Where Do Seiko And Grand Seiko Go Next?
Wish lists are common among the watch hopeful. No matter the popular brand, you can find discussions about what people think is coming down the pipe. Today, as it relates to Seiko and Grand Seiko, I’d like to turn our attention away from what will probably come towards what I’d actually like to see.
It’s been over five years since I joined the Fratello team. During that time, I’ve woken up to almost daily emails from brands showing their new wares and it’s something that still excites me. No matter the brand, I enjoy looking at the newest of the new. It’s important to note, though, that for the longest time, we received almost nothing from Seiko and Grand Seiko. Yes, these brands were present at Baselworld for years, but they weren’t really global. We had the annual releases and then had to report from afar about limited edition models that would never reach our shores. Well, the last couple of years have proven to be the exact opposite. Now, we get some sort of new release from the Japanese juggernauts on a near-weekly basis.
Loads of Seiko and Grand Seiko releases
If I’m armed with painful memories of the desert that once was, shouldn’t a constant flood of new Seiko and Grand Seiko releases be seen as a good thing? The quick answer is a resolute yes, but the longer answer is more complicated. On the one hand, Seiko and Grand Seiko models have never been better and more available to the globe. Regular and limited models that would have surely been classified as “JDM” are now almost always released worldwide. To help support such a strategy, we also have an increasing number of friendly and attractive Seiko boutiques in major cities. Ten years ago, the thought of a Seiko boutique in Frankfurt would have amounted to little more than a daydream.
I’m also keen on a lot of the newest Seiko and Grand Seiko models. The selection has never been wider and if you’re a fan of historical models — especially divers — the choices are endless and compelling. Thinking back, we were excited about the Turtle rerelease, but an affordable 6159 or Willard was a pipe dream! Now, buyers can wear any one of these timeless designs in a dizzying array of colors with decent automatic movements. But at the risk of sounding ungrateful, I want to call a time out. I have some suggestions. But first…
Those “inspired by” and “spirit of” press releases
I really don’t get why some watch companies always feel the need to tell us why they’ve chosen a certain color for a new piece. It makes sense at times, but not all the time. Sometimes, a watch just looks incredible in a certain color and I think that’s a perfectly fine reason.
Case in point: RJ wrote about a trio of green Prospex watches and some Presage pieces. He did his best, but he was a bit beside himself with some of the quoted reasons for their existence. Both Seiko and Grand Seiko are getting so existential with some of these stories that Vegas just might hold odds on the next storyline. To the brands, if you want to make a green dial or a purple one (in the case of the Presage), just do it! Own it! We love your color choices — they’re inspired enough on their own.
Similar to the “spirit of” or “inspired by” argument, Seiko and Grand Seiko are really into their anniversaries. When a company is this old or has this many achievements, every single year presents the opportunity to celebrate. What I have noticed, though, is that the company is no longer waiting for the big years like “50” or “75”. Now, we get things on the 55th anniversary (such as the SLA039 above) or, like the recent 140th-anniversary models. Well done to both brands for their longevity and technical milestones. But here again, if a limited edition is the decision, bring it! Even the Grand Seiko SBGW047 I own was made to celebrate 100 years of wrist watch making not watchmaking. That’s a rather specific distinction!
Limited Editions are great, but…
I’ve mentioned it before, but the Japanese market seems to be enthralled with just about anything “limited edition.” Therefore, I think it’s unreasonable to think that either Seiko or Grand Seiko will slow down on these special releases. If we take into account my aforementioned suggestions, I have no issue with these. They’re generally fun and most are really attractive. However, when Seiko chose to make last year’s European Limited Edition Alpinist into a normal production model, that crossed the line. If it happens once, people will get past it, but it cannot happen again. People eat up these Seiko special and limited models and they trust that limited means limited. Enough said…
We’ve covered just about all the retro pieces
If you’re a Seiko or Grand Seiko fan, you can recall the old days when we all wanted the two companies to hop on the reissue bandwagon. Well, it took them a while, but we now have modern versions of just about every vintage Seiko diver. Heck, there’s even a new Arnie! This has been amazing for vintage collectors and for new collectors. However, I think we’re nearly at the limit. Heading into 2020, I was wondering what Seiko would do for a retro diver release. After all, they’d covered the 62MAS, the 6159, and the Willard. Short of the earlier cushion case 6105, everything else has been covered. Seiko sort of responded with the trio of 55th-anniversary divers, but those weren’t exactly new. It’s time to do something different and it’s now that we come to some suggestions on what I’d love to see from both brands…
Some new divers, please
If I’m not mistaken, the last evergreen design mechanical Prospex diver was the so-called “Baby Turtle” such as the trio above from back in 2018. I’ve been sorely tempted to buy one of these just because it’s not retro or based on a prior design. I don’t think these watches sell very well and they may be on their way out. If so, I hope Seiko gets back on the horse and keeps trying. I don’t really care if the watch is €500 or €1,500, but I want to see some of that design magic from Seiko. Show me an instant classic in a brand new case design! And when it comes to Grand Seiko, please please make a 40mm thin automatic diver that kicks the tar out of Rolex once and for all. You have the know-how, you have a rabid fan base — just get it done!
And an automatic chronograph I want
The higher-end Seiko and Grand Seiko mechanical/Spring Drive chronographs are nice watches. Do I own one? No. They’re simply just too darn thick and ungainly. Here again, Seiko should be in all conversations against brands like TAG Heuer and the like. Grand Seiko should be in comparison tests against all the big guns in the €7,000–€10,000 range. The problem, in both situations, is that they’re not. I am sure that the brand had loads on its plate in 2019, but here’s a suggestion. I’d be willing to overlook my prior gripe to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the 6139 in 2024 (the SRQ029 was a bit too close to a prior LE for me). However, I’d hope for a new movement and some sort of sexy non-retro case design. Ok, you can make a “Pogue” limited edition and we’ll all rejoice.
Keep on experimenting
The last thing that I’d like to see from Seiko and Grand Seiko is for both to keep on experimenting. I know that watches like the (quickly) discontinued Prospex “Field Compass” were failures, but the recent Alpinists without inner bezels have been successful. Keep on bringing the wild and funky along with the no-brainer classics. For the truly faithful, it’s this variety that makes us such fans. Besides, one never knows what will end up resonating with the market. Sometimes, those rarely covered pieces end up as real gems that take off later and become successes.
None of my comments above were designed to be negative. As I said, we now have a wealth of amazing choices. Both Seiko and Grand Seiko are on a serious roll, so why not turn up the heat even further? I’d simply say to both Seiko and Grand Seiko to keep the new releases coming with an even greater focus on new designs in wearable sizes. Even if we don’t cover movements so much, why not also bring in more accuracy to help silence the few remaining critics? And hey, if you want to say that a sexy new Grand Seiko diver is inspired by Fratello, why not?