It was the determination to excel that brought about the birth of Grand Seiko in 1960.
During its development and ever since, the idea that drove the designers and engineers was that Grand Seiko should be the ‘ideal’ watch with standards of precision, durability and beauty that would lead the world.
The release of the first Grand Seiko in 1960
From the start the idea was simple, but its realization was fraught with challenges. The idea was to build a watch that would be as precise, durable, easy to wear and beautiful as humanly possible. While Seiko’s Crown and other mechanical watches of the 1950’s were constantly improving and increasingly popular, the team assembled to create Grand Seiko knew that, given time and resource, they needed, and could, go further.
The first Grand Seiko was a major advance. The new caliber 3180 was accurate to within +12 to -3 seconds a day and offered a power reserve of 45 hours. It was the first watch in Japan to be compliant with the standard of excellence of the Bureaux Officiels de Contrôle de la Marche des Montres.
The Grand Seiko Self-dater, 1964
The 1960 Grand Seiko was a great success, but the design team was determined to scale new heights in pursuit of their goal of creating the ‘ideal’ watch. Just four years from the creation of the first Grand Seiko, the Grand Seiko Self-Dater was introduced. The emphasis was on practicality. It had a calendar function and improved water resistance up to 50 meters, and was designed to be as practical in the office as it was beautiful in the evening.
The 1960’s. A decade of change.
The establishment of the Grand Seiko design philosophy
Released in 1967, 44GS had the highest level of accuracy of any manually wound 5 beat watch in the world. In just a few short years, Grand Seiko had made extraordinary strides towards its goal. The design of 44GS included many aspects that have been passed on to today’s Grand Seiko watches.
44GS established the look that Grand Seiko has continued to this day. It was a complex design idea, with rules about proportion, finish, angles and every other design aspect. Indeed, there were three basic principles and no fewer than nine elements required to achieve them. No other watch has had such an influence on the character of Grand Seiko and all subsequent Grand Seiko models have share the same unique brilliance and charm as 44GS because they have all expressed the Grand Seiko Style.
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The rapid development of Grand Seiko’s mechanical watches
Throughout the decade, the Grand Seiko collection grew and new calibers were continually introduced with a rapidity. In 1967, Grand Seiko unveiled the 62GS, the first automatic Grand Seiko, followed in 1968, by the automatic 10 beat 61GS and the manual 10 beat 45GS.
Driven by the demands of the age and the new possibilities that technology presented, watch accuracy became a global obsession and competition at chronometer trials intensified.
Having won every Chronometer competition in Japan, Grand Seiko’s team looked overseas for new challenges and the Swiss observatory chronometry trials graciously admitted our entries in 1964. In the years that followed, the rankings steadily improved, at both the Neuchâtel and Geneva ‘concours’. In 1968, our movement were awarded the overall prize as the best mechanical watches in the Geneva observatory competition and the world saw that the movements that would find their way into Grand Seiko were among the very best in the world.
These results were no accident. Thanks to ever improving watchmaking skills, the invention of new alloys and components and a passion to create the ‘ideal’ watch, Seiko and, more specifically, the Grand Seiko team made a definitive and lasting contribution to the raising of global standards of mechanical watchmaking. Thanks to its unique Spron alloys, the torque and durability of its mainsprings were enhanced and made possible the increase of the balance wheel oscillation rate to 10 beats per second to significantly increase the accuracy of its watches. The challenge of a viable hi-beat watch was met. A series of specially adjusted watches further raised the bar and set new standards of precision over time by being less susceptible to changes in position and other external influences.
The level of accuracy was astonishing, with a variation of less than ±2 seconds per day or ±1 minute per month. Having pursued the goal of accuracy to the very limit of what was possible at the time, the Grand Seiko team gave its ultra-high-precision models the “Grand Seiko Very Fine Adjusted” name. The 61GS V.F.A. and the 45GS V.F.A became legends.
The development of Grand Seiko quartz
Grand Seiko’s first quartz watch
In 1988, the first Grand Seiko quartz watch, the 95GS was born. It far exceeded the performance of all regular quartz watches with its accuracy of ±10 seconds per year. The secret, as ever with Grand Seiko, was the ability to manufacture every component in-house. Using quartz crystals grown in its own facilities and in its own way, the Grand Seiko team was able to select only those oscillators that exhibited superior performance in temperature resistance, humidity resistance and shock resistance, to produce movements with the highest possible accuracy.
The pursuit of the ideal quartz watch.
Grand Seiko creates the ultimate quartz watch
While the first Grand Seiko quartz watch was exceptional, it did not quench the enthusiasm of the Grand Seiko team to go further and create the ‘ideal’ quartz watch. In 1993, Just five years after the arrival of the first Grand Seiko quartz watch, Caliber 9F83 was completed. This quartz watch incorporated four key innovations, the Backlash Auto-Adjust Mechanism, the Twin Pulse Control System, the Instant Date Change Mechanism, and the Super Sealed Cabin. It sought to embody what Grand Seiko considered to be the essential qualities of a wrist watch, namely: accuracy, beauty, legibility, durability and ease of use. Grand Seiko spared no efforts in the details, making this the pinnacle of quartz watchmaking.
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The development continued. In 1997 Seiko unveiled the 9F6 series, with a superior level of case design that made Grand Seiko quartz watches even more comfortable to wear.
2003 saw the creation of new quartz watch series whose resistance to magnetism was a remarkable 40,000 A/m. This series utilized an advanced exterior design and new casing techniques that allowed its ±10 seconds per year precision to be unaffected by proximity to computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices.