The Grand Seiko Style and the 44GS

Setting the standard for Grand Seiko’s  “Grammar of Design”

Suwa Seikosha was responsible for the creation of all Grand Seiko watches until 1967, when Daini Seikosha produced their first Grand Seiko model.  Possibly unknown to them at the time, this watch would forever have an impact on Grand Seiko.

Despite achieving chronometric excellence, the focus having been primarily on the precision of the movements, the company had not established any real identity for its watches in terms of exterior design. The company’s chief designer spent many hours at the Wako store in Ginza observing clients shopping for watches, keeping an eye on how they reacted to the wide array of brands and styles available to them. His conclusion was that if Grand Seiko wanted to stand out, the watches would require more brilliance, or, as he put it, they should “sparkle with quality.”

For the Japanese, black and white are not often expressed in their extremes; instead, gradations between light and shadow, and the harmony between the two, is valued highly. To infuse Grand Seiko timepieces with this distinctly Japanese sense of beauty and expression of light and shadow, Grand Seiko’s designer focused on bringing together straight lines and flat surfaces in a structural way.

To that end, the Grand Seiko Style has three guiding principles.

Principle 1: Wherever possible, surfaces should be flat

Every watch design necessarily involves the use of both flat and curved surfaces, but for Grand Seiko, flat surfaces are preferred.  This is to allow for greater reflection of light and the extensive use of these planes contributes to the sparkle of quality that defines Grand Seiko.

Principle 2: The flat surfaces should be as wide as possible

To maximize the reflections, the flat surfaces should be as wide as possible on every part of the case as well as on the dial and hands.

Principle 3: Every surface should be distortion-free

Wherever possible, every surface and facet should be in a mirror finish and polished so that there is no distortion in any reflection.

Based on these three principles, nine design elements were identified as being critical in guiding every detail of a Grand Seiko watch.

In 1967, Grand Seiko introduced a watch that would come to forever influence Grand Seiko’s Style – the 44GS. The shape of the case was groundbreaking. The flat front surfaces were Zaratsu polished to a distortion-free shine, and the case sides slanted sharply inwards, allowing for a highly ergonomic fit on the wrist. A deep-set crown at 3 o’clock was meant to preserve the beauty of the case lines. The dial markers and hands were highly faceted to allow light to play across the dial, which was extended further via a dramatic mirror-polished bezel. The resulting watch was immediately eye-catching, truly exuding the “sparkle of quality.”

The Grand Seiko Style was developed seven years after the first Grand Seiko timepiece made its way into the world, and it continues to be an important guide for the company. Nevertheless, the rules established over half a century ago were never intended to be rigid, and over the years they have been subtly adapted.  In this way it is important to understand that the Grand Seiko Style is both preserved and enhanced as time moves forward.

A reinterpretation of the 44GS design has become a core pillar of Grand Seiko’s catalog today, and unsurprisingly so. By retaining much of its core design DNA, the modern interpretation 44GS and its success shows that the watch best embodies the Grand Seiko Style is truly timeless.

Watches in this era

The first Grand Seiko from Daini Seikosha to emphasize a style that would forever influence Grand Seiko.

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