Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 day Power Reserve (SBGD001)
Drawing on his immense knowledge of Seiko, gained when he formerly worked for the famous Japanese watch company, Carl Eady reviews the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 day Power Reserve (SBGD001).
This detailed review of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 day Power Reserve (SBGD001) includes live images, specification details and pricing.
There was a palpable excitement in the audience as Seiko’s President and CEO Shinji Hattori took to the stage in the Congress Centre at Baselworld this year. The great grandson of Seiko’s founder, Kintaro Hattori, is an infinitely charismatic and charming man. He stood with an air of pride before a packed press room and it was clear that he and his team had something very special to announce. In its 30th year of attending Basel, Seiko certainly did not disappoint with an array of timepieces which delivered both innovation and beauty. In particular, the launch of Presage, a collection of fine mechanical watches offered at very accessible prices, could easily be described as a shot across the bows of the industry at large.
However, the piece that most caught my eye, and now distracts my thoughts several times a day, is the magnificent Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 day Power Reserve (SBGD001).
True to the original principles of Grand Seiko, the SBGD001 offers exceptional levels of precision, legibility, comfort and durability that have been meticulously honed over five and a half decades. It retains the traditional and elegant Grand Seiko form and, at a glance, could be mistaken for many other of the marque’s creations. Some Grand Seikos are cased in precious metals and several are equipped with Spring Drive movements, but this beautiful incarnation is the first Grand Seiko to emerge from the celebrated Micro Artist Studio in Shiojiri, Nagano. Now in its 16th year, it has already produced some of the most stunning and iconic watches under the prestigious Credor brand, including the ‘Sonnerie’, ‘Minute Repeater’ and the beautiful hand painted ‘Eichi’ models featuring porcelain dials. The Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 day Power Reserve (SBGD001) also houses a brand new movement, the Caliber 9R01 – the first hand wound Spring Drive under the Grand Seiko name.
The motto of Kintaro Hattori was to be ‘one step ahead of the rest’ and the hand wound horological marvel that is the 9R01 movement could be seen as more of a leap than a step, even for a ‘Manufacture’ of Seiko’s impressive standing.
In order to provide an extraordinary 192-hour power reserve, the movement required brand new thinking. Seiko’s engineers ingeniously devised a system of three barrels with springs unwinding simultaneously at one third of the rate of a single barrel, thus greatly extending the power reserve. This barrel arrangement ensures the movement sits perfectly within the 13.2mm platinum case. The view through the large sapphire crystal case back is dominated by a single rhodium plated German silver bridge, shaped in part to mimic the iconic Mount Fuji.
By utilising only one bridge, the movement becomes more stable, delivering greater efficiency of power transmission. The edges of the bridge are finished by hand using local wood, similar in characteristic to the gentian wood favoured by some prestigious European brands. Each edge offers a glistening contrast to the brushed face of the bridge. Tempered blue screws and highly polished rubies seem somewhat haphazard in their placement, however, they reflect the bright lights of Suwa, the city which sits beneath the mountainous Shiojiri region, which is home to the Micro Artist Studio. Opposite the crown, the crescent shaped power reserve proudly displays 8 days, it is simple yet elegant and indicated using a beautifully blued sweeping hand.
Seiko’s relentless pursuit of horological perfection is perhaps a push too far for some mechanical watch purists, owing to its hybrid movement. At the heart of the Spring Drive movement is a Tri-synchro regulator, rather than a conventional escapement. First conceived back in 1977 by Yoshikazu Akahane, the Tri-synchro regulator is the system used to control the mainsprings, glide wheel and the reference signal from a quartz oscillator. The resultant precision of the 9R01 movement is breathtaking, according +/- ½ second per day accuracy. The regulators electromagnetic brake enables the second hand to travel with a serene ‘glide motion’. This is truly mesmerising and will perhaps offer those fortunate owners a calming reminder that time is the most precious of all commodities.
Graceful lines and curves on the case are true to the ‘Seiko Style’ developed by Taro Tanaka during the 60s and 70s with finishing worthy of a place among the finest of all watch marques.
Producing everything in-house has distinct advantages, especially in the field of metallurgy. The platinum case is cold forged and subjected to Grand Seiko’s trademark Zaratsu polishing. This time honoured skill is entrusted to only a handful of senior polishers, such as Osamu Ohata who recently said he liked polishing ‘everything to the point of perfection and beauty’. Craftsmen with such an obsessional passion and mastery are one of the key assets of Grand Seiko as it continues to elevate its status among the horological elite. It is said that the most experienced polishers cannot only see and feel changes in the process but even hear when they’ve applied the correct pressure against abrasive paper. The resultant distortion free case surfaces feel glass-like to the touch and are so highly polished that they return a dazzling lustre with the merest chink of light.
At 3 o’clock is a simple, yet bold, crown adorned with the GS logo. During winding it provides audibly satisfying clicks as it efficiently energises the three spring barrels.
Measuring 43mm and hewn from such a precious and dense metal, the SBGD001 is naturally a substantial timepiece. However, the trademark ‘comfortable fit’ demanded by Grand Seiko has not been compromised. This conservative, yet perfectly executed case, provides the ideal housing for what is perhaps the most stunning element of the watch.
Grand Seiko is fast building a reputation for creating exceptional dials – including the iconic Snowflake (SBGA011) and the rich green dial of the 2014 GPHG Petite Aiguille winner, the High-beat GMT (SBGJ005). On the SBGD001, the talented artisans of the Micro Artist Studio have drawn on the beauty of their surroundings to create a truly remarkable face. A plate is stamped then coated with multiple layers to build up a uniquely beautiful interpretation of the shimmering fallen snow, glistening in early morning light outside the brand’s studio.
By keeping the power reserve on the reverse and eschewing the date window, the estate of the dial is kept free from distractions, further enhancing the legibility. Keeping the dials flat on Grand Seiko timepieces enables the hands and indices to sit more prominently. Furthermore, this stunning backdrop is perfectly punctuated by simple, yet tall and elegant indexes with a double width index at 12 o’clock. Each are multi-faceted and diamond polished to a sparkling mirror finish.
The hour and minute hands on a Grand Seiko timepiece command respect. Longer than those hands which have featured on previous iterations, the hands on the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 day Power Reserve (SBGD001) uphold the brand’s five faceted shape and are individually diamond polished. The hands ensure superb visibility in dim light. Razor sharp edges narrow to a pin point and the attention to detail is such that the hands are mirror polished on the underside, in case of a chance reflection as the minute hand passes over the hour hand.
The second hand is pressed into a 3D shape then polished by buffing. It is then individually heated over a copper plate to achieve a sumptuous blue finish which accentuates the trademark glide motion of Spring Drive.
A jet black hand stitched crocodile strap provides a perfect contrast to the highly polished case surface. The deployant clasp has a push button release and is stamped with the GS logo. This classic band is bold yet elegant and affords the wearer a reassuring fit without compromising comfort.
Purists of a more critical nature will no doubt dismiss a Spring Drive as no more than quartz sorcery and, on discovering the €60000 price tag for the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 day Power Reserve (SBGD001), they may well point to some Swiss brands with a reputation for perhaps being more collectable. There are always two sides to every coin, however, and those with an appreciation for fine Japanese artistry combined with haute horology are more likely to cherish this timepiece. Indeed, the return on investment includes the pure joy imparted with the sight of perfectly polished hands, glistening majestically over a diamond dusted dial.
Producing a masterpiece with finishing of this quality is intensely time consuming and consequently only a handful of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 day Power Reserve (SBGD001) will be produced each year. Such is the passion for Grand Seiko in the Japanese domestic market that sadly very few will grace western shores. Those lucky enough to own one will no doubt quietly enjoy the envious glances and unspoken admiration that comes from wearing an exemplar of elegance and beauty.
- Model – Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 day Power Reserve (SBGD001)
- Calibre – Spring Drive 9R01
- Case – Platinum 950
- Case Size – Diameter 43.00mm / Thickness 13.2mm
- Band – Three fold ‘deployant’ clasp / crocodile leather strap
- Glass- Anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal
- Accuracy +/- 10 seconds per month
- Water Resistance – 10 bar
- Magnetic Resistance – 4800 A/m
- Price – €60,000 (RRP as at 18.6.2016)