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Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Calibre 9R86 SBGC001

Angus Davies provides an in-depth review of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Calibre 9R86 SBGC001. This watch features a column-wheel chronograph, a Spring Drive movement, a power reserve indicator and 24 hour GMT display.

This detailed review of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Calibre 9R86 SBGC001 includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Calibre 9R86 SBGC001 - in-depth review by ESCAPEMENT

The onset of middle-age is a depressing thought. I mourn the loss of my once flowing locks. The efficacy of my hearing has waned and I now require two pairs of spectacles to perform the most basic of tasks.

Grand Seiko has produced a watch which at least redresses the problems of age-related myopia. The Japanese brand has always been masterful at creating highly legible dials and with this range of Spring Drive Chronographs it also offers push pieces which are capable of effortless operation with ageing hands.

The dial

The dial colour is interesting, sometimes it appears creamy and warm, whereas on other occasions it evinces an icy silvery-tone. Grand Seiko produce incredible dials and their high quality is apparent with close examination.

 

Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Calibre 9R86 SBGC001 - in-depth review by ESCAPEMENT

Each numeral is crisp and sharp and legibility is accentuated with the dual curve sapphire crystal, featuring some of the finest anti-reflective treatment you are ever likely to see. Grand Seiko makes its own sapphire crystals and the company’s mastery at producing these high-definition lens-like structures is truly exceptional.

The sword-shape hands are similar to those found on other Grand Seiko models I have previously reviewed. They have a razor-like edge to their profile which courts light and refracts it with highly legible brilliance.

 

Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Calibre 9R86 SBGC001 - in-depth review by ESCAPEMENT

Grand Seiko has applied faceted hour markers, brilliantly polished and shining splendidly in ambient light.

A slim central seconds chronograph hand is presented in blued steel and, in common with other Spring Drive models, glides around the dial in a smooth, seamless motion. This hand collaborates with the chapter ring, marked with neat black strokes and small Arabic numerals, to allow elapsed seconds to be readily interpreted.

An aperture, framed in highly polished steel, is positioned at 3 o’clock. It reveals the date, pairing black text with an immaculate white disc. The disc is not deep-set within the case, a problem with some modular chronographs, but instead sits high, close to the surface of the adjacent dial, allowing the date to be readily seen.

A red tipped GMT provides the convenience of displaying the hour in a second time zone. Unusually, the hand makes one revolution every 24 hours, with the odd-numbered hours shown inside the chapter ring. This function will prove especially useful for those businessmen who frequently partake in long-haul travel.

Two chronograph registers are positioned on the right hand side of the dial, unusually arranged one on top of the other. Again, this layout provides another point of differentiation from many Swiss and German watches on the market. The 30-minute chronograph register sits above a 12-hour chronograph register and both employ a combination of black lines and Arabic numerals to impart the elapsed time.

One aspect of the design language which I feel is key to Grand Seiko’s success is the consistent use of details. Small Arabic numerals and short strokes, presented in black, appear on various elements of the dial composition. There is a welcome restraint to the use of colours and styles which confers cohesion and harmony.

A power reserve indicator is located between 7 and 8 o’clock. The hand arcs downwards, ultimately pointing towards 7 o’clock when the mainspring is fully wound, denoting 72 hours of energy is stored within the spring barrel.

A small seconds display resides at 9 o’clock. The silver coloured hand seamlessly advances.

The case

I have waxed lyrical about Grand Seiko cases on many occasions and I am mindful of not repeating myself. However, each surface of the case is polished to a matchless standard. The exacting standards of Grand Seiko can be readily discerned with an inquisitive finger. Each element of the case composition grants a glass-like smoothness, something I have never encountered with any other watch brand.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Calibre 9R86 SBGC001 - in-depth review by ESCAPEMENT

The gleaming brilliance of a Zaratsu polished case

Two screw-down push pieces straddle the crown on the right hand flank of the case. They are substantial in scale and proffer an aesthetic unlike any other chronograph push pieces I can recall. To be honest, it was not love at first sight but, with increased familiarity, I have succumbed to their charms.

 

Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Calibre 9R86 SBGC001 - in-depth review by ESCAPEMENT

Three quarters of the length of each push piece is adorned with a knurled motif. This textured surface is simple to grip and turning it counterclockwise allows the push piece to be pressed. The action of the push pieces is silky smooth, courtesy of the column wheel and vertical clutch within the timepiece.

The case measures 43.5mm in diameter with a thickness of 16.1mm, making it one of the largest Grand Seiko models I have ever handled. Moreover, prior to wearing the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Calibre 9R86 SBGC001, I was a tad concerned that the oversize push pieces may hinder free movement of the wrist or chafe the skin. My concerns proved unfounded, this watch delivers excellent wearer comfort and the wrist can freely move without any hindrance.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Calibre 9R86 SBGC001 - in-depth review by ESCAPEMENT

The Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Calibre 9R86 SBGC001 is equipped with an exhibition case back allowing the movement to be appraised.

 The movement

The self-winding Calibre 9R86 is unlike the majority of movements I write about. Spring Drive is unique, it is neither a conventional mechanical movement, nor a quartz movement. It was invented by Seiko and remains “the only spring-powered watch in the world with glide motion hands.”

I have previously discussed Seiko Spring Drive in detail, when reviewing the SBGA011, and those with enquiring minds will be able to read the technical background on this genre of movement should they wish to do so.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Calibre 9R86 SBGC001 - in-depth review by ESCAPEMENT

The most notable differences between Spring Drive and a conventional automatic watch equipped with a Swiss lever escapement are the advance of the seconds hand, the absence of a tick and, most remarkably, the incredible accuracy of a Spring Drive movement. Indeed, accuracy is stated as within a second a day. Such precision is beyond the reach of a conventional mechanical watch.

The finishing of the movement is stunning. The oscillating mass is open-worked, revealing striped decoration on the bridges, polished jewel sinks and brilliantly gleaming bevelled edges. 

Closing remarks

In creating this timepiece, Grand Seiko clearly illustrates it is an innovator, with its own approach to watch design. The dial is unlike any other I have seen. The push pieces are different to those items found on other brand’s chronographs and the movement is a wonderful exemplar of ingenuity which can only be found in Seiko models.

At first, I was unsure about the large chronograph push pieces. They seemed too large and I questioned whether they would impair the free movement of my wrist. However, with increased familiarity, such concerns proved to be misplaced and I now consider them to be a key attraction of this model.

The Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Calibre 9R86 SBGC001 is highly practical and easy to live with. It offers the convenience of a chronograph, 24-hour GMT and power reserve indicator, all packaged in a very wearable and comfortable form. Whilst I appreciate the large push pieces and crystal clear display, it is not necessary to be middle-aged or short sighted to derive benefit from the individual design language. Indeed, this watch makes a compelling case for itself irrespective of your age, dexterity or eyesight.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Calibre 9R86 SBGC001
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 43.5 mm; height 16.1 mm; water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; power-reserve indicator; chronograph.
  • Movement: Calibre 9R86, self-winding movement; Spring Drive; 50 jewels; power reserve 72 hours.
  • Bracelet: Stainless steel with three-fold clasp with push button release
  • Price: £7000.00 (as at 23.9.2014)

Acknowledgement

I would like to thank CW Sellors Jura, for kindly providing access to this remarkable timepiece.

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