Top Asian watch brands: Grand Seiko, Credor, Ming, Guo Ming, Hajime Asaoka and Citizen are the non-Swiss watch brands you need to know

Ming 19.02 Worldtimer

In this year’s Best of the Best 2019 – Asian Edition, we round up the greatest brands, products and experiences in the region. These non-Swiss timepieces prove that horology is alive and kicking outside the Vallée de Joux

Grand Seiko Sport Collection
To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Spring Drive, the Sport Collection presents a new design inspired by the Grand Seiko lion

Grand Seiko: Sport Collection

Grand Seiko has long been the unassuming choice for the connoisseur who seeks only to impress himself. The Japanese maker is best known for Spring Drive, a hybrid mechanical / electrical family of calibres that is accurate, efficient and has a seconds hand that travels in a completely smooth glide. To celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Spring Drive, Grand Seiko released a limited-edition Sport Collection which includes the SBGC230 GMT chronograph (100 pieces), which has a 44.5mm rose gold case. It is a larger and more imposing figure than the usual dressy Grand Seiko pieces, but befitting of a robust tool watch highly resistant to shock and temperature. The Spring Drive movement within is accurate to 0.5 seconds a day.

Grand Seiko

Credor watches represent the highest levels of watchmaking art, expressed through traditions and disciplines from Japanese master craftsmen

Credor: Eichi II

Credor may have manufactured tourbillons and complicated strikers and repeaters, but it is best known for Eichi, a watch that does nothing but tell the time. To commemorate its 10th anniversary, Credor issued a rose gold version of the current Eichi II. Naturally, it is the details that astound: the markers and logo are meticulously hand painted, and the case is cold-forged to better retain the brilliance of the exacting Zaratsu polishing method. The display caseback reveals the manually wound Spring Drive calibre (made famous by sister marque Grand Seiko), which has a smoothly gliding seconds hand that contributes to the harmonious quality of the timepiece.


Ming: 19.02 Worldtimer

Malaysian founder and designer Ming Thein’s watches are lauded by enthusiasts for their unconventional design – omitting a running seconds hand and date window, opting for flared lugs and curved spring bars – as well as the daring, minimalist and contemporary aesthetic. The 19.02 Worldtimer is one of the brand’s newest offerings. The complication (which incidentally has Kuala Lumpur occupying the GMT+8 slot) is expressed through a rotating disc that sits beneath the gradient sapphire crystal. Transparent at the edges, it gives a glimpse of the rose gold baseplate within.


Guo Ming
Originally inspired by his father’s work of repairing sewing machines, Guo’s interest in the mechanical realm led him to antique clocks and vintage watches

Guo Ming: The Goddess Chang’e Flying to the Moon

Hailing from Jiangsu province on the eastern coast of China, Guo Ming is an independent watchmaker who bears the distinction of being the youngest Chinese candidate to be considered for entry to the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (AHCI), the Swiss association that supports independent watchmakers around the world. Guo first caught the eye of the AHCI with an exquisite flying tourbillon pocket watch; his more recent projects include a wristwatch called The Goddess Chang’e Flying to the Moon. Housed within a 43mm case, its enamel dial is a delicate rendition of a scene from the Chinese myth, with a rabbit – the goddess’s pet according to the legend – as a retrograde seconds indicator.

hajime asaoka tsunami
The Tsunami looks straightforward from the front, but its 16mm balance wheel dominates the case back

Hajime Asaoka: Tsunami

There are small workshops, and then there are one-man shows where every part of the watch is overseen by a single pair of masterful hands. Hajime Asaoka is one of latter. His work reflects a reimagining of watchmaking traditions if they had existed in the art deco period, and his perfect proportions must be seen in person to be properly understood. There are several standard models from the brand, including a dressy and sleek piece called Tsunami, a time-only movement that sports a small seconds indicator. It’s in the caseback where you’ll fully appreciate the movement; the 16mm balance wheel takes up the bulk of the 37mm case, and components are brushed with bevelled edges instead of polished.

Hajime Asaoka

Citizen: Calibre 0100

Not only is the Citizen Calibre 0100 said to be the most accurate wristwatch ever made, it is also the most accurate solar-powered one, with just +/- 1 second of deviation per year. There is no groundbreaking technology here, but what you have is a careful consideration in design and manufacturing to execute the best possible quartz movement. Each oscillating crystal is tuned depending on its individual temperature response, and the movement monitors its temperature once per minute and adjusts accordingly. Other systems protect and compensate for shocks and magnetism. Despite its achievements, the Calibre 0100 is wholly restrained in terms of aesthetics; its 37.5mm case is straight out of the mould of classic dress watches.


This was a part of our Best of the Best 2019 – Asian Edition. To view all winners, click here.