Seiko Luxury Watches

Seiko Luxury Watches

Seiko Luxury Watches Inside the Manufacture

I would have loved to be an automotive journalist in the early 1990s. One of the most momentous occasions of the decade was the release of the Lexus LS400, as well as the overall Lexus brand lowering into our lives like a gleaming vessel from mother-ship Toyota. The LS400 was the car that journalists said should make the Europeans fear the Japanese. It was more than just something for them to take notice , it was a justifiable alternative to European luxury cars, and a much better value.

Anyone in the US knows the power of the Lexus brand these days. Shift your attention to me sitting here in a hotel room in northern Japan. I am in the midst of my invitational pilgrimage to Seiko, as I begin what will be a great many articles over the rest of my watch reporting career. I sit here with having a profoundly new perception of Seiko, a more accurate vision of the entire manufacture. If there is one thing that Seiko hasn’t been able to achieve yet is mass communication of how good they are. I say it here now, European watch companies, fear the Japanese.

Seiko Luxury Watches Inside the Manufacture

They probably already are aware of this sentiment, and are happy the world doesn’t yet know the allure of these luxury Japanese watches. So I say these worlds almost symbolically, and to begin an impression I wish to impart upon you, that Seiko is not only a justifiable “watch manufacture,” but makes watches you certainly will want (at very good prices). Not only that, but there is no limit to Seiko. Their movement designers and engineers are very capable, and I trust that if they want to build something, they can do it. So keep your sights on what they are doing.

Seiko is one of the most important watch brands on planet, now, and historically so. Who do you think was responsible for the quartz wrist watch? Seiko. Who do you think was responsible for the popularity of the LCD digital quartz watch? Seiko. Who do you think also makes a series of luxury made mechanical watches? Seiko. The focus of the brand historically was less on style, and more on technical excellence and movement innovations. So they’ve built up a tradition of constantly improving their own products, but also those of others.

Seiko Luxury Watches Inside the Manufacture

Seiko Luxury Watches Inside the Manufacture

This is not even a list of their accomplishments and technologies, as this would be a very long list not suitable to this discussion. Seiko is part of a group of companies that includes Epson. There are actually a few companies that make up what the world knows as "Seiko" - and while the relationship is complex (maybe even by Japanese standards), I mention this to explain why some watches or Seiko products may have slightly different nomenclature. In America, Epson is a printer and scanner company (along with related items), but they are the proud part of the various Seiko watch facilities. Seiko right now has no real Japanese competitors. The closest one would be Citizen, but they don’t follow the same dedication to mechanical watches or watch movement technologies. For all the fine timepieces (and even luxury ones) that Citizen makes, Seiko is a different creature altogether.

Seiko Luxury Watches Inside the Manufacture

Seiko Luxury Watches Inside the Manufacture

In the last few years the Seiko Spring Drive movements have been holding my attention and passion. I’ve finally been able to handle them and can report that they are even more desirable than I had previously thought. Such a total enthusiastic display will be for another article though. Instead, the point of this article is to further testify that Seiko is a luxury watch brand. Let me clarify. Seiko does have a large number (100 plus at any given time) of mainstream watches. These all have Seiko Japanese made movements, and are of the most popular watches in the world. This however is not the total face of Seiko. In Japan, Seiko has a number of other brands. The most notable being Grand Seiko, which are a line of successful luxury Japanese watches. Impressive on the outside, and very much so on the inside. Then you have the high luxury Credor brand as well as others such as Phoenix, and Galante. These are not sold much out of Japan, and are very hard to get if you are not in Japan. This is a shame, because many of these watches are incredible.

What is so incredible is how much they meet or beat European luxury watch standards. I am not suggesting that Seiko watches are better than Swiss or German watches in all ways, but rather that they are really one of the crowd. Going to the various high-end Seiko watch manufactures here in Japan, I am totally reminded of Europe. Of course these watch making plants have their own Japanese character, any watch maker from Europe would feel at home here, maybe even more comfortable.

Seiko Luxury Watches Inside the Manufacture

Which leads me to clarify again, Seiko is a true watch manufacture. They make all of their own movements, dials, bracelets, and cases. They even make such hard to make parts such as hairsprings and mainsprings. Which are coincidentally considered the most difficult of watch movement parts to make. Everyone is done by Seiko, and this allows them to produce many impressive watches. So what does this mean to you? Well, it means that those “hand assembled” watches with “manufacture movements” from European watch companies that are tens of thousands of dollar if not more, have a competitor at Seiko. Most of their “Grand Seiko” and related high end lines are just as nicely made, in-house, and cost on a few thousand. Not just that, but Seiko watches are extremely reliable and durable, and very accurate.

Seiko has a few hand engraved watches as well. Seiko has a few in-house engraving masters that have developed techniques that beat those of the Europeans. Only difference is that some of the designs are pretty traditional Japanese. So now Seiko needs to take those skills, and apply some more globally appealing designs. The techniques that Seiko uses require engraving tools made by Seiko that are more precise, cut better, and result in a much better polish and clean look to the polishing. It is quite remarkable. A beautiful gold Seiko watch all hand engraved with a manufacture movement will run about $20,000 as I understand. You’ll never find a similar Swiss watch at this price.

Seiko isn’t trying to beat the Europeans at their own game, Seiko rather wants to be noticed as being included in the game. They have a sufficient level of technical innovation, artistic beauty, manufacturing prowess, skilled watch makers, and customer credibility to be considered on the same playing field with the luxury Swiss and German brands (less as “the Japanese alternative”).

Next for Seiko is working to share with people outside Japan what they have been doing for decades. While it may be late, Seiko has finally decided to share themselves with the world. You’ll be hearing more impressive things about Seiko, and more importantly, you’ll have access to some of these fantastic timepieces that mostly only Japan has been able up until now. The first step is the new Ananta line of luxury Seiko watches that will beat your expectations.

See Seiko watches on eBay here.Seiko Luxury Watches Inside the Manufacture

See Seiko Watches on Amazon here. Seiko Luxury Watches Inside the Manufacture

  • Jeff Freedman

    Great article! Majority of watch lovers have questionable value to Japanese brands. However it is time to give credit when credit is due. The future of watch making is exciting. All brands regardless of birth right will need to stay on top the their game.

    • Hi Jeff,
      Thanks for the comment. Really an outstanding company with nice people, and a hell of a watch collection. The sad fact is that most of the best stuff is still only available in Japan (and if you want it in the US, it will cost you a premium via the Internet). I better start scheduling routine trips there to get watches and then bring em back here!

      • OuttaTime

        The first quartz clock, using a quartz oscillator, was built at Bell Labs in 1927. Quartz wristwatch prototypes were revealed simultaneously in 1967 by the Swiss Centre Electronique Horloger in Neuchatel, (the Beta 1) and Seiko (the Astron). US standard time was set with quartz clocks in the 30’s until the 60’s when they went to Atomic clocks. Seiko had only been experimenting with quartz since 1958.

        Not all Seikos are created equal, and no watch is perfect.

  • David Stoddart


    The current watch on my wrist it the Seiko Black Monster – a really bomb-proof watch with superluminova :-), and the crown at the 4 o’clock position (genius).

  • Awesome article! Must of been an amazing trip. Your article reminds me of what my friend told me once about the clothing industry. Supposedly, a long time ago (sorry I’m not good with dates) clothing manufacturers went from England to Italy to find cheap labour. Now Italy is one of the leading manufacturers of high-end couture. Same is bound to happen with Japan who has been making watches for close to fifty years now!

    • Thanks for the comment. It was a good trip, and by the way, Japan has been making watch and clocks for well over 100 years 🙂

  • AL

    I too am a big fan of Seiko watches. However, I think there is a tremendous perception problem with the brand in the US, not a problem of quality or execution. I own 4 Seiko’s myself, and would love to own a Grand (either full mechanical or Spring Drive). Those in the know recognize the tremendous technical achievement of high-end Seiko watches. Part of the problem with perception though, is the fact that Seiko sells a huge number of low-end, inexpensive watches. Walk into any watch shop in the US that sells Seiko, and what you will see are cheap “fashion” quartzes with mostly bland designs. People in the US see these watches and think that’s all Seiko has to offer. It’s like if Toyota never created the Lexus brand and tried to sell all their luxury cars as Toyotas… It just wouldn’t work. I would love to see Seiko bring their high-end watches to the US as a separate line that can be fully marketed and supported independently from their “fashion” watches.

    • These are all good points, and issues that Seiko will need to get over. How you described it is the status quo in the US, but good marketing can change that in a few years.

  • JeffB

    Thanks again for the interesting and informative post.
    I’m a watch lover living in Tokyo. The Japanese are very into their brands, and “quality” in general, so any time you are on the train, you only have to look around you to see a selection of Rolex, Omega, Breitling, and of course, Seiko watches. In fact, Seiko seems to have a kind of “pride of place” in Japan – the most venerable-looking Japanese businessmen often wear Grand Seiko watches on their wrists. I think they take pride in wearing a high quality, Japanese-made watch. There is also a kind of quiet understatement involved. If you don’t know anything about watches, you might look at it and think, “It’s just a Seiko”, but actually, it’s a $6000 timepiece – it’s just a lot less flashy than a Rolex.
    I myself am a big fan of Seiko dive watches, but I also love the Brightz Phoenix series, particularly the mechanical chronograph, which I think really gives the Omega Speedmaster a run for its money.
    Mr Adams, where is the Seiko factory located? Are there any “attractions” there (I use the word loosely) that average people can enjoy? For example, do they offer factory tours? Is there a Seiko museum, or information about planned and upcoming releases?

    • Thanks for the additional insight. I really like those watches you described as well. Seiko has many facilities but the main watch productions ones I understand are in the Lake Suwa area, as well as Morioka. These are places I visited. Not sure a bout factory tours, but I have a feeling they do give them on occasion as they seem set up for them. As for products on the horizon, they are pretty tight lipped about such things. Your best bet is to check the Japanese language Seiko site for news.

  • In 1968 I was a media director at AC&R advertising in NYC. We launched the Seiko brand in the US and were responsible for every dollar and creative strategy for over 25 years, building it to the #1 brand share leader. I was ingrained into the Seiko manufacturing heritage and culture. It was an honor to play a small part in the brand’s positioning and success. Over the last two decades I have watched from a distance as the mechanical movements and European luxury watch brands steal the “thunder”. The writer of this blog is 100% on target, Seiko can do whatever they want, only marketing acumen in this country holds them back. They need to recapture that leadership once again in the US.

    • Hi Sheldon,
      Nice to read your remarks. Glad that we agree. I’ve mentioned to Seiko personally what I think they should do. Maybe they will listen.

  • Stephen

    Do you think that Orient is a worthy competitor of Seiko?

    • Hi Stephen,
      Really different brands, and there are lots of lower end models where Orient matches up well. Though Orient does not have near the type of high end stuff that Seiko does.

  • Cru


    The Spring Drive movement watches do seem to be rather impressive! But, honestly, do you think this brand can catch on at these prices? No matter how quality the watch, it’s difficult to impagine spending $5,000-$10,000 on “just a Seiko”. Just doesn’t compute, even if it’s merited.

    It’s like VW’s recent efforts to move upmarket with the Phaeton, which was a miserable failure in the U.S. and Germany. John Q Public just will not spend serious money on a brand perceived as not being luxurious.

    I think there probably is a market oustide of Japan among watch connoisseurs for their products, but Seiko definitely has a long way to go to change its perception in the marketplace.

    • Hi there,
      While your perception is common, it isn’t necessary. You say now “just a Seiko,” as do many others, but what you need to do is have an internal class gauge to understand the hierarchy of Seiko watches. The true enthusiast understands levels of quality, and not just brand. You have to ask yourself, who are you buying things for. Yourself or others? If it is yourself, then you can appreciate quality you understand.

      Take the Volkswagen Phaeton, as you mention (that I happen to actually own). It was a great car, with odd marketing and a name US buyers couldn’t stomach at first. It got pulled from the US, but started getting much more popular in Germany. Guess what? The Phaeton is coming back to the US. One reason is that US consumers are having a much easier time gauging real luxury, than just what goes with a name. Proper research tools like the Internet help that.

      So while you are 100% right that many people still have a narrow perception of Seiko, I predict that “times are a changin’ Just you see!

  • Cru

    Thank you very much for your feedback.

    I found your following comment to be quite thought-provoking:

    “You have to ask yourself, who are you buying things for. Yourself or others? If it is yourself, then you can appreciate quality you understand.”

    I suppose my reaction to the statement says something about me. I would like to think I can appreciate something’s worth in a vacuum, but, with so many worthy choices avaialable at that price point, even if I truly appreciated the technology and even if I derived tremendous satisfaction from having it on my wrist, there would be a part of me that would think that other’s views of my watch might also be true….That what I was wearing is a Seiko that cost a few hundred dollars, and that somehow I duped myself into spending a lot more. Obviously, this isn’t true, the top-of-the-line Seikos have a lot going for them, but, still….

    Luxury and perception of luxury is a pretty intersting topic, and I didn’t think it would be a Seiko watch that would get me thinking about it today.

    Ultimately, regardless of technical merit and engineering skill, a watch costing several thousand, or tens of thousands, of dollars is strictly a luxury purchase (IMHO).

    I wish Seiko had made it easier on us and adopted a Swatch group strategy, with several brands under one umbrella. Then again, truth be told, part of me thinks of Omega watches as being “fancy Swatches”, if only because the Swatch group is named after one of their lowly brands. There’s no easy answer (for me, at least).

    Thanks for the article and for this site.

    • Really good response that I think will strike a chord with many of your fellow readers. Thanks for the compliments as well. Take care and keep reading.

  • Kevin

    I will agree with everything said in this article however I will go on the record and say half of the people reading this will never see or own any Seiko Spring Drive models myself included. I do how ever agree (Seiko’s) Only main competition is Citizens high end line (Campanola) Which are amazing watches also, a lot of people looking down on them because their quartz. If The Campanola line used automatic and or mechanical movements (Seiko) would be in deep trouble. I too own a Seiko a Orange Monster to be exact and Will probably buy another Seiko soon. 🙂

    • Hi Kevin,
      Thanks for the comment. I have a Citizen Campanola watch and they are in fact great. Seiko watches are so popular that you are correct that less than half of the people will own Seiko Spring Drive watches, but that is much to do with the fact that so many people have Seiko’s mainstream watches already.

  • Kevin

    That may be true that Seiko as a big following I would say bigger than Citizen and Orient. I loved the review you did on the Campanola line, When I first saw them in person I was blown away. I live in Massachusetts,so the closest place to see them is in the Mohegan Sun Casino, which sucks because I don’t like to gamble that much LOL. As for the Seiko Spring Drive that’s another story. If I had the cash It would be hard to choose between the two?

    • Really hard to choose between the two, but then again that are different watches. Seiko is more functional and masculine, while Campanola is a more sophisticated artsy piece. I opt for both… one or the other is just to hard…

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  • No discrimination based on where the watch was born! I have always given respect to watches wherever it is due, despite the price tag. These Japanese built watches should outlast humanity so, if you like em, I say pick one up. Incredible pieces of engineering.

  • Keith

    This is all very interesting, but clearly you have some vested interest in promoting Seiko, it is after all why you were invited to Japan. Actually you are of course completely wrong. The best Japanese manufacturer is Citizen. Their watches never go wrong and the eco-drive mechanism clearly works better than Kinetic powered Seiko’s. On the luxury front, you guys need to stop dissing the likes of Rolex. As an engineer I know my simple datajust is the perfectly designed watch and movement, it never goes wrong and has been on my wrist for over 20 years. This is why they still sell, their reliability is legendary, and you don’t invent a legend as you are trying to do with Seiko, you just keep doing what you do well year on year and word gets around. Seiko will never ……ever……..command more than £300 for a watch in the UK and they know it, which is why they are not bothering to try. They are seen here as flashy boys toys (Arctura?) and the entry level luxury watch here is the Seamaster for about £1500. You would be better visiting Damasko, Sekonda or Zeno…………they all need to take their mechanicals more seriously and could do well with an up to date self-winder and some good marketing. Maybe then we could move on from low grade ‘5’ and Miyota movements.
    Keith – Horological Freelance Journalist – London

    • Keith,

      Sounds like someone really loves their Citizen. I don’t have any special affinity for Seiko over Citizen, and Casio for that matter. I am a big fan of the Japanese Big Three for what they can do and at what cost they are doing it. Yes, Seiko invited me to visit their manufacture facilities in Japan. That alone doesn’t create a bias. Seiko does things the others don’t, and likewise they do things Seiko doesn’t. If anything, I am trying to promote good watches, and in that instances the focus happened to be Seiko. I don’t know why it has to be Seiko or Citizen and not both.

      • Tom

        You both have valid points but the fact remains that the universal reputation for Seiko outside of Asia and with 97% of the watch buying public, Seiko is the level of watch when you were first given or bought a watch. They were stylish and inexpensive and machine mass produced with all the inherent micro flaws like hour markers that were slightly off, second hand hour our minute that didn’t line up. You would find unfinished burrs on the edges or bracelets that would bind. Thats Seiko’s current image. The truth is that they do mass produce watches and they also produce a watch of true magnificence. They do come up short with flair or uniqueness but that is for the bling crowd to ballywho. For me personally the purity of lines and the contrasting finishes match what is inside and that is no mean feat. My prediction is that the limited view of the Seiko management will handcuff their attempt to sell in America at first but much like the Acura, Lexus and Infinity, the sheer genius and perfection of design and performance will win the day in years to come. Question, will they move their manufacturing of Grand Seiko to Alabama and employ local folks. It could be the smallest of opportunities to create a true American watch manufacturer that builds movements with complications to challenge the Jour Valley.

  • Nick

    The accuracy of a mechanical watch is a secondary issue. Most will have to be adjusted weekly or at best monthly. I own 3 Seiko automatic divers, a 6309, black monster, and a 6R15 blue Sumo as well as an assortment of mechanical and quartz watches of a variety of makes. I used my 6309 for over 2o years without any servicing, having taken it on many dives over that time and never had any problem.
    The point is that I set my mechanical watches, Seiko and otherwise, by my Casio G Shock atomic/solar as it keeps perfect time. The G shock is the least expensive watch in my collection. The next most acccurate watch is my Citizen 300 meter Eco drive, which is accurate to about 2 or 3 seconds a month. My friend sets his Rolex Sea Dweller by my Casio G Shock.
    I still love my automatics, but for accuracy the G shock solar/atomic (followed by the Eco Drive) are unbeatable.

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