In search of the Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater
This limited edition timepiece is a faithful representation of the original Seiko 44GS launched in the year of my birth, 1967. Close examination reveals much merit, justifying my fervent editorial efforts.
I am a self-confessed watch addict. My friends affectionately describe me as a “horological trainspotter”. I am often found with my nose pressed against a watch retailer’s window admiring the beautiful timepieces within.
Occasionally, I meet fellow journalists who share my passion, writing about the finest expressions of timekeeping. Conversations are punctuated with discussions of finissage, complications, enamelling and guilloché.
A timepiece which often comes up in discussion is the remarkable Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater. It represents the pinnacle of Seiko’s watchmaking expertise and its captivating sound is legendary.
The watch contains striking gongs forged from special steel supplied by Munemichi Myochin. This company has been in existence for over 850 years, with fifty two unbroken generations of family at the helm. Hopefully, this tradition will continue with the family know-how passing to future generations.
The Myochin Wind Bell is merely one expression of the Myochin family’s skill at manipulating steel to spellbinding effect. The wind chimes are world renown for their clarity of sound and enchanting echoes.
The master craftsmen in the Micro Artist Studio at Seiko’s Shirojiri facility endeavoured to harness this majestic sound within a high-end timepiece. It takes time and patience to replicate the alluring sound of the Myochin Wind Bell, but through persistence and skilled application they have accurately simulated the sonorous sound with its sublime delivery.
I pre-arranged to meet Seiko at Baselworld 2013 and eagerly wanted to see the Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater.
There, in a glass cabinet it sat, quietly resting, cocooned from the madding crowd. I can report, no pictures can adequately convey its awe-inspiring beauty. It consists of 660 components all presented in peerless form. The specification includes 112 jewels.
Few models are seen outside of Japan and in its first year of production only three models were produced. Sadly, I did not manage to hear the watch or handle its pulchritudinous form. There is a slight feeling of “near, but yet so far”. My ears have been deprived of the anticipated aural enjoyment I have longingly yearned for.
In some respects, the marketing professionals will be delighted to know, that my sojourn to the Seiko stand to see the Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater resulted in me investigating other models from the Seiko family.
There, in a dedicated area, was an array of Grand Seiko models. To my shame, I have never explored the nuances of Japanese watchmaking, always focussing on Swiss, German and British manufacturers.
This is a surprising admission as in other aspects of my life I wholeheartedly embrace different cultures. Moreover, Japanese food and, in particular, sushi is now a regular staple in my diet. Indeed, sushi is one of the few foods I can think of where the flavours are delicious and yet there is an absence of fat. I can gutsily devour copious quantities of the neatly presented food stuffs with a clear conscience, knowing that my heart and waistline will show no signs of ill-effects.
Before I become lost in a sea of salmon and tuna sashimi, I must return to a remarkable watch which caught my attention – the Grand Seiko 44GS Limited edition. This limited edition timepiece is a faithful representation of the original 44GS launched in the year of my birth, 1967. Indeed, it may have been this reference to 1967 which provided the initial attraction to the model. However, close examination of the watch and the mechanical movement within, revealed much merit justifying my editorial efforts.
The dial is an object lesson in subtlety and restraint. The watch is available in three forms of 18-carat gold: white gold, yellow gold and rose in a limited series of 70 pieces in each variant. However, it is the stainless steel model which I particularly like.
Stainless steel seems to suit the aesthetics of the watch perfectly and seems befitting bearing in mind the company’s prowess at employing the corrosion-resistant material.
The case material determines the colour of the dial, hand and hour markings presented. In the case of my preferred stainless steel option, the hands are silver, sword shaped and multi-faceted, capturing light with comely allure. The legibility proffered is excellent and this has become a key strength of Grand Seiko design.
Hours are marked with applied batons. They again repeat the multi-faceted approach of the hands, reinforcing the coherence of the design. No aspects appear in conflict. The only detail, where there is a departure from the norm, is the marking of hours at noon, where double batons are presented. This subtle detail is delightful with its succinct delivery.
The dial is framed with a chapter ring, employing short strokes to indicate the minute integers. There is nothing garish or unduly loud, yet somehow ease of read-off is readily provided.
The case diameter of 37.9 mm matches the size of the 1967 original. It would prove too small for my large physique. I only purchase watches with a case diameter of 40 mm or more. However, this does not detract from my appreciation of this handsome watch.
If Seiko offered a larger variant of the watch, it may prove ideal for someone like myself. On the other hand, it may not work as well. The secret to the excellence of this design is the sublime proportionality conferred with each facet of its fine form.
The interface between angles, surface polishing and light has been distilled to an altitudinously high standard. If you look at the watch directly from the front, the sideline is curved in a smooth arc. The caseband employs numerous angles to embrace the light.
Some surfaces are satin-brushed, but in some instances a mirror polished surface is utilised to enthralling effect. This fantastic finish is courtesy of time consuming hand-polishing of the case, referred to as “zaratsu”.
The crown protrudes only slightly, nuzzling the caseband, protected and safe. However, the wearer can easily adjust the crown courtesy of the exposed knurling to the front and rear of the case.
The sapphire crystal has a wonderful cambered edge, reminiscent of the acrylic watch glasses of yesteryear. Yet, the beauty of the sapphire crystal is that it is resistant to scratching and cracking. Moreover, this particular example is manufactured in-house, coated with anti-reflective treatment on the inner surface and is wonderfully clear and legible.
The caseback is solid and carries the emblem of the original watch. I appreciate the desire to be faithful to the original, but lament the omission of a sapphire caseback. This is because within this watch, I know there is incredible craftsmanship hidden from view. Purists will disagree but it is this diversity of opinion which makes horology fascinating to millions of people.
The watch was always a hand-wound model and I am glad that Seiko have remained faithful to this aspect of the original. Moreover, there is something soothing about winding your watch each morning, and whilst I have automatic wristwatches, I do enjoy the participative involvement of wearing a manually-wound watch.
The Caliber 9S64 first appeared in 2011 in the Seiko 130th Anniversary Collection edition. It has a frequency of 28,800 vph (4 Hz) and 24 jewels.
An aspect which is particularly impressive is the power reserve, which is in excess of 72 hours. Moreover, there is only one spring barrel which makes the 3 day power reserve even more meritorious.
Unlike the majority of watch companies, Seiko produce their own mainsprings and it is thanks to their skill at mastering metallurgy that the impressive power reserve has come to fruition. They have created their own alloy, “SPRON510” which is key to this success. Moreover, the amplitude is consistent, with little variation in rate keeping whether the spring is in a fully wound or partially wound state. This is evidenced with a claim of mean daily rate variation of -3 to +5 seconds per day.
I always obsess over the finishing of a movement and Seiko does not disappoint with the Caliber 9S64. The pallet lever and escape wheel are created using Seiko’s MEMS technology (Micro Electro Mechanical System). This know-how has resulted in components that are smoother, mitigating wear and damage, as well as lighter. The pallet lever for example is skeletonised, reducing mass.
The escape wheel has an unusual profile to its teeth, each housing a small recess to retain lubricant oil, mitigating wear.
My desire to hold the Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater in my cosetting hands remains unfulfilled. I continue to yearn to hear its alluring aural qualities. Nevertheless, this as of yet, unrequited love, has allowed me to discover other delights along my journey.
The Grand Seiko 44GS Limited Edition is incredibly impressive and offers remarkable value bearing in mind the depth of its talents. However, do not misconstrue this is not a cheap watch, excellence seldom comes with a low price. Yet, the 44GS usurps the talents of many watches costing much more.
It was said that in the 1960s, a young university graduate, who had a passion for watch aesthetics, conceived the “grammar of Seiko design”. The parlance employed is dignified with hushed tone and encourages the wearer to savour every brilliant facet of its beautiful form.
My first foray into the world of Grand Seiko has proved compelling. It has left me wanting to learn more about this brand whose culture provides a fascinating alternative to my own.
Model: Grand Seiko 44GS Limited Edition
Case: Stainless steel; diameter 37.90 mm; height 11.50 mm; water resistant to 3 bar (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front and solid caseback.
Functions: Hours; minutes; central seconds.
Movement: Caliber 9S64, manual-winding; frequency 28,800 vph (4 Hz); 24 jewels; power reserve over 72 hours.
Strap: Black crocodile leather with stainless steel pin buckle.