EDITOR’S PICK: What is Credor and why should I care about it? Plus 7 of the best modelsTime+Tide
Editor’s note: Over the last 12 months, Grand Seiko has established itself as one of the top five luxury watchmaking brands in the US. That’s an achievement that no one can quibble with either given their extraordinary output of late – the Zaratsu wizards have knocked out showstoppers in practically every category from dress to divers and quartz to mechanical. But while more and more people are familiar with Grand Seiko’s reputation for dial artistry and almost pathological attention to detail, Credor is a less familiar part of the Seiko family. Here, Zach illuminates the high-end sub-brand to explain what is Credor and why it’s well worth exploring.
For those outside of Japan, the Credor brand is quite an enigma. The two well known facts are likely that Credor is tied to the Seiko Corporation in some way. And that Credor watches sell at a dizzying range of price points. Beyond that is quite the mystery, so we have done some digging on your behalf.
What does the name mean and when was it founded?
The name Credor comes from the French “Créte d’Or”, meaning “the ultimate of the gold” and it was founded in 1974. The name gives away that Credor watches were originally crafted only in precious metals, and by dedicated master craftsmen upholding values of Japanese aesthetics, delicacy and beauty.
Today, however, the brand incorporates stainless steel in its collections, but they are nonetheless still crafted to a high and premium standard. Ultimately, Credor timepieces combine Seiko’s traditional craftsmanship with contemporary and high-end technology, leveraging more than 100 years of watchmaking know-how between the Seiko brands.
The Credor name and “Golden Peak” logo was eventually put on the dial instead of the Seiko logo mark beginning in 1980. The logo is meant to embody a mountain, which represents the peak or top of watchmaking. The three stars found at the top of the logo are representative of the three main tenets of Credor. Firstly, to create original designs that take advantage of Japanese sensitivity and aesthetic sense such as delicacy, precision and attention. Secondly, technology through the realisation of precise manufacturing, which makes full use of cutting-edge and advanced design and manufacturing technologies. Lastly, handing down the pinnacle of artisanal craftsmanship and watchmaking skills cultivated in Seiko’s history of more than 130 years.
The uncompromising Credor design ethos – made in Japan, for the Japanese
Part of the mystery of the brand is explained by the fact that these watches are truly inspired by and designed for the Japanese marketplace. This is not to say it is impossible to buy their watches abroad, but it does mean you are buying into an uncompromising, 100 per cent Japanese-inspired aesthetic. These watches are not designed to meet the tastes of other marketplaces, but rather dedicated interpretations of Japanese culture, in classic case dimensions and profiles.
It is admirable that the brand has not compromised its sense of design for almost 50 years, especially as the wider watch industry has begun to homogenise their product lineups and designs. Originality and purity of design, however, comes at a price, which we’ll explore more later in the story. Needless to say, outside of the quartz models, the watches can get rather expensive, and aesthetically may fall out of the spectrum of international taste and expectation for daily wear.
Credor movements – kings of thin
Although precision is listed as a focus of the brand, many of Credor’s mechanical movements are regulated to the same extent and accuracy of basic Seiko models. While less accurate than other movements within the group, they are in fact some of the thinnest Seiko calibers. According to Credor’s website, the Caliber 68 series movements are only 1.98mm thick (the fifth thinnest mechanical movement in the world), with each of the parts cut in 1/100 mm units and beautifully decorated to the Credor standard.
Their quartz caliber 6720, introduced in 1980, is to this day the world’s thinnest quartz movement at 0.89mm thick! This goes to show that while they are not necessarily chronometer-grade movements, they do cater to the thin and sleek dimensions found in the classically sized Credor references and are some of the best ultra-thin movements in the world. And to be fair, their quartz and spring drive movements are highly accurate and beyond the standards of many Swiss companies.
Currently there are 83 men’s models listed for sale on the Credor website. With prices ranging from $2074 to $518,499, it can be quite a diverse and intimidating lineup to navigate. Outside of Japan, one is also at the mercy of Google Translate for the descriptions and specifications of the watch, which further drives home the domestic intention and pride of the brand. That being said, with a little patience and investigation, there are many models in their offerings that I could see pleasing a variety of watch consumers. Let’s take a look at six that I believe could appeal worldwide.
Credor GCAZ057 and GSBA057
As an entry model to the brand, for his/her/their wrist, I would suggest taking a look at both the GCAZ057 and GSBA057 models. While one model is larger than the other, both are priced around $2075, which is rather reasonable for what you get. The dial has an exquisite guilloche pattern (they call it the “Cloisonné Pattern”) to the white dial, with blued hour, minute, and second hands. The bracelet is designed for comfort, with a curved surface to the back of the links. While delicate and formal in appearance, it is also very practical.
These watches are both rated to 100 metres water resistant, with a highly accurate quartz movement that will only need a battery swap every three years or so. In my opinion, the standout feature of this pair of watches (and many Credor references) is their classic proportions. With the men’s model (which is really unisex by modern standards) being 35mm across in diameter and only 39.4mm lug to lug, this watch will fit just about anyone willing to have the classic aesthetic of yesteryear. I love these dimensions for my wrist, a hair over six inches, and think it could be a great daily beater for the office as well as class up your outfit at the beach. Being only 94g/54g respectively, these are lightweight watches you can forget on your wrist but rely on when you need an accurate timekeeper for the day.
Kicking things up a notch, this is where we begin to see some artisanal flair in the collection. The GCBE993 “Raden Dial” is like wearing a small piece of artwork on the wrist: 37mm across with compact tapered lugs and only 6.5mm thick, this is an amazing dress offering that is sure to stand out at any watch gathering in and outside of Japan. The star of the show here is the dial.
One’s eye is drawn to the applied pattern (made from gold) around the sub seconds, representing the spaciousness of the stars flowing in vast skies on the black lacquer backdrop. To top things off, besides the 12, 3 and 9 o’clock markers, the remaining markers are not printed or applied. They are hand-drawn. Yes, you read that correctly. This is something artisans have to train many years to be able to perform for the brand. It is an advanced technique that requires a high degree of skill and extremely high concentration because it necessitates the artisan to draw on the dial by moving only the tip of the brush so slowly that it can be barely seen to be moving at all. While not the most accurate movement around, it is hard to say it isn’t gorgeous, with its blued screws and Tokyo stripes executed to the highest degree. Being an ultra-thin caliber, it still manages to include bevelled bridges that will glisten when light reflects across the surface. It is also ultra-light at an astounding 45g, which will ensure comfortable wear throughout the day or evening.
According to Credor, the dial design of the GCCD993 is inspired by the theme of “dawn”. Limited to 60 pieces, the pattern found on the blue enamel dial represents the surface of the water before the dawn of winter with their high-quality in-house enamel technique. The dial is created by the craftsmen of the Ando Cloisonné Company and they work to create a beautiful gradation, unique to Credor, by stacking four specially prepared glazes so that the depth increases from the centre to the periphery. Through the enamel, which has a unique depth and aesthetic, you can see several octagons carved in a sterling silver base, all performed by a trained hand that repeats the glaze, firing and surface polishing on the dial three times per piece.
It is a very elaborate finish that you cannot find anywhere else. In addition, a navy crocodile strap, matching the dial, is included, so one can enjoy a different aesthetic by swapping the bracelet for the band. My only criticism is the 30m water / splash resistance of this model, so do not wear this work of art in the water.
Coming later this month, Credor explains this trendy ruthenium black skeleton movement has been adopted to create a “dressy yet fearless” impression, whatever that might mean. The design theme is the overlap of the lines, curves and ripples found on the surface water, and is further expressed in the bridge that connects the movement and the watch case. They also note that the inside frame (the metal that supports the movement) is effectively transparent, and the ripples are designed to spread throughout the case. This further drives home the artistic intention of each Credor piece. Again, while not the most accurate movement, that is not really the goal here as it is in this instance more about the artistry and aesthetic of the piece as a whole. At this price point and thinness, this is a Japanese alternative to some of the dress pieces found at Piaget, JLC and many other esteemed Maisons. That being said, this watch is a great way to stand out from the herd, and worth keeping an eye out for come the end of August.
Probably the most widely known watch from Credor is the second incarnation of their Eichi model (translated in English as “Wisdom”). And, boy, does this watch require a lot of watchmaking wisdom. The reference GBLT999 is the platinum rendition of the Eichi II, which packs in an extremely high degree of skill and artisanry to create extreme simplicity. This is where one can begin to see the influence Philippe Dufour had on their artisans and his exchange of methods, finishings and techniques. Marking the 40th anniversary of the brand’s birth, and the 15th anniversary of the Spring Drive movement, the Eichi II was launched in 2014 as a commemorative model. Expert craftsmen polish the movement parts by hand, pursuing a brilliant shine and beauty, while at the same time improving basic functions such as durability and operability.
This is a special model created by the artisans of the Micro Artist Studio at the Shiojiri plant of Seiko Epson Corporation. The main update from the first version is the placement of the power reserve display on the back instead of the dial, giving the dial the clean symmetrical aesthetic purists crave. The movement has a simple, yet dynamic finish, with elaborate chamfering and anglage that stacks up to the best movement decoration in the world. Taking it even further, the craftsmen hand-paint each of the 12 hour marks, and Credor logo, one by one on a dial made of pure white porcelain, reflecting the image of snow falling in Shinshu. The paint used for the hour mark has a deep blue colour that has been carefully toned to harmonise with the tempered hands.
If you thought the Eichi II was a powerhouse, the Minute Repeating GBLS998 is in an even higher stratosphere. This watch has the same level of embellishments found on the 7R14, but with the addition of the esteemed minute repeating complication. One of the larger Credor models, this minute repeater is executed in a unique way. In order to achieve a cool and clear tone, the gongs of the repeater are forged by the blacksmith Mr Munemichi Myochin (the 52nd head of the Myochin family). This technique has been handed down for many generations to members of the Myochin family who take over the mantle each generation.
With this being a spring drive model, and with the addition of other proprietary techniques, Credor is able to have what they claim to be the purest chimes found in a minute repeater. Because there is no audible tick to spring drive, there is nothing that interferes with or interrupts the sound of the repeater, providing a crisp and clean acoustic experience. To add to the musical prowess of this timepiece, Myochin’s crafts and metals have been used by synthesiser player Isao Tomita, and even Stevie Wonder, who referred to his work as the “Mystery of the Orient”. The legend goes that never before has such a purity of sound been achieved.
It is clear that if one is willing to go down the Credor rabbit hole, there is plenty of adventure, discovery and mythology to be had, at a startlingly wide range of price points. On that point, please note that all prices listed are USD conversions from JPY and include tax.