Watch this space: Grand Seiko mountain

If you’re a true horophile and you ever find yourself in the northern part of Japan, you might want to factor in a trip to Grand Seiko Studio in Shizukuishi, in Iwate Prefecture

But even before you start your tour of the watch-making and design facility, you’re likely to be astonished by the remarkable similarity of the place to somewhere else, which lies around 6,000 miles away: Switzerland’s Jura valley.

When architect Kengo Kuma designed the light-filled studio, he ensured that its occupants would have a clear view of nearby Mount Iwate, which rises majestically on the horizon to a height of more than 2,000 metres. It’s also no coincidence that the studio is bordered by a lush green pine forest. Just like in Switzerland. And probably no coincidence, either, that Grand Seiko watches have come to be regarded around the world as being as well engineered, well designed and as covetable as anything produced by the Swiss. 

If their quality can be attributed to the calm instilled by the studio’s surroundings, then it makes sense that the brand’s latest model – the Heritage ‘Snowscape’ – pays tribute to Mount Iwate with a remarkable dial that mimics the textures and patterns of the frosted snow found on its flanks. The 40mm case, meanwhile, is made of the type of marine-grade steel that probably wouldn’t corrode even if it were left on the slopes for a decade, while Grand Seiko’s own Hi-Beat Calibre 9SA5 is the same mechanism used in the ‘White Birch’ watch, which won the brand a prize at last year’s Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.

As a reminder of a trip to Shizukuishi, a Heritage ‘Snowscape’ would be difficult to improve upon. Although at £8,000, it might be cheaper to opt for a snow globe from the Mount Iwate souvenir shop…


Simon is a journalist and author who writes for the FT’s How To Spend It, British GQ and Boat International among other publications

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