A Visit to Grand Seiko’s New NYC Boutique

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Just a few weeks ago Grand Seiko announced a new permanent boutique located in NYC’s SoHo neighborhood. For those who recall, about a year ago they made a similar announcement, but it was for a “Nature of Time” themed pop-up boutique, also in SoHo. Despite a year that none of us need reminding of, the pop-up was a huge success for them, as well as Watches of Switzerland, who managed the pop-up and now the new boutique. As such, they decided to make it permanent, moving just a block west down Spring to a new space to call home. This last week, Blake Buettner and I got a chance to see the new location.

A boutique in the truest sense, it’s intimate and welcoming. Exposed brick and narrow passages make it cozy in a way that feels specific to SoHo, as do its neighbors. On one side you have Crockett & Jones, a top-tier British shoemaker. On the other, you have Doc Martens, also British shoes, and while not inexpensive, more a reminder of your forgotten ska-phase than anything else (though having a revival thanks to all-things-90’s being cool again). But, you’ll have to excuse the lack of original photos of the space, as we were quickly entranced by what awaited us within.

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In addition to new digs, the fine folks at Grand Seiko USA had assembled a collection, or perhaps the collection, of Grand Seiko and Credor masterpieces by the Micro Artist Studio. The finest pieces the brands make, it’s exceptionally rare to see this many in one place. And not dummy models either. These were, for the most part, the real deal, in solid gold and platinum, sweeping away (they were all Spring Drive, to my recollection). And so we sat for what could only be called a horological feast, as course by course Joe Kirk walked us through some of the most exceptional watches our pandemic starved eyes had seen in some time.

There was no amuse-bouche, rather we started with prime cuts. On an unassuming tray were three Credor Eichi IIs. A watch I’ve read articles about and unabashed love letters to, yet never had handled in the 950 platinum (and rose gold) myself. If understatement is an art, this is its finest expression. The simplicity of the 39mm case and minimal dial belie the craft at work. Hand-painted markers that are as perfectly executed as anything by hand can be, have a subtle energy to them that I’d only sound like a bad poet trying to describe (if I don’t already). The case too is immaculately finished, yet calls no attention to itself.

The Ruri blue version (GBLT997), immediately replaced whatever watch held the position of “grail” in my mind. Created to celebrate the 140th anniversary of Seiko corp, the dial was completely captivating. Featuring a hue of blue that took two years to develop, the way the depth of the color shifts across the dial with the thickness of the layer, brightening along the edge and center as the porcelain underneath became more visible was like nothing I’ve seen before. It glowed from within. Flipping the watch over exposed the 7R14A Spring Drive caliber within. Also simple at a glance, the quality of the flat brushing and those famous wide bevels reveal themselves as you shift it in the light.

With our palettes warmed up, we entered into a few courses of Grand Seiko delights. Starting with the luxurious tanks that are the SBDG201 and 202, these 43mm heavy-metal sculptures feature the remarkable 8-day 9R01 movement. Though we are perhaps used to seeing complex movement as having an increased quantity of bridges, plates, bevels and textures, the 9R01 bucks the trend for a single-piece bridge that enhances durability and is perfectly finished with flat brushing and massive bevels. Of course, in true GS fashion, a bit of a story is told, as the bridge features shapes inspired by Mt. Fuji, with ruby placement that evokes the lights of Suwa City. On the dial side, there was still plenty to enjoy, with the diamond-dust dials featuring a unique shimmer.

The 9R02 powered SBGZ003, SBGZ005, and SBGZ007 followed shortly after. Though visually very different models, and at surprisingly different price points given they use the same movement and platinum cases, these three pieces demonstrated just how refined Grand Seiko can be. The 003 features the newer 38.5mm case shape that is found on other models in their elegance collection (not exactly, but similarly), such as the SBGY007, which has softer lines, yet the same exceptional Zaratsu polishing and wears beautifully. The dial has a subtle texture and gray tone that matches the platinum case well. Instead of print, all of the non-applied markers, as well as the logo, are hand-engraved, revealing a reflective surface, bringing some exceptional skill to the dial.

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The SBGZ005 is a recreation of Grand Seiko’s first timepiece in honor of the 160th anniversary of the birth of Seiko’s founder, Kintaro Hattori. Though a case design you might be familiar with from other watches, it was imbued into us that in platinum, it is one of the most labor-intensive cases to make and finish, which is reflected in the six-figure price tag. The dial steals the show, however, with its supremely elegant, fanned texture that at once looks traditional yet unexpected.

The SBGZ007 is the newest kid on the block, and continues the celebration of Seiko’s 140th anniversary. Based on the 38.5mm case from the 003 once again, it features a hand-engraved texture all around that is inspired by the stars above the city of Achi in Shinshu. An impossibly organic texture that seems to undulate before your eyes, waxing and waning in intensity, that it was created by hand is hard to believe. This is paired with a bold blue dial that features a unique manufacturing method that combines various methods resulting in a flecked dial that sparkles in unique ways. Once again a watch that challenges what we expect in high-end watchmaking, bringing craft to the very surface that touches your skin, the skill it took to create it is without question.

In contrast to our first course was the last, the Credor Minute Repeater. A veritable Sunday roast, this is haute horology as we are more accustomed to seeing, balancing complexity and refinement with exceptional finishing that when launched in 2011 clearly challenged Euro-centric notions of watchmaking. Though more classic in its appearance, the repeater is still very Seiko at heart, powered by Spring Drive, making it likely the most accurate sonnerie in the world (mechanical, of course), and features the steel used in the world-famous Myochin chimes for the gongs. Yes, we pushed the button, and yes, it made us smile. The Credor Minute Repeater is also one of the few decimal repeaters out there, making it all the more special.

Drunk on the finest of finishing, we got ourselves together and began to make for the door when one last piece caught my eye that I wanted to put on my wrist. We were, after all, in a Grand Seiko boutique. Not a Credor, nor platinum, gold, or even a Spring Drive, rather it was the new SBGN019. A digestif after our meal, the 9F GMT brought me, at least, back down to Earth. The faceted 40mm barrel case looked great on my wrist, and was, to be fair, a bit more my style after all. The mix of ceramic, Zaratsu polish, fanned dial texture, and what we have internally decided to call “guava” red, struck a chord. I didn’t leave with it, but I’ll be thinking about it for sure. Grand Seiko

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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