Skip to main content

Grand Seiko and Seiko watches: What’s the difference?

Certainly, their price points are different

Grand Seiko Watches
Grand Seiko

If you’ve taken an interest in watches, you’re more than likely aware of Seiko. The Japanese watchmaker produces good quality timepieces and makes them available at entry-level prices. Some of the quartz models it offers, including those in the excellent Seiko Solar line, are available for as little as $150. Even cheaper is the Seiko 5, which is an outstanding choice if you’re just getting into the world of watches, have a somewhat limited budget, and want to get your first automatic.

At the high end, some models go for close to four figures, but if you’re parting with that much cash, you’ll probably get a bunch of top-end (for a non-luxury watch) features bundled in. These features can include the ability to communicate with an atomic clock via radio and subsequently set the time to eye-watering degrees of accuracy. The watches may also use this feature to adjust themselves to local time when you enter a different time zone. Beyond that, higher price points usually come with a higher-quality finish.

While most Seiko watches for men may be on the lower end of the pricing scale, the timepieces themselves have an awful lot going for them. There’s a diverse range of bands, bezels, and faces — even with the cheaper models. Given the price, it’s possible to buy a small range of Seikos that you can match to your different styles. Maybe a steel band and deep blue face go with your business attire, and something a little more outlandish, like an orange face on a tan leather strap, will fit in with beachwear.

If you travel a lot, and those travels take you to less savory places, a Seiko is a great way to look good without risking a lot. If you do end up being relieved of your watch, you’re only a couple of hundred dollars down. You haven’t lost something that costs the same as a mid-range vehicle.

A Grand Seiko watch
Grand Seiko

But what about Grand Seiko?

Those of you who know at least a little about luxury watches may also be aware of Grand Seiko. Unlike a regular Seiko (and even its “King Seiko” line), a Grand Seiko will set you back a significant amount of money. We’re talking upwards of five figures, with some special editions breaking into six and at least one example coming close to half a million dollars. In short, Grand Seiko watches inhabit the same price bracket as Rolex and Patek Philippe.

Both Seiko and Grand Seiko are part of the same company, the Seiko Watch Corporation, but they are different brands. It’s a bit like Rolex and Tudor, but with a far more noticeable price difference. For the money, you get everything you would expect from a luxury watch, and arguably a little more in one respect.

So expect the finish on a Grand Seiko to be absolutely perfect. Precious metals are often part of the construction of the case and bracelet, edges will be smoothed, and the dials will be beautiful.

Then there’s the mechanism. Obviously, at the price point Grand Seikos sit at, you’re usually not getting a basic quartz watch. The Quartz movement was first seen in Seikos, and when it made its debut back in 1969 it caused a crisis in the watchmaking industry. These days, the “basic” Quarz Grand Seikos use the hand-crafted Caliber 9F movement — which contains a few unique touches including an “aging” process for the crystals. There’s also something that’s both unique and in between — a combination of the accuracy of quartz with the intricacy of mechanical timepieces.

While you can work your way down the luxury watch checklist with a Grand Seiko and tick every box, you can also look to its mechanism when asking what truly sets it apart from the competition.

Front of Grand Seiko with Spring Drive
Grand Seiko

The ‘Spring Drive’ is a selling point

Grand Seikos are powered by a unique movement known as the “Spring Drive.” It’s accurate to within a second per day, has an abnormally generous power reserve, and ensures the hands have a perfectly smooth sweeping motion as opposed to the minute steps forward mechanical watches make.

As the company itself explains, the Spring Drive is “the only watch movement in the world that is powered by a mainspring and has a regulator without an escapement; it is a watch that combines the beauty of the mechanical watch with the precision of electronic timekeeping.”

How it actually works is as follows. A somewhat traditional automatic watch movement winds a mainspring. The movement is slightly different thanks to Grand Seiko’s “Magic Lever,” which allows it to wind more efficiently, but the same principles apply to it as they do any other mechanical watch. Where things differ is in the mainspring’s output. Some of the energy from the long, coiled spring is used to generate electricity, which is then sent through a quartz crystal as it would be in a quartz watch. This vibration is what allows the Spring Drive mechanism to keep time accurately.

The electricity generated by the mainspring also regulates the watch’s glide wheel, which moves the seconds hand. The end result is a startlingly accurate and smooth mechanism that is unique and complex enough to appeal to high-end clientele. It’s also why said clientele vigorously opposes its use in other watches. It does appear in some of Seiko’s other lines, namely Credor, Presage, and Prospex. But if it ever made its way into a regular old sub $500 Seiko, we’ll probably see rioting on the streets of Martha’s Vineyard, West Hampton Dunes, and Palo Alto.

Editors' Recommendations

Dave McQuilling
Dave has spent pretty much his entire career as a journalist; this has included jobs at newspapers, TV stations, on the…
A new record in the world of watches? This is (probably) the lightest watch ever made
It will definitely feel great on your wrist
Ming watch on a wrist

When it comes to watches, the world of horology is an intricate dance of precision, craftsmanship, and innovation. From the intricate gears and springs that power these timekeeping wonders to the exquisite designs that adorn our wrists, the watchmaking world has always managed to push the boundaries of what's possible. But what happens when a maverick disrupts the scene with something so unique, so audacious, that it challenges the very essence of watchmaking itself? Enter Ming watches, and its incredible offering: the Ming LW-01. Get ready, because this isn't just another watch — this is (probably) the lightest watch ever made.

Step into the world of Ming, a brand that emerged in 2017 under the guidance of Ming Thien, a remarkable individual who transitioned from being a child physics prodigy to a professional photographer. Alongside a circle of kindred spirits, Ming embarked on a journey to establish a brand that stood in stark contrast to the snobbish exclusivity and sky-high price tags prevalent in the upper echelons of the watch-collecting realm. Ming's vision was clear: He aimed to craft timepieces that combined intrigue with affordability. Though the price tag of this watch is around $22,000, so affordability is certainly relative.
The weighty question: Why does it matter?
Let's kick things off with some facts. The Ming LW-01 is, quite simply, a marvel of engineering. It's not just a watch; it's a feat of horological acrobatics. Now, I know you're thinking, "What's the big deal about weight? I can handle a few extra grams on my wrist." Well, that's where you're wrong, my friend. The weight of a watch can make all the difference in the world. Ever had your wrist fatigue after a long day of wear? The Ming LW-01 takes that problem and flicks it off like an annoying mosquito.

Read more
Hublot unveils limited-edition camouflage chronograph
This camo stands out
Hublot Spirit Big Bang Ceramic chronograph

Hublot, the epitome of opulence in the world of watches for men, has once again pushed the boundaries of style and innovation with its latest creation, the Hublot Spirit of Big Bang Ceramic Carbon Beige Camo. This timepiece doesn't just tell time; it makes a statement. Let's delve into the details and discover what makes this limited-edition camouflage chronograph a must-have for watch aficionados.

When it comes to luxury timepieces, Hublot watches stand in a league of its own. The brand's commitment to excellence is evident in every timepiece it produces, and the Spirit of Big Bang Ceramic Carbon Beige Camo is no exception. As you explore the watch, the craftsmanship and attention to detail become unmistakably Hublot.

Read more
Phillips Watches to auction rare timepieces from Patek Philippe, Rolex, and more
One watch could sell for more than $2 million
Patek Philippe watch face

If you've ever dreamed of strapping a piece of history onto your wrist, brace yourself because Phillips Watches is about to make your fantasies a reality. The upcoming New York Watch Auction: NINE, set to unfold on December 9-10 at the illustrious 432 Park Avenue, promises an unprecedented spectacle of horological wonders. This extravaganza, billed as the company's most diverse offering of watches for men ever in the Americas, is poised to shake the watch-collecting world to its core.
Patek Philippe takes center stage
The star-studded lineup includes the crème de la crème of timepieces, with Patek Philippe leading the charge. Lot 89, a Patek Philippe Ref. 1518 in an exquisite pink gold perpetual chronograph form, circa 1950. Estimated to fetch a staggering $1.2-2.4 million, the well-preserved luxury watch is a testament to the timeless allure of Patek Philippe watches.

Phillips is proudly flaunting this pink gold marvel, last seen in the public eye in 2000, as one of the finest examples of the coveted Ref. 1518. With a scarcity of only four known stainless steel counterparts, this pink gold beauty stands as a beacon of rarity. The watch's exceptional state of preservation, untouched by the polishing hands of time, is a remarkable feat. Its design, born amid the tumult of World War II, is a symphony of clean lines, elegant proportions, and extended, curved lugs – a visual feast for the horological connoisseur.

Read more