Today, Grand Seiko is considered the ultimate practical watch. However, the path to attain such a status was not a conventional one, as reflected in Seiko’s history of repeated challenges.
The first Grand Seiko was a watch that aimed to surpass the Swiss chronometer. And the 57GS, or Self-Dater, was designed to be more practical with the addition of a waterproof case and date display. However, the dramatic evolution of Grand Seiko did not occur until 1968 with the introduction of the model popularly known as the 61GS. This was Grand Seiko’s first automatic Hi-Beat model, and the most accurate timepiece of its time.
Let’s retrace the movement developments that led to 61GS. The first generation and the 57GS were designed with the time-honored idea of making the balance as large as possible to increase accuracy. In contrast, when developing 61GS, Seiko engineers boldly abandoned the design philosophy that had been cultivated until then. Specifically, instead of increasing the size of the balance, they attempted to increase the oscillation rate to improve accuracy in daily use. Incidentally, Swiss rivals were also eager to adopt the same high-beat movement. Longines and Omega serve as good examples. However, it was Seiko that was ahead of the competition in this field. When Seiko entered the Observatory Chronometer Competitions, a contest for the highest precision in the global watch industry, it quickly dominated the top positions with its Hi-Beat technology. And it was this know-how that Seiko’s engineers then applied to the new 61GS.
Once again, we can say that Grand Seiko is and always has been a practical watch par excellence. Above all, the most significant characteristic of the 61GS was the fact that the world’s best technology had been invested in its development as a practical watch and, what is more, that it had come together at an extremely high level. There has never been, and never will be, a watch with such a background.
With the 61GS, Seiko pushed the limits of mechanical watchmaking. Since then, Seiko has gained worldwide acclaim for its method of immediately applying the latest technology to mass-produced watches.
Editor-in-chief of Chronos Japan edition and webChronos.net. After graduating from university, he worked for an electronics manufacturer and IT companies. He started his career as a watch journalist in 2014. He has been in his current position since 2017.
text by Masayuki Hirota illustration by Yoshifumi Takeda