Most people know the name Seiko. In the world of watches their pretty well-respected as simple, accessible watches to go. Grand Seiko, the next level up, has an even better reputation; to many people they’re simply the best watches money can buy. Still, given that Grand Seiko hasn’t changed much in 40-odd years, it has its detractors. Credor is a different story entirely.
Japanese craftsmanship is legendary, from swords to pens to hand-painted silk screens. It’s something we see plenty in the world of luxury, with rare lacquers and painstaking processes. Credor extend that ethos of age-old artisan to the world of fine watchmaking.
A good part of that is because Credor is where Seiko as a company hide all their serious grand complications. Exceptional as Grand Seiko is – especially with their spring drive movements, a fusion of mechanical and quartz – a GMT is about as advanced as they get. Credor don’t even bother with something so prosaic.
Take two of their latest creations as the tip of the horological iceberg, the Minute Repeater and Sonnerie. In any rendition chiming complications are among the hardest to create. Most maison’s hide the inner workings behind usually classical dials; Credor leave it all on show. More than that, the elements of the movement you can see through the nonexistence dial are finished to perfection.
Credor have even put a lot of thought into the chime itself. Most complications of the kind use simple pieces of steel which, while space-saving, give a tiny sound. Not ideal. Here, there’s a ring that goes around the entire inside of the case, inspired by traditional Japanese wind bells, that creates a beautiful, almost haunting timbre.
So far so good. Credor hasn’t just created a pair of chiming complications for the hell of it (they’re in vogue at the moment so the Japanese watchmaker wouldn’t be the only one) but reinterpreted it. It’s the same approach Grand Seiko took back in the 70s with their first watch so it’s good to see Credor doing the same.
Of course, that kind of technical advancement isn’t really what comes to mind with Japanese craftsmanship. You expect something a little more ornate, something that relies on ancient craft and preferably with a good amount of Lacquer – something, in fact, like the Credor FUGAKU Tourbillon.
Just look at it. I mean really, it’s stunning! Inspired by techniques originally used in the Edo period – between 1603 and 1868 – the dial is utterly breath-taking. The crashing waves are engraved into white and yellow gold to the point where you can feel the foam, hear the surf coming off them. These are set on a horizon of Urushi lacquer with embellishments of mother-of-pearl and Yakogai (the shell of a giant sea snail).
It’s hard to imagine the time that has been spent creating a single one of these dials. It’s probably enough to drive most people to the brink of insanity and certainly enough to make this type of watch an exquisite rarity. It’s one of the few timepieces where a platinum case and sapphire-set bezel are almost not worth talking about.
It’s easy to see why so many out there associate Seiko with simple, accessible watches; even collectors that know Grand Seiko quite well might think along the same lines. That’s not a bad thing, far from it in fact. But with Credor, Seiko has shown a different side to Japanese watchmaking – one that is as beautiful as ocean waves crashing off Okinawa, as finely-wrought as a katana and as wonderfully Japanese as both.
Words by: Sam Kessler