4 minutes

Japanese Watchmaking: Seiko

By Robert-Jan Broer
Seiko Grand Seiko, Image © Bert Buijsrogge

Seiko Grand Seiko, Image © Bert Buijsrogge

If you landed here, you probably know something about Swiss and German watchmaking. But there are other countries that have some pretty skilled craftsman working on watches as well. One of the most impressive counterparts of Swiss and German watchmaking is definitely Japanese watchmaking. Not only is Japan producing in quantity (Casio, Seiko, and Citizen), but definitely in quality as well (Grand Seiko, Credor). However, not everybody is aware of the watchmaking skills in Japan, or at least one could say that there is some under appreciation for these watches outside of Japan.

Although the quality and quantity of Citizen and Casio are surely worth talking about in an article, Chrono24 focuses on luxury watches, so we will stick to Seiko.

Seiko Automatic
Seiko Automatic – View offers on Chrono24

You might know the name Seiko from their cheap quartz timepieces that used to be for sale on almost every street corner. We admit, it is a bit confusing, seeing as Seiko watches range from pieces that cost less than €100 to high-end pieces costing six digits, and they all belong to one company: Seiko. Although Seiko uses the names Grand Seiko and Credor for their high-end collections, all of the watches fall under one legal entity.

Two Important Locations

Seiko watchmakers
Seiko watchmakers, Image: FratelloWatches

The Grand Seiko and Credor collections are developed and manufactured at two different locations in Japan. In Morioka, Seiko manufactures the mechanical Grand Seiko and Credor timepieces (as well as some of the popular Marinemaster models) and in Shiojiri, the company manufactures its quartz and Spring Drive models for Grand Seiko and Credor.

In Morioka, only a few watchmakers work on the Grand Seiko and Credor timepieces. They all work together in one large room. Each has a tailor-made workstation made of wood, specifically measured for each watchmaker. It is here that the watchmakers work on the caliber 9S movements for the Grand Seiko, the Credor movements, and certain mechanical movements for the Prospex collection (Marinemaster). All watches are also cased and tested in Morioka. The watchmakers are all trained and certified, and some receive labels of gold, silver, and bronze to indicate their level of experience.

Level of Finishing

Grand Seiko Movement
Grand Seiko Movement, Image Bert Buijsrogge

The finish on the movement is impeccable, but the same goes for basically every part of a Grand Seiko and Credor timepiece. The level of finish on the cases is amazing and special polishing techniques are used to create a high gloss combined with razor sharp edges. Dials are impeccable as well: The hand-applied markers are hand polished and checked one-by-one using little mirrors to view all facets.

Quartz, Spring Drive, and Mechanical Movements

Seiko Movements
Seiko Movements, Image: Fratellowatches

Credor is a collection that is known for its very flat and elegant pieces, but also for its watches with complications like a decimal minute repeater. The interesting part about these complicated Credor timepieces is that they use Spring Drive movements (which aren’t quartz). These are highly accurate mechanical watches controlled by an IC, which took Seiko 20 years to develop. Now, even Swiss manufacturer Piaget started using similar technology, which was only introduced in Geneva last January.

The quartz and Spring Drive versions of the Grand Seiko and Credor watches are manufactured in Shiojiri. While we prefer mechanical watches over quartz watches, we have to note that the quartz 9F movements by Seiko are not only among the most precise movements in the world (with only +5/-5 seconds per year), but are also beautifully decorated movements. These thermo-compensated and regulated quartz movements are – in some cases – even more stunning to look at than certain mechanical movements. They are so well finished that Seiko decided to put a sapphire crystal caseback on an anniversary model of a Grand Seiko watch with a 9F movement.

Sporty Types

Seiko Prospex Marinemaster
Seiko Prospex Marinemaster Image Bert Buijsrogge

If you love sports watches, have a look at the Seiko Marinemaster collection, also available with mechanical and Spring Drive movements. The mechanical movements caliber 8L35 and 8L55 in some Marinemaster models are actually based on Grand Seiko’s 9S65 movements, but don’t feature the specific GS decoration.

Make Your Move

While you might not like the design of some Grand Seiko and Credor models (some have an admittedly specific appearance), we challenge you to go out and have a look at one in the flesh if you haven’t already done so. We suspect it will be a matter of time before the Grand Seiko watches become ‘accepted’ by more members of the watch loving community and get the respect and admiration they deserve.

Perhaps you want to be a few steps ahead and make a move before prices increase due to high(er) demand. On Chrono24, you will find a nice selection of Grand Seiko watches, though there are still fewer available in comparison to some of the Swiss and German brands.

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About the Author

Robert-Jan Broer

Robert-Jan, founder of Fratello Magazine, has been writing about watches since 2004. However, his passion for watches dates back much further. In fact, he sold his …

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