Seiko produces some fantastic watches but in the past, the brand released most of its highly desirable pieces only in its home market of Japan. Things are changing however, and this year the brand had several interesting quartz and mechanical watches at BaselWorld. We were drawn to two mechanical watches in particular, the Presage Automatic Watch 60th Anniversary (below), and the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve.
The two watches could not be more different but each tugged at our horological heart strings for different reasons. Seiko’s new Presage Automatic Watch 60th Anniversary (Seiko really needs catchier names) immediately grabbed our attention because it features a chronograph complication and, as you may have noticed, it has Breguet numerals on its dial.
There are, in fact, two different references of this watch (we’ll get into them shortly), and both exist to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Seiko’s first automatic watch, which was released back in 1956. 13-years later – in 1969 – the brand would create its first automatic chronograph, which is the same year that another brand’s chronograph made history, when it accompanied astronauts to the lunar surface.
Both references of this new chronograph use the caliber 8R48, a robust movement which features a vertical clutch, and a column wheel design. A 42mm stainless steel case is standard, as is sapphire crystal to protect the dial, and to allow owners to view the movement on the caseback.
Seiko has also fitted both watches with pump pushers, so the only major difference, as you may have already gathered, is dial related. One reference is presented with a white enamel dial, whereas the other has a dial crafted from black lacquer. The layout of the dials are identical, and both references are limited to 1,000 pieces each.
Of the two, we’re more partial to the enamel dial but whichever reference tickles your fancy, you won’t have to break the bank. Seiko has said that the retail price for the enamel piece is about US $2,900, while the lacquer reference is priced at $3,300. This is incredible value when you consider what you’re getting for your money. With that, we move to the…
Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve (ref. SBGD001)
Priced at US $55,000 this is a serious watch for serious collectors. If you just said to yourself ‘$55,000 for a Seiko?!’, we can’t really fault you. You see Grand Seiko watches are seldom seen on wrists in the Middle East, and very little is known about this gem from Japan. We don’t want to derail this story and turn it into a ‘Did you know’ for Grand Seiko, but we want to tell you this – Grand Seiko watches can go head-to-head with the best that Switzerland and Germany have to offer. You see whereas Seiko watches give you decent quality at an almost unbelievable price point, Grand Seiko is all about quality, and it is fiercely dedicated to precision.
Here’s a little taster with regards to the brand’s commitment to precision. This particular limited edition watch (only eight are being produced) is powered by the in-house 9R01 Spring Drive movement, and it is regulated to an accuracy of +0.5-seconds per day. That’s seriously impressive when you consider that most typical mechanical movements can gain +5-seconds (or more) per day, or (if you’re unlucky) your calibre may even be losing seconds each day.
Before we gush on the movement any further though, lets discuss the watch. Grand Seiko watches are pretty special because, as we mentioned, the brand is committed to quality and craftsmanship but this watch is all the more special because it has been breathed on by Seiko’s Micro Artist Studio. In fact, this is the first Grand Seiko timepiece that the Micro Artist Studio has worked on.
The studio is responsible for hand-crafting some of Seiko’s most exquisite products, such as the Eichi II and Credor Minute Repeater, belonging to the rare and high-end (a step above Grand Seiko) Credor watch family. Here’s something to think about, at a collector’s dinner we heard that the people at the Micro Artist Studio visit with legendary Swiss watchmaker Mr. Philippe Dufour, and one Credor collector that visited the studio even said that he saw a picture of Mr. Dufour hanging on a wall within the studio. Incidentally, it’s also purported that Mr. Dufour worked with the team to develop the Credor Spring Drive Sonnerie (picture below).
Getting back to the Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve, it features a 43mm platinum case that is polished with Seiko’s own Zaratsu technique, which the brand says had to be adapted to work with platinum. There’s a boxed sapphire crystal protecting the dial (and movement), and the dial is nothing short of incredible – it is covered in diamond-dust, which is meant to evoke thoughts of fresh snow seen in the Nagano region of Japan (where the watch is produced). The watch’s hands also have five sides and, as you can see from the pictures above, there are applied hour markers.
The hand-wound 9R01 Spring Drive movement is one of the brand’s newest in-house calibres, and offers a power reserve of eight days (192-hours). The calibre relies on three linear barrels for this impressive power reserve – Grand Seiko explains that although all three barrels unwind in sync, they do so at a rate that is three times slower than in a watch with a single barrel, and this is what extends the power reserve.
Beyond its impressive accuracy and power reserve, this is a highly-finished calibre (would you expect any less from a team that works with Mr. Dufour?). A single large bridge dominates the landscape – the brand says it opted for this approach so that each wheel in the gear train is positioned flawlessly, and allows each gear to transmit power in the most efficient manner.
The brand also says that a single plate is more rigid and resistant to shocks and in terms of finishing, the bridge is beveled at the top edge, so that it resembles the outline of Mt. Fuji. The bridge is further decorated with several immaculately finished rubies and blued screws, and these elements are said to depict the lights of Suwa, the city just below the Micro Artist Studio.
The Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve will be sold exclusively via Seiko boutiques at the aforementioned retail price of US $55,000.
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To learn more about Grand Seiko, click here.