Today, I had the opportunity to compare a colleagues Rolex Oysterquartz, which he had inherited from his father, with the 1964 Grand Seiko Chronometer. Both are discreet, vintage steel watches, and both lie in approximately the same price frame, with the Rolex slightly more expensive.
Rolex Oysterquartz: For those not familiar with the Oysterquartz: "In 1977, after five years of design, development, and testing, Rolex introduced their first completely in-house quartz movements (the 5035 and 5055) and the Datejust (5035) and Day-Date (5055) Oysterquartz models that would house them. When they were introduced, the 5035 and 5055 quartz modules were marvels of technology as well as fit and finish. These 11 jewel movements utilized the latest CMOS circuitry, a 32khz oscillator, and analog thermocompensation. In addition, they were finished to even higher standards than Rolex's mechanical movements. It is no exaggeration to say that even today, no quartz movement produced by any watch company can compare to the 5035/5055 from the standpoint of sheer beauty." Reference: http://www.oysterquartz.net/
Grand Seiko Chronometer: The 1964 second-generation cal.430/43999 Grand Seiko Chronometer presented here is an original low-beat (18000bph) chronometer, superseded by high-beat (36000bph) and VFA (very fine adjustment) chronometers developed following Seiko’s international successes at the Astronomical Observatory Chronometer competitions. The present watch contains a chronometer-grade cal.430 movement defined by hand-selected components, fine regulator, self-compensating hairspring (reference needed), generous jeweling and large balance. Reference: http://vintageseikoblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/reflections-on-1964-cal-43043999-grand.html
The following is a pictorial summary of my half-hour sojourn with both watches:
The Rolex is marginally heavier than the Grand Seiko (112g / 107g). The Rolex was relatively small at Ø=34mm with the Grand Seiko weighing in at 36mm diameter. The Grand Seiko has an aftermarket bracelet (19mm endpieces/22mm SuperOyster bracelet) while the Rolex has a slightly less substantial integrated bracelet. The Rolex bracelet has a simple click-clasp while the Grand Seiko has a spring-loaded clasp with safety catch.
Indices and hands (bamboo leaf shape) on the Grand Seiko are multifacetted and highly polished, giving pleasing reflections of light while increasing readability. The Rolex has simpler indices and baton hands, giving a more subdued look - my colleague complained he couldn't read the dial as easily as he could his quartz Seiko.
The Grand Seiko has a simple pull-out crown, quick-setting date and time is very precise and there is no "slop" in the movement. The Rolex has the legendary Oyster screw-down crown, opening and closing the crown is very smooth and precise. The crown wobbles slightly when unscrewed, quick-setting the date was a bit fiddly, otherwise timesetting was precise and without "slop". The Grand Seiko has a nicely framed, legible date while the Rolex has the amazingly effective, trademark cyclops.
The Grand Seiko flashes and sparkles charmingly in spite of its discrete layout, while the Rolex is considerably more conservative. Both watches are very discrete and competent and both are a pleasure to wear.