This past Friday, Grand Seiko USA hosted their second GS9 event in Brooklyn, NY at the historic Williamsburg Savings Bank. The day-long event carried over into the evening and was a flurry of panels, watchmaking demonstrations from the Horological Society of New York, the debut of a new watch, and even the recreation of the famed Matsumoto Castle of Shinshu. And, of course, there was plenty of watch-spotting to be done with the crowd of over 500 guests.
Grand Seiko has only been active in the States for a couple of years but the enthusiastic community of existing and newer collectors makes for such a vibrant, diverse, and eclectic experience that was truly a joy to participate in. The packed upstairs held panels beginning with “How to create watch content for modern enthusiasts” which was hosted by Jon Bues and included Zach Piña of PIP Media, Brynn Wallner of ubiquitous DIMEPIECE fame, Teddy Baldassare of the eponymous online retailer, and Christian Zeron of Theo and Harris.
This was followed by an educational and illuminating “The evolution of Grand Seiko” moderated by Grand Seiko Brand Curator (and fount of knowledge) Joe Kirk and included Paul Boutros of Phillips, Daniel Broadfoot formerly of Timeless Luxury and now with Watches of Switzerland, Robert Caplan of Topper Jewelers, Jack Forster of Watchbox, Bhanu Chopra of Revolution, and Kelly Yoch of Watches of Switzerland. Finally, the day of panels wrapped up with a talk on Japanese Style moderated by Spencer Bailey of The Showdown with panelists Malaika Crawford of Hodinkee. and David Kenji Chang.
The downstairs was also brimming with activity as guests learned some watchmaking basics through interactive demonstrations. And, of course, there were many rare Grand Seiko watches on display including the recent GPHG award winning Kodo Constant Force Tourbillon SLGT003. There was also a particularly impressive display of how a basic plate of metal becomes a stunning Grand Seiko dial, shown in step-by-step detail.
At 6pm things went from charming and relatively quaint to downright impressive when a curtain went down and we saw a replica of the historic Matsumoto Castle of Shinshu built right there in the venue. Of course, not just a random nod to something beautiful and Japanese, this structure tied in to the release of a new watch that was presented by Joe Kirk and Grand Seiko Corporation of America President Brice Le Troadec.
The SBGY023 is the first GS9 USA member exclusive limited edition watch and it’s a stunner (I got an early peek at this watch some weeks ago but it was such a secret I couldn’t take photos). With a light grey Kirazuri dial inspired by the legendary Japanese castle, the SBGY023 is a 299 piece limited edition that measures 38.5mm wide, 10.2mm thick, and is outfitted with the manual-wind 9R31 Spring Drive movement. Again, it’s limited to GS9 members with a price of $8,500.
It’s funny to think back on just how recently Grand Seiko was the niche, obscure brand that only the most in-the-know watch nerds knew about. Well, I think it’s safe to say this is no longer the case. I’ve now observed the tenacious and passionate Grand Seiko team establish the brand as a dominant player in a market where people once foolishly grimaced at paying Swiss prices for a Japanese watch. If this was how the second GS9 Collector’s event went, I have high hopes for what the coming years have in store for Grand Seiko in North America.