Hi guys here’s Goro, the Grand Seiko retail price increase announced for December 2022 went into effect next new year. Now, with this price increase, Grand Seiko is no longer undervalued and literally seems to have become the global standard. However, from the consumer’s perspective, the price increase is not good news. Let us examine the background and impact of this price hike.
Price increase due to the unstoppable growth of the U.S. market
In general, Grand Seiko’s top-flight markets are in North America, including the United States. Until now, the U.S. watch market has favored inexpensive products, and inexpensive quartz watches have been the mainstay of the U.S. watch market, preferred over high-end mechanical watches made in Switzerland.
However, since the time of the Covid-19 Disaster, there has been a change in American watch preferences. The global currency “excess liquidity” may have contributed to this change, but the export of expensive watches from Switzerland began at a tremendous rate.
In the past few years, the volume and value of Swiss watch exports to the United States has surpassed that of China, which had previously held the top position in the Covid-19 Disaster.
The U.S. market is now the “El Dorado” for all watch brands. Among them, it is said that nearly half of Grand Seiko’s production is destined for the U.S. The reason for the price increase is undoubtedly the depreciation of the yen.
It is no wonder that the brand sees the price increase as an opportunity to “close the price gap with Swiss watches” in the North American market, no doubt due to the weak yen. I once saw a video of an U.S YouTuber describing “Grand Seiko is far better quality than Rolex.
If there is a price difference of more than 200,000 Japanese yen and the quality is the same or higher, which one would you choose? Generally, people choose the cheaper one. In the business world, if there has a cheap but high quality watch, a brand is necessary to raise the price.
Furthermore, Americans tend to choose practicality over tradition and brand image. Even if it has less name value than a Swiss brand, as long as it is practical and cost-effective, they have no problem with it.
A dial that points to craftsmanship!
It is a fact that Grand Seiko used to be inferior to Swiss brands in some details. A clerk at one Swiss brand even said that they were no better than Grand Seiko in terms of design.
However, since the “Independence of Grand Seiko in 2017,” the design has dramatically improved. Goro particularly likes the “24 Seasonsal phase(called by Japanese, 24Sekki)” themed collection, which is an ambitious attempt to lead the brand into the field of craftsmanship, something Grand Seiko has never tried before.
In my personal opinion, the brand has not yet surpassed the Swiss brands when it comes to “overall watch design”. A famous British YouTuber pointed out that “The date font on the calendar is difficult”
However, the renowned excellent movement has been further sharpened, and in terms of appearance, the beauty and quality of the dials have been greatly improved.
In particular, the use of a cheap, mass-producible process to express “depictions of nature” such as water surfaces, white birches, and the pathway of the God, on the dial based on the aforementioned “24 Seasonal phase” theme is highly commendable. There are Swiss watches with excellent dials, but most of them are handcrafted not manufacture.
It would be better if artistic products were available at the mass-production level. I have recently been attracted to Grand Seiko because I have seen their dials, which are almost handcrafted beyond industrial products.
I think the main reason why many people have recently become fans is that they were attracted by the stunning dials. It is thought that this has attracted overseas fans as well.
However, what has been bothering me recently is their “master craftsmanship” that is too much.
Breaking away from “excessive quality
In Japan, which has achieved economic growth through superior “Monozukuri” (manufacturing), the pursuit of high quality has been the norm up to now.
However, too much quality is also a bad thing. In fact, many of the industrial products produced in Japan seem to have “forgotten their essence” in their pursuit of quality when compared to products from around the world.
The difference between Japanese cars and imported cars is often compared.
I once had a Volkswagen Golf (VW-GOLF) in the early 2000s. It is generally said that in Japan “domestic cars are less prone to breakdowns, while imported cars are more prone to breakdowns and cost more to maintain,” and I remember that this was exactly true.
However, when it comes to the original driving performance of the car, the imported cars have an overwhelming advantage; driving a VW-GOLF at high speeds is a thrilling experience, and you can enjoy the car itself.
This also applies to watches. A movement that is accurate and unbreakable must be good at first glance. However, if you think about it calmly, there is no need to be so precise.
In recent years, more and more Swiss brands have been reducing the frequency and increasing the durability of components rather than pursuing precision. This also extends the recommended overhaul period from 2 to 3 years to 5 to 10.
In general, lowering the frequency increases the power reserve, so I, as a “long power reserve” person, would like to see Grand Seiko products with a lower frequency, without being concerned about high beats.
It is funny that a Swiss brand adopts a method that was once used for Japanese cars, and Grand Seiko adopts it for imported(from Europe) cars .
What are the prospects for Grand Seiko as a brand?
The price increase this time(2023) should have eliminated “excessive quality” to some extent. However, it can be expected that the eyes directed to Grand Seiko will naturally become severe. In such a case, a higher level of finishing and design is required.
In addition, a philosophy that does not lose sight of the essence of the watch is required without becoming “excessive quality” in the pursuit of high quality in the dark. As I wrote in my article “Now is the Time to Buy a Grand Seiko,(written by Japanese)” I thought that the price increase should be made.
However, the problem is the future of the U.S. market. Many experts predict that the U.S. watch market is currently in a “bubble” state, too inflated and abnormal.
And while I am concerned about what will happen when the bubble in the U.S. watch market bursts, I am not too worried. If the bubble boom in the U.S. market bursts, products will flow to other countries.
The more important thing is the future branding as Grand Seiko. I believe that the branding strategy, rather than manufacturing, will determine the development of Grand Seiko. I would like to see Grand Seiko focus on its technical capabilities, which have already reached a certain level.