Grand Seiko’s presence for the second consecutive year at Watches and Wonders Geneva 2023 was as exciting for watch enthusiasts as for brand representatives. The opportunity to showcase the timepieces that epitomise their search for excellence and drive for watchmaking perfection goes a long way to building what has become a cult following among fans worldwide and establishing the GS9 Club membership organisation in several international markets, including the US.
Last year’s Grand Seiko Kodo Constant-force Tourbillon was a hit not only at Watches and Wonders but also at the prestigious GPHG “Oscars of Watchmaking” later in the year, taking the Chronometry prize in recognition of its high-precision timekeeping performance.
The Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Collection Tentagraph is in the spotlight this year. “Surprisingly, it is Grand Seiko’s first automatic mechanical chronograph (powered by the new Caliber 9SC5), despite being part of Seiko Watch Corporation which has a history of timing major events [beginning with the 18th Olympiad, Tokyo in 1964],” says Grand Seiko brand manager Rob Brook.
The reason for that is the brand’s strict requirements regarding watch performance – timekeeping, tolerance, and testing. “Grand Seiko wanted to create a high-beat chronograph because it is accurate to a small fraction of a second, but that requires a lot more power, especially when you run the chronograph, and can affect the accuracy and precision of the watch itself,” says Brook.
The Tentagraph supersedes those challenges with a power reserve of 72 hours, making it the longest-running 10-beat chronograph on the market today. It is accurate to +5 -3 seconds per day and passed a rigorous testing phase extended by three days to exceed Grand Seiko’s traditional 17 days. “This watch is very efficient, functional, and smart. The design adheres to the brand’s guiding principles, conveying the essence of the beautiful, Japanese aesthetic which focuses on the play of light and shadow, while incorporating the modern technology and style synonymous with the Evolution 9 collection,” he says.
The case and bracelet are made from high-intensity titanium, which is 30% lighter and more scratch-resistant than steel, and its bezel is made from scratch-resistant ceramic. The inspiration for the dial pattern comes from Mt. Iwate, the soaring peak visible from the Grand Seiko Studio Shizukuishi in northern Japan.
Bold and refined
Respect for nature is intrinsic to Japanese culture, and Grand Seiko watches frequently reflect the magic of the watchmakers’ studio environment. The Grand Seiko Masterpiece Collection Hand-engraved Manual-winding Spring Drive Limited Edition in platinum 950 is inspired by the grand white birch forests stretching across the Yachiho Plateau at the eastern foot of the Kita-Yatsugatake Mountains. Envisaged at the height of winter, the design relies on the expertise of hand-engravers, watchmakers, and artisans from the Micro Artist Studio in Shiojiri, located in the Shinshu region. The hour and minute hands are shaped by hand to curve gently towards the minute track, ensuring high legibility. Hand-applied diamond-cut markers are made of 14k white gold, while the minute track, lettering and mark at six o’clock are carved into the dial. “It has a 38.5mm case, 9.8mm thick, so very elegant to wear, very dressy. The case is polished for a distortion-free, mirror surface through the Zaratsu method. Almost frustratingly for those who do the polishing, the case is hand engraved to create the ridges that symbolise the forest,” says Brook.
The pattern seamlessly echoes a similar one on the silver-coloured dial, which features the Shinshu white birch pattern familiar to Grand Seiko fans but slightly different in tone and with a more metallic texture.
The Spring Drive Caliber 9R02 is accurate to one second per day and has an outstanding 84-hour power reserve. It also features exquisite finishing with the movement barrel (where the main spring is) decorated to resemble the bellflower, the symbol for the Shiojiri region. A yellow gold plate engraved with the words “Micro Artist” can be customised, “which is very cool. It’s limited to 50 pieces worldwide, which is almost a shame because you’ll see them today, and then probably never again,” says Brook.
Essence of Japan
The Grand Seiko ‘Hana-Ikada’ (meaning flower rafts) is one of the favourites among this year’s launches. It’s an elegant slimline piece, with the quintessential manual-winding spring drive movement that delivers an accuracy of ±1 seconds per day. The watch is in 18K rose gold, with rose-gold accents on the indices and hands. The dial design is inspired by the cherry blossom season in Japan. As these flowers fall into the water, they form swirling rafts represented by the “pinky silvery” dial. “I think it will do exceptionally well. I also think it works very well with the rose gold and crocodile strap. It’s limited to 100 pieces worldwide,” says Brook.
Part of its appeal is gender neutrality and size. It looks as strong paired with a gent’s pink shirt as it does on a lady’s wrist. The 38.5mm case size and 10.2mm thickness make it easy to wear with a suit and ideal for any wrist size.