The Grand Seiko family introduced their new babies to the public at Baselworld, a sportier collection with black ceramic shells and a dressy platinum model with eight days of power reserve. Both of them are equipped with Spring Drive movements, offering the incredible accuracy of +/- 15 seconds a month.
What is a Spring Drive?
Fans of Seiko and connoisseurs of horology, you can just scroll down to the next section. For the rest of you, I think we should take a moment to understand what exactly is a Spring Drive.
You might wonder, how can a mechanical watch have an accuracy of less than a second per day?
It is possible because it is not 100% mechanical. Just like a mechanical watch, the power source is a mainspring, that through a series of gears rotates the hands of the watch, but instead of a conventional escapement — considered to be the most vulnerable part of a movement, it uses an electronic device that Seiko calls a Try-synchro Regulator. There is no battery involved in powering the regulator, the energy is harvested from the wheel train equipped with a rotor transforming the mechanical energy into small electrical charges that activate the electronic circuit and the quartz oscillator responsible for regulating the time.
Beyond superior accuracy, Spring Drive watches are also appreciated for the smooth glide of the second hand, instead of ticking as in conventional mechanical or quartz watches.
While the technology was developed in the late seventies and patents were applied for in 1982, the first movement using a spring drive was only announced 1997. Since then, Spring Drive movements have found their way into the top-of-the-line collections of Seiko, such as some of the Grand Seiko, Credor, Galante, Izul, Ananta and Prospex series, with moon phase, power reserve, chronograph, sonnerie, GMT and calendar functions.
The Black Ceramic Limited Edition: SBGC015, SBGC017, SBGE037, SBGE039
The sports watch collection has four new Spring Drive models, all in limited edition (600 for the SBGC017, and 500 for the others), two chronographs with GMT and the two GMT only models. The 46.4mm case has a five-piece construction, with the inner case being made from high-intensity titanium for strenght and lightness, it is then protected by a zirconia ceramic outer shell, an extremely hard material (seven times harder than stainless steel), and same ceramic is used for the bezel too. The result is a lighter watch that can take a lot of punishment without the risk of scratching the beautifully polished surfaces of the case.
Black is a new colour for Grand Seiko, but the rest of the design, such as the diamond-cut hands and the indexes, make these watches instantly recognisable as Grand Seiko.
Apparently, the inspiration for the green dial model (SBGC017) is rooted in the symbolism of the local traditions practiced in the city of Suwa, near the studio where the watch is made. Every six years, there is a festival, called Onbashira, and the centerpiece of the event is the carrying of huge fir trees down the mountainside to the shrine, where they are raised as symbols of the shrine’s renewal and its 1200-year-old tradition. 2016 being a year when Onbashira Matsuri is celebrated, the SBGC017 is a fitting homage from Seiko to this age-old tradition.
Both the 9R96 Spring Drive Chronograph and the 9R16 Spring Drive GMT have an automatic and manual winding driving system, offering a power reserve of 72 hours. They are adjusted to deliver an accuracy of +/-10 seconds a month.
Price-wise, the chronographs have a European MSRP of €13,500 and the GMT models will go for €11,000.
Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve: SBGD001
Seiko has a separate workshop for their elite line of watches, the Micro Artist Studio, where dream pieces such as the Spring Drive Minute Repeater, the Sonnerie and the Eichi watches, part of the Credor collection are made. The Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve (SBGD001) is the first Grand Seiko to be signed by the famous studio and the result is exquisite.
The platinum 950 case has a diameter of 43 mm and a height of 13.2 mm and it was treated to a sparkling mirror finish using the Zaratsu polishing technique that the craftsmen of the Micro Artist Studio have adapted to platinum.
The dial has a special coating, that Seiko describes as the diamond-dust sparkle of snow in the morning light. The faceted and polished hands are long than usual and the applied indexes are also treated to a careful polishing.
Why would a three-hand dress watch measure 43 mm? The explanation comes from the hand-wound 9R01 Spring Drive movement, visible through the sapphire case back. The 9R01 has a power reserve of eight days thanks to its three barrels that are linked together and the springs unwind simultaneously, but at a slower pace than a conventional movement.
The movement is quite an eye candy on its own. The bridge is made from a single piece and it ensures the precise
positioning of each wheel in the gear train and maximizes the efficiency of the power transmission from the barrels. You might recognize the silhoute of Mount Fuji in the shape of the bridge while the highly polished rubies and tempered blue screws create a colourful constelation. All the metal components are made in-house and all the polishing is done by hand.
The power reserve indicator on the back keeps the dial clean yet it is a useful complication for a watch that can run such a long time.
The 9R01 is a Spring Drive with 56 jewels and 307 parts and it is regulated to an accuracy of +/-0.5 seconds a day.
The SBGD001 is limited to only eight pieces, available only at Seiko boutiques and it will retail for €60,000.
For more, visit www.grand-seiko.com