Seiko's upmarket push, the Ananta
For a lot of people, Seiko is viewed as the essential mall brand watch. The argument often goes that even if you're spending five figures, a Seiko is still only a Seiko, while, let's say, a Rolex is always a Rolex. Arguing about the matter beyond that point is usually futile. The reasons are probably many. Many companies in the Far East have chosen to exclusively sell their upscale items under a different brand rather than their own, to escape the connotations of the Japanese mass production; Toyota with their Lexus, Nissan and Infiniti, Honda and Acura etcetera.
While Seiko has produced a few really high end watches under their Credor brand (the Credor Spring Drive Sonnerie retailing at over $100,000), most of their offerings in all divisions of the market are still branded Seiko. This can be viewed as both adventurous and foolish. The positive side of the argument is that Seiko is arguably one of the strongest brands recognition-wise among watches. The negative part is the aforementioned association to cheap, throw-away quartz pieces.
Another issue is the issue of the Japanese vs international market. For their high end pieces, Seiko are notoriously tight on distribution. Only recently mechanical Seikos have been showing up in brick and mortar stores in Europe, importing previously being the only method available for consumers, which is fine and dandy as long as we're just talking about the lower-end pieces (Seiko 5s and so forth) but more troublesome if you're looking to purchase a Spring Drive. In Japan, Seiko is viewed quite differently, and enjoys a much more classier reputation as a serious watch maker.
How nice to see that Seiko has been listening to their critics. Not only have they loosened their grip on international distribution, they're also pushing some new exciting lines. We've already told you about the Spacewalk, Seiko's foray into watches designed for space travel. A more accessible option is the Seiko Ananta. Ananta, sanskrit for infinity, consists of watches featuring both high-end automatic movements and Seiko's much talked-about Spring Drive. For a long time, if you wanted a chronograph from Seiko you were forced to buy quartz. Rather silly, since (depending whom you ask) Seiko pioneered the automatic chronographs back in the day. Seiko is treasuring this heritage along with featuring Katana-inspired hands with the Ananta.
The retail of the Spring Drive chrono is €5,500 which quite frankly a bargain. Hopefully, the Ananta can help Seiko shape the view of the company outside of the Japanese domestic market. Personally, I find some of the other Spring Drive offerings (your Grand Seikos and GMTs) a little more attractive, but the Ananta does look like something that would actually sell, regardless of the Seiko brand. A lot of their other upmarket designs, the Grand Seikos especially, can look a little dull to the non-trained eye (I would still kill for one, though).
What do you think? If you have quite an amount of cash burning a hole in your pocket, would you think twice about spending it on a Seiko?