To me, you really shouldn't compare the two brands like you could compare, say, Rolex to Omega, two Swiss manufacturers going for the same audience.
Interestingly since Grand Seiko, now a separate company from Seiko, has made a push into the North American market, more and more debates on the watch internet universe have arisen comparing the brand to Rolex. And fanboys on both sides are quick to take jabs at the other side.
Image by Watchfinder & Co.
First of all, as an owner of both Rolex and Grand Seiko watches, it’s glaringly obvious that the two brands intentionally go in different design directions. For example, there are always commenters on any Grand Seiko article noting how the bracelets on Grand Seiko watches can’t compare to the ones on modern Rolex watches. Modern Rolex bracelets are among the best in the business. Even the older hollow-link, rattily, stamped clasp bracelets have a lot of great qualities, most notably extreme comfort. But in no way are Grand Seiko bracelets lacking in quality. A legitimate complaint is the lack of micro-adjustments on the clasps, but the Grand Seiko design intention is to have an elegant, unobtrusive clasp that blends into the rest of the bracelet. It’s a different look. I definitely prefer Rolex bracelets for the look and feel of the taper. Frankly, the bracelets on our sister company MONTA might be better than both because of the level of adjustments on the fly.
Photo by Watchfinder & Co.
There’s also no debate that the endlink fit of Rolex watches to the bracelet offers tighter tolerances. This makes it harder to remove and put the bracelet back on, but there is a wee bit of slop where the case meets the bracelet on Grand Seiko watches. On the other hand, the overall finishing by hand on a typical Grand Seiko is far superior to the finishing on any Rolex. The fabled Zaratsu polishing technique does make for brilliant sparking and brushed surfaces. Again, that is not the look Rolex is going for. Rolex finishings are excellent, but in a more utilitarian style. You have to look at watches as a whole and both brands work when viewed as the total package.
Most Grand Seiko cases have drilled through lug holes, while modern Rolex watches definitely don’t. That’s why I treasure my 14060M Submariner so much. It’s the last Submariner featuring drilled lug holes. (Note: There are some Grand Seiko watches that don’t have drilled through lugs.) Again, this is an entirely different philosophy. Speaking of most, most Grand Seiko watches also do not have lume on the dial. (Note: Some sportier Grand Seiko watches do have lume and Seiko lume is better than Rolex lume in the brightness department.)
So how can one compare the two brands directly? Rolex watches serve an entirely different aesthetic requirement from those who are more drawn to Grand Seiko.
Picture from Fratello Watches
But let’s address the elephant in the room: If you care about impressing people with what’s on your wrist nothing will beat a Rolex in that department. Your average Joe would not know the significance of a Patek Philippe Nautilus at all. Rolex rules in leaving an impression that one is wearing a nice watch. And that’s exactly why I will choose to wear my Grand Seiko in certain crowds I run in.
As far as price point goes, you can still buy a Grand Seiko 9F quartz model for under $2,000. That’s a modern watchmaking steal in my opinion given the level of case finishing and the practicality of timekeeping that is plus or minus about five seconds a year. One important distinction here is that you can’t actually buy a Rolex at retail right now.
So there you have it. Can we all stop posting comments about how a Rolex or Grand Seiko is a better watch? And we haven’t even addressed movements. Again, totally different approaches.
No matter if you prefer Rolex or Grand Seiko, you can protect your watches with an Everest Watch Roll.