In Japan, it’s important to remember that a year isn’t broken down into four seasons. It’s defined by 24 sekki (micro-seasons, or sections), invented so people – especially farmers in older days – could more accurately read the changing of the seasons. Scenes from these seasons continue to inspire the designers of Grand Seiko watches.
That’s a big landscape, to draw inspiration for luxury watches. But that’s in part how Seiko has made a mark in the watch world. Respect for nature is at the foundation of many of their watch designs. Seiko watchmakers have a history of taking a scene from nature and bringing their own interpretation to it for the wrist.
Seiko’s new workshop in Iwate Prefecture an inspiration for watchmakers
In July, 2020, the company opened the Grand Seiko Studio Shizukuishi, tucked away in a quiet forest in Iwate Prefecture, a district in northern Honshu. That’s an area of the country marked by stunning coastlines, hot spring resorts, open skies, deep flowing rivers, beaches, trees and mountains.
Seiko works with local authorities to protect, sustain and nurture the unspoilt 300,000 white birch trees of the Hiraniwa Plateau. So you can imagine the inspiration watchmakers get, working in such a soulful place, a symbiosis with the natural world. Craftsmanship shines through every detail of Grand Seiko watches.
Grand Seiko Studio Shizukuishi
Grand Seiko SBGY013, 38.5 mm, powered by Spring Drive Caliber 9R31, delivering a power reserve of 72 hours, visible through the case-back. Most winters, Lake Suwa freezes over, and a long ridge of ice runs from one side of the lake to the other. Tradition has it that this is “Omiwatari” where the gods walk out over the ice. That’s the inspiration, the feel and texture of the snow-covered ice. Available at Knar Jewellery for $11,700.
Grand Seiko Studio Shizukuishi (which was opened in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Grand Seiko brand) is a workshop added to the Shizukuishi Watch Studio, a high-end watch and movement manufacturing site of Morioka Seiko Instruments.
Through many of its dials, Grand Seiko celebrates the beauty of nature. That includes the snowfields of Shinshu, those aforementioned white birch forests of Hiraniwa, the peaks and ridges of Mount Iwate, the autumn colors of Boshū, or cherry blossoms covered by snow.
SLGH017 Evolution 9 Collection, 40 mm, powered by Caliber 9SA5, offering a power reserve of 80 hours. The design is inspired by those white birch forests at night – black dial with the white birch forests on the Hiraniwa Plateau. These forests are located near the Shizukuishi where all Grand Seiko mechanical watches are crafted. Available at Knar Jewellery for $13,500.
Seiko calls this the “Nature of Time”, something architect Kengo Kuma was deeply aware of when he designed the new studio.
“My goal … was to reach beyond the primary nuance of the essence of time to inspire a sense of the mysterious linkage inherent between the aspects of nature and time. I strove to frame a more tangible picture of that awareness through my architecture,” he says.
Grand Seiko SBGC249 Evolution 9 Collection, 45.3 mm, powered by Caliber 9R96, with a power reserve of 72 hours, accuracy of +/- 10 seconds per month, +/-0.5 second per day, deep blue dial and bezel capture the colour of the night sky and contrasts nicely with the titanium case. Available at Knar Jewellery for $16,100.
The studio is powerfully linked to the surrounding environment, particularly through the use of wood, he adds.
“I sincerely hope that the instant people set eyes on a Grand Seiko they will sense nature’s presence in it,” Kuma adds, “tapping into images of this rich natural setting full of nature, mountains, open skies and other blessings that embrace the studio.”
Image up top, SLGH013, Heritage Collection, 40 mm, powered by the latest Grand Seiko movement, Caliber 9SA5, delivering 80 hours of power reserve, enhanced precision. The dial is in light blue and has the texture of the snow that starts to melt in Spring on Mt Iwate, the imposing 2,038-meter-high peak that overlooks the Grand Seiko Studio Shizukuishi. Available at Knar Jewellery for $12,300.
Grand Seiko SBGX353 Elegance Collection, 34 mm, powered by advanced 9F quartz caliber, Crocodile leather band, stainless steel, clean, simple dial, made at the Shinshu Watch Studio, high in the mountains of central Japan. It has the texture and color of the snow that, for several months a year, is clearly visible to the Grand Seiko watchmakers.