, with recreational diving surging in popularity thanks to high-profile pioneers like Jacques Cousteau, Rolex decided to respond to consumer demand with its own watch made specially for deep-sea diving. The Submariner Ref. 6204, which launched in 1953, the same year as another milestone of the category, the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, was the first watch that was waterproof to 100 meters. It also established the template for the many models that followed: steel Oyster case (originally 37mm but larger in later versions), black dial with inverted triangle at 12 o’clock, alternating circle and bar indexes at the hour markers, and a rotating bezel (initially bidirectional, later unidirectional) with a 60-minute scale that a diver could set to keep track of his time underwater. The Submariner, which would eventually also adopt the familiar Mercedes handset and increase its water resistance to 300 meters, has since become an icon among luxury sports watches, its enduring popularity boosted by the model’s spot in cinematic history as the first “James Bond watch,” worn by Sean Connery in the first three Bond movies from 1962 to 1964.

Rolex Submariner

One of the reasons why the Rolex Submariner is so iconic and enduring in its popularity is that it is a rare example of a watch that has remained more or less true to its original conception over the decades, changing only subtly in its overall aesthetic: a Submariner from the 2020s still looks a lot like a Submariner from the 1950s or ‘60s. However, Rolex has made adjustments to its classical design elements, and to its movements, all of them geared toward more robustness of build, practicality of usage, and efficiency of timekeeping, many of them in the years following the turn of the 20th Century. In 2008 came the first Submariner with a bezel made of Cerachrom, Rolex’s proprietary ceramic material that is exceptionally scratch-resistant and fade-resistant; Cerachrom bezels have now replaced aluminum ones on most Rolex watches. The Submariner models (available with or without date display as of 1969) underwent another soft revamp in 2020, with the case diameters bumped upward from 40mm to 41mm, the sapphire crystal now sporting an antireflective coating on the underside for increased legibility, and the Oyster bracelets upgraded with an Oysterlock clasp and Glidelock extension adjustable by increments of 2mm. The in-house Caliber 3235/3230 inside the modern Submariners boasts patented features, including all the attributes listed above that enable the movement to meet the strict criteria of Rolex’s “Superlative Chronometer” certification.

Grand Seiko Diver’s Series

Twelve years after the debut of the Rolex Submariner, and five years after the first Grand Seiko watch was released, Seiko rolled out the first Japanese-made divers’ watch, the Seiko Diver’s 150M. That watch, whose 38mm steel case resisted water pressure to 150 meters, begat other now-legendary Seiko dive watches. Seiko introduced its first dive watch with both a high-beat movement (36,000 vph) and an even more sturdy 300-meter water resistance in 1968, and followed it up with another milestone in 1975, the industry’s first dive watch in a titanium case, which also boasted water-resistance to 600 meters and introduced the “Tuna Can” case structure that would define many Seiko dive watches †o follow. In 1986, during the “Quartz Crisis” era dominated by brands like Seiko, which had created the first quartz-powered wristwatch, came the Diver’s 1000M, with a quartz movement, a ceramic outer case, and water resistance to a bone-crushing 1000 meters. 

Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 600M Dive Watch

As a luxurious offshoot of the main Seiko brand, touted for understated elegance, Grand Seiko didn’t dabble in sporty or even sport-luxury models right away, but in 2017, the year it declared its independence as a brand, Grand Seiko drew upon all of that ancestral Seiko diving DNA to release its first dive watch with a mechanical movement, the Hi-Beat 36000 Professional 600M Diver’s (Ref. SBGH257), as part of its newly inaugurated Sport collection. Its large, 46.9mm case is made of high-intensity titanium and water-resistant to 600 meters. The case and bracelet feature Grand Seiko’s signature Zaratsu polishing and incorporate the innovative L-shaped gasket technology introduced in some of the earliest Seiko divers, which eliminates the need for a helium release valve.

Grand Seiko Diver's Watch Ushio

More recently, Grand Seiko added a luxuriously appointed dive watch to its Evolution 9 collection, which takes inspiration from a trend-setting Grand Seiko model of 1967. The Ref. “Ushio” (from the Japanese word for “tide”) is distinguished by its 43.8mm titanium case, its blue rotating divers’ bezel made of ceramic, and the cascading-waves dial texture that lends it its name, which visually references the ocean currents in the coastal waters of Japan. The 200-meter water-resistant 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. 

Chronographs

Rolex Cosmograph Daytona

Rolex Daytona 1963

The Rolex Daytona is one of the most popular and collectible wristwatches in the world today, but it was far from an overnight success. As we explore in detail here, Rolex established a connection to motorsports and auto racing early in its history: British racing driver Sir Malcolm Campbell wore Rolexes on and off the track during his storied career, including in 1935 when he set a world speed record in his famous Campbell-Railton Bluebird at Florida’s Daytona Beach, a popular spot for automobile racing. The Daytona International Speedway was built in 1959, the year of the first Daytona 500 stock car race, now an annual fixture on the American motorsport calendar. In 1962, Rolex became the official timekeeper of the Daytona 500, and one year later it released the Ref. 6239 Cosmograph, nicknamed the “Daytona,” its now-famous racing-inspired chronograph watch. The watch was notable for its three-register dial and engraved tachymeter bezel, both elements that would become ubiquitous on wristwatch chronographs in ensuing years, though the early models failed to catch on in a big way with the public.

Rolex Daytona on Paul Newman

The Daytona’s fortune’s changed when actor Paul Newman acquired a very special Ref. 6239 after embarking upon a successful second career as a racing driver after starring in the 1969 movie Winning. That model, now nicknamed for him, ushered in a new era of mass appeal for Rolex’s motorsport-inspired chronograph and eventually became one of the rarest collectible timepieces on the secondary market. The Daytona actually owned by Newman, with an off-white-and-black “panda” dial layout, square-tipped hashmarks and Art Deco-style numerals; fetched a record $17.8 million at auction in 2017, making it one of the most expensive watches ever sold. Like a high-performance race car upgrading to faster and more powerful engines, the Rolex Daytona continued throughout its decades on the market to stay on the cutting edge of chronographic excellence. The original Valjoux movement in the original references eventually gave way to the Rolex Caliber 4030, a heavily modified version of Zenith’s legendary high-frequency El Primero movement (you can learn more about it here) in the late 1980s. That movement was superseded by the in-house Rolex Caliber 4130, with a column-wheel chronograph mechanism and a host of Rolex-patented technical details including a hairspring made of blue Parachrom, an antimagnetic alloy.

Rolex Daytona 2023

In 2023 — the 100th anniversary of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, one of many motorsports events for which Rolex serves as official timekeeper — Rolex launched the newest versions of the Daytona. One has a 40mm case made of 18k white gold, with a black Cerachrom bezel highlighted by a red ceramic “100” numeral on the tachymeter scale as an homage to the milestone year. Its new, exclusive movement, Caliber 4132, has been modified with a chronograph hour counter that runs to a full 24 hours rather than the standard 12 hours, a nod to the length of the race. Concurrently, the Daytona itself marks its 60th birthday in 2023 with the latest generation of the model (above), defined by subtle refinements in the case for more pronounced light reflections; new dial colorways to harmoniously accentuate the contrast between dial, subdials, and subdial rings; and a new movement, Caliber 4131, an evolution of Caliber 4130 enhanced with Rolex’s energy-saving Chronergy escapement, a host of new decorative finishes, and a yellow-gold rotor. For the first time in the series, the Daytona proudly displays this high-octane horological engine behind a sapphire exhibition caseback.

Grand Seiko Tentagraph

Seiko Crown Chronograph

The first Japanese-made chronograph wristwatch, one might not be surprised to learn, was made by Grand Seiko parent Seiko in 1964, coinciding with the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The Seiko Crown Chronograph (above) was powered by Seiko’s first chronograph movement, the manually wound mechanical Caliber 5719 with a monopusher and column wheel. Five years later, Seiko unveiled its first self-winding chronograph movement, Caliber 6319, in the first Seiko Sports Timer. As the focus shifted to quartz movements over the following decades — and eventually also to developing more movements with the Spring Drive technology —  these mechanical movements were largely abandoned. When Grand Seiko launched as an independent brand, the handful of chronograph models in its lineup were all outfitted with Spring Drive movements. The 55th Anniversary Spring Drive Chronograph Limited Edition, released in 2015, houses the Caliber 9R96, a Spring Drive movement that’s packed with functionality, with not only a high-accuracy integrated stopwatch but also a date display, GMT indication, and an analog display for its 72-hour power reserve.

Grand Seiko Tentagraph

Caliber 9R96 and its siblings were the sole movements to be found in Grand Seiko chronograph timepieces until 2023, when the Japanese manufacture wowed the crowds at Watches & Wonders Geneva with the introduction of the Tentagraph, the first Grand Seiko chronograph wristwatch with a fully mechanical movement. That movement,  the newly developed high-beat Caliber 9SC5, incorporates 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'' is derived 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. The watch’s 43.2mm case is 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. Whether or not the Tentagraph achieves the iconic status of the Daytona, it’s certainly off to a hot start, at least for Grand Seiko’s growing core of devotees. 

Travel Watches

Rolex GMT-Master

Rolex GMT-Master 1955 

Like the Submariner that had preceded it a year earlier, the Rolex GMT-Master, introduced in 1954, was both trend-setting and genre-defining. It was the first watch capable of displaying the time in two separate time zones by means of a fourth, central 24-hour hand and a bidirectional rotating 24-hour bezel. The initials in the watch’s name signify “Greenwich Mean Time,” the system of world timekeeping based on the calculation of mean solar time from the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. Notably from an aviation history perspective, its dual-time functionality was an innovation devised for, and developed in cooperation with, the original watch’s intended users: pilots for Pan American Airlines, who wanted a tool watch that enabled them to track the time on long-haul and international flights in both their home city, and their flight’s destination city, anywhere in the world. The first-generation GMT-Master, Ref. 6452, had a bezel divided into two equal sectors of red and blue, a clever and eye-catching visual shorthand to identify daytime and nighttime hours on the 24-hour scale. In another parallel with the Submariner, the GMT-Master would also find itself linked to the James Bond cinematic canon after a legendary onscreen appearance: actress Honor Blackman, as Pussy Galore, wore it in 1965’s Goldfinger, and her character’s double-entendre name would enjoy an enduring identification with the model as well. 

Rolex GMT-Master II Pepsi

The original red-and-blue “Pepsi” bezel would herald other popular colorways with pop-cultural nicknames, like the red-and-black “Coke” bezel in 1983 and the blue-and-black “Batman” bezel in 2013. A new version of the Pepsi bezel, made of Cerachrom, debuted on the Ref. 116719BLRO model in 2014, which was also the first GMT-Master watch in a white-gold case; a more accessible version of that watch in stainless steel landed in 2018. That same year saw the launch of a rose-gold model with a brown-and-black ceramic bezel, nicknamed “Root Beer.” Most recently, in 2022, Rolex unveiled the latest and probably most unexpected version of the GMT-Master, with the crown, crown guards, and Cyclops date window all shifted to the left-hand side of the case. It’s one of the still very rare luxury watches aimed at left-handed wearers and it introduced yet another new bicolor bezel in black and green, which is still, as of this writing, awaiting Rolex fandom’s consensus on a nickname.

Grand Seiko GMT Series

Among the complications offered by today’s Grand Seiko timepieces, GMT functions are fairly common, albeit executed quite differently in their design based on what family the watch belongs to. Like the divers and chronographs in the portfolio, the GMT models all trace their ancestors back to the rich history of the parent Seiko brand. The first Seiko watch with a GMT complication was the Ref. 6217 World Time model, launched in 1964, the same Olympic year as the Crown Chronograph, and outfitted with the mechanical automatic Caliber 6217A. The first Grand Seiko with GMT was the 9S56 series with automatic Caliber xxxx, the forerunner of many to come; Grand Seiko now offers the GMT complication in several models throughout its current collections, ranging from dressy to sporty in their aesthetic.

Grand Seiko Evolution 9 GMT

On the more elegant side, the model from the Evolution 9 series featured above (Ref. SBGE285) is one of the more recent notable releases to contain the Spring Drive Caliber 9R66. Its 41mm case of High-Intensity titanium has a handsome hairline finish and its understated gray-toned "snowflake" dial reflects the "wintery morning mist" over the Japanese prefecture of Nagano. GMT watches in the Grand Seiko Sport collection, by contrast, adopt the bolder, bicolor-bezel aesthetic pioneered by Rolex’s icon, the GMT-Master. The green dial of the Ref. SBGE295 Sport GMT Triple Time Zone “Mount Hokata Peaks” (below) 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;  its 24-hour bicolor GMT bezel has a durable ring made of sapphire, underpinned by a generous coating of Grand Seiko’s proprietary LumiBrite, which imparts a bright glow to the numerals 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 the Spring Drive Caliber 9R66, with a three-day power reserve and a GMT hand that can be adjusted to the local time without stopping the movement.

Grand Seiko GMT Mount Hokata Peaks 

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