Why Is Grand Seiko So Expensive?


When people see the price of a Grand Seiko for the first time they often wonder why this Japanese watch is so expensive. After all, Seiko is a pretty common name in the watchmaking industry. Let’s find out!

Why is Grand Seiko so expensive? Grand Seiko is so expensive because they make hand-made, high-quality watches. Their watches are known to have an unique and very precise mechanism. Furthermore the watches are hand-made and make use of durable materials such as titanium and platinum.

Now that you know why Grand Seiko’s are priced at a premium it’s time to dive into a bit more detail. Let’s first see what unique characteristics make a Grand Seiko worth a few thousand dollars. Furthermore we will also compare this luxury brand to Rolex and Omega to see who comes out on top.

Spring Drive

First off, Grand Seiko uses an unique mechanism to power their watches. This system is calles Spring Drive and essentially is a combination of mechanical and electronic watchmaking. It influences the two main factors of a watch: it’s power source and it’s accurracy.

Spring Drive is powered by a mainspring, just like you would find in any other automatic watch. The advantage of this is the fact that it allows the watch to be completely self-sufficient in it’s power needs.

The high level of torque that is created by the mainspring means that the watch does not need another power source. This allows it to move the hands of the watch in the smooth, gliding motion that Grand Seiko’s are well-known for.

Besides the mechanical part of the watch there’s also the electronical part. Grand Seiko calls this the tri-synchro regulator and it’s responsible for a few things. It’s main function is to adjust the speed at which the mainspring unwinds. This makes sure that the watch doesn’t unwind to quickly and comes to a sudden stop.

It does this by using an integraded circuit, an electronic brake and an in-house made quartz crystal. Furthermore this system uses three forces to control the accuracy and unwinding of the spring.

First, there’s the mechanical power that is used from the mainspring. Then there’s the electrical power of the IC/quartz oscillator and the electromagnetic power which applies a brake via a rotor.

All these forces work together to regulate the way in which the spring unwinds and make the gliding motion of the second hand possible.

Craftmanship

Besides it’s unique timekeeping mechanism there is also another reason why Grand Seiko’s are so expensive. That reason is the incredible craftmanship that goes into the making of a Grand Seiko watch.

First off, all components that go into one of their watches are made by hand in their own factories and studios. As you can imagine this takes a lot of work and effort. A three-handed Spring Drive watch already has 200 components while a chronograph has more than 300. Furthermore, all of these components are assembled by hand.

But the fun doesn’t end there. How about all the lubrication oils that need to be applied to a Grand Seiko? A ”regular” one has more than 80 lubrication points while a chronograph has about 140. These are also applied by hand by one of the specialist watchmakers at the studio. Finally, the final adjustments and refinements of the watch are all done by hand.

Besides all the mechanical aspects there are also the design features and the materials that are used. Grand Seiko takes a lot of pride in their design work. Take for example the Grand Seiko Snowflake. The dial of the watch is hand-made and resembles the Japanese landscape when fresh snow has just fallen onto it.

Finally, Grand Seiko uses very high-quality materials such as excellent stainless steel, titanium or platinum. All of these factors add up and make that the Japanese high-end watchmaker delivers outstanding watches.

The Difference Between Seiko And Grand Seiko

I’ve already discussed the difference between Seiko’s and Grand Seiko’s in this blog post that discusses if Seiko’s are considered a ”luxury watch”. Still, let’s see what three points differentiate the two brands from each other.

However, before we do that you must understand that they are not the same brand. The two brands are owned by the same parent company. It’s like Toyota (Seiko) and Lexus (Grand Seiko). These two car companies are owned by the same parent company but that does not mean they are the same brand. In the case of the Seiko’s this means that they have similar quality standards but that’s were the similarities stop.

First off all there’s craftmanship. Grand Seiko’s are all hand-made while regular Seiko’s are all machine made. Secondly, there’s the use of materials. Grand Seiko’s basically all use a form of high-quality stainless steel, titanium or platinum. Normal Seiko’s all use stainless steel. This doesn’t mean that it’s poor quality stainless steel, just not as good as Grand Seiko’s.

Finally there’s price. Grand Seiko’s reflect their craftmanship and the use of high materials in their price. They generally cost between $2.000 – $10.000. Regular Seiko’s can be bought at a lot of price points but will cost anywhere between $100 and $2.000.

Does Grand Seiko Hold Value?

It must be noted that almost all watches will lose value when you buy them new. This is the case with almost anything you will ever buy in a retail store. Nevertheless some watches hold their value better than others.

In the case of Grand Seiko you can expect a depreciation of around 10-20% in the first year. After that the watch will most likely lose another 10-20% in value for the two years that follow. Most Grand Seiko watches will plateau at around 50-65% of their retail value.

However, there are watches that do substaintially better than this. If you’re looking to buy a Grand Seiko that holds it’s value it’s best to buy a Special Edition or Limited Edition one. Some of these will only lose about 20% of their value which means you can resell them for around 80% of their initial worth.

Of course some watches will do better and some will do worse but these are general guidelines for the value retention of a Grand Seiko watch in it’s first few years.

Is Grand Seiko Better Than Rolex And Omega?

Before we get into this questions it’s important to understand that there isn’t a definite answer. If you dive into any watch forum it becomes clear that different collectors prefer different watches for whatever reason. Let’s objectively look at a few factors and determine which is ”better”.

Quality

First off all there’s quality. There are a few similarities between these brands when it comes to quality:

  • They’re all hand-made
  • They all use high-end materials such as high-quality stainless steel, titanium, platinum or gold.

Both these factors make that these watchmakers produce excellent quality watches. However, there’s one element that sets Grand Seiko apart from it’s Swiss counterparts: Spring Drive.

Swiss luxury watches all use an automatic system while Grand Seiko uses their Spring Drive techonology (as we discussed above). Spring Drive is much more accurate than any automatic system could ever be.

Furthermore Grand Seiko delivers this accuracy against a very, very good price compared to Rolex or Omega. For example, the Grand Seiko Snowflake is a very high-quality watch that incorporates the Spring Drive system.

However, it does this at a price of around $5.000. Most Rolex or Omega watches that match this quality will cost you more than $10.000 making Grand Seiko a much better choice.

History

One thing that Grand Seiko has less off in comparisons to it’s Swiss rivals is history. Grand Seiko was founded in 1960. This means that Rolex, which was founded in in 1920 is almost twice as old. Omega is even older because it was already founded in 1848.

Although history does not directly equate to quality it does mean charm. There’s no doubt that all these watchmakers make high-quality watches. Therefore other factors, like history, come into play when people decide to buy a watch. If you want a watch that has a lot of heritage behind it then the Swiss watchmakers are probably your best choice.

Status

One thing that Rolex and Omega arguably have more of than Grand Seiko is status. In this post I already discussed why Rolex and Omega have such a premium status while Grand Seiko may have the better watch.

In short it boils down to marketing. When the Swiss found out that the Japanese where actually able to produce better watches at more affordable prices they had to do something. If the watches weren’t needed they had to be wanted.

Both Rolex and Omega did everything they could to have their watches be associated with luxury, adventure and status. That’s why Daytona drivers wore Rolex watches. Or why the Omega Speedmaster went to the moon.

Basically Rolex and Omega decided that if they couldn’t have the better watch they had to have the cooler watch. That’s why these brands still have more recognition while Grand Seikos arguably have a better price and are better made.

Stefan

On MenswearUniversity.com I share the questions that I have regarding style advice for men. I believe that having good taste doesn't have to be hard and also shouldn't be. Hands-on and to-the-point advice for every man out there!

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