Seiko is the best – maybe the only – example of an excellent watch brand not bearing an excellent price tag. Seiko offers unparalleled quality in every echelon of the watch market. On the one hand, where do you find a durable automatic wristwatch in a very wide range of case and dial designs, equipped with an accurate and reliable in-house movement for as little as €250,-? On the other hand, in the €5000,- to €10000,- price range, Grand Seiko develops and produces the world’s most innovative and interesting watches. The Seiko brand name derives from the Japanese word ‘Seikosha’, which means ‘House of exquisite workmanship’. One of our absolute favourites. Without a doubt.
The story begins in 1881, when the 21-year-old entrepreneur Kintaro Hattori opened a shop in central Tokyo selling and repairing watches and clocks. Eleven years later, he established the ‘Seikosha’ factory and started producing wall clocks. In 1913, Seikosha introduced its first wristwatch under the name ‘Laurel’. In 1924, the first watch under the new brand name ‘Seiko’ was produced. Its goal was to make the highest quality watch for the Japanese people, on par with their Western counterparts.
Despite their excellent mechanical watches, Seiko is most famous for introducing the world to the Quartz movement. Released in 1969, the Seiko Astron was a game-changer that shook up the entire industry and shifted watchmaking towards a more accurate timekeeping. Quartz watches use a crystal oscillator which steadily vibrates at over 20000 times per second. This revolution – causing the Quartz Crisis – caused the established Swiss watch industry to dramatically lose sales, as a Quartz powered watch was more accurate and cheaper to produce. But they didn’t stop there. Seiko then proceeded to produce the first LCD quartz watch with digital display. It may be frowned upon today, but back in the 1970s, it was a revolutionary and futuristic invention.
To this day, Seiko stands for innovative and durable watches of great quality, available in a broad price range. There are several distinct product lines, for example:
The Seiko 5 line was introduced in the 1960s and is named after a standard that many mechanical Seiko models meet.
1. It must feature an automatic movement;
2. It must display the day and the date on the dial;
3. It must be water resistant to an acceptable degree;
4. It must have a recessed crown at the 4 o'clock position;
5. It must have a durable case and bracelet.
The Seiko Presage series is an all-mechanical lineup, a step up from the entry-level Seiko 5 models. It has slightly more elaborate designs and complex movements, such as urushi-lacquer dials, and self-winding movements with power reserve indicators.
The Seiko Prospex series includes their professional series of watches such as their diving watches,
which are typically ISO 6425 rated from 200 to 1000 meters of water resistance. The Prospex line also includes field and pilot style watches.
To challenge the position and hierarchy of Swiss watches and change the perception of Japanese watches, Grand Seiko was introduced in the 1960s. Today, some Grand Seiko timepieces are equipped with the company's revolutionary Spring Drive caliber, which is a synthesis of automatic and quartz elements, leading to unparalleled accuracy in the wide world of wristwatches. The most famous model bearing this horological gem is the SBGA011 Grand Seiko AKA "Snowflake".