Many watch enthusiasts are very familiar with Seiko and their sister company Grand Seiko. Seiko is a brand that has served as a gateway for many into this hobby, and Grand Seiko has recently seen a steady rise in popularity, going from well-kept secret to marquee player in the luxury watch world. However, Seiko actually has another subsidiary brand named Credor that is relatively unfamiliar among enthusiasts. Credor is a luxury-focused arm of the Seiko brand that is specifically tailored to appeal to the Japanese market. They’re not especially well known abroad, but they should be. Here we’ll take an in-depth look at the Credor Spring Drive Big Date GCLP995 in stainless steel, and you’ll see why Credor might be the best-kept secret in watches right now.
Seiko founded Credor in 1974 with the goal of producing precious metal timepieces made by master craftsmen that specifically focused on Japanese design principles. However, despite being a Japanese brand focused on making Japanese watches, the name Credor comes from the French “Créte d’Or,” which means “the ultimate of the gold,” and up until 1980, the brand’s name was written out long-form as CRÊT D’OR. For simplicity and pronunciation’s sake, I like the shortened Credor better.
The brand’s logo—which on this watch can be found on the crown and clasp—is meant to resemble a mountain at which Credor sits atop with three distinct peaks capped by stars representing the three core values of all Credor watches. The first value is focused on original, distinctly Japanese designs. The second represents using cutting-edge technology both in the watch and in the creation of the watch. The third represents utilizing Seiko’s vast craftsmanship and watchmaking skills obtained in their over 100 years of watchmaking. It’s the rigid adherence to these principles that make Credor watches distinct.
This Credor Spring Drive Big Date, released in 2020 exclusively for the Japanese market, pays tribute to the timepieces that came before it. Its simple and elegant design pulls inspiration from multiple vintage Credor timepieces. Along with some vintage design inspiration, you’ll notice some visual similarities to Grand Seiko timepieces like the SBGM GMT and the famous Snowflake. This subtle familiarity in design positions this particular Credor as the perfect entry point into the brand for a new enthusiast.
While similarities to Grand Seiko timepieces are evident, one of the main ways Credor watches differ from Seiko or Grand Seiko is that they are designed specifically for the Japanese market. They are intentionally not meant for mass appeal, and because of that, Credor watches are more delicate and elegant by comparison to their Seiko siblings. This stainless steel watch is 38mm in diameter, 10mm thick, with lugs that protrude straight from the case and a lug to lug measurement of just 43.7mm. The classic round case and svelte proportions are very elegant and despite the watch being stainless steel, and on an integrated bracelet, there is no confusing this for a sports watch.
Additionally, the finishing on the case and bracelet are extremely elegant and eye-catching. This beautiful, precise, and reflective finishing is a result of Credor’s Zaratsu technique. All the finishing on this watch is done by hand by craftsmen who hold the material directly against the polishing disk to achieve sharp distortion-free surfaces. It is a skill that requires approximately three years for artisans to master. It’s the reason why this case and bracelet have such sharply defined character lines with distinct separation from brushed and polished surfaces. One could spend considerable time just drooling over the little details like the polished ends of the faceted center links or the crisp mirror-like reflections on the case. This exceptional hand finishing is one of the main ways Credor separates itself from other manufactures.
This high level of attention to detail carries over the dial finishing of the Credor Spring Drive Big Date . The silver sunburst dial is simple but full of beautiful touches. For example, artisans hand-finished all the indices and other dial furniture, including the date window, on diamond-tipped milling tools. This gives the indices and hands sharp facets that play with the light beautifully. Some other key details that stand out are the oxidized—not chemically dyed—blue seconds hand and the champagne-colored big date wheels. I’m always a fan of blued steel hands, but the champagne coloring of the date wheels I’m not so sure of. However, it does offer a unique look, and I can appreciate that. This level of craftsmanship is mind-blowing when you consider the market value of about $6,500 dollars. As a cherry on top, the cutting-edge movement looks just as nice as the rest of the watch.
Inside the watch is the in-house caliber 7R87. This movement has a rare combination of being both hand-wound and a Spring Drive movement. Most Spring Drive movements are automatic, and because this one is hand-wound, it offers a different visual experience through the caseback. Absent is the large rotor, and in its place is an unobstructed view of the beautiful sunray finished barrel and Côtes de Genève finished bridges. You’ll also note the sharp beveling, glistening jewels, and black polished as well as blued steel screws. It’s a superbly elegant movement visually, and as is one of Credor’s values, it’s also technologically advanced.
For those unfamiliar, the Spring Drive movement is a hybrid mechanical movement driven by a mainspring like a typical mechanical watch, but unlike a traditional mechanical movement, this Spring Drive caliber is regulated by a quartz oscillator. It doesn’t require a battery, and yes, you still need to get serviced like a mechanical watch, but the quartz oscillator makes this movement substantially more accurate with a rating of plus or minus 15 seconds a month. It also gives you an entrancing, perfectly fluid moving seconds hand. This is a movement that combines the craftsmanship and beauty of a mechanical watch with some of the precision of a quartz one.
Versus The Competition
With a market value of around $6,500, the Credor Spring Drive Big Date sits at a popular spot in the market, and while I think its quality is well above most of its peers, there are some options that give it a run for its money.
First is this Jaeger LeCoultre Master Control in stainless steel. Jaeger is a storied brand who like Credor, produces timepieces that provide a lot of bang for your buck. This stainless steel timepiece is elegant and reserved with beautiful finishing and automatic movement. It’s gone through Jaeger’s famous 1000 hour testing and, despite being a dressier piece, is certainly durable enough to be a daily wearer. I don’t think it quite measures up in terms of finishing or elegance, but if you’re looking for something a little more versatile, this could be a good option at $4,850.
Next is the Grand Seiko GMT SBGM239 special edition for Hodinkee. I think this is a watch that visually has a lot in common with the GCLP995 Spring Drive Big Date. The watch’s case shape and overall lines are very similar, and because it’s a Grand Seiko, you get the same excellent finishing on the case and bracelet. Additionally, this timepiece has a GMT complication and is a limited edition of just 500 pieces. However, with its all-brushed bracelet, it is a much more casual piece than the Credor, and it does not have the Spring Drive movement and the accuracy that comes with it. For $5,500, this GMT still presents a great value and gets you some of the same Japanese craftsmanship, but you’re giving up the uniqueness of the Credor.
This isn’t a Datejust or a Calatrava meant to appeal to a wide variety of people. This watch’s design and ethos are distinct and thoughtful. This watch is for someone who’s looking for something different and who identifies with the delicate and precise Japanese sensibilities that are ingrained in this watch.
Watch enthusiasts are always hungry to find the next hidden gem, like F.P. Journe, Lange, and Grand Seiko before it Credor is currently very much under the radar in the broader watch community. I believe a meteoric rise is imminent and that right now is the best time to get into the brand, and I think the Credor Spring Drive Big Date is the perfect entry point both aesthetically and financially.