I'm not a big fan of Grand Seiko. I respect their technological achievements such as spring drive, but I've always looked at their range and found their offerings confusing.
They differentiate themselves from Seiko by focusing on finishing, the highest quality and attention to detail. Yet so often they let themselves down by details like bracelets which don't taper and are nowhere near the quality of the rest of the watch. This creates a discord, where the quality has peaks and troughs rather than being consistent throughout a single piece, let alone an entire range.
I'm also not a fan of Taro Tanakas' "grammar of design". The sharp angular lines are not my cup of tea, I prefer something a little more conservative. Boring aren't I.
If you love Grand Seiko I understand. Some people love the design language. For some people those dials are enough on their own. That's the beauty of this hobby, we all like different things. If we didn't there would be queues of people in the street lining up for plastic watches with disposable movements and waiting lists for quite ordinary Swiss made tool watches...oh, wait.
So why do I own a Grand Seiko then? I pondered this one for quite a while whilst writing this and came to a conclusion which suprised me. The two main reasons are hype, and vanity.
For years in my collection I've had a Seiko SJW041. It cost £40 from eBay, has 100m water resistance and sapphire crystal. It's been my grab a go watch. Something happens in the middle of the night, you rush out of the house to a crisis and you grab a quartz watch because you know it'll be telling the correct time (because even in times of crisis we're so dependent we need something on our wrist right?).
After years of watching YouTube videos of influencers singing the praises of Grand Seiko, I thought, let's find an affordable quartz Grand Seiko so that my grab and go quartz watch is something more interesting than the £40 Seiko. Hype set me on the path.
The watch I found is a vintage Grand Seiko SBGS001, it set me back just under £500. It's the first watch Grand Seiko released after they were relaunched in 1988. It uses a 95GS movement, the first ever Grand Seiko quartz movement which evolved into the much loved 9F. It's accurate to within ten seconds per year...you read that right, not per month, per year. Seiko grew the quartz crystals to make it and unlike most quartz movements it's designed to be serviced, rather than replaced and disposed of.
It has an unmarked sapphire crystal but the zaratsu polished 33mm case has collected many scratches over the last four decades. The tiny push pull crown is beautifully signed and the caseback is expertly engraved with the GS logo. The 18mm lug width makes playing with straps easy, although the lugs aren't drilled, I've enjoyed putting it on some very brightly coloured suede straps this summer. The indices and brand logos are applied and polished to perfection, being a vintage dress watch there is no lume to speak of. The dial is finished very well with a fine champagne sunburst.
So influencer hype led me to want to sample Grand Seiko, and this vintage model was appealing to me because of its size, the fact that it doesn't conform to the Taro Tanakas design language and of course that incredibly impressive movement. Vanity is why I've kept it though. On paper it is far superior to my £40 Seiko, but in practice it functions the same. Worse in fact owing to it's lack of lume.
Why would I keep a watch tens times more expensive than the Seiko which does essentially the exact same thing? Because somehow I've arrived at a point in my collecting where even in the middle of the night when I'm grabbing a quartz watch to rush to a crisis, I need it to be zaratsu polished and accurate to within ten seconds per year.
There is no rationalising that. The mirror finishing of the zaratsu polishing perfectly reflects the absurdity of my investment into this hobby. I'm ok with that.
Sometimes we learn about watches, sometimes we learn about ourselves. This watch has taught me I'm not as rational as I'd like to think.
Current SOTC: Longines Lyre Rolex 116000 Smiths W10 (reissue) Tudor Pelagos 39 Grand Seiko SBGS001