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grand seiko snowflake review

The White Lotus, as I’d like to call the Grand Seiko SBGA211, is the purest everyday watch money can buy. And because it’s also known as the Snowflake, it’s pure on the inside, too – the White Lotus comes from mud, but snow is from white clouds. 

The SBGA211 has a beautiful famous dial and is rich in history, finish material selection, and a mindblowing spring drive movement. In this review, you’ll learn why it’s easily one of the best watches in its price range and why it’s named the Snowflake.

Grand Seiko Snowflake Over The Years

In the autumn of 2005, when the green Shinshu Mountains were transforming into snowy white peaks, Seiko released the SBGA011

Fun fact: the watch was never named Snowflake by the Japanese watchmaker, at least, not at first. We give all the credit to the excited community of watch lovers and SBGA011 cult followers, for which the company was also grateful. 

The flagship model then carried the Seiko logo at 12 o’clock and Grand Seiko at 6 o’clock. I’ll digress to talk about the origins of this timepiece. 

The design team (like they did when they released the Spring Drive movement) wanted the dial to enshrine the surroundings of its birthplace. So the artisans at the Shishu Watch Dial Studio drew inspiration from the pure white mountain view that outlined their workstation for almost half the year. 

They wanted the dial pure white, like winter’s snow covering the Hida Mountains. Also, a rough texture to imitate the uneven edges of the mountain range. The challenge: using paint would either drown the rough texture or render it dull if it accommodates it. 

So they decided to create the dial using silver! Next, the team dug into the archives and copied the technology on the dial of a ’70s Grand Seiko watch. Five years after the grand entry of the Spring Drive, SBGA011 became available to the public and was officially named Snowflake. It was also reintroduced in 2017 when Grand Seiko became a separate brand from Seiko with one logo and the current reference SBGA211.

The Marvel Engineering of Grand Seiko SBGA211

Let’s undress this titanium dress watch that has amassed a cult following and rightful haters. 

Super Lightweight & Mirror-Polish Case

The most glaring attribute here is the silver high-intensity titanium case. It’s practically indestructible, lightweight, and not uncommon for Grand Seiko to provide this material on a “budget.”

With its 41mm diameter and 12.55mm thick case, you get the face of a dress watch and the fullness of a sports timepiece. I love the slim case profile. However, folks with smaller wrists should pay attention to its 49mm lug-to-lug distance. 

The Snowflake’s case, with its mirror polish or Zaratsu steel polishing, shines under bright light. It’s a stunning work of engineering to achieve this finishing technique on steel, let alone titanium – a metal harder than steel. 

However, the risk of micro-scratches comes with the appeal of a reflective, eye-catching case. In other words, the GS SBGA211 is prone to scratches, but and will take decades before it looks even remotely beat up.

If that’s a deal breaker for you, it’s totally fine to find an alternative. See this 15-year-old, daily used Grand Seiko Spring Drive with Zaratsu polishing for reference.

If it makes you feel better, it’ll last for years, and considering the price, each scratch holds a memory. And to be fair, it’s no different from the scratch tolerance of mirror finish watches from other luxury watchmakers like Rolex, Omega, and Longines, except for Sinn and Damasco. 

Hokaga Mountains-Themed Snowflake Dial 

As we alluded to in the history of the SBGA211, the dial is inspired by the mountain range outside the Grand Seiko workshop. But it takes 80 increasingly difficult steps to achieve the dial’s snow-white and flaky texture. So I don’t blame the SBGA011 followers for naming it Snowflake. They also ring it in our ears that photos don’t do it justice and that you should check one out in a store if you mean business.  

Again, the dial isn’t painted white but made entirely out of silver. And the steps I mentioned earlier involve adding solutions to this textured silver plating. The brain behind this creation is silver’s reputation as the highest reflective metal and that it could be converted to white without obscuring the “flaky” texture with paint. 

Low Light Capability Without Luminescence

In typical dress watch style, this Japanese engineering machine doesn’t have a luminous material on the dial. But Grand Seiko makes up for what it lacks in lume with high reflection. 

The silver plating, uneven dial surface, and polished indexes make Snowflake shine in low-light environments. In addition, according to GS engineers, the dial is larger than traditional flat dials, which allows it to reflect light from all directions. 

Now couple that with the mirror finish on the indexes, and you’ll be able to read the time in low-light conditions – of course, not in a pitch-black room or underwater. 

Reflective Hands and Indexes

The same artistry that goes into the dial can be said of the Snowflake’s hands and indexes. First, all the indicators are laid by trained hands with acrylic tweezers of the craftsperson’s making. Its stick index design, sword hour, and minute hands all get the ancient Zaratsu polishing present on the case and bracelet. 

But the mirror finish on the hour hands or case isn’t the only alluring feature. It’s also the free-flowing blue wedged seconds hand gliding through the snowy dial on the fuel of the innovative spring drive movement. It feels like a bluebird flying over a vast white expanse when you watch it tick. 

Patent Spring Drive Movement 

Many mechanical purists and watch enthusiasts have called this masterpiece absurd names, like “just another quartz” or “gimmicky.” I beg to differ. 

The Grand Seiko 9R65 is a horological masterpiece that even the Swiss giants are yet to touch. It took Yoshkazu Akahane – the inventor – 28 years to bring the Grand Seiko Spring Drive to life. Who spends almost three decades on a gimmick? 

Currently, the 9R65 is the most standard caliber in Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive lineup. It essentially delivers a mechanical watch but with the accuracy of a quartz or electronic caliber. The 9R65 is accurate to +/- 1 second per day and has a 3-day power reserve. That’s perfection if you ask me.

The power reserve indicator is the little aperture with one hand you see between 7 and 8 o’clock on the dial. My point here is the SBGA211 is not powered by a battery but by a mainspring, like traditional mechanical watches.

However, a rotor connected to this engine generates an electrical charge that activates a quartz oscillator. In layman’s terms, this spark is what allows the spring drive to achieve quartz accuracy without being powered by one.  

Exhibition Case Back

As if the guys at ShinShuWatch Studio and I are on the same brainwave, Grand Seiko shows off this beauty using an exhibition case. The see-through case back displays a few of its thirty purple, red, and gold jewels. Is the spring drive just a fancy quartz movement? I’ll leave that to you. You already know my thoughts. 

Polished Titanium Bracelet 

The heading “polished titanium bracelet” may sound basic to a beginner watch enthusiast. So I’d break down the magnificence of this feat in the Snowflake. The Grand Seiko SBGA titanium bracelet features an astounding Zaratsu mirror and hairline finish.

As I failed to mention earlier, the case of the SBGA211 also features a hairline finish on the lugs. It’s a design finish that resembles a fine paint brush stroke or straightened hair. If achieving this level of sophistication and artistry on a stainless steel watch is difficult.

Seeing it on titanium is pure work of art and hard work. The Zaratsu finish is a feat within the grasp of only world-class watchmakers, which would also come at a steep price for the long hours of craftsmanship. 

Grand Seiko is one of the best at it, but seeing it on a $6,000 watch is stunning. A Rolex with this level of finishing will cost twice the price, if not more. 

Hell, the only all-titanium Rolex – the Sea-Dweller – costs over twenty grand. But that’s a stretch as we can’t compare them apples to apples. The Oyster bracelet is more comparable, and you know, as it combines a satin and brush finish. 

End Links and Clasp

Grand Seiko has a 20mm wide bracelet. It’s pin and collar style, so you need to remove links to size them. It stays locked in with the typical three-fold clasp and a push button release. 

Although many appreciate the bracelet’s beauty, they also complain of its lack of micro adjustment. Basically, they couldn’t get a perfect fit, so they either had to wear it too loose or tight.

Another drawback to the bracelet is the protruding end of the clasp. It gives the false sense that it’s a lift-to-release mechanism to an outsider, not a push-back release. 

Who Should Wear it?

I can’t deny that the Seiko Spring Drive Snowflake isn’t for everyone, especially because it’s a “Seiko.” That’s right, many folks still underestimate the Japanese brand, perhaps for its relations with Seiko or just the name. But I’d pick this SBGA211 over a stainless steel Datejust on any given day if I plan to wear and enjoy my timepiece for daily and formal use. Hear me out.

Engineering Fanatic

I love watches with innovative engineering, not just one with a popular brand name and a hefty price tag to follow. No disrespect to the impressive level of craftsmanship of Rolex, but this Grand Seiko model is on a different level. 

The GS is also handmade by the most experienced technicians, sports a groundbreaking in-house movement, and a famous but rare overall polishing. And to top it off, I get to gaze at the magnificence of her inner workings in a see-through case back when I turn this beauty over.

I still need to understand why Rolex denies us that. So if you’re in the category of watch lovers who prefers to impress themselves rather than others, the Snowflake is waiting for you under the mistletoe. 

The Lure of Understated Luxury

Isn’t the shine of a luxury watch nobody knows just different? It’s sitting pretty on your wrist, and nobody’s weighing your worth or trying to mug you. The Grand Seiko SBGA211 isn’t flashy but elegant, inspiring, and alluring. That’s because it draws attention to the curious and sophisticated minds of folks who know their watches.

In other words, it showcases class and wealth without actually attracting a crowd. The type of wristwatch that prompts a conversation among watch enthusiasts about its history and engineering. You’ll adore the Snowflake if you’re a believer in understated luxury. 

Who Shouldn’t Wear the Snowflake?

The most obvious answer is anyone who wants a flashy watch that can turn heads at first glance. Either by attraction to the brand name or bling. 

But know this, the absence of stones and a high-luxury status doesn’t mean that Grand Seiko is nameless. In defense of the Snowflake, it would hold a reasonable resale value if you decide you want a new adventure. 

On the technical side, a few things could be a dealbreaker for some folks in the long run. But in my opinion, these are excusable, in fact unnecessary, parameters to judge the majestic Snowflake. 

The most common deal breakers are that the watch profile is “too light”, and you can’t micro-adjust the bracelet. Each to their own, obviously, but I do have to point out that Grand Seiko dress watches never carry micro adjustment.

Don’t expect to find wings at a sushi place. Secondly, many luxury watch brands are guilty of this, and it’s silly, in all honesty. We’ll never know why they don’t make the micro adjustment a base feature (in addition to quick release). 

Furthermore, you’ll have to send the watch to Seiko if you need replacement links – setting you back for weeks if anything goes wrong. This watch is not for you if you plan to adjust timepieces by yourself. 

Thirdly, the Snowflake is built to be ultralight. It’s one of its major selling points as an all-titanium dress watch. That said, if a lightweight watch isn’t your cup of tea, you’re better off without the SBGA211. But get one if you want a metal that’s five times stronger than stainless steel. 

Pricing The Grand Seiko SBGA211

The SBG211 Snowflake has a reputation as “Grand Seiko’s most wanted”. It officially costs $6,200, but prices vary from who you’re dealing with to the condition of the watch. Do I think the Snowflake is priced reasonably?

Absolutely! With the level of craftsmanship that goes into each piece, a Swiss brand would charge almost double the price. That alone makes it a fair price. Aside from whether it’s worth the price or not, the market loves it. And that’s all that matters.

What this means is that it’s in high demand. This is especially true in North America, where Grand Seiko authorized dealers carrying the Snowflake are less rampant than in Japan. 

So don’t be surprised if you see a boutique store selling one for well over $7,000. It requires patience or the assistance of discounts and coupons to buy the Snowflake at the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). 

Luckily for you, we currently have one new Grand Seiko SBGA211 Snowflake in store at Exquisite Timepieces. It’s only $6,200 with free delivery within the United States. Order now before we also run out of stock. 

Is It A Good Investment Watch?

At the end of it all, luxury watch owners want to know if their watch would make a great investment piece. For most top-tier luxury brands, like Rolex, Vacheron Constantin, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet, the answer is yes. The main reason is their penchant for low production, indirectly creating scarcity and value. 

We can’t say the same with most luxury watchmakers because the demand for that particular model must exceed the supply to make it a great investment piece. So while Rolex makes about one million watches yearly, the demand far exceeds this production number. 

Grand Seiko produces approximately 31,000 watches a year. Like most luxury watchmakers who don’t publicize output, we don’t know how many Snowflakes ship out yearly, but it’s surely not enough. Plus, the majority of this output stays in Japan. 

So is the Grand Seiko a good investment watch? Yes, it is. You will always find a market for it when the time comes, and depending on the condition, for a reasonable price. 

Remember that the titanium case holds scratches, so unless you’re collecting (never to be worn), expect the potential resale price to drop. But most Snowflake owners buy it to wear for everyday use and find it easy to resell when the time comes for a change. 

Alternatives to The Grand Seiko Snowflake

This review has gone on to emphasize the strong points of the Seiko SBGA211 and how to live with its drawbacks. However, it also comes with shortcomings that you may consider dealbreakers. 

Check out these alternatives, which cover areas where the Snowflake falls short. 

Grand Seiko SBGH205

Grand Seiko SBGH205

The GS SBGH205 comes to mind first if you want to stay within the Grand Seiko line. It gives you an equally stunning dial in black (you should see these watches in person to truly understand the hype).

It draws inspiration from the peaks of Mt. Iwate on the horizon of Grand Seiko’s Shizuku-Ishi Watch Studio. The studio is Grand Seiko’s facility for manufacturing mechanical watches. 

Furthermore, the case size is 40.2mm, and with a smaller lug-to-lug, it will fit better on smaller wrists. It’s missing a power reserve indicator, but this probably gives you about a thousand bucks in savings compared to the Snowflake. 

Grand Seiko Japan Seasons Collection

You can’t get enough beautiful dials, no matter the Grand Seiko model you pick. We see GS pay homage to the alps in the Heritage collection (that features the SBGA211). But the Seasons collection features timepieces that embody Summer (Rikka), Spring (Shunbun), Autumn (Shubun), and winter (Taisetu), with special attention to plant-themed designs. 

The collection features four models that represent four seasons. The Spring and Winter model features the Snowflake’s caliber 9R65, while Autumn and Summer carry the Mechanical Hi-beat 36,000 9S65 movement.

Apparently, they’re the same as the Snowflake speaking of material and finish. The only difference is a smaller case size of 40mm and an even more artistic dial. If you’re looking for a smaller dress watch with a beautiful dial like the Snowflake, consider the Japan Seasons collection. 

Rolex DateJust 116200-0084

Rolex DateJust 116200-0084

I love the idea of a European alternative to the SBGA211 for pop culture lovers, socialites, and influencers. What better brand than Rolex and their iconic Rolex Datejust 36mm? It’s a lot smaller but has a similar design with its all-silver look and stick-indexed dial. 

Better yet, the DateJust is all-stainless steel and heavier, weighing 45 grams more than SBGA211. You’ll get the solid feel of the weight of the stainless steel case, iconic Jubilee bracelet, and the signature Rolex zoom lens date. But its white dial appears brown when you compare it to the purity of the Snowflake. 

Moreover, it costs almost the same as the SBGA211 on the preowned market. The best part is you’ll also find it has a more profitable resale value, but you’ll need to scale the first huddle. That’s finding one that is priced in the range of the Snowflake.

Buy A Grand Seiko SBGA211 “Snowflake”

Normally, I never finish off my posts blatantly telling you to buy a watch, but I’ll make an exception here. If you’ve given the SBGA211 even an iota of consideration, don’t hesitate to go for it. It’s beautiful, solidly built to age gracefully even with scratches, and carries an unmatched caliber of horological engineering today.

You won’t find any deal breakers than the few I already addressed in this review – a protruding clasp, non-flashy, and an exceptionally lightweight feel. Ultimately, you can resell the Snowflake for a reasonable price if you don’t fall in love with this absolute beauty at first sight. 

Most Popular Grand Seiko Dials

If there’s one thing Grand Seiko does exceedingly well, it’s hypnotizing us with the inimitable beauty of Japan, which it imbues into each of its watch dials.

Every dial that leaves the Shinshu Studio tells a unique story, capturing the essence of time and reflecting the profound dedication of the artisans who create them.

When you gaze upon a Grand Seiko dial, you witness the embodiment of Japanese aesthetics and the pursuit of perfection. The dials are meticulously crafted with a level of precision that reflects the brand’s commitment to excellence. 

The simplicity of design and the clean lines instill a feeling of calmness, inviting you to escape the noise of the world and embrace a moment of quiet reflection. This, dear friends, is what sets Grand Seiko dials on a league of its own.

As we explore the fascinating stories behind these dials, you’ll find that they truly are a visual representation of the Japanese concept of “ma”. Ma means the art of space and interval, where the pauses between elements are just as meaningful as the elements themselves. Let’s go! 

About Grand Seiko Watches

Grand Seiko, aka the high-achieving sibling of  Seiko, was launched in 1960 with the establishment of the Suwa Seikosha factory in Suwa, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. 

The aim was to create excellent timepieces embodying the highest precision, durability, and aesthetic standards.

The first Grand Seiko watch, known by its movement name, the 3180, was unveiled the same year. It featured a highly accurate mechanical movement, precise to within -3 to +5 seconds per day, which was an impressive achievement for that time. 

The design of the watch reflected the simplicity and understated elegance that would become the hallmark of Grand Seiko.

Throughout the 1960s, Grand Seiko watches gained recognition for their exceptional precision and reliability. They were favored by professionals such as doctors, engineers, and businesspeople who required accurate timekeeping. Grand Seiko’s reputation grew not only in Japan but also in international markets.

In the 1970s, Seiko introduced quartz technology to its watchmaking, and Grand Seiko was among the first to incorporate quartz movements.

In 2017, Seiko announced that Grand Seiko would become an independent brand, separate from the main Seiko line. This move aimed to elevate the status and recognition of Grand Seiko as a distinct luxury watch brand.

What Makes Grand Seiko Watches Stand Out?

For over 60 years, Grand Seiko has created meticulously handcrafted watches by skilled artisans who follow the philosophy of “Shinshoku”. This means “the essence of the true watch”. It is an uncommon dedication to outstanding craftsmanship which ensures every watch is of exceptional quality.

Here are some key factors that make Grand Seiko special and contribute to its popularity and desirability:

Superior Build Quality

Grand Seiko watches are made in Japan, where there is a long-standing tradition of exceptional craftsmanship. Japanese artisans are known for their meticulous attention to detail and pursuit of perfection, which is reflected in the quality of Grand Seiko timepieces.

The cases are typically made from stainless steel or precious metals like gold or platinum, ensuring durability and longevity. The crystals are made of scratch-resistant sapphire, which is highly transparent and provides excellent protection to the dial.

The level of finishing in its watches is rarely seen in other timepieces thanks to a traditional Japanese technique called Zaratsu polishing. Derived from Japanese sword polishing, Zaratsu involves the skillful pressing of metal against abrasive surfaces, resulting in distortion-free, perfectly reflective surfaces with sharp edges.

Grand Seiko watches are also built to last for generations, and the brand maintains strict quality control measures to ensure that every watch meets the highest possible standards.

Before the manufactured timepieces leave the factory, stringent accuracy checks, water resistance testing, and aesthetic evaluations are carried out.

It’s no wonder the brand warrants free repair and adjustment service against any defects on their watches for up to five years from the date of purchase.

High-End Movements

Grand Seiko’s movements have always been a show of mechanical ingenuity and complexity.

Just four years after its establishment, the brand joined the competition for the ranking of its movements in the Neuchatel chronometer testing. 

During this trial, a series of the most stringent, thorough accuracy evaluations were conducted. After just about three years, Grand Seiko’s movements leaped from its position in the hundreds to being in the top 10.

The brand’s dedication to precision, craftsmanship, and attention to detail has remained unwavering and is reflected in the creation of its movements.

To make each movement, components such as the mainplate, bridges, gears, and springs are manufactured with great precision. 

The majority of Grand Seiko’s movements are made in-house, ensuring strict quality control. Advanced CNC (Computer Numerical Control) machines and high-precision tools are used to fabricate these components, after which skilled watchmakers assemble the movement by hand. 

Once the movement is assembled, it undergoes a series of meticulous tests and adjustments. The watchmakers regulate the movement to ensure accurate timekeeping within the specified tolerances. 

Various tests, including timing tests and power reserve tests, are conducted to verify the movement’s performance and reliability.

The watchmakers then meticulously polish and decorate the movement’s surfaces, including the bridges, plates, and screws, to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the movement.

Grand Seiko movement can be grouped into three broad families, namely, Caliber 9F quartz movements, Caliber 9S mechanical movements (which include automatic and manual winding), and Caliber 9R Spring Drive movements.

Exquisite Dial Designs

Grand Seiko dials are meticulously made by skilled artisans who take great pride in their work. The level of precision and dedication put into creating these dials can evoke emotions of awe and appreciation for the artistry involved.

From the mesmerizing sunburst patterns to the intricate textures, each dial evokes a sense of beauty and delight, creating a strong emotional bond between the watch and its owner.

Grand Seiko has developed a distinct design language, often characterized by clean lines, refined aesthetics, centuries-old Japanese artistry, and modern innovations.

Most Popular Grand Seiko Dials

Grand Seiko dials express the resplendent and inimitable beauty of Japan. Simply staring at the dials from the brand feels like one is being transported to Shinshu Studio, where all the action takes place. 

The brand draws inspiration for its dials from various sources, including nature, traditional Japanese craftsmanship, and the unique cultural heritage of Japan. 

Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

Snowflake Dial


The term “snowflake” describes a particular pattern found on the dial’s surface, which resembles the texture and sparkle of freshly fallen snow. 

The snowflake dial, which has become one of Grand Seiko’s most popular designs, was introduced to capture the beauty and essence of Japanese winters.

The inspiration behind the snowflake dial can be traced to the natural landscapes of Shinshu, a region in central Japan where the Grand Seiko Studio is located. Shinshu is renowned for its heavy snowfall during the winter season, creating a serene and breathtaking environment.

The distinct texture of this dial is achieved through a technique called “Diamond Dust” or “Miyuki”. Skilled craftsmen apply a series of fine, needle-like cuts to the dial’s surface, creating a three-dimensional pattern that resembles the crystalline structure of snowflakes.

After texturing, multiple translucent layers of a specially formulated coating are applied to the dial’s surface. The coated dial then undergoes a curing process, where it is heated and cooled to ensure the layers adhere properly and achieve the desired texture and color.

Once the dial has been cured, it undergoes meticulous finishing processes, such as polishing and cleaning, giving the dial the appearance of fresh snow with a flawless surface.

Few watches featuring the Snowflake dial include the references SBGA211, SBGA011, SBGA259, and the SBGA407 with its gorgeous Blue Snowflake dial.

Minamo Dial


 “Minamo” is a Japanese word that means “water’s surface” or “water pattern”. Thus, a Minamo dial is one with a design that resembles the rippling effect of water. 

Grand Seiko’s Minamo dials are inspired by the gentle sway of the water surface of Lake Suwa, which lies close to the Shinshu Watch Studio.

The overall pattern and desired visual effect evoke a sense of freshness, purity, calmness, tranquility, and depth.

The design concept for the dial is developed, and then a base, usually of metal, is prepared. This serves as the canvas for the design and is coated with a layer of paint or a special finish.

Afterward, the water pattern is created using techniques such as pad printing, silk-screen printing, and/or hand-painting, where skilled artisans apply layers of paint or enamel to convey a feeling of serenity and tropical vibes.

Once the desired water pattern is achieved, the dial is often coated with a protective layer, such as clear lacquer or transparent enamel. 

This coating not only helps preserve the dial’s design but also enhances its luster and durability. The Minamo Dial can be seen in the Ref. SLGA007, SLGA021, and SLGA019.

Spring Dial


One of the most recognizable features of spring is the blooming of flowers and trees. As temperatures rise, plants awaken from their winter dormancy and begin to sprout new leaves and flowers, adding vibrant colors to the landscape.

Grand Seiko Spring dials incorporate delicate floral patterns which instantly bring to mind the beauty of spring. The designs evoke thoughts of blossoming flowers, leaves, or intricate botanical motifs.

The process involves talented artists creating miniature paintings on watch dials that depict scenes of spring-related motifs. These delicate and detailed paintings are typically done by hand using specialized brushes and tiny paint strokes.

A soft pastel shade which is associated with springtime, like pink, is the popular color with spring dials. This creates a gentle and refreshing aesthetic on the watch dial, as seen in the Ref. SBGA413 and SBGY026.

Silken Sunray Dial


The term “silken” describes a smooth and luxurious texture like silk sort of, while “sunray” refers to a pattern consisting of radiating lines that mimic the rays of the sun, which creates a visually striking effect. When combined, the terms imply a watch dial with a smooth and shiny surface adorned with a sunray pattern.

Shinshu was once a major center of silk production, and Grand Seiko pays tribute to this heritage with this invention.

A metallic base, such as stainless steel or brass, is smoothened by cleaning, polishing, and sometimes sandblasting or brushing. This process greatly removes all imperfections and creates a pristine backdrop for the sunray pattern.

A specialized machine or hand-operated engine then produces repetitive patterns on the metallic surface. These patterns radiate outwards from the center, resembling the rays of the sun. The lines’ depth, angle, and spacing are adjusted to achieve different variations of the sunray effect.

The dial is then polished to get a glossy finish that protects it from scratches and oxidation. The breathtaking Silken Sunray Dial can be seen in the Ref. SBGA437 and SBGP001.

Autumn Dial


Grand Seiko’s autumn dial is one of the most striking, detail-oriented, and fascinating dials ever created. During Fall, leaves on deciduous trees change from their vibrant green shades to hues of red, orange, yellow, and brown. The dials draw inspiration from these hues and offer us a visually appealing representation of the season.

Brass, stainless steel, or ceramic, which is used as a base, is prepared first. Afterward, a matte finish which creates a more subdued and rustic look, is worked out on the base.

Delicate patterns or the silhouette of a tree against a colorful backdrop are then engraved, embossed, or painted onto the dial surface.

Lastly, a protective coating, such as a layer of clear lacquer, is applied to safeguard the dial’s design and produce a reflective sheen. This striking dial can be seen in the SBGH269G.

Mount Iwate Dial


Mount Iwate, also known as Iwate-san, is a prominent mountain located in the Iwate Prefecture of Japan. It stands at an elevation of 2,038 meters (6,686 feet) and is considered one of the 100 Famous Japanese Mountains. 

It holds significance in Japanese folklore and culture and is visible through the windows of Studio Shizukuishi, where the dials are made by the brand.

Mount Iwate dials incorporate elements or motifs inspired by this mountain. Textures or patterns reminiscent of its landscape, such as ridges, mountain silhouettes, or flowing lines that mimic its contours, are incorporated into the design of the dials.

The dials are then coated with Urushi lacquer, a sap obtained from the Urushi tree which has undergone a meticulous and time-consuming process of refinement. The mesmerizing dials can be found in the Ref.SBGJ201, SBGJ231, and SLGH019.

Whirlpool Dial


Grand Seiko’s whirlpool dials capture the essence of swirling water and convey a sense of energy and movement.

Whirlpools are characterized by a look that often resembles a rotating funnel, and so these dials feature concentric circles or spiraling patterns reminiscent of the motion of a whirlpool. 

Gradient colors that transition from light to dark or vice versa are used to mimic the depth and movement of the water in a whirlpool, creating a visually striking effect.

The dial’s surface is then worked on to generate a textured finish, such as a sunburst or wave pattern, adding depth and aesthetical interest.  The overall effect is nothing short of breathtaking, as can be seen in the Ref. SBGH267

White Birch Dial


The Birch tree is valued for its graceful appearance, practical uses, and distinctive bark. The bark is often white or light-colored, although some species exhibit shades of gray, brown, or even reddish-brown.

The tree is often associated with rebirth, purity, renewal, restoration, and rejuvenescence in various cultures thanks to its peeling bark.

Grand Seiko’s white Birch dial draws inspiration from this tree by incorporating elements reminiscent of the plant’s unique characteristics.

The dial features a combination of white, light gray, and soft brown tones to replicate the colors of birch tree bark. These colors create a visually appealing contrast and reflect the natural beauty of the tree.

The process involves incorporating subtle patterns that imitate the delicate markings found on birch bark. These patterns include thin, vertical lines or gentle curves arranged in a manner that replicates the organic flow of the tree’s bark patterns.

Relish the breathtaking dial in the Ref. SLGA009 and SLGH005G.

Fun fact: Grand Seiko’s White Birch watch (Hi-Beat 36000 80 Hours) won the Men’s Watch of the Year prize at the 2021 Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.

Soko Shadow Dial


Grand Seiko translates the Japanese word “Soko” to mean the end of Autumn. 

The dial draws inspiration from the bewitching view of the forest when the first frost drops on it. It features a textured pattern that creates the illusion of shadows and depth, drawing you deeper with a mysterious spell as you stare into it. The texture is created through techniques like sunburst patterns or intricate motifs.

For a more visually appealing effect, contrasting elements, such as raised portions and recessed areas, are applied. The dial may then be brushed, matte, or satin-finished, while other areas may have a polished or glossy surface to further accentuate the contours and texture of the dial. 

The dark grey dial of the SBGA429 is a flawless representation of the Soko Shadow Dial. It has been vertically brushed to reflect stalks in a bamboo forest, giving the face of the watch a three-dimensional appearance.

Kirazuri Dial


Bewitching, seductive, engrossing, and captivating. Those are the words that describe a Kirazuri Dial. Kira-Zuri is a decorative method that involves applying metallic or colored powders onto a lacquered surface to create intricate patterns or designs. 

To make this type of dial, Grand Seiko uses a glossy base with a smooth, high-quality lacquered surface. Metallic or colored powders are delicately applied onto the lacquered surface, and the desired pattern is created. 

The patterns appear raised or embossed, adding visual depth and creating an enthralling interplay of light and shadow. These dials are typically handcrafted by skilled artisans and can be savored in the references SBGA384, SBGA465, and SBGA387.


Now, go forth and immerse yourself in the world of Grand Seiko. Find that perfect dial that resonates with your soul, adorn your wrist with a timepiece that tells a story, and let the artistry of Grand Seiko accompany you on your journey through time.

grand seiko spring drive watches

What can be said about the Grand Seiko Spring Drive technology that took 20 years to create and refine a revolutionary way to build a mechanical watch? For those not in the know, the unique movement blends quartz technology with the inner workings of a mechanical watch.

There is a wonder in watching the sweep of a mechanical watch, the way it glides around the watch dial. For mechanical and automatic watches, the seconds hand seems like it’s doing a solid sweep, yet in fact, it’s many small ticks going in quick succession. 

With a quartz movement, everyone knows the movement’s tick tick, and many associate that with typical timekeeping. Grand Seiko was able to marry the two technologies to have a seconds hand sweep that is the smoothest in the watch world today.

The Spring Drive Movement Explained

In simplest terms, the Spring Drive movement in Grand Seiko watches is mechanical in design. However, it uses a quartz crystal to maintain accurate time. A unique detail is that there isn’t a battery; everything is powered through the mechanical workings of the watch. 

The Spring Drive movement houses almost all components of a traditional mechanical watch except for the escapement wheel. Instead, it includes a Tri-Synchro Regulator, a complex regulating system that utilizes electric, magnetic, and kinetic energy to synchronize the watch’s operation.

This regulating system produces the necessary electric current that a battery would, which is then fed through the quartz crystal and back to the regulator to monitor the time. Additionally, this system is responsible for the truly mesmerizing sweeping of the seconds hand in the Spring Drive movement.

The History of the Spring Drive Movement

The Spring Drive movement started with one visionary engineer by the name of Yoshikazu Akahane, who worked for Suwa Seikosha, which is now the Seiko Epson Corporation. His idea for a new type of movement was conceived in the 1970s. 

During the early 1970s, he began to work in Suwa Seikosha’s quartz department. After many successful quartz innovations, he began to materialize his idea for the Spring Drive in 1982. After a few failed attempts, the first Spring Drive movement was developed in 1997.

The first Spring Drive movement was in an exhibition at Baselworld in 1999. The first ever watch with a Spring Drive movement was the Seiko SBWA001, and it was fitted with the caliber 7R68. Unfortunately, Akahane couldn’t witness the culmination of his idea, as he passed away in 1998.

Grand Seiko – Mechanical vs. Spring Drive vs. Quartz

From Hi-Beat Diashock movements to Spring Drive and quartz, Grand Seiko does it all and prides itself in its craftsmanship on all levels of its watchmaking prowess. I myself have owned a 9F quartz GMT model from Grand Seiko, the SBGN005, and it is a beautiful no-nonsense watch. 

The quartz technology in it allows for only 10 seconds plus/minus per year. No mechanical watch can compare to that level of timekeeping accuracy. However, there is something to be said about a mechanical watch. 

The beauty is in its engineering and design that it doesn’t require a battery to power the watch, just the energy of it being on your wrist receiving power as you move, allowing the rotor to keep the main spring actively going.

Other than the accuracy of quartz over mechanical and the price of a particular model, I don’t think there is a wrong choice when it comes to the Grand Seiko you prefer. For me, buying a watch is based on its design and how it wears on the wrist. 

If you want a Spring Drive over a regular mechanical watch or a quartz model, they are all good choices. In the end, you buy what you like, and with Grand Seiko, all of their models are fit for someone in the world.

12 Best Grand Seiko Spring Drive Watches

For this list, and in no particular order, I’m going to focus on mainly new watches regardless of their price; I’m just going off of design and what I think looks the best out of Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive lineup. I believe the 9R series is the pinnacle of Grand Seiko Spring Drive watches.

1. Grand Seiko SBGA211 “Snowflake”

No list would be complete without the quintessential Grand Seiko Spring Drive watch, the SBGA211, also known as the “Snowflake”. Its nickname derives from its captivating hand-made textured white dial that represents a terrain covered by snow. The watch also features attractive dauphine-style hands and an elegant blue seconds hand.

The Snowflake is powered by Grand Seiko’s tried-and-true Spring Drive caliber 9R65. The movement has a power reserve of 72 hours that you can always look at thanks to the indicator on the dial. Plus, the case back on the Snowflake is see-through so that you can admire the beautiful movement inside.

Overall, the SBGA211 is an excellent watch for anyone. It works great in an office environment, and its titanium construction gives it the additional durability to survive your daily life. Whether you’re looking for a multi-purpose timepiece or want to add another beautiful watch to your collection, the Snowflake should definitely be on your radar.

2. Grand Seiko SLGA021

The SLGA021 is an amazing timepiece by Grand Seiko that embodies the tranquility of nature. The watch features a deep blue dial with a distinct wavy pattern that’s inspired by the rippling waters of Lake Suwa in Japan. This truly mesmerizing blue dial sets this watch apart and makes it very elegant. 

The SLGA021 features a stainless steel case built to last, with a screw-down crown that helps achieve the watch’s 100m water resistance. Inside the timepiece beats Seiko’s newest 9RA2 caliber, their most advanced Spring Drive movement yet.

The movement has an exquisite 5-day power reserve and a stated tolerance of ± 10 sec every month. All in all, if you want the best of the best in terms of Spring Drive movements in a magnificent package, the SLGA021 is for you. It’s a great watch for all occasions that also fits several different fashion styles.

3. Grand Seiko SBGY011

If you want a classic design with modern elements (e.g. the movement), look no further than the SBGY011. The design of the SBGY011 is a re-interpretation of an old Grand Seiko watch, the 44GS from 1967.

With its classic white dial, it is just simplicity at its finest. The watch has great legibility for its three-handed design, and the nice added touch of a blued seconds hand is just icing on the cake. Most Grand Seiko designs involve an element of nature, and this model is no different as it invokes the mountains of Shinshu, where all Grand Seiko Spring Drive Watches are produced.

This watch is excellent for those wanting something that disappears on the wrist as it weighs in at just 77 g, one of the reasons being the supple crocodile leather strap it comes with.

Of course, the 9R31 manual wound movement is Grand Seiko’s renowned Spring drive movement, which gives the wearer 72 hours of power reserve and ± 15 seconds per month, which is amazing in terms of watch accuracy. It also has 100 m of water resistance, which most dress watches don’t even come close to.

4. Grand Seiko SLGA015

If you are in the market for a sporty watch with all of the bells and whistles and a Spring Drive movement inside, look no further than the SLGA015. It’s a dive watch that can contend with all of the other dive watches in the market and then some. It comes with 200 m water resistance, magnetic resistance, sapphire crystal, and a titanium case and bracelet.

It’s the ultimate watch for scratch resistance and toughness. This diver also houses the 9RA5 Spring Drive movement, which gives it an accuracy of ± 10 seconds per month with a tremendous 5-day power reserve. The power reserve indicator is also a nice added feature, so you can always know how long your watch will last.

The SLGA015 also includes Seiko’s proprietary LumiBrite, for great nighttime and diving legibility. The watch does have a unique 23 mm lug width, so it may be hard to find additional straps for it. Still, I don’t think you’ll be taking off the amazing bracelet on this timepiece.

5. Grand Seiko SBGE285

Every traveler needs a watch, and the tool they should use is a GMT function on their timepiece. It allows the wearer to track different time zones as they go about their journey. They can have that tool watch with a lot of added style if they choose the SBGE285. 

It’s a beautiful, elegant white dial watch that is both a tool watch and a dressier option for those on the go for travel and a pleasant night out with friends. This is another titanium watch that adds to the ruggedness of travel for the wearer. This watch also invokes the snowy mountains of Nagano, which is easily noticed in the beautifully patterned snow-like winterscape dial.

The SBGE285 uses the 9R66 Spring Drive movement with ± 15 seconds per month, 100 m of water resistance, just everything you need when you are a globetrotter. This watch is also a true GMT or a traveler’s GMT, which has an independent jumping hour when adjusting from the crown.

6. Grand Seiko SBGC249

For those looking for a refined chronograph/GMT with a Spring Drive movement, the SBGC249 is an easy choice for first-time buyers and collectors alike. I also chose the blue dial version as it has a striking yet romantic nighttime sky motif on the dial and bezel. The dial features two chronograph subdials, a power reserve indicator, and a dedicated GMT hand.

This makes the SBGC249 the ultimate tool watch. This watch houses the 9R96 Spring Drive movement with plus/minus 10 seconds per month and 100 m of water resistance.  The timepiece delivers functionality and style. For those looking for a GMT or a chronograph, you can check off both boxes with this model. 

7. Grand Seiko SBGA467

This watch is simple and elegant in its design. It is like the little black dress/slim black suit that goes with everything. The inky black dial goes with any formal attire and can accompany you on all your formal events.

Still, the watch’s sportier nature makes it a great accessory for an everyday look with a t-shirt and a pair of jeans. The SBGA467 houses the 9R65 Spring Drive movement with 72 hours of power reserve. Thanks to its low price tag, it’s an excellent affordable option for a timeless piece that can go anywhere with you.

8. Grand Seiko SBGA461

The Grand Seiko SBGA461 is another no-nonsense dive watch, this time in stainless steel. It is an excellent sports watch that can also be used as a professional diver. A little heftier than titanium, the stainless offers extra weight for those who want something ampler on their wrist. 

With 200 m water resistance, this watch houses the 9R65 Spring Drive movement with 72 hours of power reserve and ± 15 seconds per month accuracy. Like any other Seiko dive watch, it has the always trustworthy LumiBrite to take nighttime legibility to the next level.

9. Grand Seiko SBGY002

This watch is a sign of coming up in the world, celebrating something wonderful in one’s life or just something to buy because of its beauty. It is, of course, the prototypical yellow-gold watch. The SBGY002 comes in 18 k yellow gold on a beautiful crocodile leather strap.

It evokes images of the 1950s when men wore hats and suits, but it can be contemporary too in today’s varied fashion trends. It houses the 9R31 Spring Drive movement with 72 hours of power reserve, giving the watch that modern touch with an old-world feel.

10. Grand Seiko SBGC223

This next one is a hulk of a watch at 46 mm, so it’s definitely aimed at people with larger wrists. The SBGC223 doesn’t just involve the superb Spring Drive movement. It also has next-level technology in its combination of high-intensity titanium and ceramic in both the dial, bezel, and bracelet. The watch also combines the functionality of a chronograph and a GMT.

It houses the 9R86 Spring Drive movement with 72 hours of power reserve and plus/minus 15 seconds per month. This watch has a big presence for those who want or need a big watch. It’s also very durable as it will be very tough to scratch with its combination of titanium and ceramic all over the watch.

11. Grand Seiko SBGA413

A watch based on the 62GS from 1967, this beautiful watch with the beautiful scenery of a cherry blossom style on the dial is breathtaking. This is, without question, my favorite watch on the list. It is masculine yet feminine in its design, making you want to wear it. There’s nothing else that needs to be said about this watch. It has the always excellent 9R series of Spring Drive movements. It’s a watch that needs to be seen and experienced on the wrist. 

12. Grand Seiko SBGD202

As part of the masterpiece collection, the SBGD202 is one of the most expensive watches in the Grand Seiko Spring Drive lineup. It has a beautiful design of a night sky in all of its glory and is in 18 k rose gold. 

It also houses the 9R01 Spring Drive moment, giving the watch an astounding 8-day power reserve. This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime watches if you are able to purchase it as well as the platinum version. Grand Seiko continues to provide credibility as one of the premiere watchmakers in the world.


The 9R series of Grand Seiko is a wonder to the watch world. The Spring Drive movement is unparalleled in the sweep of its second hand. Any watch enthusiast or collector can tell you how satisfying the sweep of the seconds hand on a watch is. Throughout this whole article, I didn’t touch on Zaratsu polishing, and the mirror-like finish of Grand Seiko watches.

Most or all of the watches on this list have Zaratsu finishing in some form or another, and let me tell you, it’s amazing. Other watch brands have polished watches, but Grand Seiko is on another level. So, if you are on the lookout for a Grand Seiko, Spring Drive is an excellent option, especially the 9R series.

Grand Seiko vs Seiko

You would be forgiven to think that Grand Seiko and Seiko are the same watches. Seiko is a popular brand but many people confuse it with the watch’s big brother – the Grand Seiko. Seiko watches have the reputation of being reliable, durable, and affordable. They are the watches to go for when looking for a quality and luxurious watch on a budget.

People who have been fortunate to come across both Grand Seiko and Seiko watches understand that although the two watches may look similar, there is a world of difference between them. The Grand Seiko came to cement Seiko’s place as a solid luxury watchmaker that commands the industry’s respect while still producing affordable watches. It is no shock then that the Grand Seiko is ten times more expensive than a normal Seiko (such as the Presage).

The lingering question here is: Why? What makes the Grand Seiko so unique? What is the difference between this watch and a Seiko watch you can grab off a street vendor for a few hundred bucks? This is what we seek to demystify here. Read on to learn the difference between the Grand Seiko and the Seiko watch so that you can make an informed decision the next time you think of buying a watch from the Seiko Company.

Seiko as a company – brief history

Before we compare the two watches, let us explore more about the company that manufactures these incredible watches. Seiko is among the oldest watchmaking companies in the world. The company traces its root to Tokyo, Japan, when Kintaro Hattori, a 21-year-old entrepreneur opened a shop selling watches in 1881. The company started producing and selling wall clocks before evolving into the production of pocket watches in 1895.

Kintaro was inspired to start the watchmaking company by the abandonment of the old ways of timekeeping in Japan. People needed a more reliable and accurate way of keeping time.
The pocket watches from Seiko paved the way for the production of the first wristwatch – the Seiko Laurel – in 1913. The first Seiko watch was produced in 1924 under the brand name ‘Seikosha’.

It was an instant hit and this was the watch that would shape the company’s heritage and establish dominance in the watchmaking industry. Over time, after a lot of improvements on the Seikosha watch, the first Grand Seiko model was manufactured in 1960. This was the company’s signature piece and it cemented Seiko’s place as a premium watchmaker.

Other models were released over the years, including Japan’s first wristwatch to have a stopwatch in 1964, and the first Japanese Diver’s watch in 1965. For over a century Seiko has continued to rebrand itself, adopting emerging technology to create fascinating timepieces that resonate with the masses. In 2017, Grand Seiko became an independent brand, setting itself apart from the company to mark its uniqueness and superiority as the best Seiko watch model.

As an independent brand, the Grand Seiko was able to penetrate other markets beyond Japan and establish itself as one of the best and among the most affordable luxury watches one can buy.
In the ensuing paragraphs, we shall compare the two watches deeply to understand what makes the Grand Seiko unique and more pricey than the Seiko watch.

Which watch should I go for – Seiko or grand Seiko?

Seiko creates watches that match almost every customer segment. Whether you can afford a Seiko or Grand Seiko, you will be proud to own either. The price point is what will eventually determine which watch you go for. But do not be fooled. There are distinct differences between a Seiko watch that you can purchase for several hundred dollars and a Grand Seiko that commands thousands of dollars.

Comparison of Grand Seiko and Seiko Movements

The Grand Seiko uses spring drive technology. The spring drive technology revolutionalized the watchmaking industry, placing Seiko on the same level as its competitors – The Swiss luxury watchmakers. This technology was invented by Yoshikazu Akahane, one of the world’s highly skilled watchmakers, in 1977. His main goal was to combine the best system from a quartz watch and a mechanical watch and create a unique product.

History tip: To understand how spring drive watches work, let’s quickly explore the evolution of watchmaking. The first batch of watches made in the mid-20th century were mechanical watches. These watches utilized a system where the movements inside worked through a distribution of stored energy via a gear train.

The main spring (located inside a barrel in the watch) was wound to coil tightly and then with the help of the barrel it could pass small releases of energy through the unwinding process. Despite the obvious advantage of not needing an external power source to keep this watch working, any disturbance to the oscillation (temperature, friction, etc) could make the watch gain or lose time easily.

In 1969, Seiko came up with the quartz-powered watch. This battery-powered device solved the limitations contained in mechanical watches. The quartz watches were more accurate than mechanical watches and they could be manufactured en masse easily. A simple quartz watch could outperform an expensive mechanical watch.

The spring drive technology idea came to tap into the super accuracy of the quartz watch with the endless power supply of the mechanical watch. 28 years later and with over 600 prototypes, the first batch of spring-drive watches was available for sale to the public in 2005.

Similar to mechanical watches, the spring drive is powered by the uncoiling of the mainspring that gradually releases energy. However, instead of the typical escapement, these watches have a revolutionary tri-synchro regulator component installed.

The tri-synchro regulator does 3 functions;

  • It helps to control the release of energy from the mainspring
  • It assists in the conversion of the mechanical power from the mainspring to electrical power energy to the quartz
  • It generates a magnetic force to act as a frictionless brake to ensure accuracy in timekeeping

The electrical charge generated in the glide wheel is sent to the quartz crystal to create a vibration and then sent back to the integrated circuit. Instead of the constant locking and unlocking mechanism found in a quartz watch, we get a quartz oscillation frequency. Free rotation of the glide wheel allows for the beautiful movement of the second hand. The hand seems as if it is floating.

Quality, style, and build of Seiko Vs Grand Seiko

When you place the Seiko watch and the Grand Seiko watches side by side, you will notice several craftsmanship differences. The Seiko watch was designed to be an incredibly accurate yet affordable timepiece but it has nothing over the Grand Seiko. The casing does not have the luxurious look or feel of the Grand Seiko. We shall explore these structural differences between the two watches briefly in the preceding paragraphs.

Grand Seiko watch parts are handmade

There is a certain level of sophistication that comes with creating a product by hand versus using a machine. Seiko watches may be reliable but the company does not put much effort (or money) into designing these watches. And the price point reflects this. You can pick a Seiko watch for approximately $500 from a street vendor.

Grand Seiko world watches demand a higher price point (with some selling for over $15,000 a piece). Why the huge price variation? Many components of the Grand Seiko watches are made by hand. Japanese watchmakers have an unrivaled reputation for being legends in their business.

It is not uncommon to find a person working on a single watch component for over a decade. Combine several experts, each with a ton of knowledge and understanding of how a particular component works, and what you get in the end is a masterpiece. The devotion that goes into making every component of a Grand Seiko watch is astonishing.

The Grand Seiko case and bracelets are well-polished

In some instances, both Seiko watch models are made from stainless steel. The difference is that the Grand Seiko watch is made from a higher-quality stainless steel material. In other cases (such as in the creation of custom pieces) higher-quality materials – such as titanium and platinum- are used.

Although stainless steel is the standard material used by almost every watchmaker to design cases, you can instantly tell there is a big difference in the quality of the material used on a Seiko and a Grand Seiko.

when you place the watches side by side. The Grand Seiko SBGA211 watch, for instance, has a high-intensity titanium case. It has a diameter of 41mm, a lug-to-lug distance of 49mm, and a thickness of 12.5mm. The back of the watch is made of a see-through, screw-back case with dual-curved sapphire glass and an anti-reflective coating on the inner surface.

This titanium case is highly polished to deliver a mirror-like finish and to create beautiful, sharply defined edges. For comparison, the Seiko SARY 147 has a diameter of 38.3mm, a lug-to-lug distance of 43.6mm, and a thickness of 11.2mm. It is a mechanical watch with a stainless steel case and a beautiful texture. The second timer is painted blue, unlike in the Grand Seiko watch where the blue color is heated into the second timer.

The movement of the timer on the Grand Seiko is also incredibly smooth, thanks to the spring drive technology. Seiko has a logo and elongated diamond markers polished to a mirror shine and mounted to a pale blue sunray dial. The date enclosure also gets a polished metal frame.

The Grand Seiko’s markers are rectangular and they are polished to the hilt. The date marker also gets a polished metal frame. The logo is engraved on the surface of the dial and the words GS are well-polished and sit squarely above the engraved name.

Accuracy comparison between Grand Seiko and Seiko

The spring-drive technology in the Grand Seiko watches gave fair warning to the watchmaking industry that Seiko was here to stay. The company was constantly evolving. The spring drive movements have over 500 parts depending on the watch’s caliber and specifications. The combination of mechanical and quartz technology makes the spring-drive watch one of the most accurate watches in the world.

The Grand Seiko SBGA011 titanium-case watch that debuted in 2005 uses a 9R65 movement that has a plus/minus 1 second per day with a 72 hours power reserve. Continued modification and development have seen these watches record better results over time.

For instance, the SLGA001 (2020) Grand Seiko watch with 9RA5 movement has a 120 hours power reserve with an accuracy of plus/minus 0.5 seconds per day. The Seiko SARY147 watch has an average deviation of minus 15 seconds to plus 30 seconds per day. The movement is reliable and easy to service.

The snow-white face of the SBGA211G Grand Seiko watch

The SBGA211G is among the best diving watches from the Grand Seiko line. It has a bright white dial and polished clock hands. Unlike most watches, the white dial on the Grand Seiko watch is not painted. The brilliant color is made of a special silver plating process that creates snow white texture.

A long and complex process is involved in the creation of the stunning snowflake dial. After silver plating, machining, drilling, and printing the letters follow. The logo and indexes are set by hand by a highly skilled watchmaker.

Watch band types

You have unlimited options when it comes to watch band types for both Seiko watches. You can have both clasp and strap bands on your Seiko watches. The width of the wristband in SBGA211G Grand Seiko is 20mm thick and 193mm long. The clasp type is a three-fold clasp design with a push button release.
Seiko watches have 3 band choices; a metallic band, a silicone band, or a polyethylene band.

Although none of these bands gives you a luxurious feel, they are practical and can easily be replaced when they get damaged. The metallic band is a standard stainless steel band. It is not polished and it features a simple three-fold push-to-release button. The different band parts have not been treated to withstand rust.

Water resistance of the Seiko watches

The degree of water resistance of your Seiko watch is indicated by markings on the back of the case. A watch’s water resistance is not permanently guaranteed because it can be affected by factors such as deformation, age, and damaged parts. That said, Seiko watches still give an incredible performance underwater. Seiko SARY147, for instance, has a 5 bar (50m) water resistance rating. While diving, follow these instructions;

  • Ensure that you wear the watch within the water depth specified on the dial. If you dive deeper than the recommended depth, water may seep into the watch
  • Do not operate the buttons or the crown underwater as this may create spaces for water to seep into the watch
  • Avoid rocks or hard surfaces that may damage the watch underwater
  • After diving, rinse the watch with fresh water and then wipe it thoroughly dry. While rinsing the watch do not pour running water directly from a faucet. Rather soak the watch in a container and wash it clean before drying it.

You may notice that the rotating bezel of your Seiko diving watch becomes tougher to rotate while underwater. This is not a malfunction. It is the pressure of the water working against the watch’s movement.

Most watches are not designed to withstand warm water, and Seiko watches are no exception. They may withstand an occasional shower but continued exposure will certainly damage them in the long run. And this applies to dive watches too. There is no such thing as a waterproof watch.

Other top features

To achieve a top-notch distortion-free design, Grand Seiko uses a concept called Zaratsu. This is a combination of the hairline and mirror-like finishes on the hardy titanium shell. This ensures that there are no distortions and light and shadow reflect evenly on the surface of this watch. The markers also undergo Zaratsu polishing which makes them crisp, distortion-free, and stunning to look at.

To emphasize the level of craftsmanship that goes into these watches, a Seiko watchmaker needs about 5 years of Zaratsu training before they can work on watch cases that will eventually be sold to the final customer. The indexes and hands are diamond-cut.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do the numbers behind a Seiko watch stand for?

The numbers behind a Seiko watch are used to date the watch. You can tell when your watch was manufactured from the serial numbers you see on the back of your watch. The dating format is as follows;

The first number indicates the last digit of the year your watch was manufactured
The second number indicates the month the watch was manufactured
The last 4 numbers are special production numbers that are unique to every watch. You can use these numbers to get any production information about any watch.

Is Seiko better than Rolex?

Both Rolex and Seiko are great names in the watchmaking spectrum. It would be hard to narrow down and offer an opinion on which one is better because each watch is unique. Rolex is synonymous with luxury and you will find that the price point agrees. Seiko watches are more affordable, but this does not mean that they are inferior to Rolex watches in terms of craftsmanship.

It all boils down to your taste and how much you are willing to spend on a good masterpiece. Both brands have a great history that goes back to over a century. They pride themselves on creating excellent timepieces. Rolex is from a Swiss company while Grand Seiko is from a Japanese company.

What are the different Grand Seiko collections?

We have 3 unique Grand Seiko collections namely;

The heritage collection (such as the 44GS and 62GS watches)
The sport collection (such as the SLGA015 and SBGH293 watches)
The elegance collection (such as the SBGY013 and SBGW263 watches)

Do Grand Seikos hold value?

Yes, if the latest craze is anything to go by. They are excellent timepieces that offer a lot of value for the money. Other luxurious watches offering similar value command mind-boggling prices. Watch enthusiasts who appreciate the value of the Grand Seiko can vouch for the longevity of the company and the watches. The Grand Seikos can only get better with time.


Seiko and Grand Seiko watches are excellent pieces manufactured by highly skilled craftsmen. No matter what you choose between the two pieces accuracy and reliability are guaranteed. Seiko watches are valuable to people seeking a good timepiece on a budget. They will deliver as required and having paid a few hundred dollars for the watch, you would certainly get value for your money.

Grand Seikos on the other hand belongs to the caliber of people seeking a certain level of luxury and sophistication without breaking the bank. Sure, they are approximately 10 (or more) times more expensive than standard Seiko watches but they are way more affordable than other watches at their level (such as Rolex and Patek Phillipe).

The design of the Grand Seiko is meant to dazzle, and it does that perfectly. This is a watch you will enjoy wearing to whatever occasion you wish. The Grand Seiko is powered by a spring drive system, as opposed to the quartz system powering the Seiko watches. This is what makes the Grand Seiko truly the ‘Grand’ of the two watches. Irrespective of what you decide to go for, you will not be disappointed. However, if you are looking for a true classic and are willing to spend extra, the Grand Seiko is the watch to buy.

Are Grand Seiko Watches Worth the Money

It’s true that not all timepieces are worth their price! But what about the beauties from Grand Seiko? Are they worth your money? Do Grand Seiko watches hold their value? Are Grand Seiko watches just as good as Rolex? This post has all the answers you need!

Grand Seiko is a Japanese watch brand that was started in 1960. Both the Seiko and Grand Seiko brands existed under one umbrella until 2017 when the Grand Seiko became an independent brand. A good comparison would be the automobile manufacturer Toyota Motor Company.

Both the Toyota and Lexus brands are owned by Toyota but are two distinct entities. Just as the Toyota brand appeals to the everyday driver, the Lexus brand is a higher-priced luxury offering for a more sophisticated consumer. Think of Seiko as Toyota, and the Grand Seiko as the Lexus.

The Seiko watch corporation has accomplished much during its rich history. From Seiko’s inception in 1895 to the introduction of its first mechanical watch in 1913, the company set out to manufacture highly precise timepieces.

In the 1960s, Seiko beat out many high-end Swiss brands at Observatory Competitions in Switzerland, often placing in the top five for mechanical accuracy. 1960 also saw the launch of the Grand Seiko collection. A collection conceived with the goal of crafting a superior timepiece and reflecting the finest materials, finishes, technology, and accuracy.

The First Quartz Watch

First quartz Watch

In 1969, Seiko invented the very first quartz movement. The original model was the Seiko Quartz Astra. The accuracy of these movements was +-5 seconds per month. Far more accurate than the mechanical wind and automatic movements that were being produced. This level of accuracy in a wristwatch was unprecedented. The other great draw to the brand was its affordability.

The quartz introduction would provide a great challenge to the established Swiss watch brands. The follow-up introduction of the Twin Quartz and the Superior Twin Quartz models would further Seiko’s success in delivering highly accurate movements.

The “Twin” refers to the two quartz oscillators that were incorporated into the movement, one compensating for the other during temperature changes. The Twin Quartz introduced in 1978 was accurate to +-10 seconds per year and the Superior Twin Quartz to +-5 seconds per year.

Continued Innovation

Over the past sixty years, Seiko has improved upon many previous watch manufacturing processes. In 2020, Grand Seiko created the T0 (T-Zero) movement which was the world’s first. Amongst the innovations achieved, a totally different approach was applied to the manufacture of the movement’s gears. Gears are vital in the precision of the movement.

Whereas previously gears were machined, Grand Seiko employed a process known as MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems). This technique is employed for making semiconductors. Metal films are layered like plating to produce perfect gear teeth. Gear teeth precision is measured in microns. This process was also used to manufacture Grand Seiko’s pallet fork and escapement wheels.

The T0 movement features a fully integrated constant-force tourbillon on the same axis in the movement. Constant force preserves power in a small spring called a constant force spring which is different from a mainspring. It uses the repulsive power of the small spring to power a pendulum or balance. The constant force mechanism ensures stable torque which increases accuracy.

The Grand Seiko

The Grand Seiko

The Grand Seiko collection is comprised of five sub-collections. These are Masterpiece, Elegance, Evolution 9, Sports, and Heritage. The starting retail price for a Grand Seiko is $2200.00. All stated prices are suggested retail prices.

Every Grand Seiko watch houses one of three types of movements The “9S” is a mechanical movement that offers Grand Seiko Specification Standards of the accuracy of +4/-2 seconds per day. These standards are achieved over seventeen days of testing in six different positions and at three different temperatures (exceeding COSC testing criteria).

The “9S5A” movement is the automatic version with an accuracy of +8/-3 seconds per day. The second movement is the “9S”. This movement is based on the unique technology of a spring drive. This technology combines electronic and mechanical watchmaking methods within one movement.

Watches carrying these movements are accurate from a minimum of +-.5 seconds per day to +-15 seconds per month. These movements are also highly resistant to magnetism, changes in temperature, and shock.

Lastly is the “9F” which is a hand-assembled quartz movement. Most quartz movements are machine manufactured, so this is a very unique feature. These watches also boast accuracy readings of +- 10 seconds per year.

One of the questions this article will seek to address is whether the Grand Seiko is a worthwhile alternative to purchasing a Swiss-made luxury brand such as Rolex. To answer this query, I will provide some background information on the Rolex brand.

Rolex’s History

Rolex, surprisingly, has been around for a shorter time than the Seiko brand and compared to many other luxury Swiss brands. As mentioned earlier, Grand Seiko has been developing its higher-tier niche for just over sixty years.

Rolex is probably the most recognized Swiss luxury watch brand in the world and is an even greater testimony to the marketing success of the Rolex brand and the reputation the company enjoys today. Much of this success is attributable to Hans Wilsdorf, the English entrepreneur responsible for the creation of the brand.

Though conceived in England, Wildorf created the Rolex brand in 1908 and would ultimately move the entire operation to Geneva, Switzerland, where he would create the first water-proof self-winding wristwatch with a perpetual rotor. A patent was issued to Rolex in 1926 for the world’s first waterproof watch, which today is the oyster case.

500 Patents and Counting

Rolex has filed for more than 500 patents over the history of its existence. These patents showcase their innovations that range from internal movements to their exclusive Cerachrom bezels and bezel inserts. Cerachrom is a ceramic material that is virtually impervious to scratches and its color is unaffected by the sun’s ultraviolet rays.

Rolex today is a completely vertically integrated company with every step of the watch’s conception to completion performed by the Rolex team. To assure the continued success and commitment to producing the highest quality timepieces, Rolex has an exclusive training center that educates, trains, and acclimates every employee to their culture of excellence as well as one of the most rigorous testing labs to ensure the integrity of every watch.

There is even a department of tribology where the scientific study of friction, wear, lubrication, and how moving parts interact in every aspect of a watch’s movement and physical parts exists to continue Rolex’s constant perfection in watchmaking.

Another attribute of the Rolex collection is its commitment to precision and accuracy. In this aspect, every Rolex is not only a certified chronometer but a superlative chronometer as reflected by the certificate and green seal that accompanies each wristwatch. The parameters of accuracy exceed those required by the COSC. which are -4/+6 seconds per day. The superlative identification reflects a deviation of -2/+2 seconds daily.

Grand Seiko vs. Rolex

Both brands offer excellence in both watchmaking processes and innovation. Grand Seiko has made significant technological strides in incorporating semiconductor manufacturing practices in the production of its watch components and materials. Also, in the field of combining both mechanical and electronic movement technology, Grand Seiko has achieved world-class results for accuracy.

Grand Seiko is also one of the only watch brands that offer a hand-assembled quartz movement. This coupled with a virtually “Blink of an eye” date change function are significant advancements. In most watches, when the date is going to change at midnight, the numeric function is either gradual or can be viewed in real-time.

The Grand Seiko anticipates the coming midnight hour and changes at the precise moment the day turns over quietly and with seamless aplomb. In the discussion of high-end complications, Grand Seiko has made contributions and advancements concerning the incorporation of the tourbillon with its T0 (T Zero) Constant Force Tourbillon. For the most part, both Rolex and Great Seiko are not necessarily renowned for their complications.

When comparing both brands for technical prowess, you have a long history of Swiss movement development and innovation juxtaposed with a virtual newcomer to the watch world in the Grand Seiko brand.

I believe the Japanese work ethic and ability to approach watchmaking with a new and fresh mindset have contributed to their success in producing watches that have the ability to compete and even exceed many Swiss luxury brands based on technology, accuracy, and aesthetics.

Both of these brands have built reputations for producing high-end luxury timepieces, but Rolex is miles ahead in brand recognition and has a greater perceived value in the marketplace.  I believe a consumer seeking a Rolex will choose to stay on that path and not consider a Grand Seiko as an alternative choice. The Grand Seiko, though an excellent watch, does not offer the allure of a Rolex.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Difference between Seiko and Grand Seiko?

As referenced in this article, Seiko and Grand Seiko have existed together under the same roof, so to speak, until recently when the Grand Seiko brand became its own distinct entity. Each may share the Seiko name but they are distinctly different.

You can purchase a Seiko for as little as $100.00 at retail. Given their massive distribution and easy availability, prices may vary considerably. If you are in the market for an accurate everyday watch that looks good and tells time, then this brand fits the bill. If you don’t care if your watch is of Swiss or Japanese origin, any Seiko watch is a good choice. 

Grand Seiko would be your choice if you wanted a more sophisticated timepiece that reflects the highest level of Japanese watchmaking. The finishes and materials, as well as the quality of the movements position these models in the luxury watch market.

Is Grand Seiko a luxury watch?

I believe Grand Seiko is a luxury watch. Albeit a more fair question would be, what level of luxury? Unfortunately, the luxury watch market is dominated by Swiss brands that have been around for far longer than Grand Seiko, and have built brands and names that are highly sought after and in demand.

I will also make the assumption that when wearing a Grand Seiko, anyone noticing the watch might have the immediate observation that they are looking at a much more luxurious Seiko watch. In the U.S. market and others, the name Seiko would not elicit thoughts of luxury.

A consumer needs to be educated that the Grand Seiko, though carrying Seiko in its name, is unlike the Seiko of their father’s generation. No one mistakes the prestige of a Rolex or an Omega, for instance. These brands are easily recognizable and reflect the wearer’s taste and success.

Which is More Popular, Grand Seiko or Rolex?

The Grand Seiko collection offers far more sophisticated movements in many of its models. The Rolex models house movements that are manufactured in-house and are high quality in their own right but lack the sophistication of Grand Seiko’s complicated models. Both brands look and feel luxurious. 

Rolex, in large part, is not only in high demand for its watch designs but because the brand has had great success carefully building a successful luxury brand name. Through high-end sponsorships in sports such as golf and the equestrian community and targeted advertising towards a wealthy and sophisticated consumer, Rolex enjoys a status other brands do not.

Grand Seiko would benefit greatly from a targeted campaign promoting their brand as the iconoclast’s choice rather than trying to compete head-to-head with the various Swiss luxury watch brands available. Grand Seiko suffers from a lack of visibility to a wider audience who may appreciate the quality of their timepieces.

Are Grand Seiko Watches as Good as Rolex Watches?

Both are quality timepieces. Both use the highest quality materials and are impeccably finished. Each brand is completely vertically integrated producing all of its components and movements and assembling its watches. The Rolex collection is distinguished by its oyster case whereas the Grand Seiko watches offer more variety in styles.

In comparing quality, I believe each is as good as the other when it comes to quality. The allure of a Rolex is not so much the quality comparison but the statement it makes for the wearer. The Rolex name on the dial of any one of the company’s models speaks quality, expensive, and luxury and I have arrived at a certain station in life.

Is Grand Seiko a Good Investment?

Most watches should not be purchased as investments. There are models amongst collectors and watch experts that have appreciated in value over time as evidenced in the secondary market and at auctions, but this is an area of speculation that you should not merely gamble in. Values tend to fluctuate with economic booms and busts and changes in consumers’ tastes.

That being said, some watches do hold their value better than others. Two such brands are Rolex and Patek Phillipe. Unfortunately, there is a fair amount of depreciation that occurs after the purchase of a Grand Seiko watch. If you want to purchase a Grand Seiko for yourself, a well-cared-for used timepiece might be a prudent decision if you can appreciate the quality of one of the watches and don’t have an indiscriminate budget.

Do Grand Seikos Hold Their Value?

As mentioned in my answer to the previous question, Grand Seikos experience a measure of depreciation after purchase. The secondary market for Grand Seikos is not as strong as Rolex for instance. There is a better chance of retaining value with a Grand Seiko if one purchased a limited edition piece, but there is no guarantee of this either.

Why Should I Buy a Grand Seiko Over A Swiss Watch?

If you are not searching for a brand that people will easily recognize on your wrist, then a Grand Seiko is a great choice. Wearing a Swiss-made luxury watch typically makes a statement as to the wearer’s success in life. Sophisticated taste, class, and wealth are words used in describing the wearer of a fine Swiss-made timepiece.

If you do desire superior accuracy, this is an area where the Grand Seiko models excel. You will not find this level of accuracy in either Rolex or most high-priced Swiss luxury brands. What you do get with the purchase of a Grand Seiko is great value for exceptional watchmaking and craftsmanship. You may even get some people to ask about the watch you are wearing and you can sing the praises of an alternative choice to the luxury brands that they might be more familiar with.

Why are Grand Seiko Watches so Expensive?

This is an interesting question because when it comes to luxury brands, the high cost is a subjective decision for the purchaser. Luxury brands exist so that a statement can be made by the one who purchases the item.

Whether it be automobiles, watches, neighborhoods people desire to live in, or anything that is not affordable to most individuals, they exist to reflect a person’s success and class in life. If a brand is successful at crafting an image of luxury and exclusivity, there is then a margin of value that will often exceed the cost of making that item. A customer will pay a premium to own the item.

There are many Swiss-made luxury brands that people will willingly pay that premium to own a watch. This is not to say that there are also many handmade watches where countless hours of watchmaking, research, and design as well as the use of costly materials have been invested and these costs become quite expensive. 

Grand Seikos are crafted from the finest quality materials and are superbly finished. The research and design reflected in any of the models of the collection are worth a premium. You must ultimately determine for yourself if these attributes are worth spending the extra money on or just getting an inexpensive watch to merely tell the time. What you get in a Grand Seiko will most likely be less expensive than what you would pay for in a comparable Swiss luxury brand.


In conclusion, both the Rolex and Grand Seiko brands are of the highest quality. Rolex has a distinct edge because of its successful advertising and marketing and the reputation it has built over time. The Grand Seiko timepieces are great reflections of superior Japanese watchmaking but lack the cache and luxury brand recognition that Rolex enjoys.

If you do not have your heart set on a particular brand and are open-minded about your next luxury watch purchase, make part of your due diligence a trip to your jeweler or watch shop to try on and learn more about what the Grand Seiko has to offer. You might pleasantly be surprised by the Grand Seiko collection.

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