As I watched all the reactions from the 2023 Watches and Wonders trade show, I started thinking about what all these luxury watch brands represent. Why do I gravitate towards some, and not others — the big questions in life.
And what I realized is that Tudor and Grand Seiko are at the top of their game, and the others just don’t get it.
Tudor & Grand Seiko
All these other watch brands — what they are doing, or in many cases, are not doing — I keep coming back to Tudor and Grand Seiko. They are making the best watches on the market today.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t get get a Datejust — you should because it’s a one and done watch for sure. But if you are looking to me to tell you what brands are at the top of their game: Tudor and Grand Seiko are, and it’s not even close.
None of the others ‘get it’.
For a long time these two brands have been labeled as producing ’affordable’ luxury watches (note: Grand Seiko’s are getting pricey as I predicted a year ago) and their watches are a nod to the past. They are making ‘heritage’ inspired watches, people will tell you. But they aren’t, and they are not really that affordable — only when compared against watches three times their price.
Back to what they are making though — this is where the lack of fashion sense for most watch writers clearly shines. These two brands are not making heritage inspired watches, they are making timelessly designed watches.
There’s a difference.
Not Just a Label has an entire article on Timeless fashion, I like this bit:
NJAL designer Satu Maaranen, another young talent, believes that design should withstand the tests of time. She states that a piece has to be so original that to recognise the year or the decade in which it was designed would be difficult. Working with sculptural shapes and innovative fabrics, Satu Maaranen hopes that “at least one of the products” created during her career will become iconic.
Something which is timeless may shift slightly over time, but it’s equally as ‘wearable’ or fashionable today as it will be 20+ years from today, or if you went back in time 20+ years. That’s not because it was/is a nod to something old — because the design elements are evergreen. They make sense, and they always will.
A watch with puzzle pieces on it, and emojis that change daily is dated within a year. Bright colors dated in 5-10 years. But something timeless is just that: timeless. Like a good pair of chinos or Oxford button down shirts, the cuts might slightly change overtime, but they never go out of style as a whole. Levi’s 501s, if you will.
That’s what Tudor and Grand Seiko are really making. They feel heritage, only because they feel like something which could, should, and has always been. That’s simply good design. Good style. Good fashion.
So, which brand should you look at? Well luckily for you, I have some thoughts on each.
There is no company making better ‘tool’ watches on the market today, than Tudor. What is a tool watch? It’s like workwear clothing: a trucker jacket, flannel shirt, denim 5-pockets, or work boots. They are items which look good, but also can and should be used as hard as you need to use them, and seemingly only look better the harder you use them.
They aren’t ugly, or unfashionable, they are fashionable because they are useful, because they are durable. They show wear, and change with you.
Tudor’s not only doing this best, but they are doing it at the best price. Flat out. Their watches are pushing the very meaning of a modern tool watch, and somehow they are doing it in a timeless fashion. Incredible.
My top picks from Tudor:
- BB58 ($3,950+): Buy this if you want to be one and done, and you need it not to be flashy or anything like that — good for vacations and the office and everything in between. You’ll note I am not linking to the classic gilt, or the blue, but rather the silver edition. That’s because the silver with the taupe dial looks like nothing on the market, is absolutely unique, and the best model in the lineup. It’s more money, but worth every penny. This is the only BB58 I would buy. It will fly under the radar, and somehow be special.
- BB GMT ($4,300): Buy this if you travel a lot, and are adventure/active on those travels, but you still need a watch to work in the office. I am linking to the white dial here as there is only one other white dial Pepsi bezel I know of out there — so this makes it more unique and less of a ’Rolex GMT-Master clone’ type thing. I also think it’s a nice change of pace. My review.
- Pelagos 39 ($4,600): Buy this if you push your gear, if you spend a lot of time in the water, or your skin reacts to stainless metals. This is the best dive watch on the market from a Swiss brand. Perfect sizing, titanium, and all of that. I am not sure I know of someone who this watch wouldn’t work for.
Grand Seiko’s Position
Grand Seiko is at the forefront of watch technology. You can geek out all you want with Omega’s Spirate movement, but that’s in a single watch. Grand Seiko actively produces watches with four types of movements, and has so many variations of them, that it is staggering. They all are outstanding movements, the type of movement that if Tudor had placed any of them in a Black Bay, the internet would be losing it’s collectible fucking minds over how awesome it is.
Grand Seiko is not the tool watch ethos Tudor offers, no, they are the more sophisticated offering. The offering that has a little more flash, but not too much. The offering that is a great value proposition, while housing some of the best watch tech in the industry. They push the bounds, never satisfied, and craft watches with a story to them. They are tools, but they are a tool of a master craftsmen who does precision work for precision things, in a very clean workshop.
They are my favorite watch brand, and it’s not even close. They are the difference between a Toyota Land Cruiser, and a Range Rover.
My top picks from Grand Seiko:
- SBGX261 ($2,200): buy this if you want the best watch value on the market, go anywhere and do anything. It’s insanely accurate, well finished, and this 37mm case is a gem to wear. What more can I say, I love mine. My review.
- SBGM221 ($4,600): buy this if you travel a lot for business, and need to dress up more often than not. Right there with the Tudor BB GMT as one of the best true GMT value buys on the market. It also looks stunning in person. It’s hugely popular for a reason, but know there’s no water resistance here, so you’ll need another watch to cover the more adventurous parts of your life. My review.
- SBGE285 ($8,400): buy this watch if you travel a lot, want to dress a watch up a bit, but still have something that flies under the radar with an absolutely staggeringly good looking dial. If I could only keep one watch, I would keep this one. I could wear this all day, everyday, and never worry about a thing again. Oh, and it’s a Spring Drive, true GMT movement, which is really cool. My review.
- SLGH011 ($9,100): buy this watch if you have a large budget, but only want to buy a single watch which will do everything for you. You want a Datejust, but better? Here you go. There’s a bunch of dial colors on this, and movement options, but this Green Birch is my favorite of the lot. Killer watch.
If anything, I’d argue the Rolex Submariner, or Omega Speedmaster are heritage watches. Not what Tudor and Grand Seiko are doing — not by any stretch.