15 August 2017
Consider the opening of Seiko’s new standalone store as a statement of intent. Better known for its sub-£200 timepieces, this Brompton Road launch is Seiko announcing its luxury credentials – which, in the UK at least, go largely undiscussed.
Better known for its sub-£200 timepieces, this Brompton Road launch is Seiko announcing its luxury credentials – which, in the UK at least, go largely undiscussed.
After one of the summer’s more idiosyncratic boutique openings – during which Jonathan Ross joined brand CEO Shinji Hattori in smashing open a ceremonial barrel of sake – Seiko officially opened its doors in one of the world’s most sought-after patches of retail real estate. Shrewdly, the Japanese giant has sandwiched itself between luxury watch meccas Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Watches of Switzerland.
“My intention in the coming years is that Grand Seiko will scale new heights of watchmaking excellence and commercial success,” said Mr Hattori, during Baselworld 2017. With half of the Knightsbridge premises devoted to Grand Seiko – the top tier in Seiko’s league of timepieces – the store will be instrumental in realising that ambition.
While Seiko practically owns the quartz watch scene, the brand’s battery-powered empire was built on deep-rooted mechanical foundations. Seiko made its first mechanical timepiece in 1913. In 1968, it created Japan’s first ‘hi-beat’ wristwatch – a timepiece that operated at more than six beats per second. In 1968, the brand became the first to put a vertical clutch and column wheel system into an automatic chronograph. Fast forward to 2014, and Seiko’s Hi-Beat 36000 GMT was named the best watch under £6,000 at the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève – a highly coveted category in an awards ceremony more commonly referred to as the Oscars of the watch world.
Seiko’s Brompton Road store follows an opening in NYC’s Madison Avenue and pays homage to the brand’s history by displaying premium models from the Astron, Presage and Prestige collections.
The star attraction, however, is the ultra-thin Fugaku Tourbillon Limited Edition, the first tourbillon movement – and the smallest in the world by volume – from Seiko sub-brand Cedar. Limited to just eight pieces, the extraordinary timepiece features a caseband comprising 43 blue sapphires and a dial and caseback depicting yellow and white gold interpretations of Katsushika Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa. The watch is a masterpiece from three Japanese artists, each recognised by the country’s government as Contemporary Master Craftsmen