Archives

Honoring our past, embracing our future.

Born in 1960, Grand Seiko is the realization of Seiko founder Kintaro Hattori’s mission to create the “ideal watch” ­– a timepiece that perfectly embodies precision, legibility, durability, and beauty. Today, this ethos remains the driving force for Grand Seiko’s engineers and designers, who continue to innovate with an eye toward the future without ever forgetting the past.

 

The Grand Seiko virtual archive is an ever-evolving and ever-growing part of GS9 Club that is dedicated to preserving and sharing the history of Grand Seiko based and classified by caliber. We will continue to add historical and current models over time.

The Origin of Grand Seiko's Soul Place
Seikosha

It was Seiko and the Hattori family’s quest for excellence in the pursuit of making the ideal watch that led to the birth of Grand Seiko. Kintaro Hattori founded K. Hattori & Co., which later became known as Seiko, in 1881. The name Seiko was derived from Seikosha, the first factory opened in 1892 by Hattori. Seikosha comes from the Japanese terms Sei 精 – meaning exquisite or delicate, Ko 工 – meaning manufacturing or engineering, and Sha 舎  – meaning house or shack. The term Seiko can also mean elaborate 精巧, and using different kanji characters it can mean success 成功.

In 1937,  Daini (the Second) Seikosha was established in Kameido, Tokyo. It specialized in the production of wristwatches, while the original Seikosha factory specialized in clocks and pocket watches. In 1944, Daini Seikosha opened their “Suwa plant” in central Japan as an extension of Daini Seikosha to evacuate from Tokyo during World War II.

Daiwa Kogyo, a parts manufacturer in central Japan that had a subcontracting business with Daini Seikosha, merged with the Daini Seikosha Suwa plant in 1959 to form Suwa Seikosha, an entity now separate from Daini Seikosha. A friendly competition began between Daini and Suwa Seikosha, and it helped drive innovation, with one manufacturer striving to exceed the quality produced by the other.

Daini Seikosha is now called Morioka Seiko Instruments and it is located in the northern Iwate prefecture of Japan. In July of 2020, they opened Grand Seiko Studio Shizukuishi, the new birthplace of all modern Grand Seiko 9S Mechanical timepieces.

Suwa Seikosha is now called Seiko Epson and remains in the Nagano prefecture of central Japan. There resides the Shinshu Watch Studio, home of 9R Spring Drive and 9F Quartz.

The Quest for the "Ideal Watch"
1956-1959

Marvel, Lord Marvel and Crown

In 1956, the team at Suwa Seikosha unveiled the Marvel, a watch inspired by what they saw as the fundamentals of watchmaking: accuracy, durability, and aesthetic beauty. The Marvel was a major technical feat for Seiko – it was the company’s first watch designed and produced entirely in-house, utilizing Seiko’s proprietary mainspring and balance spring. In response to the Marvel, Daini Seikosha released the Cronos, a competing model with a thinner case and higher performance specs. Two years later in 1958, Suwa followed up with Lord Marvel, a watch featuring a highly legible design thanks to its large markers and hands. It also saw significant improvement to its shock resistance. In 1959, Suwa launched The Crown, an elegant dress watch that was based on the Marvel but with profound technical advances. Equipped with Caliber 560, the Crown had a larger balance wheel for improved isochronism, an increased barrel size along with more torque, and an improved Diashock system for greater shock resistance.

The Marvel, Lord Marvel, and Crown were certainly significant watches in their own right, but, more importantly, they set the groundwork for what would come in 1960, when the company would unveil an aesthetic and technical powerhouse.

The Quest for the "Ideal Watch"
1956-1959
Precursors to Grand Seiko
1956
Marvel
Incorporating new design ideas and manufacturing techniques, the Marvel was the best Seiko watch yet.
Full details
1958
Lord Marvel
The Lord Marvel achieved an even higher level of precision and a new level of legibility and quality.
Full details
1959
Crown
The Crown series featured a large movement that was developed for enhanced accuracy.
Full details
First GS
1960-1964
The First Grand Seiko

The first Grand Seiko

“King of Watches”

Taking everything they learned throughout the ‘50s, the team driving the Grand Seiko project focused on creating a timepiece that would be low maintenance, easy-to-wear, highly legible, and incredibly beautiful.

Launched in 1960, the first Grand Seiko was a major technical leap forward. The new Caliber 3180 built on the foundation of the 560 introduced in the Crown just a year earlier. It featured the latest Diashock system, hacking seconds, a fine-adjustment regulator, and a barrel hole jewel. The movement was rated to an impressive +12 to -3 seconds a day and offered a power reserve of 45 hours. It was also the first watch made in Japan to be compliant with the Bureaux Officiels de Contrôle de la Marche des Montres in Geneva, which was at the time the most respected chronometer testing body.

Design wise, the first Grand Seiko set some important standards, many of which have been carried through to this day. At 12 o’clock is the Grand Seiko logo rendered in a dramatic Gothic font, chosen for its traditional look demonstrating Grand Seiko’s reverence for the long history of mechanical watchmaking. Adorning the dial are diamond-cut markers and broad hands, which today are considered to be defining features of Grand Seiko timepieces and achieve the goal of high legibility and timeless beauty. Around back, the closed case back features the Grand Seiko lion, the brand’s enduring symbol and a reflection of the ambition of the Grand Seiko team to make the “king of watches” with precision, durability, and beauty at the forefront.

First GS
1960-1964
Variations of the first
Grand Seiko First J14070 Caliber 3180
1960
Grand Seiko First · Embossed Logo
The first Grand Seiko was created to be the "ideal" watch with the highest level of accuracy, legibility, and beauty.
Full details
1960
Grand Seiko First · Engraved Dial
Early iterations of the first Grand Seiko featured a logo engraved into the dial using intaglio engraving.
Full details
Early 1960s
Grand Seiko First · Platinum
The first Grand Seiko was available in platinum, and it was produced in limited quantities in the early 1960s.
Full details
GS "Self-Dater"
1964-1967

The Grand Seiko Self‑Dater

An evolution in practicality

The resounding success of the first Grand Seiko encouraged the design team to pursue the next step in creating the “ideal” watch. Once again, practicality was the team’s north star, and so four years later in 1964 the Self-Dater was born. Equipped with Caliber 5722A with a quick-set date, the Self-Dater allowed the wearer to adjust the date without having to advance the hands. Additionally, a new case design rendered in stainless steel offered greater water resistance with a rating of 50 meters, making the Self-Dater even more practical for daily wear than its predecessor. The now-iconic markers and hands remained, but were made even larger to boost legibility further.

But that’s not all that made the Self-Dater such a special watch and deserving of a dedicated spot in Grand Seiko’s storied history. The Self-Dater, on top of everything else, was also the first Grand Seiko timepiece to feature “Zaratsu” polishing.

What is Zaratsu?

“Zaratsu” derives its moniker from the name of the manufacturer that produced the original machines on which the Self-Dater was polished. Zaratsu is a method of polishing metal parts of a watch by pressing them against an emery cloth or paper abrasive on the side of a rotating metal disk. It’s a painstaking, laborious process, and it’s a skill that takes years to hone, but the results are well worth it. Grand Seiko craftspeople are able to create distortion-free flat surfaces and super sharp edges where plane meets plane. This is what gives Grand Seiko watches their unique high-end look, and to this day all Grand Seiko cases are Zaratsu polished.

GS "Self-Dater"
1964-1967
Watches in this era
1964
Self-Dater 430
The first generation of the second Grand Seiko added a calendar feature and increased water resistance.
Full details
1964
Self-Dater 5722A
Soon after the launch of the Caliber 430 variant of the Self-Dater, the Caliber 5722A variant was released.
Full details
1966
Self-Dater 5722B
In 1966, the Self-Dater improved its performance and increased its frequency, allowing for a new accuracy standard.
Full details
62GS
1967-1968

Going automatic with the 62GS

The first self-winding Grand Seiko

Marking an important leap from manual winding to automatic, the 62GS was Grand Seiko’s first automatic timepiece. There were two variants: the date version powered by Caliber 6245A, and the day-and-date version with Caliber 6246A. Boasting a higher-torque mainspring and an oscillating weight, the 62GS was thicker than past Grand Seiko timepieces, but the design team saw to mitigate the thickness of the movement through a clever case design. The box-shaped crystal was fixed directly to the mid-case, eschewing the need for a bezel that would otherwise add visual height to the profile of the case. Furthermore, the case sides slanted down to create a slimmer profile, and the top surface of the case narrowed so that it could connect to the lugs with as little mass as possible while retaining the distinct faceted design.

Modern Era

Today, the modern interpretation of the 62GS design, prominently featured in the current US-exclusive Japan Seasons collection, keeps many of the same design elements that made the original such a unique and prized timepiece.

62GS
1967-1968
Watches in this era
1967
62GS Calendar
The first automatic Grand Seiko calendar model 62GAC, the continued evolution of practicality.
Full details
1967
62GS Week-Dater
The first automatic Grand Seiko week-dater model 62GAW.
Full details
44GS
1967-1968

The Grand Seiko Style and the 44GS

Setting the standard for Grand Seiko’s  “Grammar of Design”

Suwa Seikosha was responsible for the creation of all Grand Seiko watches until 1967, when Daini Seikosha produced their first Grand Seiko model.  Possibly unknown to them at the time, this watch would forever have an impact on Grand Seiko.

Despite achieving chronometric excellence, the focus having been primarily on the precision of the movements, the company had not established any real identity for its watches in terms of exterior design. The company’s chief designer spent many hours at the Wako store in Ginza observing clients shopping for watches, keeping an eye on how they reacted to the wide array of brands and styles available to them. His conclusion was that if Grand Seiko wanted to stand out, the watches would require more brilliance, or, as he put it, they should “sparkle with quality.”

For the Japanese, black and white are not often expressed in their extremes; instead, gradations between light and shadow, and the harmony between the two, is valued highly. To infuse Grand Seiko timepieces with this distinctly Japanese sense of beauty and expression of light and shadow, Grand Seiko’s designer focused on bringing together straight lines and flat surfaces in a structural way.

To that end, the Grand Seiko Style has three guiding principles.

Principle 1: Wherever possible, surfaces should be flat

Every watch design necessarily involves the use of both flat and curved surfaces, but for Grand Seiko, flat surfaces are preferred.  This is to allow for greater reflection of light and the extensive use of these planes contributes to the sparkle of quality that defines Grand Seiko.

Principle 2: The flat surfaces should be as wide as possible

To maximize the reflections, the flat surfaces should be as wide as possible on every part of the case as well as on the dial and hands.

Principle 3: Every surface should be distortion-free

Wherever possible, every surface and facet should be in a mirror finish and polished so that there is no distortion in any reflection.

Based on these three principles, nine design elements were identified as being critical in guiding every detail of a Grand Seiko watch.

In 1967, Grand Seiko introduced a watch that would come to forever influence Grand Seiko’s Style – the 44GS. The shape of the case was groundbreaking. The flat front surfaces were Zaratsu polished to a distortion-free shine, and the case sides slanted sharply inwards, allowing for a highly ergonomic fit on the wrist. A deep-set crown at 3 o’clock was meant to preserve the beauty of the case lines. The dial markers and hands were highly faceted to allow light to play across the dial, which was extended further via a dramatic mirror-polished bezel. The resulting watch was immediately eye-catching, truly exuding the “sparkle of quality.”

The Grand Seiko Style was developed seven years after the first Grand Seiko timepiece made its way into the world, and it continues to be an important guide for the company. Nevertheless, the rules established over half a century ago were never intended to be rigid, and over the years they have been subtly adapted.  In this way it is important to understand that the Grand Seiko Style is both preserved and enhanced as time moves forward.

A reinterpretation of the 44GS design has become a core pillar of Grand Seiko’s catalog today, and unsurprisingly so. By retaining much of its core design DNA, the modern interpretation 44GS and its success shows that the watch best embodies the Grand Seiko Style is truly timeless.

44GS
1967-1968
Watches in this era
1967
44GS
The first Grand Seiko from Daini Seikosha to emphasize a style that would forever influence Grand Seiko.
Full details
61GS
1968-1975

The first automatic 10‑Beat GS

A self-winding, Hi-Beat 36000

The 61GS, created by Suwa Seikosha in 1968, was Japan’s first watch with an automatic 10-beat movement, Caliber 6145. The 61GS was designed with a focus on everyday practicality. To improve the efficiency of the oscillating weight, Grand Seiko implemented a proprietary winding mechanism called the “Magic Lever,” which effectively wound the mainspring in both directions. This design of the “Magic Lever” pawl winding system was developed by Seiko originally in 1959. Other advancements were implemented as well to improve efficiency and stabilize performance. The 61GS became renowned as one of the finest watches produced by Grand Seiko. The 61GS was even chosen for inclusion in the Time Capsule Expo of 1970 held in Osaka, and it was buried at the site of the former Osaka Castle in 1971. It is due to be opened in the year 6970 at the Osaka Expo, exactly 5,000 years later.

In November 1969, Grand Seiko announced the 61GS V.F.A. Realized once again by Suwa, this important timepiece featured an automatic 10-beat movement with a groundbreaking accuracy standard. The first V.F.A. movements, the caliber 6185, were rated at an incredible ±1 minute a month. This new benchmark was named the “Grand Seiko V.F.A. Standard,” with the acronym standing for Very Fine Adjusted. This higher standard required more rigorous testing than that of the Grand Seiko Standard which was already exceeding Chronometer certification. Accuracy tests were conducted in 6 positions, not just 5, and they were conducted over a period of 15 days to meet the strict criteria of ± 2 seconds per day.

Three years later in 1972, Suwa took another step forward with a new variant of the 61GS V.F.A., this time updated with a day-date complication.  These models were some of the first to actually have V.F.A. on the dial.

61GS
1968-1975
Watches in this era
1968
61GS Calendar
The first automatic 10-beat model released in Japan, the 61GS became one of the longest produced GS watches of the 1960s.
Full details
1968
61GS Week-Dater
The first automatic 10-beat model released in Japan, with both a day and date feature displayed on the dial.
Full details
1969
61GS Calendar V.F.A.
VFA or Very Fine Adjusted, the first Grand Seiko to achieve ultra-high accuracy of ±2 seconds per day.
Full details
1970
61GS Special
Another example of precision exceeding the Grand Seiko Standard, the Special was rated within ± 3 seconds per day.
Full details
1972
61GS Week-Dater V.F.A.
The highest precision of the era updated with day and date display on the dial.
Full details
45GS
1968-1975

A manual-winding 10 Beat

A successor to the 44GS, and possibly one of the best movements of the era created by Grand Seiko

Not long after the release of the 61GS in 1968, Daini Seikosha unveiled the 45GS, also powered by a 10-beat movement, this time a thin one (3.5mm) with a manual winding mechanism. There were two movement variants: Caliber 4522 had a calendar display with an instantaneous date change feature, and Caliber 4520 was time only. Many of the 45GS share much of the same design language as the 61GS, and offer the same high level of precision regardless of position or external disturbances. The month that Suwa unveiled the 61GS V.F.A., Daini presented the 45GS V.F.A., which featured a updated version of their manual 10-beat movement, also rated to +- 1 minute per month.

45GS
1968-1975
1968
45GS
The first Hi-Beat 36000 from Daini Seikosha achieving high stability and outstanding performance.
Full details
1968
45GS Calendar
The 45GS came with two options, with or without date. The 4522 had the calendar feature included with the Hi-Beat 36000.
Full details
1968-1970
45GS Astronomical Observatory Chronometer
While not a Grand Seiko, the 45GS caliber powers this very special watch.
Full details
1969
45GS V.F.A.
The pinnacle of precision in Grand Seiko and one of the most stringent testing criteria in the world.
Full details
1970
45GS V.F.A.
The second generation of the acclaimed 45GS Very Fine Adjusted.
Full details
19GS
1968-1973

For the ladies, 19GS

A petite, yet powerful 10-beat caliber for women

1968 also saw the first Grand Seiko watch for women. Though notably smaller, the 19GS offered high precision thanks to its own 10-beat movement. Generally, smaller movements, because of their smaller balances, have a harder time meeting strict precision tolerances, but the 19GS met Grand Seiko’s 15-day precision standard. Furthermore, the 19GS expressed the Grand Seiko Style despite its smaller size, boasting multi-faceted hands and markers, a flat dial, and distortion-free Zaratsu polishing throughout. In 1972, Grand Seiko released the 19GS V.F.A., the first high-precision women’s mechanical watch rated to +-2 minutes a month. Just as they did with the first 19GS, the Grand Seiko team overcame the inherent challenge of achieving high accuracy from a small form factor, a major technical accomplishment.

19GS
1968-1973
1968
19GS
The first Grand Seiko model for ladies, featuring a petite Hi-Beat 36000 caliber and a design that is inherently Grand Seiko.
Full details
1972
19GS V.F.A.
An astounding new high-accuracy standard of ± 2 minutes per month was achieved with the 19GS V.F.A.
Full details
56GS
1970-1975

The expansion with the 56GS

Evolution of practicality and comfort

After their focus on accuracy, the Grand Seiko team at Suwa Seikosha turned to reducing the size of their watches. The 56GS, released in 1970, presented a smaller form factor via an automatic caliber measuring just 4.5mm in height. Despite the smaller size, the watch retained the high precision of its predecessors.

56GS
1970-1975
1970
56GS
The first Grand Seiko automatic without a date display. The compact size contributed to a wide array of designs.
Full details
1970
56GS Calendar
With the highest levels of precision achieved, the next goal was to reduce size and increase production.
Full details
95GS
1988-1993

The first quartz Grand Seiko, 95GS

Highly accurate, thin and comfortable

In 1988, Grand Seiko brought their horological mastery to quartz, unveiling the 95GS, Grand Seiko’s very first quartz timepiece. Like its mechanical counterparts, the 95GS was no ordinary watch; in fact, it was far superior in its build quality and precision than most quartz timepieces on the market at the time. Boasting an accuracy that was 10 times greater than that of ordinary quartz watches, the 95GS featured specially selected quartz crystals that were superior in temperature and humidity resistance, and new IC-based features that included compensation for changes in oscillator frequency and a tempo regulator that controls oscillation and pulsing speeds. The 95GS was rated to an unprecedented +-10 seconds a year.

Unfortunately, missing from the 95GS were some of Grand Seiko’s iconic features, namely the large, broad hands the brand had come to be known for.

95GS
1988-1993
Watches of this era
1988
95GS
Grand Seiko is revived for the first time ever with a quartz movement that attains precision of ± 10 seconds per year.
Full details
9F
1993-Today

The quartz that surpasses quartz, 9F

A new era in quartz watchmaking

Enter Caliber 9F. Introduced in 1993, Grand Seiko’s 9F movement combined an accuracy rating of +-10 seconds a year with the high torque of a mechanical movement and a low level of energy consumption. It debuted a number of innovative features that were new for a quartz watch. The Twin Pulse Control Motor allowed for the use of Grand Seiko’s long, heavy hands; a backlash Auto-Adjust Mechanism eliminated any shuddering of the seconds hand as it advanced across the dial, ensuring accuracy; an aged and highly-stabled quartz crystal paired with an IC programmed to specifically respond to that crystal’s reaction to temperature changes; and an Instant Date Change Mechanism.

The 9F series continues to power Grand Seiko’s quartz line. In 2018, the brand introduced a GMT complication with an independent hour hand via Caliber 9F86. And 2020 saw the introduction of Caliber 9F85, which allows for an independently adjustable hour hand without the addition of a GMT complication.

9F
1993-Today
More variations of 9F
1993
9F83
The first "Quartz that surpasses quartz" debuts with the highest precision, legibility, durability, and beauty possible.
Full details
1997
9F62
The "Quartz that surpasses quartz" is launched in a smaller size, but with the same great features.
Full details
9S
1998-Today

A new era of mechanical watchmaking and the Grand Seiko Style

1998 was a monumental year for Grand Seiko. It saw the release of two high-precision movements, Caliber 9S55 and 9S51, launching a movement family that to this day remains the beating heart of traditionally mechanical Grand Seiko watches. With the advent of Caliber 9S came a new Grand Seiko Standard, going further than the chronometer standard and the original Standard set in 1966. With this new specification, the average daily discrepancy was set to +5 to -3 seconds a day with a maximum allowed average variation in daily error up to 1.8 seconds, beating the chronometer rating of +6 to -4 seconds and the average variation in daily error of 2 seconds. Additionally, the current Grand Seiko Standard tests 6 positions versus the Chronometer standard’s 5, and all testing is done for 17 days versus 15 days. Today, Grand Seiko movements are tested under three different temperatures, with a secondary test performed on temperature. Any movement that experiences deviations beyond the stipulated ranges cannot be used in a Grand Seiko watch.

“Excellence without pretension”

With a new era of movements, the design team at Grand Seiko was tasked with creating watches that could house these engines. The brief was to provide an eternal aesthetic appeal, a prompt not too dissimilar from the one that resulted in the Grand Seiko Style of the late ‘60s.

Lead designer Nobuhiro Kosugi set to work, pulling inspiration from the past without being entirely tethered to it. The first watch in this modern era of Grand Seiko, reference SBGR001, embodied this new design philosophy. It featured accented edges between flat and angled faces, razor-edged hour and minute hands and markers, a bracelet in place of a leather strap (and lug holes to easily swap it out), and a new font for the date numerals disc to maximize legibility. Today, this design remains emblematic of the watches in our ever-popular Heritage Collection.

9S
1998-Today
Variations of the 9S Mechanical
1998
9S55
The first new mechanical Grand Seiko in nearly 25 years, the 9S55 automatic set a new standard for GS.
Full details
1998
9S51
A luxurious model featuring the 9S51 automatic movement (without date display) in 18k yellow gold.
Full details
2002
9S56
The quest for the ideal practical watch led to the first ever GMT feature on a Grand Seiko watch.
Full details
2006
9S67
The first Grand Seiko with a mechanical movement achieving a three-day power reserve.
Full details
9R
2004-Today

Grand Seiko unveils its first Spring Drive, the 9R

Nearly 30 years of development to create a movement unlike any other

The long history of Spring Drive can be traced back to the ‘70s and Yoshikazu Akahane, a young, ambitious engineer at Suwa. He had an ambitious goal to create a movement that could deliver the precision of quartz without being dependent on a power source other than the wearer. Essentially, the goal was to make something that could combine the high torque and never ending power source of mechanical watch, with the high precision and stability of quartz. More than two decades later, this was realized in Spring Drive, a new type of watch in which an electro-magnetic regulator controls a mechanical movement.

Though the first Spring Drive watch was released in 1999, it wasn’t until 2004 that a Spring Drive-powered Grand Seiko made its debut, with reference SBGA001 running on Caliber 9R65 released earlier that year. Today, the 9R series remains the driving force of Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive lineup.

Another iconic Grand Seiko timepiece made its way into the world around this time. In 2005, we saw the release of reference SBGA011 (currently SBGA211), otherwise known as the “Snowflake.” With its eye-catching dial patterned after the windswept snow around Shinshu, the Snowflake is undoubtedly one of Grand Seiko’s most renowned watches in the current collection.

9R
2004-Today
Variations of the 9R Spring Drive
2004
9R65
The world's first Spring Drive automatic is launched, with ultra-high precision, smooth motion, and a three-day power reserve.
Full details
2007
9R86
The world's most precise luxury chronograph is brought to market with the Spring Drive Chronograph GMT.
Full details
2016
9R01
The first Spring Drive from the renowned Micro Artist Studio featuring a power reserve of 8 days.
Full details