Hands-On Impressions of the New Credor Locomotive

Walking into Grand Seiko’s Madison Avenue boutique last week, I was ready for a fun evening with great company. After all, that’s what you expect anytime you go to an event hosted by Complecto. What I wasn’t expecting was the opportunity to check out the latest and greatest from Credor, the recently relaunched Locomotive, just a day after its public launch. Timed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Credor, the revival of the Locomotive resurrects a long-dormant design from probably the most influential and well-known watch designer of the 20th century, Gerald Genta, and it more than lives up to both his name, and that of Credor.

And speaking of names; when is a Seiko, not a Seiko? I admit, it’s a slightly odd question, but it bears asking. Seiko sells watches at just about every conceivable price point for every conceivable customer. But whether you’re picking up a Seiko for $79.94 on Amazon or a Kodo Constant Force Tourbillon for $350,000, every watch in the Seiko lineup will always have something in common — the word “Seiko” on the dial.

It’s hard to think of another watch brand that not only sells watches at such dramatically different prices, but that doesn’t shy away from putting the same name on their entire collection. Sure, there are slight differences we learn to decode. Grand Seiko and Prospex elicit different reactions from collectors than Seiko 5 or Astron but, fundamentally, Seiko proudly declares just about every watch they make a Seiko.

Except for one notable line — Credor. Credor is often thought of as the highest-end execution of Seiko watches, and while the word mark has certainly been applied to some not-inexpensive watches, like the spectacular Eichii II, that’s not really the idea. After all, the Grand Seiko Kodo Constant Force Tourbillon is far more expensive than any watch sporting the name Credor on the dial. 


Grand Seiko watches are expected to conform to certain core requirements. Those constraints, which take the form of three fundamental design principles and nine design elements, have allowed Grand Seiko to develop a language of its own and build a remarkably cohesive catalog. One would be hard-pressed to confuse a Grand Seiko for anything else and this cohesiveness is reinforced by a simple rule: No Grand Seiko watch can be designed by someone outside of Seiko.

Credor doesn’t have to play by any of these rules. Credor is a platform for Seiko’s artists, and certain third-party collaborators, to be just that — artists. Credor is a space for collaboration, creativity, and experimentation that pushes beyond the limits that both define and restrict Grand Seiko. It was in that spirit that Gerald Genta designed the Locomotive for Credor in the late 1970s.

Genta was, according to his widow, Evelyne Genta, enamored with Japan. Genta, having developed a friendship with Seiko’s Reijiro Hattori, visited Japan and Seiko a number of times through the 1970s, speaking to designers and craftsmen at the brand and encouraging them to develop a distinct identity. The relationship between Genta and Seiko eventually resulted in the design and creation of the Locomotive.

The Locomotive is certainly more Genta than it is Seiko. I’m not going to pretend that it doesn’t share a distinct similarity to a certain Swiss watch. Actually, I’m going to lean in a slightly different direction because, to my eye, the Locomotive is kind of the perfect distillation of Genta’s design aesthetic, uniting elements that we would continue to see repeated across brands, models, and decades.

When we look back at the bodies of work produced by history’s great artists, we tend to look from masterpiece to masterpiece and look at them as distinct works. We focus on Les Demoiselles d’Avignon and Guernica and forget to take a second look at the myriad bowls of fruit Picasso painted to get from one to the other. But those still lives are what teach art historians how Picasso evolved, and it is in excavating designs like the Locomotive that we can understand how Genta got from the Royal Oak to the Grande Sonnerie Tourbillon released under his own name.

The Locomotive perfectly bridges that gap. It undoubtedly draws heavily from his earlier work. A quick glance at the Locomotive screams Royal Oak. The Locomotive retains a similar geometric bezel, though the hexagonal here offers a more rounded shape than the octagonal bezel of the Royal Oak, and the bracelet design is familiar. But the bracelet of the Locomotive is both softer and more severe than that of the Royal Oak, with a gentler primary link and a more angular intermediary link shape.

Then there is the connection between the bracelet and the case. The Locomotive strips the watch head down to its core elements, seemingly connecting the bracelet of the case directly to the bezel of the watch, without any mid-case to pad the scale of the watch. That single mounting point design would eventually make its way to the Cartier Pasha and plenty of other Genta designs and is as much a piece of his design signature as the integrated bracelet.

The cumulative effect of this design evolution is a watch that feels far more jewelry-like, and far less brutalist than its most closely related sibling, the Royal Oak. Those differences are only compounded when you wear the watch. The feeling of the Locomotive on your wrist is entirely unlike the experience of wearing a Royal Oak.

The Locomotive is a compact watch, 38.8mm across and only 8.9mm thick, with a lug-to-lug functionally identical to its diameter. This sensation of compactness is helped by the screw-down crown’s home at four o’clock (a Seiko signature). Moving the crown from the three o’clock position is a critical design move, de-emphasizing the point of the octagonal bezel and allowing the crown to sit in the center of a (relatively) flat surface.

The bracelet drapes beautifully, and the watch hugs the wrist magically. The use of high-intensity titanium for the case and bracelet is a welcome choice here. The original watch was made in steel, but opting for titanium is a strong nod toward the modern Grand Seiko, and the material is, as one would expect, well-finished and dynamic in its execution. The watch is stunningly light, but the unit I tried on was a dummy without a movement, so production models will wear slightly heavier than the one I experienced.

The dial of the Locomotive is pure Grand Seiko, with a deep texture and a remarkable shimmer. The watch does sport a date, something which I could probably have lived without, but the framed window at three o’clock is relatively unobtrusive. The hands of the re-release hew close to those of the original watch, while the luminous markers have been updated to better match the handset. It’s a small, but meaningful, update, and not one that I can see anyone complaining about.

Another update comes with the movement. The original Locomotive was powered by a quartz movement, a fitting choice for a luxury watch in the late ‘70s, but inside the case of this re-release is a brand new Credor automatic movement, the CR01. The new movement offers 45 hours of power reserve and is certainly thin, but it is not Chronometer Certified. Seiko promises an accuracy range of +15 to -10 seconds a day.

I’ve admittedly never been the Royal Oak’s biggest booster, despite my general admiration for Genta and his impact. I’m a far bigger fan of the Offshore than the traditional Jumbo, and many of Genta’s later designs feel more like art-pieces than watches you’re actually meant to wear. And yet, having gotten to try on the Locomotive and spend a few minutes with it, I have to admit that I’m somewhat taken by it. It feels like the perfect bridge between who Genta was in the early ‘70s, and who he became in the late ‘80s and through the ‘90s. It’s a killer watch, and one I would happily wear, if I were given the opportunity.

All of which brings us to our last big question of the day: How much will the Locomotive cost, and how do you get one? The Locomotive will be available globally in a limited edition of 300 pieces from August of this year for a price of $12,000 — a dramatic discount when compared to other Genta-designed watches from the 70s, though price is probably the least of the hurdles involved in getting this watch. Credor

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A native New Englander now based in Philadelphia, Griffin has been a passionate watch enthusiast since the age of 13, when he was given a 1947 Hamilton Norman as a birthday gift by his godfather. Well over a decade later, Griffin continues to marvel and obsess about all things watches, while also cultivating lifelong love affairs with music, film, photography, cooking, and making.