Zen and the Art of Grand Seiko Maintenance


Grand Seiko maintenance - except for the date wheel

The Grand Seiko maintenance video below is causing quite a stir, in its own little way. “I’m not the only one who gets emotional watching this,” Nicholas Packwood commented underneath Grand Seiko Complete Service. “Like family. It’s spiritual.” Davidc5191 reckons. “It’s like watching open-heart surgery.” It is. And I’m happy to report it’s the best thing to happen to Grand Seiko’s reputation since, um, ever . . .

I haven’t exactly hidden my disdain for Grand Seiko’s lack of marketing skills or my exasperation at their overpriced and ludicrously themed timepieces. This Grand Seiko maintenance video doesn’t redeem the team as much as say, giving their watches an actual name would. But it certainly elevates Grand Seiko above Seiko and maybe even Rolex.

Vacheron Constantin? Patek Philippe? Calm down there pardner.

Grand Seiko maintenance with a microscope

While the video leaves no doubt that Grand Seiko treats their watches with  the same care and attention Egon Zweimüller lavished on an Alfa Romeo 33/2 Stradale, Grand Seiko watches do not, will not and perhaps can not have one tenth of the romanticism, the joie de vivre of either the Italian car or Swiss high horology.

And that’s OK. Because Grand Seiko brings something else to their minimalist masterpieces: fanaticism.

Call it precision, dedication, a total commitment to excellence, whatever terms of respect you prefer. But my Jewish father nailed it. When an admirer complimented his gleaming Mercedes Benz 300 SEL 6.3 he said “It takes a Nazi to make a Mercedes.” It takes the Japanese to make a Grand Seiko.

Grand Seiko maintenance spring

I mean that in the nicest possible way. How can you not admire the demented attention to detail on display in this video – never mind the hand/eye coordination? Fine adjustment of balance and hairspring to 1/100mm by skilled experts? Light polishing? Just so much and no more! 

Grand Seiko maintenance with microscope

I’m sure the Swiss do the same thing. But I bet Grand Seiko does it better, because they’re Japanese. They bring zen to the art of Grand Seiko maintenance.

Look at the technicians in the video. They’re not just performing required repair and maintenance. They’re into it. That guy with the microscope? He’s a zen master. I bet he can hear the sound of one escapement cog oiling.

The Grand Seiko video leaves you with the impression that entirety of the company’s hive mind is focused on servicing one watch and just one watch. Slowly. Methodically. No one’s hurrying to get the damn thing out the door before the UPS guy leaves for the weekend.

Hang on. Where does Grand Seiko find the time to make new watches? And why is this seemingly new watch in for service – what looks to me like a complete overhaul – in the first place?

Grand Seiko ad 2018

Never mind. This video is the best calling card Grand Seiko has ever produced – even if it should have been about making watches (like this). All Grand Seiko needs now is a proper strap line.

In 2018, GS went with “Provoking a New Sense of Aesthetics” – which is like McDonald’s saying “Satisfying Instant Gratification.” If I were Grand Seiko’s Shogun I’d use “Engineered like no other watch in the world.” My father sure would have liked it.


  1. It’s hard not to respect (and even love) the sense of pride, order and precision that is shown in that video. As a person who’s spent a lot of time in Japan and developed a deep respect for the culture I realize that I have some undefinable romantic feelings for Japan. Things just work there. The people have a lot of respect for each other and their national traditions. Maybe it’s a romanticism for competency and order in a world that seems off-axis right now. I am envious of my colleagues that are riding out this pandemic there. They tend to get on with things and show respect and resolve in ways that are foreign for the rest of the world.

  2. Re: your comment that “it takes a Nazi to make a Mercedes,” my father always remembered R&T writer Henry Manney saying of the back seat of then new Mercedes 600, “I can see a rape taking place back there, but never a seduction.”

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