The Grand Seiko Vision of the Beauty of Time

Vol.2Interplay of light and
shadow that resonates
with the architecture
of Tadao Ando

A unique philosophy of design
brought about by the harmony of light and shadow

A style that has been
carried on along with
the Japanese sense of beauty

The distinct flat surface from the case to the lugs is the feature of the SBGJ201. The Grand Seiko design code was perfected in the 44GS, which was released in 1967, and this style has been carried forward up to the current day.

For Grand Seiko, timepieces must have a design that does not make the watch itself the principal actor, but lets it blend in with its wearer. In addition, as a watch made in Japan, it must embody the aesthetics and sensibilities that are quintessentially Japanese. This was evident at the Milan Design Week 2019, where the essence of the Grand Seiko brand was expressed by the ceaseless flow of time and the unique Japanese sense of time, in which everything is accepted as a part of the natural physical world.

SBGJ201, shown in the photo, is a good balance of functional design as an instrument that tells time, and decorative design, as a watch that stimulates the sensibilities. Composed mainly of planes and lines, it has a style that is also seen in traditional Japanese architecture and crafts. The sharp, three-dimensional case design; the bold expression achieved by the flat dial; and multifaceted hours markers and hands that allow for legibility even in the faintest of light—this design code was perfected in the late 1960s as the Grand Seiko Style. As the unique design philosophy of Grand Seiko, this code has been continued on in the SBGJ201 and other modern-day models.

The sculpted beauty
of ridges heightened
by the exquisite mirror finish

It is extremely difficult work to perfectly polish the many flat surfaces and ensure that even the ridges are expressed exquisitely. This is where you can appreciate the extremely high skills of master craftsmen.

Light and shadow hold the key to understanding the Grand Seiko Style. The case, polished by a method known as Zaratsu polishing, comprises beautiful, distortion-free flat surfaces, and the ridge where plane meets plane forms a sharp and bold, beautifully sculpted form that goes straight down to the lugs. The result is a unique style with expressions that differ according to the light. This can be compared to the shadows created by the series of planes in folding screens or fans. Here, they give dimension and depth to the case design.

The Japanese have always paid particular attention to light, sensing the infinite number of gradations between light and shadow. They are fond of shadows as much as light, and value the expressions brought about by the contrast. A method that has been taken from days of old to show this shadow in the most beautiful way combines distortion-free planes and lines. A watch that shows an endless number of expressions by applying light that changes with the flow of time, is a special timepiece that offers the joy of ownership.

Craftsmanship that respects
the birthplace of the watch

The delicate pattern on the dial was inspired by contoured surface of Mount Iwate. Its appearance changes as light and shadow change.

Just as the Aomori Contemporary Art Centre by Ando was designed to be in symbiosis with the land of Aomori and nature, Grand Seiko SBGJ201 also contains thoughts toward its birthplace. Grand Seiko models with the mechanical movement are handcrafted by the artisans of Shizuku-ishi Watch Studio, located in the town of Shizukuishi in Iwate Prefecture. The finely finished parts are assembled and thoroughly adjusted for precision to complete a watch that is highly valued worldwide for its superb quality and the craftsmanship skills that go into its creation.

The dial of SBGJ201has a pattern inspired by the strong ridges of the spectacular Mount Iwate, which can be seen from the window of the watch studio. No matter how superb a timepiece may be, however, it cannot be made without the support of the people who live there and the blessings of nature. To express respect toward its birthplace, a motif that symbolizes the town of Shizukuishi has been placed on the dial.