September 23, 2017
Written by Robert Baggs for aBlogtoWatch
After years of patiently waiting for just the right venue, Seiko have finally opened their first UK-based boutique in London, and its grand opening showed it not only houses a selection of Seiko and Grand Seiko pieces, but has some horological masterpieces to show as well. Getting to attend its grand opening was a fun time and a chance to see and learn about some interesting Seiko watches.
Many globally recognised watch brands carry a level of prestige. That prestige, while supporting the desirability of their timepieces, renders their purchase a distant goal for most. Seiko, however, traverses the minefield of price tags and offers a range of watches affordable for persons of varying means, and yet they have increasingly also achieved that elusive prestige. The new London boutique typifies that diversity.
This summer saw the grand opening of Seiko’s boutique in Knightsbridge, London. Famed for the iconic Harrods, Brompton Road houses a sort of “watch row” along the same side of the street as the luxury department store. Each window you pass is another open chocolate box filled with artisan horology and this is, therefore, the perfect location for Seiko to open their only UK boutique. The first European boutique for Seiko was opened in Paris in 2004, and while they had the ambition to open another in London, they patiently waited for the property that best suited the company’s 136-year heritage and importance in the watch world.
Regarding the location, Seiko UK Managing Director, Kinya Iwami noted: “To have a Seiko London boutique has been a key focus for us for some time, and we are delighted to have found the ideal location situated in the heart of Knightsbridge.” The boutique is narrow, and while there isn’t a huge selection, I was struck by the aforementioned range of pieces, and not only with regards to budget. From dress watches to diving, a spread is laid out across numerous glass enclosures. It was pleasing to see the iconic Grand Seiko Snowflake ever present as well as some more outlandish and newer designs like the Astron range, championed by brand ambassador Novak Djokovic. Whatever kind of Seiko you are after, there is likely to be something to suit your needs.
What steals the show for us horology fans, however, and what makes a trip to this boutique worth your while is the rarer pieces. There are three of particular note, starting with the limited edition 10th Anniversary Spring Drive Chronograph GMT. The face is busy but it suits this watch comfortably. The dial is a sort of pearlescent blue with rose gold hands and markers, complementing flecks of contrasting red on some dials and on the second hand. It sports a tachymeter bezel and an impressively precise automatic Caliber 9696 movement. The £15,000 price tag might set some off balance, but the production of these units is limited to 500 which may help convince the right collectors. It’s eye-catching and worth seeing in the flesh.
The second show-stealer is far more modest in appearance, but far more dizzying in price. At first glance, I must confess that the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve (full hands-on article here) doesn’t look to be much and I suspect an untrained eye might not even break gaze to enjoy it. As soon as I picked it up and felt its weight, however, I suspected the piece was special and learning about it promptly showed the depth of my ignorance. Seiko has a small but famous unit of elite watchmakers known as The Micro Artist Studio. Their hand-made creations instantly become ownership aspirations of the horological purists and enthusiasts, and this particular creation is the first time that a Grand Seiko has come out of this esteemed studio. The remarkable weight is down in part to the in-house movement which boasts 56 jewels and an 8 day (192 hours) power reserve, complete with a gauge on the back. This movement is astonishingly accurate to within +.5 seconds per day. Finishing off this marvel, and accounting for the lion’s share of the weight is the 43mm case made from platinum. It is only purchasable through Seiko boutiques like their new London home but will require deep pockets with a price of around £50,000.
Last but not least is in the same vein as the platinum Grand Seiko, and it is the first-ever tourbillon from Seiko: the Credor Fugaku Tourbillon Limited Edition. Call me childish if you will, but this sort of creation is what gets me most excited. It has been built by Master Craftsmen over at Seiko and it rises in stark opposition to the minimalist design of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive. It is a festival of detail, intricacies and a completely new tourbillon movement, the calibre 6830. The design and a lot of the physical work is down to Nobuhiro Kosugi who is the first watch designer to have received the coveted title of Master Craftsman by the Japanese government. Before you reach for your wallet, you should know it sells for a staggering £375,000.
Seiko and Grand Seiko may have a cult following and are undoubtedly giants of horology, but I find that while their price diversity is impressive, pieces at the lower end (£300-1000) are not what gets me most excited. They do what they do very well, but the most common pieces – while horologically sound – don’t do enough for me visually. Even the £50,000 Grand Seiko was a little too “cult” for me. However, the Credor Fugaku makes a trip to the boutique worthwhile by itself. Whether you’re all about the movement and technical specifications or timepieces that draw the eye – or, like me, if you prefer to tread the line between the two – then this masterpiece is a must view, in my opinion.
The charming grand opening of the Brompton Road boutique was steeped in Japanese heritage reflective of the brand and graced with the most important people at Seiko and Grand Seiko globally. Seiko fans will certainly appreciate what the store has to offer, but every watch fan can enjoy the limited edition and rare pieces; making the boutique worthy of a trip should you find yourself anywhere nearby. seikowatches.com