Grand Seiko Q&A
We collected over 60 questions to ask Grand Seiko from fellow GS fans on the forums! Obviously, Grand Seiko isn’t able to answer all of our questions, due to the nature of keeping future business plans secret, but they were able to answer a ton of them! After the answers I’ll offer a bit of my own analysis as a GS fan. It’s important to remember that I’m commenting as a fan, not as an insider with some sort of top-secret knowledge–this is just my speculation and my opinions.
GS added this disclaimer to the end of all answers: Many of the questions below relate to the information to be classified as “trade secret” including, but not limited to, new product information or product development plan which has not been made available to the public. Please understand that such questions cannot be answered due to the very nature of the information requested.
In no particular order:Q: Will GS make smaller divers? A: Yes.
My take: After the straightforward reply of “yes,” they pointed out that they can’t discuss specific product plans for the future, so that’s all we’re going to get for now. But this is an unambiguous answer, at least, so for those hoping for smaller GS divers, looks like your wishes will be granted. The question is really whether that’s going to be in 2018 or 2020 or 2025. My guess is that it won’t take all that long, given a renewed emphasis for high-end divers within Seiko.Q: Will GS make thinner/smaller watches? A: Yes.
My take: This goes along very similar lines as the last question. An unambiguous “yes” but really not much to go on here. The only real takeaway here is that GS is not focusing exclusively on larger watches going forward, which is definitely a good thing in my opinion.Q: Will GS enhance the accuracy of future movements? A: We have been and will be exploring all possible technological breakthroughs and innovations to improve the accuracy of the movements.
My take: A fairly vague answer, but it seems that Seiko’s incredibly prolific R&D department is still hard at work. They brought us quartz watches and the spring drive, so who knows what we’ll see next.Q: What’s the feedback been on the dial revision? A: The feedback from the media as well as consumers has been, over all, very positive, especially outside Japan. In Japan, where Grand Seiko, in its old logo style, had been well recognized and established in the minds of the consumers, there have been quite a few Grand Seiko fans who rushed to buy the existing inventory of the old logo Grand Seiko out of the fear and nostalgia that such will become no longer unavailable in the near future.
My take: This was one of the most frequently asked questions for GS and it’s easy to see why. It’s very interesting to note the difference between Japanese and non-Japanese attitudes towards the new dial style. I suspected that might have been the case, with Japanese watch collectors not sharing some of the hangups about Japanese watches as Western watch collectors.Q: Is GS considering revising the dial again? A: At this moment, there is no such plan, even though we don’t deny the possibility of adopting an old logo style for a recreation of a historical model.
My take: This comment is interesting in how unambiguous it is. I’d have thought they’d have reserved all ability to change dials, but they’re pretty much straightforwardly saying no, except for pieces that are honoring historical GSes (and these are quite common with a few LEs every year, so this isn’t a revelation), they’re going to be sticking with the new dial for a long time. If you like the old dial, therefore, go ahead and get it now. If you like the new dial, then you can probably be as patient as you’d like without fear of them going away anytime soon.Q: Will there be more manual wind watches, and will there be more manual wind spring drives? A: Yes.
My take: That’s good news, and hopefully this means we’ll see some relatively affordable hand-wound spring drives in the future.Q: Will there be more power reserves on the back? A: Yes, there will be.
My take: Nice! We can’t extrapolate too much from this though as there’s the possibility of a new mechanical or even quartz movement that also has this feature. Either way, good news in my book.Q: Does GS read the forums for input/criticism/ideas? A: Yes.
My take: That’s something I’ve always wondered about myself. The message here for GS fans, or even GS detractors, is pretty clear: be vocal about your opinions on GS’ watches, because they’re listening.Q: What is GS’ favorite watch that they have ever made and that they currently make? A: We take great pride in producing every watch whether it be Spring Drive, Mechanical or Quartz. Each movement represents the pinnacle within each technology. As a result, we cannot say that one is better than the other. Perhaps an individual craftsman may have his or her favorite however as a brand we value appreciate every movement we produce for our consumers.
My take: The answer is fair enough, given the high degree of subjectivity that goes into choosing a watch. Still, it’d have been interesting to know at least a few of their favorites. Having designed, in the loosest sense, a few watches myself at this point I know I have some personal favorites and I’d be surprised if they didn’t also.Q: Will there be more affordable spring drives? A: As a general proposition, if the production quantity increases, the production cost per unit should decrease. However, a Spring Drive caliber is not a product of mass production and is made of highly labor intensive materials/components. Hence, the cost reduction may not be so significant compared to, for example, the other conventional watch movements. Whether or not the cost reduction, if any, of the movement will result in any reduction in the price of the complete watch in the future is a trade secret and therefore cannot be disclosed.
My take: I’m taking this as a “no.”Q: Will GS expand its presence in Europe? A: Yes, it is a policy of Seiko Watch Corporation to expand the presence of Grand Seiko throughout the world, including Europe.
My take: Good news for European GS fans. GS is clearly on the attack these days.Q: Will adjustable clasps be offered in watches other than divers? A: At this point, we see no practical need for such a design, but we may consider such a possibility depending upon future product development, the details of which are trade secrets.
My take: Again, I’m just going to take this as a “no.”Q: How does Seiko design watches? A: As a vertically integrated manufacturer, Seiko designs all Grand Seikos by its in-house designers and using components developed and manufactured in-house.
My take: Not so much a statement of methodology, unfortunately, merely saying that “we do it ourselves.” That’s not strictly true, however, as they sometimes co-design watches with Giugiaro, but that’s a feature, not a bug.Q: How are Seiko teams internally organized (i.e. Prospex, GS, Credor, Galante)? A: Seiko is a large company with approximately 13,000 employees worldwide. The ultimate parent company, Seiko Holdings Corporation, has nearly 70 subsidiaries worldwide, many of which are engaged in development, production, marketing, distribution as well as aftersales services of watches. Seiko Watch Corporation, which is a subsidiary of Seiko Holdings Corporation is responsible for marketing of all Grand Seiko, Credor, Galante and Seiko (including Prospex). The other subsidiaries are engaged in manufacturing of those watches for Seiko Watch Corporation.
My take: Finally, an answer for all the corporate organization chart nerds out there.Q: What is the education and experience of an ordinary GS watch designer? A: Many in-house GS designers graduate from a university or technical college/high school with a degree such as industrial design, even though such is not necessarily a prerequisite for recruiting the designers.
My take: That’s interesting to know. I’d imagined that since Seiko has such a specific design already that they may not place a lot of value on outside design education, but it seems that this isn’t the case.Q: How will GS be expanding its service centers? A: We have a global network of service centers. As the business grows even further and depending upon future need, the service center network will be expanded.
My take: A bit vague, but it seems like servicing GSes is going to get easier in the future.Q: What is the origin of the name Snowflake? A: Snowflake comes from the exquisite finish of the unique dial which is inspired by, and resembles, pure white snowflakes often seen in the winter outside of the workshop of the GS watchmakers.
My take: I think GS is saying that the name is internal, given that they’re referring to their own inspiration. They do, at the very least, seem to use it internally.Q: Will there be more quartz GSes? A: Yes, there will be.
My take: Good news for quartz fans. There aren’t a lot of sources for HEQ these days, so the renewed commitment is nice.Q: Will GS redesign its bracelets in the future? A: There are various bracelet designs existing at present and will be more new bracelet designs in future.
My take: So that’s basically a straight-up yes.Q: Will GS use free sprung balances in the future? A: At this moment, we choose to (use) our own way to pursue improved accuracy for GS rather than adopting a free sprung balance.
My take: That’s not too surprising. GS has had a ton of luck with the smooth balance design, and it’s even the design they used to win chronometer competitions in the late 1960s. Other great brands like Zenith, Nomos and Vacheron have also done well with the design.Q: Will GS raise prices? A: As in the past, there will likely be price adjustments in the future, either increase or decrease.
My take: GS has been pretty active in adjusting prices from time to time, both upwards and downwards, so nothing really new here.Q: How long in the future will GS offer parts to service spring drives? A: We have established the aftersales service system that ensures to provide the necessary parts for spring drive calibers to our valued customers for a long time, in order to satisfy the customers’ demand as long as such exists, even though we do not have any definitive rule over the number of years for such a part retention at present. Our aftersales service department is committed to keeping inventory on component parts for up to 3 decades beyond the discontinuation of the movement containing the part.
My take: There’s a lot to examine here. First, we must note that this comment is directed towards spring drives, so it’s unclear how much we can extrapolate from this answer to other movements. Second, I think we see an equation here: (1) parts for spring drives will be available (2) for as long as demand exists (3) for up to 30 years (4) after the discontinuation of the movement. We’ve already discussed (1), but (2) appears to suggest that they could conceivably stop carrying parts for a movement prior to 3 decades after discontinuation if there is no demand (not little demand, but none, according to their language) for it. Spring drives are extremely popular, so we can effectively rule out (2) being a practical concern. (3) and (4) are the mathematical part of the equation. Let’s take the 9R65, for instance, which came out around 2004. For our first test case, we’ll assume you bought your 9R65 in 2004. The 9R65 is still the staple of GS’ lineup in 2017, so let’s hypothesize it gets fully phased out in 2025 (just a made-up date for purposes of the hypothetical). From that point, GS is guaranteeing parts availability for 30 years, or in our test case, until the year 2055. That’d give you over 50 years of parts availability. Of course, that number will decline the closer you get to the discontinuation date, as it would for all brands without lifetime part availability. We should also not presume that there won’t be third-party part production at that point.Q: Will GS cancel all of its quartz models? A: As quartz technology is an important part of the DNA of Seiko and Grand Seiko, we have no such plan to cancel our quartz models.
My take: That’s good news to me, and the answer I would have expected. Some collectors have viewed the availability of quartz as a detriment, in terms of respect for the brand, but given quartz’s important heritage within Seiko, and the fact that the 9F is a seriously good movement, I think GS has more right than anyone to carry them. For that matter, I never viewed quartz, at least good quartz, as a bad thing to begin with.Q: Will there be anti-magnetic spring drives? A: All GS models are equipped with magnetic resistance functionality as is more fully explained in the GS website (functions/specifications of each Ref.) as “Magnetic Resistence: 4800A/m (60 Gauss).”
My take: This is a bit of a confusing topic, and I discuss this in some of my reviews. Broadly speaking, virtually all modern watches are anti-magnetic. I think what the forums wanted to know is whether or not GS would be producing spring drive competitors to watches like the Milgauss with really extreme anti-magnetic properties. I don’t think we’re any closer to an answer here, but it doesn’t feel like a priority to GS to me.Q: Will the 9S68 be in future models? A: Yes, it will be. As to further information such as in which models and when, please see the remarks.
My take: That’s nice to see, although it seemed unlikely that GS would bother revising a movement just to use it in a handful of watches.Q: Will there be more non-date GSes? A: Yes, there will be.
My take: Good news for us at Timeless, big fans of no-date watches.Q: Will GS be offering more watches on leather instead of bracelets? A: There will continue to be both leather strap models as well as bracelet models in future.
My take: Hard to read too much into this one. GS is a strongly pro-bracelet company so I don’t think we’re going to see a portfolio like Omega’s, for instance, where you can pick and choose whether you want leather or a bracelet on any given watch.
It’s important to remember that there’s a standard disclaimer at the end of all of GS’ comments: Many of the questions below relate to the information to be classified as a “trade secret” including, but not limited to, new product information or product development plans which has not been made available to the public. Please understand that such questions cannot be answered due to the very nature of the information requested.
So please keep that in mind. While a lot of questions had to go unanswered, which is understandable, I’m pretty surprised we got as many direct answers as we got. That’s not because I don’t think highly of GS, it’s just that large corporations are usually so restrictive about what information on future plans they’ll let the public see. All in all, I feel we’re pretty fortunate to get this much insight into GS.