Grand Seiko – How to Choose

Grand Seiko

Grand Seiko makes a lot of watches. The GS website divides their timepieces into four categories: Elegance (34 watches), Heritage (62 watches), Sport (29 watches) and Limited (24 watches). Excluding overlap, there are 125 model choices. Not to mention around a dozen special editions. How do you choose? Try this three-step process . . .

Grand Seiko all page four models

Start by clicking here. The link will take you to the Grand Seiko page with all their models in one place. (Re-open this page on a new tab.) They’re not the sexiest pictures – especially compared to Rolex’s – but it is a helpful guide.

If you’re on a laptop, iPad or desktop, check out the left side of the page. That’s where you’ll find a tick-box product finder/eliminator widget. If you’re on your phone, click on the word “FILTER” underneath “125 Items.” Same widget.

There’s a search bar with twelve main options, ranging from “Collection” to “Function” to “Band,” and numerous sub-options. Navigating this navigation system needn’t be daunting. Take it one step at a time.

ALL GRAND SEIKO MODELS COLLECTIONS Grand Seiko

Begin your journey to Grand Seiko ownership by clicking on “Driving System.” That opens-up the three new tick boxes: Mechanical, Quartz and Spring Drive.

Your first task: choose your preferred “Drive System” – Grand Seiko’s term for the movement or “engine” that “drives” the watch’s hands. (Confusingly, the “Movement” box lists all 23 “drive systems” alphanumerically. Unless you’re a fanatical watch guy or gal, leave that box alone.)

If you’re not familiar with the different movement types, here’s a simple guide. (Click on the choices immediately below for a deeper dive.)

Step One: Mechanical, Quartz or Spring Drive?

There’s one trick newcomers to the luxury watch game need to know: Grand Seiko’s “Mechanical” category includes both manual (wind-it-yourself) and automatic (self-winding) watches. All in, Grand Seiko sells 57 mechanical watches.

Unfortunately, to know which Mechanical watch has which, you have to select “Mechanical” from “Drive Systems” then click on a watch. Once on the product page, look for “Specifications.” Select “Movement.”

Make a note or take a screencap, hit your browser’s back button. Wash, rinse and repeat. Or just tick the “Mechanical” box, proceed with steps two and three, then see which one’s manual and which one’s automatic.

Mechanical (manual)

Grand Seiko manual wind movement

Manual winding watches are Old School. The purist’s choice. You feel your watch’s mechanical bits moving when you wind and set it. If you have a clear caseback (as many Grand Seikos do), the movement’s beauty isn’t obscured by a rotor (the thing that spins to power a self-winding watch).

Mechanical watches tend to be slimmer pieces. The downside: they’re generally more delicate than other movement types and you must perform the “work” of winding and setting the time/date.

Mechanical (automatic)

Grand Seiko Automatic movement

Self-winding watches are powered by a rotor that spins as you move to wind your watch. They’re the default choice these days, and have been for decades.

Watches with automatic movements are ideal for buyers who want the cachet/bragging rights of a “driving system” made of metal pieces and don’t want the [supposed] hassle of setting the time and winding the movement (assuming you don’t leave your watch on a shelf for more than a couple of days).

Quartz (21 watches)

Grand Seiko quartz

Quartz watches use an actual piece of quartz to regulate the timekeeping, and a battery to keep things humming along.

They’re zero hassle (no winding, just battery replacement), incredibly accurate, tough and less expensive than mechanical watches. The downside: watch people look down on them.

Spring Drive (47 watches)

Grand Seiko Spring Drive movement

Spring Drive is Seiko’s exclusive hybrid “driving system,” combining battery power with a mechanical movement. The battery doesn’t need replacing, and you get all the accuracy and durability of quartz watch.

Spring Drive watches are the only modern watches where the second hand sweeps around the dial in one continuous, smooth, uninterrupted motion (the second hand on other watches just looks like it’s sweeping).

The downside: they ain’t cheap.

Step 2: Elegance, Heritage or Sport?

Once you’ve chosen your “Drive System,” it’s time to choose your “Collection.” Here’s the breakdown:

Elegance (16 watches)

Grand Seiko’s Elegance pieces are all “dress watches” – slim timepieces with an hour, second and minute hand (ladies’ models have a date window). In the main, these watches do not like to swim or play volleyball.

Twenty-seven Grand Seiko Elegance timepieces are mechanicals, seven are Spring Drive and none are quartz (not the done thing darling).

Heritage (20 watches)

Grand Seiko SBGP013 Heritage

With a couple of exceptions, Grand Seiko heritage watches are three handers (hour, minute and seconds) that harken back to minimalist Grand Seikos of yore. They’re do-it-all watches – good for work, play and a formal dinner.

Twenty-six Heritage GS models are mechanicals, 16 are quartz powered and 20 holster a Spring Drive movement.

Sport (29 watches)

Grand Seiko SBGJ239 - new watch alert!

As the name suggests, Sport model Grand Seikos are built to take a licking (and a dunking) and keep on ticking. With four exceptions, they all have a dive watch vibe, complete with a rotating bezel (outer ring).

Only four Grand Seiko sports watches are mechanical (still Ford tough), 29 are quartz (the most robust movement) and a 20 are Spring Drive.

Wild Card! Limited Edition (24 watches)

GS Anniversary quartz

Some of the watches in each of the categories above are Limited Editions. If you’ve already chose a “Drive System” and a “Collection,” add a tick in the “Limited Edition” box to select just the LE’s that apply.

Just to make things interesting, many Limited Edition Grand Seikos aren’t listed in the “Collections” categories. There’s a list of these “special” releases on the bottom of every page.

Some these watches sell out quickly, even before GS posts them on their website. To get first dibs, check our Friday New Watch Alert, monitor other watch blogs, keep an eye on Instagram and make friends with your local GS dealer.

Step Three: Price?

Grand Seikos range from around $3k to around $50k (precious metals, special construction, rarity). Using the price widget, narrow your choices.

At that point, you’re free to play around with the other option boxes: dial color, hand color, case material, model year, band, etc. (assuming you consider these secondary considerations). Unless you’re a watch nerd, again, ignore the 23 movement options on the main page. They’re all excellent.

And now . . .

Ben Bridge Jewelers Domain (courtesy Kurt Kaiser)
Image courtesy Kurt Kaiser

There’s nothing like seeing a watch on your wrist to decide whether or not it floats your boat. Once you’ve made your choice(s), call the Grand Seiko dealer to introduce yourself and arrange a demo.

While GS dealers aren’t as ready to negotiate as, say, OMEGA stores, you don’t ask you don’t get. If money’s too tight to mention, pre-owned or gray market Grand Seikos from a reputable dealer are an alternative to authorized dealer’s inventory.

Happy Hunting!

Obviously, this isn’t the only way to filter through Grand Seiko’s catalogue. I’ve put maximum emphasis on the watch’s movement, reflecting my own prejudice. (I consider the “driving system” a watch’s heart and soul.)

Suffice it to say, this guide is designed to keep you from being overwhelmed by choice. Or visiting a Grand Seiko dealer and end-up buying the pick of the litter, rather than the most suitable timepiece.

Whichever GS you choose, however you choose it, know this: Grand Seiko doesn’t make a bad watch. Which one’s “best” is up to you.

3 thoughts on “Grand Seiko – How to Choose”

  1. I fantasy chose a SBGX259 by going small, white dial, quartz. And it has the date function for the check writer that I am! I think I’ve had three motorcycles and maybe a first car that cost less than it’s relatively low $2200 MSRP though, but they were used.

    1. I fantasy chose the SBGY003, an Elegance Spring Drive for $7600. There’s no tick box to chose Grand Seikos without the hideous power reserve indicator but I’d already winnowed down my selection to eight watches. Easy peasey! Anyone want to buy a pre-loved OMEGA. Wait! Not the OMEGA! NOMOS? No, not that either. My first born?

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