Hodinkee and Grand Seiko Event, Kensington, 14th October.
Myself and my colleagues at Andrew Michael Jewellers were honoured to be invited to this very special event held at the Design Museum in Kensington, London.
The premise was for Jack Forster, Editor-in-chief of Hodinkee, to interview Nobuhiro Kosugi, designer of the first 9s Grand Seiko in 1998 and the first watch designer to win the prestigious Contemporary Master Craftsman Award from Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in 2014.
This was an incredible and unique experience to witness. As expected Kosugi San was very humble about his incredible work. He explained the philosophy of his designs to a captivated audience. He made particular reference to the importance of light and shadow in Japanese designs and how he managed to incorporate this into the watch design.
At the end of the interview it was announced that a closed auction would be held for a Grand Seiko watch and a signed drawing by Kosugi San. It later became evident that the incredibly talented Kosugi San was creating the drawing of a Grand Seiko watch, using simple felt pens, at the event in front of a bedazzled audience.
In amongst the myriad of special timepieces on display from the Presage, LX, Grand Seiko and Credor families was a selection of important and pertinent vintage pieces that true fans can only dream of being close to.
Above are examples of Nobuhiro Kosugi’s case design from the late 1960’s, which was not only atypical of the day but also now highlights the purity, brilliance and flawless finishing of the proprietary Seiko Zaratsu polishing.
Highlighted above is the very first Grand Seiko. The aspirations of Hattori San are very much in evidence within this timepiece that became the springboard for one of the most exciting watch brands in the world that is still evolving 60 years later.
We were treated to the famous and cultured Ominashi (Japanese hospitality) all evening.
Complementary Sushi delicacies and Japanese beverages were available. In fact, the whole evening was presented with a grace and sincerity as you would expect from this massive and yet unpretentious brand.
As an aspiring writer and reviewer myself it was a pleasure for me to get to speak to Jack Forster and I was grateful for his time. He was inciteful and polite as a stated my watch journalistic aspirations to him.
However, as my Instagram nomenclature (@watchnerd1970) infers, I’m all about the watches. So, the true indulgence for me was to view and handle the highest of high end Credor models, including the outrageously complicated Spring Drive Sonnerie and the deceptively simple looking Eichi II.
I only had one disappointment of the evening. The Spring Drive Sonnerie timepieces present at the show were, understandably, samples so we could not listen to the beautiful tones of the striking movement. However, I was still in horological wonderland just to be able to hold and view these phenomenal creations that encompass just what is possible at the very highest end of watch movement design and assembly. Only geniuses need apply for such roles. And, sadly, only the very wealthy with tremendous taste need apply for the Spring Drive Sonneries themselves.
The Eichi II is the ultimate sleeper watch. Pass it by in the street on someone’s wrist and you wouldn’t notice it. Handle it and wear it on your own wrist and be mesmerised for hours as you take in the artisan hand painted, hand crafted Noritake porcelain dial, Zaratsu polished case and the perfect sweeping seconds hand of the radical and in-house designed Spring Drive© movement. A true gentleman’s timepiece. At this point I was entranced, and a little bit giddy, already and then I turned the Eichi II over to view the movement as created by Seiko’s highest regarded watch makers. The £50000 and £42000 retail prices instantly become justified, just as Seiko’s price points always seem to be. Every element of the movement, with the underside power reserve, is finished to the very highest level humanly possible. It was a significant moment just to be able to handle one of these superb objects. The Japanese are famously humble people and the Credor Eichi II epitomises this by offering the highest level of horological craftsmanship whilst looking simple to the point of consummate elegance. I feel incredibly fortunate to have held this master class of watchmaking. Just imagine what it would be like to own one. Just 10 people per year will find out.
I had one final indulgence this wonderful evening. I got to handle and inspect, in close detail, my favourite watch release of the year so far: The Grand Seiko Spring Drive© Godzilla. This ridiculously cool watch has been created to not only champion the 20th Anniversary of the Spring Drive© movement, with an even higher regulated +/-0.5 seconds per day accuracy, but also the 65th Anniversary of the legendary Godzilla movie franchise. The original Godzilla movie was released in 1954 and has a very famous link with Seiko due to the fact that the fire breathing monster of the title destroys the Ginza region of Tokyo where the Seiko retail building and the famous Seiko clock tower were located. Understandably, Hittori San, owner of Seiko, was shocked and aggrieved by what he saw on the big screen. The years have obviously allowed Seiko to see the funny, and let’s be honest, positive publicity side of the situation as they are now releasing a very Limited Edition timepiece to commemorate this silver screen faux pas.
The case is carried over from the “Lion”, reference SBGA404G, announced earlier this year. This full hardened titanium case belies its size with user friendly comfort and lightness on the wrist. The sports theme is highlighted with the ceramic bezel and Seiko’s own Lumibrite© coating (brighter and longer lasting than Superluminova) on the hands and markers. The dial, which is not done any kind of justice with my rudimentary photography below, is astonishing with it’s glorious maroon/red hue in a deep relief sunburst pattern. Seiko is the only brand that could showcase this dial correctly because of their own High Definition anti-reflection coating. This coating is transparent, unlike the usual blue hue that afflicts the standard ant-reflective coating.
I just love this watch on an aesthetical and craftmanship level but also for the endearing story it has to tell. For me this watch epitomises why Grand Seiko watches are so revered and are growing exponentially in all regions outside of Japan. There are so many unique ingredients and elements, including the proprietary High Definition anti-reflective coating, the class leading Lumibrite© material, the hardened titanium with Zaratsu polishing and the Spring Drive© movement. You simply could not have this watch produced by any other manufacturer.
The only negative is that there will only ever be 650 pieces made. There are going to be a lot of disappointed Grand Seiko fans out there.
To conclude: It was an absolute pleasure to attend this unique event on so many levels. Many bucket list items were well and truly ticked. It was humbling for us to be invited to such a prestigious event. If you’d like a Grand Seiko watch of your own, browse our full range of Grand Seiko watches on AMJ Watches.