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Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation watches

The Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation watches are available in a choice of platinum, 18-carat yellow gold and titanium. While the models celebrate the release of the first Grand Seiko in 1960, these re-creations harness much modern-day know-how.

The Japanese firm ‘K. Hattori’ was founded in 1881. Over the years, the company’s products would bear the names, ‘Seikosha’ (1892) and ‘Laurel’ (1913). Incidentally, this latter product was the first Japanese wristwatch. In 1924, a new brand name was born, Seiko. It would go on to become one of the world’s best-known watch brands.

An innovative brand

Throughout its history, Seiko has been an innovative brand. For example, in 1956 the company unveiled its Diashock device, similar in concept to the western system, Incabloc. This device mitigates the risk of damage to the balance staff pivots when a watch is subjected to shock. Just a few years later, Seiko used its ‘magic lever’ system for the first time (1959). This system harnessed the energy from the wearer’s wrist motion, irrespective of whether the oscillating mass was rotating clockwise or anticlockwise. It was the efficiency of the magic lever that distinguished it as special.

The first Grand Seiko

In 1960, no doubt buoyed by its numerous successes, Seiko launched a premium watch, the aptly named Grand Seiko. Initially, Grand Seiko watches were primarily sold in the Japanese domestic market, however, in 2010, Seiko chose to offer its esteemed sub-brand to an international audience. For many years, the dials of these watches would carry both Seiko and Grand Seiko branding.

Everything changed

In 2017, everything changed, Shinji Hattori, now the Chairman and CEO of Seiko, announced that Grand Seiko would be treated as a brand in its own right. The dials were redesigned, eschewing the Seiko name and bearing solely the Grand Seiko nomen and logo. It proved a shrewd decision as the brand awareness of Grand Seiko has since grown exponentially and the company’s models are now widely known and respected by watch aficionados.

Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation watches

This year, Grand Seiko is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the brand and it has produced three re-creations of its first model, released in 1960.

Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation watches

The inaugural timepiece of 1960 possessed a classical mien. The dial shunned clutter and comprised of merely dauphine-style hour and minute hands, a central sweep seconds hand and facetted baton-type indexes. The case of the watch measured a mere 35mm, perfectly attuned to consumer tastes at this time. At the heart of the watch was a hand-wound movement, the reference 3180. Despite the proliferation of golden hues, everything looked tastefully restrained.

Prior to making the 1960 watch, the team assigned with its creation had to adhere to certain principles. The watch had to be beautiful, comfortable, durable and precise; core beliefs which remain common to all Grand Seiko watches.

Returning to 2017 and Mr Hattori’s announcement regarding Grand Seiko’s autonomy, the Japanese marque released three limited-edition re-creations of the 1960 model in platinum, gold and titanium (SBGW251, SBGW252 and SBGW253). Moreover, Grand Seiko also released a modern re-interpretation at the same time, housed in titanium (SBGR305). Each re-creation was limited and from what I remember at the time, they were virtually impossible to find with demand overwhelmingly outstripping supply.

This year, the Japanese marque has released three further re-creation watches (SBGW257, SBGW258 and SBGW259) to mark the 60th anniversary of Grand Seiko. Once again these timepieces are presented in platinum, gold and steel, however, this time the watches are not limited.

Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation watches – dials

The platinum case comes with a silver-toned dial, the 18-carat yellow gold model features a cream dial and the titanium version is paired with a blue dial. While the cream dial may be the closest of the three to the original 1960 watch, I must admit the blue dial is my favourite.

Interestingly, despite the aforementioned period of dual-branding on numerous Grand Seiko models up to 2017, the original watch of 1960 only featured the Grand Seiko logo below noon. The 1960 model also said ‘chronometer’ below the brand name, however, this does not appear on the re-creation.

Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation watches

In the lower portion of the dial, cursive text makes reference to Diashock, the number of movement jewels and includes the GS star mark. All these details found on the modern-day re-creation replicate the original. The only subtle difference is that the 1960 model featured 25 jewels, one more than today’s model.

Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation watches

The applied indexes are beautifully detailed, incorporating numerous facets and a trench-like centre-section. Positioned in between each index are crisp strokes denoting the minutes. Beyond these markings, the dial surface drops away, enriching the model’s aesthetic allure.

Each of the Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation watches proves eminently legible and elegantly stylish.

Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation watches – cases

As previously mentioned, the new present-day models are offered in a choice of platinum, 18-carat yellow gold and titanium. The gold option is the most period correct in terms of colour, however, my choice would always be the titanium model.

Titanium is light, strong and hypoallergenic. Grand Seiko employs a Zaratsu polishing technique on the titanium case which involves positioning the case against a rotating wheel, liberally covered in a mildly abrasive liquid. The operator responsible for case polishing is a time-served craftsperson. They must always ensure they are merely polishing the case and not changing its profile. The resultant surface is incredibly smooth, devoid of any sharpness and endowed with beautifully defined lines. Despite handling numerous watches over the years, some with six-figure price tags, I have never found another housing able to surpass a Grand Seiko Zaratsu polished case.

The re-creation watches feature dual-curved sapphire crystals. The hour and minute hands are slightly bent in order to mimic the shape of the glazing front of house. Unlike the 1960 model, which was fitted with a solid caseback, the re-creation watches are fitted with a further pane of sapphire crystal, granting views of the hand-wound Calibre 9S64 movement.

As I have already shown, Grand Seiko has not stuck doggedly to the 1960 specification. Indeed, each re-creation model measures 38mm in diameter, 3mm wider than the 1960 model, however, the shape of today’s case remains faithful to the original.

Each model is supplied on a colour co-ordinated crocodile leather strap, presented on a three-fold clasp with push-button release.

Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation watches – movement

Again, contrasting the 1960s watch with today’s re-creation, both models include a hand-wound movement. The 1960 model was equipped with the Calibre 3180, a reference which has since become a soubriquet for the first Grand Seiko watch.

However, the Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation watches are endowed with the Calibre 9S64. This movement incorporates an array of refinements that were absent on the original Calibre 3180.

Firstly, from an aesthetic point of view, the finish of the Calibre 9S64 is far superior. The bridges are adorned with a striped motif, similar in nature to Côtes de Genève decoration.

Secondly, the frequency of the Calibre 9S64 is 28,800 vph (4 Hz) while the frequency of the Calibre 3180 was much slower at 18,000 vph (2.5Hz). By employing a higher frequency, the movement delivers superior precision. The stated accuracy of the Calibre 3180 was +12 to -3 seconds per day. In contrast, the accuracy of the Calibre 9S64 is +5 to -3 seconds per day (when tested in static conditions).

When the Calibre 3180 was unveiled in 1960 it had a stated power reserve of 45 hours, while today’s movement is 72 hours. One of the main reasons for this significant improvement can be attributed to MEMS technology (Mirco-Electro-Mechanical Systems). In Europe, this know-how is sometimes referred to as LIGA technology (Lithographie Glavanoformung Abformung).

The technique involves using a sandwich comprised of a seed layer, adhesion layer and substrate. A photosensitive resist coating is placed on top along with a mask with the desired shape cut out. When the resist is exposed to ultraviolet light, a microstructure is formed. Electroplating is then used to fill this microstructure with metal. Thereafter, the microstructure is removed from the remaining resist (mould). By using MEMS technology, Grand Seiko is able to produce intricately shaped components that would be impossible to make using conventional machining techniques.

Made using MEMS technology, the escape wheel and pallet lever are openworked, reducing mass and thereby mitigating energy consumption. Each tooth on the escape wheel features a small reservoir, retaining lubricants and as a result mitigating friction and wear. This reduced friction also helps to lessen energy consumption. Likewise, all gears are hand-polished again to lessen energy consumption.

Unusually, Grand Seiko makes its own balance springs and mainsprings, an area of expertise known to only a few brands. Over the years, Grand Seiko has continuously developed its spring know-how for the benefit of its customers. The Calibre 9S64 features a mainspring formed of SPRON510, a modern alloy that further extends the power reserve.

While the Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation watches capture the period charm of the 1960 watch, Grand Seiko has wholeheartedly embraced modernity by using the Calibre 9S64. Quite simply, knowing the superiority of its present-day movements, there could never be any justification for Grand Seiko using 60 year-old technology.

Closing remarks

Throughout this article, I have flitted between the Grand Seiko 3180 of 1960 and today’s re-creations. There will always be those individuals who love museum-spec watches, however, I am not one of them. I adore the styling of the model that inspired the Japanese brand to create these anniversary watches, but I am a firm believer in continuous improvement. Contrasting the Calibre 9S64 with the Calibre 3180 perfectly demonstrates the rationale for choosing the 2020 references. Quite simply, today’s movements are far superior to their vintage antecedents.

Previously, when discussing the early years of Seiko I could have listed numerous additional achievements. Indeed, I could have talked about the firm’s high-frequency movements and the sublime Spring Drive calibres, first seen on non-Grand Seiko models. However, to recount the history of Seiko fairly would necessitate using hundreds of thousands of words.

Today, Grand Seiko is a company in its own right. Its journey began in 1960 and has included many achievements along the way. The company has never rested on its laurels, repeatedly conceiving new designs, incorporating better finishes and developing new, superior movements. The original idea was to make watches that were beautiful, comfortable, durable and precise. Based on the specification of the new Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation watches, the Japanese firm has fulfilled this remit once again. Perhaps we should not look at these watches as a nostalgic view of the past, but rather an insightful foretaste of the future. Indeed, one look at the recently launched SLGH002 with its Calibre 9SA5 provides a clue to what horological delights await watch lovers in the future.

Further reading

https://www.grand-seiko.com/

Technical specifications

  • Model: Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation
  • Reference: SBGW257
  • Case: Platinum 950; diameter 38mm; height 10.9mm; water resistance 3ATM (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front; exhibition case back.
  • Functions: hours; minutes; central sweep seconds
  • Movement: Calibre 9S64; hand-wound movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 24 jewels; power reserve 72 hours.
  • Strap: Black crocodile leather paired with a three-fold clasp with push-button release
  • Price: £33,500 (RRP as at 6.8.2020)

  • Model: Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation
  • Reference: SBGW258
  • Case: 18-carat yellow gold; diameter 38mm; height 10.9mm; water resistance 3ATM (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front; exhibition case back.
  • Functions: hours; minutes; central sweep seconds
  • Movement: Calibre 9S64; hand-wound movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 24 jewels; power reserve 72 hours.
  • Strap: Brown crocodile leather paired with a three-fold clasp with push-button release
  • Price: £23,500 (RRP as at 6.8.2020)

  • Model: Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation
  • Reference: SBGW259
  • Case: Hard titanium; diameter 38mm; height 10.9mm; water resistance 3ATM (30 metres); sapphire crystal to front; exhibition case back.
  • Functions: hours; minutes; central sweep seconds
  • Movement: Calibre 9S64; hand-wound movement; frequency 28,800 vph (4Hz); 24 jewels; power reserve 72 hours.
  • Strap: Blue crocodile leather paired with a three-fold clasp with push-button release
  • Price: £7,150 (RRP as at 6.8.2020)

Grand Seiko 60th anniversary re-creation watches

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