1 October 2014
Seiko’s position in the global watch consciousness is hard to nail down, not least because of xenophobic prejudice. We – and by that I mean mechanical watch enthusiasts or hobbyists – live a Helvetia-centric universe. Yes, there are minor dispensations made for a number of German brands, the occasional Finnish, Danish, American, British or other countries’ watchmakers, but Japan has been left out of the “approved” column.
Let’s not be too absolutist about this. However infra dig those who love mechanical might feel that the wares of Casio, Citizen, et al, may be, Citizen can boast ownership of “proper” Swiss interests, Casio’s G-Shock has created its own subculture, and those who visit Japan are aware of makes like Orient that you hardly see here, with cool mechanical pieces like the latter’s King Diver and Professional Diver.
It is the diving watches that have endowed Seiko with a goodly dose of “collectability” because we in the West still don’t “get” the brilliance of the Grand Seiko mechanical masterpieces. It is easy to forget that Seiko’s timing abilities were so accomplished in the past that the Swiss had to change the rules in certain competitions, moving the goalposts as it were. Seiko is, after all, a true manufacture, and for that alone, it deserves more respect.
On recent trips to Tokyo (not, I hasten to add, with Seiko, but for hi-fi duties), I learned that the Japanese themselves value Seiko highly, with older Grand Seikos fetching the sort of sums we pay for Vacherons and even Pateks. The freakier diving watches, like the so-called “Tuna”, command thousands. And there is no better-value cult watch than the “Orange Monster” – which inspired this blog.
While trawling the duty-free at Narita Airport last week, I noticed a Seiko-only concession, proudly proclaiming that all of the pieces were “Made In Japan” – a boast as valued there as “Swiss Made” is globally. Hoping to acquire another “Monster”, I saw that the stand was painfully short of the brand’s more captivating models.
Maybe Seiko isn’t truly aware of the affection some foreign enthusiasts have for their affordable sport models. The Monsters deserve as much cult worship as any Swiss “affordables” as they are a brand unto themselves. If anyone from Seiko is listening, why don’t you emulate Tudor and elevate the Monsters to the commercial success they merit?