No watchmaker does winter quite as well as Grand Seiko. Steeped in tradition — and around 40 inches of snow — the two mountainous manufactures of the renowned Japanese brand can be found, cool and capable, on icy inclines in the Shinshu province and Iwate prefecture.
And these unique natural surroundings provide endless inspiration. The watchmaker, since its inception 62 years ago, has weathered many seasons — and created timepieces that pay homage to each of Japan’s twenty-four separate ‘sekki’ (seasons of shorter durations). There have been watches influenced by warm summer breezes, and ones born of autumn moonlight. But the best evoke the spirit of the sharpest season; winter.
Below, we’ve chosen six of our favourite frost-inducing Grand Seiko timepieces — from a white-dialled watch inspired by mountain myths to a blue model that mirrors clear winter skies. And, because Japan is a little too far-flung for a brief wintertime break (although the watchmaker’s New Bond Street boutique offers a within-reach window onto the East Asian nation), we’ve paired each piece with a British destination; somewhere more local that shares these ice-cold qualities and levels of natural, watch-inspiring wonder.
Wear the Grand Seiko ‘Snowscape’ on the slopes of Snowdonia
Why this watch? Because it marked the anniversary of the ‘Grand Seiko Style;’ the framework for the watchmaker’s designs (first established with the 44GS model in 1967) that balances legibility and light on the dial.
What does it represent? The snowscape of Mount Iwate near the Shizukuishi Watch Studio. The texture of the dial itself is inspired by the melting snow as winter draws to a thawing end, part of the ‘Risshun’ and ‘Ussi’ sekki seasons.
Where to wear it? To evoke the same sprawling landscape as the Tōhoku region of northern Honshū, try Snowdonia. The largest national park in Wales, mountains from Crib Goch to Snowdon itself will offer similarly scenic snowscapes.
Grand Seiko ‘Snowscape’ Hi-Beat 44GS (SLGH013)
Wear the Grand Seiko ‘Spring Drive Seasons: Winter’ on Salisbury Plain
Why this watch? Because it’s powered by the ‘9R66 Spring Drive’ movement. Generating energy like a conventional mechanical watch, but with an electronic regulator to deliver superior precision, it never requires a battery change.
What does it represent? Japan’s winter solstice sky — the shortest day and longest night of the year. Capturing the crisp, clear conditions of the ‘Tōji’ sekki with a snow-settled sparkle across the dial (and with a GMT hand that glows golden like the last rays of the solstice sun) it’s a winter-tinted treat.
Where to wear it? Salisbury Plain — where else? The British bastion of solstice celebrations, Wiltshire’s chilly chalk plateau is the perfect place to observe ‘Tōji’ (and Stonehenge itself even bears a striking resemblance to the stone circles in Kazuno of the Akita Prefecture).
Grand Seiko Spring Drive Seasons: Winter (SBGE269)
Wear the Grand Seiko ‘Omiwatari: God’s Footsteps’ in the Lake District
Why this watch? Because, despite its wintry feel, it once more features Seiko’s ‘Spring Drive’ movement — the signature of which is the smooth motion of its second hand which moves in a silent and beautiful gliding motion.
What does it represent? A mysterious natural midwinter phenomenon called ‘Omiwatari’, which occurs on the frozen surface of Japan’s Lake Suwa, near birthplace of the ‘Spring Drive’ movement. Considered to be ‘God’s Footsteps’, these icy ridges are created when the frozen lake stretches and contracts.
Where to wear it? Britain may not boast anything quite as spectacular as ‘Omiwatari’, but Cumbria’s world-renowned Lake District has a couple of meres and tarns that put even Lake Suwa to shame. And in winter? There’s no place quite like it.
Grand Seiko White ‘Omiwatari — God’s Footsteps’ Spring Drive (SBGY013)
Wear the Grand Seiko ‘Taisetsu Winter Snow’ in the Scottish Highlands
Why this watch? As it perfectly encapsulates ‘The Nature of Time’ theme, which features prominently across Grand Seiko’s watch designs. The anti-reflective crystal coating is also exceedingly helpful during the bright white days of winter.
What does it represent? The deep snow of winter — the sekki ‘Taisetsu’ — when the world has hibernated under deep trenches of flakes and flurries. The grey dial has a boulder pattern to to echo the snow as it gathers and glitters against the sunlight.
Where to wear it? The Cairngorms, a swathe of the Scottish Highlands that gets the heaviest snow in Britain. Here, you and your watch can explore ‘Taisetsu’ for yourself — and that high-intensity titanium case is sturdy enough for even the most daring mountaineers.
Grand Seiko The ‘Taisetsu’ Winter Snow Spring Drive (SBGA415)
Wear the Grand Seiko ‘Skyflake’ Quartz in the Mourne Mountains
Why this watch? Because, like a bolt from the blue, this handsome watch — powered by the durable ‘Calibre 9F’ and handcrafted by Takumi artisans — has sprung to the top of our Grand Seiko want list this winter.
What does it represent? Less snowy than Grand Seiko’s other winter watches, the azure dial of the ‘Skyflake’ takes its colourful cues from the frozen mountain surfaces of Japan’s Nagano Prefecture, near the Shinshu Watch Studio — where this glacial glaze reflects the sky.
Where to wear it? Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains — officially designated an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, and home to some of the most cerulean skies in Britain. Ideal for some icy reflection.
Grand Seiko ‘Skyflake’ Quartz (SBGX353)
Wear the Grand Seiko Spring Drive ‘Snowflake’ along the Pennine Chain
Why this watch? Many reasons. The three-day power reserve — with its indicator on the bottom left of the dial. The truly lightweight titanium construction. But, for us, it’s that smoothly gliding blued steel second-hand that clinches it.
What does it represent? The winter period during which the first flakes of the season’s snow begin to fall. Once more, the inspiration for this one is pure; simply evoking the snow on the mountains that surround the Shinshu Watch Studio.
Where to wear it? Along the strong Pennine Chain — a fitting choice, given the Snowflake’s scratch-resistant titanium link bracelet. These Midland mountains, running from Tissington to the Tyne Gap, offer an ideal spot to find soft snowfalls similar to those of Grand Seiko’s central Japanese home.
Grand Seiko Spring Drive ‘Snowflake’ (SBGA211)
Want more from the Seiko Watchmaking Corporation? Here’s why Grand Seiko is a brand for all seasons…
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