Grand Seiko released 3 new USA limited editions inspired by Japan’s Genbi Valley. It comes in 3 different shades of green class dials, with the Kirazuri texture. The last time Kirazuri – a classical Japanese powdered paint art form, was used on a Grand Seiko was in 2018 in three US-exclusive timepieces, SBGA384, SBGA385, and SBGA387, which were designed in homage to the technique. In this feature, we take a close look at the SBGW275 in a teal dial..
The SBGW275 also marked a successful pilot for the brand with its new online sales channel. Here we examine how and why it worked.
Featuring the Grand Seiko SBGW275 in teal
Popularizing the direct sales channel
Following the launch of GS9 Club USA, Grand Seiko solidifies its distribution channel with a direct to consumer online store, the Grand Seiko Boutique Online. And for the first time, it released an online boutique exclusive of 140 pieces, the SBGW275. This model was only sold directly through its online store and required a US residential address at checkout (it is a US limited edition). It was first sold via pre-orders in late August following the press release, with stated delivery by November 2021. It has also been a week since I received delivery of the watch.
Direct sales is a strategy increasingly gaining traction with major watch brands, popularized by Omega’s Speedy Tuesday. Audemars Piguet had also famously announced cutting ties with its retailer network and being fully integrated independently in its sales channel. This follows successes from industries outside of watchmaking, such as Tesla which also broke the traditional dealership model. It is a sign as well, that the demand and popularity of the brand has reached a pivotal point that it does not have to rely on multi-brand retailers for visibility. And as testament of that, the 140 piece SBGW275 was sold out in a few days.
Scarcity drives demand, and the integration of online distribution with rapid conversion creates so much leverage for watch brands. Behavioral economics plays in favor of these brands considering the current hype of the market, further commodifying watches and increasing FOMO impulse purchases. Consumers are trained to buy fast, pre-order quickly in a time capsule, or risk not having the item of their dreams. Nike’s SNKRs app is a master of this purchase flow with plenty of nudging and design features that promote conversion. From an operations viewpoint, a pre-order just in time manufacturing further de-risks inventory management which then increases the manufacturer’s ability to make small batch but multiple iterative SKU launches.
Having observed the brand for a couple of years and as a multiple time customer, here are some of my recent observations. Grand Seiko is quickly becoming a model business case with its go to market strategy. It doubles down on creating tribes with geographic chapters, and solidifies brand loyalty and lifetime value of its clients. My next step recommendations would then be:
- Move away from a Shopify based store or at least customize the checkout skin and post purchase experience.
It did not stop me from making a purchase, but the stock Shopify skin at checkout did make me think twice if I was on the correct website. Grand Seiko is a luxury product centered brand after all and it should give its consumers offline or online a similar user experience from start to finish. It might be worth A/B testing conversion rates of a customized flow over a stock Shopify flow at checkout.
- Target existing clients. Double down on customer loyalty with improved business intelligence.
So much data is being collected through the GS9 portal. Knowing your customers intimately can help predict when they are making their next purchases and how a certain nudge can generate a big incremental ROI for the brand. Grand Seiko customers as with many brands are suckers for swag. Appalling as it seems, someone that shells out US$10k for a watch are that hard up about a lapel pin or a $10 pen. Sent at the right time and with the right messaging however, could mean the difference between them choosing Grand Seiko over Omega for their next purchase. As much as marketing is about distribution channels, eyeballs and visibility, data is the key ingredient in stemming out competition. If anything, my small intuitive data set tells me that GS buyers are big on repeat purchases and they might be the highest ROI ‘advertisers’ of the brand.
- Watch out for the nature theme fatigue
There’s a running joke among collectors that Grand Seiko will not run out of valleys and mountains and forests to be inspired by. While limited edition time capsule pressure sales is still and ideal strategy, limited editions need to remain fresh and meaningful to buyers. While new limited editions are still welcome today, too many too quickly and too often will risk cannibalizing the regular production models and also create buyer fatigue.
Thoughts on the watch
In my previous GS article regarding the SBGK005 which I purchased in 2020, I mentioned the SBGW255 Thong Sia in ‘jade’ colored Iwate with a limited edition of 150 pieces. Missing out on that piece previously, I went on to acquire the SBGK005, which shares the same base movement with an additional power reserve, and then the SBGA413 Spring also in 2020. The SBGW275 fits my collection perfectly as the smallest variant GS, at 37.3mm in diameter 39mm SBGK and 40mm 62GS case SBGA.
Currently the smallest case size men’s mechanical in production, the SBGW275 uses the same case as the SBGW231. That said, the long lugs actually gives the watch a 44.3mm lug to lug length, which makes it look bigger than it is. The stock strap has a long tang buckle side strap, which makes it wearable for those with larger wrists, but off center for those with smaller wrists. I’ve tried switching the strap out with brown leathers but still find that it works best with the stock black with blue stitch strap.
As the weather gets cooler, I tend to wear the watch over the cuff to skip the cuff flip and risk hairline scratches on the zaratsu polish.
Overall, the watch is very comfortable on the wrist, and for those who claim that the proportions are off because of the thickness to width ratio, you should try it on in the flesh. The raised dome sapphire contributes approximately 2mm to the height, so that might have been the reason why the numbers looked imbalanced, but otherwise, it is less than noticeable in person. And yes, most of your attention will be given to the Tiffany teal Kirazuri textured dial anyway.
It is all but sold out for now, but for what it’s worth, it retailed at US$4900 before tax, compared to the regular production SBGW231 at US$4600 before tax.