To some people, spending almost $6,000 on a Seiko watch is unthinkable. Their logic is simple: why spend that much on a Japanese watch when you can get a Rolex for the same price?
True enthusiasts like you and I know that the quality of a watch goes much deeper than a simple logo. When you look at facts and figures, the Grand Seiko Snowflake is much more advanced than the Rolex Oyster Perpetual, but why does the latter sell exponentially better?
Let's find out!
Oyster perpetual 39mm
The size is the first huge dividing factor between the Rolex Oyster Perpetual and the Grand Seiko Snowflake. As you can see above, the Snowflake is larger, longer, and thicker than the Oyster Perpetual.
This drives a lot of people away from the Grand Seiko. Indeed, a lot of collectors associate small watches with elegance, so the 41mm case doesn't match their preconceived idea of what a dress watch should be.
The first reason why the SBGA211 feels bulky is the 12,50mm profile, which is a bit thicker than what we're used to for dress watches. Secondly, the lugs are pretty straight (barely curved) which makes this Grand Seiko wear slightly bigger.
On the other hand, the Rolex OP has a small case, a slender profile, and a short/curved lug base. It's definitely the best option if you have small (6.5'' and below) wrists.
OYSTER PERPETUAL 39MM
100m / 10 bar
100m /10 bar
At this price point, a sapphire crystal is mandatory. The two watchmakers have a slightly different approach; the Rolex's crystal is flat, whereas the Grand Seiko's crystal is curved both ways.
Since a flat crystal is naturally less reflective, Rolex doesn't apply AR-Coating. Conversely, the Snowflake's curved crystal is pretty reflective, so Seiko applied AR-Coating on the inside of the crystal.
Both will be plenty scratch-resistant so the only thing you should consider is which styling you like the best.
Water Resistance & Crown
Considering the nature of the two watches, water resistance isn't a priority for anyone. However, there's a strict minimum that is required for a high-end watch; both Rolex and Grand Seiko determined this to be 100 meters.
This rating is nowhere near what's required for a dive watch, but it will be plenty for the occasional swim. Both watches use a screw-down crown signed with their respective brand logo.
The "bezel" section is one of the richest in content when I compare two dive watches, but there's nothing much to say for dressy watches like the Oyster Perpetual and GS Snowflake.
The two have a fixed beveled bezel that's made of Oystersteel for the Rolex and titanium for the Grand Seiko. As is tradition for dress watches, both bezels have a mirror-like polished finish.
The lume is a great distinguishing feature that shows the true nature of each watch. The Rolex Oyster Perpetual tries to establish itself as a versatile tool watch with classy styling.
For this reason, the hands & indices are coated with Rolex's Chromalight formula, which glows in a bright green color. Conversely, the Grand Seiko Snowflake is marketed as a pure dress watch, so there's no lume at all.
OYSTER PERPETUAL 39MM
-2 to +2 seconds/day
+-1 second/day (15/month)
Shock absorber, Parachrom hairspring, Bi-directional wind
Magic Lever, Power Reserve Indicator, Spring Drive
Comparing the Rolex 3132 Caliber to the Seiko 9r65 is a bit like comparing apples and oranges since the former is strictly mechanical, whereas the latter is a hybrid (mechanical + quartz).
One thing is for sure, Seiko's 9r65 is miles ahead of the 3132 caliber when it comes to technological prowess. What makes the 9r65 so special is the Spring Drive system, which combines the autonomy of a mechanical movement with the accuracy of quartz.
As is explained in this article, the 9r65 replaces the normal escapement wheel with a Tri-synchro regulator (electromagnetic breaks and glide wheel).
This allows for a friction-free escapement that extends the service interval and makes the second hand move in a seamless sweeping motion.
Also, this quartz-regulated system consumes very little energy, allowing for an outstanding 72 hours power reserve. Additionally, it keeps time within an incredible +-1 sec/day range, which is comparable to any other quartz movement.
Rolex 3132 Caliber
Even though the 9r65 is the most advanced of the two movements, the Rolex 3132 is no slouch either. This is a refined mechanical movement that's one of the most accurate in the industry at this price point.
Rolex packed as much technology as they could in this movement. This includes a Parachrom hairspring, Paraflex shock absorbers, a bi-directional winding rotor, and much more. All these parts work together to create an incredibly accurate caliber (+-2 secs per day).
This elite-level accuracy rating gives the Oyster Perpetual a COSC certification. However, the 48 hours of power reserve can be a bit disappointing since higher reserves can be found in sub-$500 watches.
OYSTER PERPETUAL 39MM
18ct Gold Batons
Case & Bracelet
In my opinion, the Rolex OP has a timeless design that looks amazing now and will still be gorgeous 20 years from now. Of the two watches compared, it is the one that's most versatile.
No matter whether you're barbecuing by the pool or giving a presentation at work, the Oyster Perpetual will look good and blend in with your outfit.
I can't say the same thing for the Grand Seiko Snowflake since it's kind of a one-trick pony. This dressy timepiece will be stunning with a formal or business outfit, but it will be out-of-place at your kid's birthday party.
The Grand Seiko SBGA211 gets its Snowflake nickname from the white dial's alveolate texture that's reminiscent of freshly fallen snow. This is a distinctive dial that shows Seiko's high-quality finish and huge attention to details.
The other major point of interest of the Snowflake's dial is the power reserve indicator, which is extremely polarizing across the community.
Most people like the usefulness of this feature and appreciate the hard work that's required for this complication. However, lots of collectors simply can't get over the fact that the indicator isn't at a perfect 90 degrees angle. This seemingly trivial asymetry drives away tons of potential buyers every year.
The Rolex's dial is a bit less interesting than the Grand Seiko, but it still has a high-quality finish. Every color except for the white dial comes with a nice iridescent sunburst texture with a lined pattern. The white-dialed version is a bit simpler; it has a very crisp matte finish with no particular texture or pattern.
The OP's dial is also minimalist compared to the SBGA211 because it doesn't have extra complications (compared to the GS's power reserve indicator and date display).
Rolex is super conservative when it comes to their choice of hands. Indeed, the Oyster Perpetual gets silver baton hands that blend in with the rest of the dial without making a statement.
Conversely, Grand Seiko put a bit more thoughts into the hands. The SBGA211 gets a set of dauphine minute and hour hands, which matches perfectly the Snowflake's dressy styling.
While simple in shape, the needle second hand is tinted in a bright blue color that matches the "Spring Drive" font. This adds a bit of playfulness to an otherwise very sober-looking timepiece.
As was the case for the hands, Rolex didn't want to break the mold when choosing indices for the Oyster Perpetual. They use conservative baton indices that are simple in styling, but exquisite in finishing (18ct white gold). Also, the 12 o'clock index is replaced by Rolex's famous crown logo.
Oyster Perpetual's index
The SBGA211 is also pretty conservative when it comes to the indices; you get applied batons with a nice beveling. On this watch, Grand Seiko's logo is placed slightly lower than the 12 o'clock index.
There's a lot to be said about the Grand Seiko Snowflake's case. First and foremost, it is built completely from titanium, which is about 30-40% lighter than stainless steel. Thanks to this material, the SBGA211 weighs just shy of 100g.
Apart from lightness, there's no real advantage of titanium over stainless steel. However, there's a small inconvenience: the polish of the case isn't as rich as it is on stainless steel Grand Seikos.
Nonetheless, the case is nicely finished. It is polished using Seiko's Zaratsu method, which gives a flawless uniformity to the surface. Additionally, there's a subtle chamfer to transition between the polished sides and the brushed lugs.
Rolex stuck to what it does best for the Oyster Perpetual's case: Oystersteel. This is the brand's proprietary 904l stainless steel. The main advantage of this material over normal 316l steel is increased corrosion resistance. Also, 904l steel can be polished a bit more intensely, giving off a shinier finish.
Like the Snowflake, the Rolex Oyster Perpetual has polished case sides and brushed lugs.
The Grand Seiko Snowflake is equipped with a titanium bracelet that's satin-finished and has small polished accents. The lock is a basic three-fold clasp with a push-button release. Unfortunately, it doesn't have micro-adjustments.
The Oyster Perpetual's bracelet is made of 904l Oystersteel and it's equipped with Rolex's Oysterlock clasp. The links are fully brushed except for the sides which are polished.
I didn't go into too much detail because both watches have great bracelets that are high-quality and comfortable. However, I must admit that the Rolex's bracelet is slightly more comfortable than the Grand Seiko's.
OYSTER PERPETUAL 39MM
If you're buying the watch brand new for MSRP, there's not much difference between the Oyster Perpetual and the Snowflake. However, my suggestion is to browse the pre-owned market if you plan on buying the Grand Seiko.
It's a well-known fact that Grand Seiko watches take a pretty big depreciation hit the second they leave the store. On the other hand, Rolex's pre-owned prices are much closer to the actual retail price, so you won't be able to find as good of a deal.
Even though you shouldn't buy a watch as a financial investment, you should still consider how long you plan on keeping the watch. If you're one of those collectors that trade or sell your watches after a few months of ownership, you should certainly get the Rolex to minimize your loss.
It's pretty hard to beat Rolex's 5-year complete warranty. Indeed, the best Grand Seiko can do is offer a 3-year warranty. Personally, I don't think this 2-year gap makes that much of a difference since 99% of fabrication defects will be uncovered within the first 3 years.
Additionally, the Snowflake is the most durable of the two watches thanks to its Spring Drive movement that reduces friction. This means that your movement will last for a longer period before needing a service.
You might think it's futile to base your decision on the brand recognition of a watchmaker, but you must remember that a timepiece is simply a symbol of status to a large portion of the consumers.
If you're strictly buying a watch to display your wealth or improve your status, the Oyster Perpetual is the only watch you should consider. Rolex is the most recognizable luxury brand and it's sought-after by average Jos and watch aficionados alike.
On the other hand, Grand Seiko is a brand that will be respected by other enthusiasts, but it will fly under the radar for the general population. The Snowflake will be a conversation piece if you're in a room with other collectors, but don't expect compliments from the rest of the population.
No matter which timepiece you get, you're almost certain to fall in love with your new watch and never look back. My best advice is to follow your heart instead of basing your choice on cold hard facts and specs.
If you're still unsure, I created the table below to help you guide your decision.
Get the Oyster Perpetual if:
get the Snowflake if: