Watches of Switzerland, the largest physical retailer of watches in the UK, recently opened its first two stores in the United States. The two boutiques opened simultaneously over the final weekend of November in New York’s SoHo neighborhood and inside The Wynn in Las Vegas. The location in Lower Manhattan’s renowned luxury retail district, which covers two floors and 8,000 square feet, is a welcome sight for New Yorkers who previously had to rely on the boutiques located uptown on Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue to get their luxury watch fix.
To celebrate the opening of the SoHo boutique, Grand Seiko is hosting a pop-up exhibition on the lower floor that will run until February 3, 2019. The Japanese brand is known throughout the watch industry for its elaborate event concepts and intricate build-outs and the Watches of Switzerland experience doesn’t disappoint. More importantly for watch enthusiasts, however, is the fact that Grand Seiko has imported a number of Japanese Domestic Models (JDM) to be sold for a limited time at the pop-up shop. During a recent visit to the boutique, we got to spend some time with these watches that are rarely seen stateside. Check out a few highlights below.
In the U.S. market, there’s no doubt that the “Snowflake” is Grand Seiko’s most recognized watch. Its current iteration is the SBGA211 which was released in 2017 after the brand announced its separation from the larger Seiko corporation. Prior to that declaration, all Grand Seiko watches included additional Seiko branding on their dials. The “Snowflake” moniker comes from the shimmering, multi-layer brass dial that resembles the freshly driven snow found outside Grand Seiko’s Shiojiri production center in the Nagano Prefecture.
Although Grand Seiko recently announced three limited-edition watches solely intended for the U.S. market with a similarly intriguing dial texture, there’s still only one true “Snowflake” available to most American-based watch enthusiasts. That is, at least, until Watches of Switzerland showed up with three JDM models that completely transform the model’s identity.
Just for reference: the Grand Seiko “Snowflake” SBGA211 is made of high-intensity titanium, is sized at 41 mm, utilizes the Spring Drive 9R65 movement, comes on a bracelet, and is priced at $5,800.
The Grand Seiko SBGA289 is made of white gold, is sized at 39 mm, utilizes the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Caliber 9R15 with a special quartz crystal oscillator that enables greater accuracy compared to the 9R65 (+/- 0.5 sec/day, whereas the 9R65 is specified as -/+ 1 sec/day), and is priced at $25,000.
The Grand Seiko SBGA290 is made of yellow gold, is sized at 39 mm, utilizes the same Grand Seiko Spring Drive Caliber 9R15, and is priced at $24,000.
The Grand Seiko SBGA364 is made of rose gold with a matching rose gold bracelet, is sized at 40 mm, once again uses 9R15, and is priced at $38,000. Unfortunately, we were unable to photograph the watch, but click here to see Grand Seiko’s information page on the model (Note: The text is in Japanese).
In addition to the Snowflakes on display, Grand Seiko also brought along two time-and-date only models that utilize the brand’s Automatic Hi-Beat 36000 Caliber. The closest relatives to these two watches (SBGH219 and SBGH220) in the brand’s current U.S. collection are the new limited-edition, anniversary releases from 2018 such as SBGH266J and SBGH267G, and 2017 releases like SBGH205G, SBGH201G, and SBGH263G (originally a boutique release from 2017 that was made an unlimited release in 2018).
The Grand Seiko SBGH219 is unique due to its case material (white gold), sharp case design with additional facets, and case diameter (38 mm). It’s priced at $24,000.
The Grand Seiko SBGH220 stands out a bit more thanks to the usage of yellow gold for its case, hands, and indexes. It’s also sized at 38 mm and is priced at $23,000.
Diverging into sportier territory, the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph GMT SBGC204 utilizes the same dial layout and movement (Caliber 9R86) as models such as the stainless-steel, white-dial SBGC201G, the stainless-steel, black-dial SBGC203G, and the titanium, black-dial SBGC205G with rose gold accents. The SBGC204 features a rose gold case, hands, and indexes with a silver dial that has a sunburst finish. It’s priced at $32,000.
To go along with the limited pop-up experience, Grand Seiko also collaborated with Watches of Switzerland on a limited-edition Snowflake model that is exclusively available at the new Watches of Switzerland boutiques in New York and Las Vegas. Reference SBGA259 features similar specs to SBGA211G (titanium case and bracelet, Spring Drive movement, 41-mm diameter), but features golden hands and indexes. It’s priced at $5,900.
The first Watches of Switzerland boutique in New York is located at 60 Greene Street in SoHo with a second New York location expected to open next year inside the Hudson Yards development. The Grand Seiko pop-up with the exclusive JDM models on display will only be open until February 3, 2019.