HAVING 140 years of timekeeping in its history, Seiko has made it an imperative to explore the true nature of time. Their findings are recorded in their designs, made to reflect time’s passage through the planet, as reflected by the seasons.
In a keynote address at the Grand Seiko Online Summit 2021, Shinji Hattori, Chair and CEO of the Seiko Watch Corp., discussed his great-grandfather, Seiko founder Kintaro Hattori. Seiko celebrated the 160th anniversary of his birth in 2020, while 2021 marks the 140th anniversary of the company’s founding when Mr. Hattori was only 21 years old. The company was founded during the Meiji Era, when Japan opened its doors to the West. “Everything was changing, even the way that the Japanese told time changed. The old system, in which time units varied with seasons, changed to more precise western systems. It was in this change that he saw his chance.”
The senior Mr. Hattori, who founded the company in 1881, began by importing clocks, but expanded to watchmaking by the 1890s. His great-grandson Shinji Hattori lives by his grandfather’s maxims: “He always stated that Seiko should always be one step ahead of the rest,” he said, and “Don’t run; but always keep going.” With these in mind, Mr. Hattori announced that they have opened a new company for Grand Seiko (Seiko’s luxury line) in New York, opening a new studio, and several boutiques. “We did all this as part of our strategic vision; not for overnight success, but for the good of our customers in the long run,” he said.
“His words still resonate with me today. They continue to inspire me, and all of us at Seiko as we face new challenges and look to build a better future.”
A TRIBUTE TO THE SEASONS
Grand Seiko’s new collection is hinged on the caliber Hi-Beat 36000 9SA5. It delivers a precision rate of +5 to -3 seconds a day and has a power reserve of 80 hours, with a Dual Impulse Escapement they developed themselves.
Outside, the dials reflect a marriage of art and nature; occupying space and recording time in tune with the new caliber. For example, the Series 9 case replicates the look and feel of grained wood, to reflect the rings that show a tree trunk’s age.
Akio Naito, Deputy COO and Director of Seiko said, “We recognize not four, but 24 seasons. In Japan, each of the four seasons is experienced in six phases.” Each segment is called a sekki, each with a special name, and these experiences are reflected in a series of four watches.
Shunbun, denoting the spring equinox, has a green dial and rose gold accents to show the promise of Sakura blossoms. Summer is reflected with Shōsho, showing the early summer sun and wind creating ripples on a lake’s surface. Kanro, a watch with a dark face, tries to show clouds moving across an autumn moon. Finally, TŌji absorbs the winter solstice with a snow dial and an orange hand, showing a winter sunset. The spring and summer watches are powered with the caliber 9S86, while the autumn and winter watches are powered by the 9R66. The spring and summer watches are slated to be launched worldwide in May, while the autumn and winter watches are slated to come out in September.
“The Japanese affinity and respect for the natural environment lies at the heart of every Grand Seiko. Our view of the nature of time is experienced in the precision of its movements and the artistic design of each piece,” said Mr. Naito. — Joseph L. Garcia