Learn more about the exquisite Grand Seiko of the world’s most beautiful spring-driven movement

“If you want to be blessed, you have to pay a price.”-Andrew Jackson

The first Grand Seiko released in 1960 used the 3180 movement, which has become synonymous with the watch itself for enthusiasts. Although the Grand Seiko case has a wide range of designs, the classic silhouette of the 3180 (sometimes called “First”) has proven to be irresistible to Grand Seiko as well as lovers and collectors, and has been in the past 20 years It has been used in quite a few limited editions and regular production models. The first of the new varieties debuted in 2001: SBGW004, a Japanese-only watch, followed by limited editions and regular production models in 2013, 2017 and 2020.

Of the two limited editions for 2020, the Spring Drive calibre 9R02 platinum model is the most expensive-much higher; $103,000, while the gold, manual-winding, traditional mechanical model with the 9S64 movement is $29,000. This is the most expensive watch ever produced by Grand Seiko, limited edition or other styles. Although this watch is indisputably beautiful, the six-figure price tag is predictable and reasonably inserts itself into the conversation, especially for A brand known for providing quality provides quality at a price that significantly reduces competition. Before delving into what this may or may mean, let’s take a closer look at SBGZ005.

Platinum Nobility
At first glance, this watch is a rather unremarkable watchmaking work-at least, it is the classic Grand Seiko, in which understatement is necessary, and the idea is to make the quality of materials and execution self-evident. Unless you know what you are looking at, or have particularly good tentacles to detect low-key examples of superb craftsmanship at close range, you may not take another look.

In this respect, it reminds me of another extremely confident but very noble watch: the long-discontinued Patek Philippe Ref. 3939 Minute Repeater Tourbillon, whose complexity and craftsmanship are so light that they are basically invisible ——Just like the baseball watch that Patek Philippe once released. This piece absolutely rejects the urge to condescend to a peacock, and may be the most uncompromising Swiss watch ever.

In contrast, Grand Seiko Hattori Kintaro’s 140th Anniversary Limited Edition SBGZ005 is more attractive, thanks to the careful care of the hands and dial furniture. For those who have been following Grand Seiko in the past few years, the quality is not surprising, but to my surprise, the hands and marks of many other luxury brands seem to be perfunctory. Compare. Rolex is an exception; even the cheapest Rolex watches, the true quality of dials, hands, and hour markers are as serious as Grand Seiko’s industry standards, despite the differences in visual effects between Rolex and GS.

In general, for Grand Seiko, especially SBGZ005, the diamond cut marks and hands are almost gem-like quality. Like all GS watches, the effect of light is fascinating. The sharp transition between the different surfaces and the almost unbelievable perfection of each surface make any brilliant cut diamond likely to envy the experience on the dial side. For example, a quarter of the index, each has a total of 12 different visible surfaces (if vertical flanks are included), and each surface is clearly visible, as bright as a mirror; the other indexes have eight aspects. A total of 112 people are blinking at you. The effect is very similar to what you would get with a black polished steel surface in sports, where the reflection is uniform white, black or gray.

A very subtle pattern was etched on the dial, and when we covered the watch for the first time, a community member noticed that it resembled the pattern on the inner surface of Japanese suribachi, a traditional Japanese kitchen mortar. This pattern is called kushime, and it is created by dragging a comb across the inner clay surface (the name means “comb pattern”). Whether intentional or not, the pattern provides a background texture, increases the richness of the dial, and softens the sharp effect that might otherwise be formed. The hour markers and hands are platinum-the second hand on the watch we photographed for this story is made of something unusual. GS said it is tempered platinum, and in our studio shooting, it can pick up blue highlights that are not obvious in news images.

Despite its small size (37.5 mm x 9.6 mm), the SBGZ005 still has a pleasing weight, thanks to the platinum case, both on the hand and on the wrist. The Grand Seiko case is sometimes criticized for its thickness, but this time the proportions feel just right. The 44GS case of Grand Seiko has obvious facets and a sharp transition from one plane to another. It is a beautiful and iconic presence in the Grand Seiko series, but the design of the 3180 case provides the possibility of Zaratsu polishing. A slightly softer presentation. You will really feel that Grand Seiko is starting to create something that summarizes the entire history of Grand Seiko and condenses it into a single timepiece; the physical and symbolic density of the whole watch exudes a calm dignity feel.

Poetry in Motion: Caliber 9R02
For most of Grand Seiko’s history, the desire of the engineers and craftsmen who made the movement was to redouble their efforts in reliability and accuracy, while aesthetics was of secondary importance in terms of performance. Of course, uncompromising function has its own beauty. One result of this method is that Grand Seiko movements usually exhibit extremely precise machining, even if not fine hand finishing, with mirror-polished steel structures and sharp transitions between the surfaces and sides of plates and bridges. watch cheap

If you want to better understand the high-standard precision machining of a typical Grand Seiko movement, you can do an excellent and very thorough disassembly on The Naked Watchmaker (a Hi-Beat with a 44GS case). You get the impression of a watch. In addition to the beauty of the case, dial, dial furniture and hands, the structure is very solid (the sturdy winding rotor attachment and the crown tube are just two examples), and it has been carefully designed to be reliable for a lifetime Work (maybe more than one).

Real hand finishing requires all the skills and costs that take a lot of extra time. It has not come from Grand Seiko, but from Credor. The most famous examples are Eichi and Eichi II watches. These watches use Spring Drive calibers 7R08A and 7R14 (the first is a splint and splint made of maillechort or German silver), and they are all manually wound. The manual winding Spring Drive movement is rare for Grand Seiko (although the first Spring Drive watch in 1999-SBDW001-was manually wound).

In 2016, Grand Seiko released the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8-Day, 9R01 movement. In 2019, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Spring Drive, Grand Seiko released two new manual winding Spring Drive movements. They are the high-end movement 9R02, which is essentially the next-generation 7R14 and 9R31, which have the same basic structure as 9R02, but the finishing is much simpler and there is no 9R02 torque return system.

Other decorative decorations of 9R02 include the bell-shaped flower pattern on the main barrel, the elaborate internal boundary between the two upper splints, the mirror-polished countersink, and the hand-inlaid circle almost everywhere that Micro Artist Studio can be placed. Angle. This type of angle is unusual-usually, the angle is a more or less flat slant transition between the upper surface and the side of the bridge; Philip Dufour used a very beautiful, rounded anglage in his simple watch .

The SBGZ005’s case finishing standard and the overall quality of the dial and hands are very high. This is exactly what we expect from Grand Seiko, but the execution and completion of 9R02 elevates the watch from pure luxury to a real exception. Since the debut of the first Credor Eichi, its first movement series-7R08, 7R14 and now 9R02-have gradually but clearly become more refined in design. Although 7R08 is nothing to sneeze, but to put it mildly, 9R02 itself is as breathtaking watchmaking as any hardcore sports enthusiast would like to see.

Although the most basic, classic high-end movement finishing vocabulary is basically Swiss, there are few exceptions (Philippe Dufour is one of them) that is not continuously practiced in his home country. This just means that excellence is excellent by definition; after all, ordinary Grand Seiko does not reach the level of Dufour or 9R02. However, the surface treatment of the 9R02 movement is indeed an excellent study. It is also a very Japanese-very-precise-reinterpretation of the processing habits of high-end movements, both in detail and in its excessive execution. Exquisite.

This is a cliché in Grand Seiko’s writing. At some point, the Japanese swordsmanship is used as an analogy. Well, very appropriate. I have seen some very high-quality katana in a museum. Once, I saw it in a swordsman’s workshop in Japan-these knives look like they exist in a dream; they are made with rough forging tools. They seem almost unreliable. For the same reason, 9R02 seems to be not so much a hand-made mechanical device as it is something that emerges from a certain process that naturally arises from the platonic realm of the idealized Grand Seiko watch.

To some extent, you can think of 9R02 as a tribute to Simplicity. In some details (for example, the engraved gold plate) and the overall concept, the Simplicity movement and 9R02 are in the same category. But I think 9R02 is unique in terms of aesthetics and technology, and with its own advantages. After all, it is the most beautifully designed and completed Spring Drive movement ever.

Caliber 215 was introduced in 1974, and at 21.9 mm diameter, or 9¾ lignes, is on the small side, and (if there is a standard to you, what matters is a reasonable match between the size of the movement and the size of the housing) . In any case, comparing 215 with 9R02 and platinum Calatrava with SBGZ005 is a comparison of apples and oranges, and there is no fair evaluation of any watch. Calatrava is a very conservative and traditional Swiss traditional watchmaking craft, while SBGZ005 is a deliberate exercise of excellence in technology, design and execution.

Now these watches, plus the SBGZ005, have almost one thing in common, they are all time-only (with or without power reserve), and they all represent the manufacturer’s ambitious watch creation without considering any form of economy. What is obvious to me is that at this level, the price and target details do not necessarily match. They did it to a certain extent-in each case, we have clearly high-quality movement finishing, for example, despite adopting different concepts and priorities. But this is not to say, “Well, this action took X hours to complete, and this, X-1; therefore, the first one is more’worthy’ than the second.” Of course, the price is closely related to the case material Related-platinum gives prestige, of course, it has a deep understanding of the history of platinum, in fact, it is not more expensive than gold).

An end and a beginning
SBGZ005, Grand Seiko Kintaro Hattori 160th Anniversary Limited Edition, is obviously designed to attract cheap Grand Seiko fans very specifically, and it is obviously also a single table summary of the entire history of Grand Seiko’s aspirations, but it is also possible to work hard for the aspirations of a company. Go back to the founder.

The price is absolutely shocking, especially at the beginning. Moreover, Grand Seiko has been carrying out a lot of enthusiastic publicity about limited edition watches, and the prices were often unimaginable for the brand a few years ago. The price of SBGZ005 may be comparable to some of its competitors, but the brand identity changes are happening at a relatively fast pace. Not only is GS being expanded to the (very) high end, but they are working on such a cut, and I worry that it will destroy the core identity of perception and make GS the first place on the international map. Of course, this may be exactly what Grand Seiko is after.

For me, as a Grand Seiko enthusiast for decades (to be honest, fanatics should be fair), what has benefited the entire company is the quality of high-end watches. As far as SBGZ005 is concerned, this is an exception. And then some. In the context of Grand Seiko’s past, the cost is shocking; in the context of its competition, it is high, but it is not without reason, and of course it is not unprecedented.

All decisions made from a design perspective and a watchmaking perspective are clearly committed to not only the pursuit of perfectionism, but also the use of top craftsmanship and technology in the vocabulary of haute watchmaking. Spending time with SBGZ005 is to forget the price tag and fall in love with its many charms.

Do 50 people in the world feel the same about Grand Seiko? I bet the answer is yes. Grand Seiko is obviously making the same bet. Although it represents a bit of gambling, the brand has a history of winning with dice.

Grand Seiko Kintaro Hattori 160th Anniversary Limited Edition SBGZ005: case, 37.5mm x 9.6mm, platinum, front and rear sapphire crystal glass; white gold and diamond polished three-dimensional markers and hands; water resistance to 30 meters. Movement, Spring Drive 9R02 movement, 84 hours power reserve; dual mainspring barrels with torque return system, which can recover train energy and return it to the mainspring; antimagnetic to 4,800 A/m, manual winding Chain with 39 jewels, the maximum daily deviation is ±1 second per day/±15 seconds per month.