The Difference Between Seiko and Grand Seiko Watches

One thing that confuses many watch buyers is the difference between Seiko and Grand Seiko. They think that if the brand name and aesthetics are almost the same, that there can’t be much difference between their timepieces. This idea, though fairly logical, is ultimately false.

Here’s an example that might help you understand what’s going on behind the scenes: have you heard of the automobile brands Toyota and Lexus? What you might not know is that the same company owns them. While both exceptional brands, Lexus vehicles are much more powerful and luxurious. You might think of Seiko as Toyota and Grand Seiko as Lexus if you want to simplify this issue as much as possible. Below, I go into detail about these two brands and give some guidance on which might be right for you.

The Differences Between Seiko and Grand Seiko Watches

First Things First: The Similarities

There are two crucial similarities between these two brands. The first is that they have the same parent company. This factor will cause them to have similar aesthetics and quality standards, both of which are exceptional. The second similarity is how good of a deal they are. In the watch world, there are a lot of brands that sell far above their level of quality. The reason is that they can get away with inferior craftsmanship due to smart marketing. Seiko and Grand Seiko definitely do not fit into that category. In fact, most watch enthusiasts report that these pieces far exceed their price range and perform like more expensive products.


Now, onto the differences. The first of them is craftsmanship. While Seiko is a reliable brand, they do not put much care into each individual product. They are almost entirely manufactured by machine, as they cannot afford to incorporate handmade features. Grand Seiko, on the other hand, takes more care in creating the best possible watches. They build many parts by hand, polish the case and bracelet until they shine brightly, and go through manual inspections for quality control. This devotion leads to a superior product.


closer view of Seiko Automatic divers watch

Seiko watches are almost entirely made out of a resilient, but affordable form of stainless steel. This is the standard material that almost every timepiece manufacturer uses. Grand Seiko’s are different in one of two ways. First, they can be made of a higher quality stainless steel which will last longer and extend the lifespan of the watch. Second, they might be a different material entirely, like platinum or titanium. One thing that many of us can do intuitively is sense whether a metal is high or low quality. If you ever get a Grand Seiko is your hands, you’ll understand how much difference materials can make.


The first matter we should discuss before talking about accuracy is the difference between quartz and mechanical movements. The former uses a battery and a crystal to move the hands, while the latter is a small piece of machinery than manually makes the watch run. Quartz watches are always more accurate than mechanical, no matter what price point you’re in, so you shouldn’t try to put them head to head. If we’re comparing apples to apples, as in mechanical Seiko’s to mechanical Grand Seiko’s, the latter comes out ahead every time.


The cheapest Seiko watches out there are just above $50. These pieces generally have a quartz movement and are reliable, but perhaps won’t “wow” you. As they get more expensive, you’ll find high-quality divers and automatic pieces that perform above their price point. At the upper end, you rarely see a Seiko that costs more than $500.

Grand Seiko’s have a much higher price tag. This trend reflects the craftsmanship and quality that I’ve talked about throughout this article. They begin around $2,000 and extend all the way to $10,000. While expensive, many people put them on par with the great Swiss brands. When you look at it that way, they are somewhat of a steal.


A great way to assess a watch brand is to see who its peers are. For Seiko, names like Casio, Timex, and Citizen come up. While all of those brands are respectable, they might not enthrall you. When you look at who buys Grand Seiko’s, you find that it is the same people that shop with Omega, Rolex and even upper echelon brands like Audemars Piguet. With that kind of company, you know that Grand Seiko is a great pick.


So, which of these two sibling brands, Seiko and Grand Seiko, are right for you? That will depend entirely on what price point you’re looking at. For those that want a tough, reliable piece for under $500, definitely go with Seiko. You can get yourself a hyper-affordable quartz watch, a surprisingly fantastic automatic Seiko 5 for under $100, or splurge a bit on a more luxurious diver. The target market for Grand Seiko is luxury watch enthusiasts, so if you fit into that category, getting yourself a Snowflake or some other model is an excellent choice. No matter what, you can’t go wrong with the quality and craftsmanship of these two companies.

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