The history of Seiko began in 1881 when Kintaro Hattori opened a shop in Ginza to repair and sell timepieces. In 1913, his company produced Japan’s first wristwatch, the Laurel, and many achievements that have advanced the art of watchmaking followed, from the first Grand Seiko watch in 1960, to observatory-trial performances that took the industry by storm a few years later, to the groundbreaking technology that is Spring Drive in 1999. This year marks the 110th anniversary of the Laurel, a milestone celebrated with the release of a series of commemorative timepieces including a new Grand Seiko limited edition that, like all the watches in the series, draws its inspiration from the company’s rich technological and design heritage.
Ever since the first watch in 1960, durability and longevity have been the North Stars that have guided Grand Seiko on its path to making the ultimate watch. With this in mind, Grand Seiko celebrates 110 years of Seiko watchmaking with a Brilliant Hard Titanium re-creation of the first Grand Seiko timepiece, with the beloved profile of 1960. It features an urushi lacquer dial with maki-e hour markers crafted to stand the test of time and captivate generations of watch connoisseurs with its uniquely Japanese beauty.
Urushi lacquer is synonymous with traditional Japanese craft, and its use can be traced back to Japan’s Jomon Period (13,100 BCE– 400 BCE). While today it is most often employed to add a level of restrained ornamentation, urushi’s utility through the ages caused it to be used for its antiseptic and preservative qualities. The lacquer employed by Grand Seiko has the distinction of being sourced exclusively from the country of Japan, a rarity today, when the vast majority of the urushi is produced abroad. The jet-black color of the urushi in this watch’s dial was achieved through the addition of iron. The lacquer is further enhanced through a special treatment unique to Grand Seiko that prevents its color from changing over time.
The maki-e hour markers were brought to life by urushi master Isshu Tamura in his studio in the city of Kanazawa, which means “marsh of gold,” located on the West Coast of Japan. The markers and Grand Seiko name are built up, layer upon layer, through the application of lacquer, endowing them with their trademark three-dimensional profile. Next comes the 24k gold powder – maki-e means “sprinkled picture” – which is applied and polished fastidiously with the special tools of the artisan. The process requires tremendous dexterity and precision to the micron level. Producing markers of uniform depth and width on a curved surface such as this watch dial is a challenge that requires a master’s touch.
As a re-creation of the very first watch to emerge from the then-fledgling Grand Seiko in 1960, the anniversary limited edition cuts a striking vintage profile, one that many watch lovers will recognize instantly. But for the urushi and maki-e treatments, the curved dial and Grand Seiko lettering are faithful to the original 1960 creation – which, like every Grand Seiko watch, was born of Japanese craftsmanship. But here, through the implementation of Japanese craftsmanship far older than watchmaking itself, a beloved design reaches a new level.
Ticking away under the dial is the manually wound Caliber 9S64, which allows for the slim profile and accuracy to +5 to -3 seconds per day. The Brilliant Hard Titanium case and clasp ensure that the re-creation is not only beautiful and light but also highly resistant to corrosion and scratches. Grand Seiko’s proprietary alloy is brighter than traditional titanium, causing the Zaratsu-polished surfaces to appear even more radiant while commanding a hardness double that of standard stainless steel.
Two leather straps accompany the new creation. The first incorporates a traditional Japanese weaving technique called yoroiori that was once used for making samurai armor. Thin strips of calf leather and fabric are interlaced by a skilled artisan to enhance the watch strap’s durability. The second strap is leather sourced for its softness, unique texture, and comfort.
This watch will be available as a limited edition of 500 at the Grand Seiko Boutiques and select retail partners worldwide in February 2023.