The Seiko catalog is massive with its reach spanning from the land of the rising sun and across the globe. It has a reputation for providing a wide range of affordable, reliable watches. But, very few have probably heard of its luxury counterpart, Grand Seiko, which watches would cost you about ten times the price of a standard Seiko.
How do they differ anyway? In a nutshell, Seiko and Grand Seiko are two different brands under the same parent organization: Seiko-Epson. Think of Seiko as an entry-level brand with offerings that start in the hundreds. Meanwhile, Grand Seiko is regarded as the premium wristwatch outfit under the umbrella company. It gets the same level of treatment as most high-end Swiss brands, prized for their high-grade materials, accuracy, and precision.
To better discuss the differences properly, we must highlight the features of Seiko and Grand Seiko watches separately.
What is Seiko?
Seiko is a diverse brand itself, offering something for everyone. Its movements range from mechanical calibers to advanced GPS-enabled solar-powered quartz watches, some of which are better than the Swiss.
Its history started way before Breitling, Rolex, and even before Audemars Piguet was called by that name. It was founded by Kintaro Hattori in 1956 when he imported and assembled Swiss components to build a watch in-house and from the ground up. The first Seiko watch was a Presage and even with remarkable materials and mechanisms, it cost just $329. You get many practical amenities as well like an automatic winding movement, quick-set date, deployant clasp, and 50m of water resistance.
Fast forward to the present, Seiko watches continue to make for elegant-looking watches with specs that offer more than their price would suggest. This only further makes consumers wonder why a Grand Seiko watch costs so much more.
Where Grand Seiko Lives Up to the ‘Grand’ in Its Name
Grand Seiko is the brand’s luxury arm that manufactures watches made in its two exclusive watchmaking studios, using the most advanced movements and the highest grade materials. Each Grand Seiko watch was instantly recognizable, owing to its signature hallmarks: a minimalist form, functional beauty, and understated elegance.
However, the glory wasn’t to last. By 1974, Grand Seiko, along with King Seiko, which was another line produced in one of the two factories, were shut down. But, come 1988, the Japanese brand revived the Grand Seiko name and banked on its reputation to remind the watchmaking industry that it once produced some of the most accurate watches in the world. It now stands as a flagship product that demonstrates Seiko’s prowess as a watchmaker in terms of quality and accuracy.
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The Qualities That Tie Seiko and Grand Seiko Together
With Seiko and Grand Seiko, the brand has managed to cover all bases and price points. While the entry-level watches demonstrate value and quality unheard of elsewhere, the higher-end Grand Seiko offers a level of quality, finish, and technology that can easily compete with any other Swiss luxury watch. Both are an equal representation of Seiko’s contribution to the history of watchmaking and you would be a proud owner of either.
Despite their differences and diversity, there are quite a few qualities that both flagships share.
Whereas Seiko watches are machine-made, the Grand has handmade features integrated into its design. But, that doesn’t mean that the former is inferior in quality. It’s just that they allocate more budget to the manufacturing of Grand Seiko watches, which makes them more polished and superior to quality to a point that they cost more than any standard Seiko version.
Because Seiko is geared towards offering entry-level watches, they tend to favor more affordable versions of materials to manufacture their watches. For example, both may use stainless steel. But, Grand Seiko may use a higher form of steel to make their watches more durable and longer-lasting. It may also employ different materials altogether (e.g. titanium or platinum) to further justify its prices.
Even the lowest-tier Seikos are well-made and will usually outwit their counterparts from other brands at the same price point in terms of accuracy. Sure, these watches have become less accurate as the brand continues to adapt to the latest technology in watchmaking. But, with the reintroduction of the Grand Seiko, the brand aims to remind the public of its capability and this effort culminates with the birth of its new mechanism—the spring drive, which combines the accuracy of quartz and the beauty of a mechanical movement to create something entirely new.
The rise and fall of Seiko were quite fast. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s not here to stay. With the reintroduction of the Grand Seiko, we can look forward to the brand reclaiming its position as a staple in the industry, particularly in the eyes of the buying masses.
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What do you think of the difference between Seiko and Grand Seiko? Let us know by leaving a comment.