Born out of Seiko’s quest to create the perfect wristwatch, Grand Seiko embodies all the qualities that we associate with high-end Japanese watchmaking – accuracy, legibility, and an unmatched tradition of case design. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the first Grand Seiko (Ref. 3180) unveiled in 1960 with a hand-cranked movement, Caliber 3180. The watch sold for ¥25,000m, which back then was equivalent to two months’ salary of a college-educated professional. To mark the milestone year, as one would expect, Grand Seiko has released a clutch of new models including the Ref. SLGH003, equipped with a new haute horology high beat movement with dual escapement.
It also debuted a new quartz movement, the Caliber 9F85, with a time difference adjustment function that allows the hour hand to be adjusted without stopping the seconds hand. This ensures that the watch continues running and precision is maintained when the user changes time zones. The quartz movements used in the Grand Seiko are not the garden variety. The Caliber 9F movements are designed ground up to be a luxury movement, worthy of a Grand Seiko. While standard quartz watches are accurate to about +/-15 seconds per month, Grand Seiko quartz is good for +/-10 seconds per year.
It also uses a special low-energy integrated circuit to lengthen the battery life (about three years). These movements have a thermo-compensation mechanism that adjusts the watch’s rate in response to changes in ambient temperature. Ordinary quartz movements lose their precise ways in the face of such changes in temperature.
Each quartz oscillator for Grand Seiko is chosen and tested individually. Only after a three-month aging process does a crystal achieve the Grand Seiko standard. Though they mostly remain hidden behind a closed caseback, these quartz movements are finished just like a mechanical movement. All Grand Seiko quartz calibers are assembled by hand and feature haute horology flourishes like a decorative striped decoration (Tokyo Stripes).
The new caliber makes its debut in two 60th anniversary editions and we got our hand on the sportier of the two, the Ref. SBGP015. Part of Grand Seiko’s Sport collection, this is a limited edition of 2,000 pieces. The Sport Collection is a more recent addition to the Grand Seiko catalogue and also features the fabulous 9F quartz GMT caliber-powered watches.
In terms of its looks, the Ref. SBGP015 is the sort of sporty watch that can take you from the beach to the boardroom without much of a fuss. Most of the watch’s appeal centers around the sculpted design of the case. The 40 mm case has short sloping lugs with sharp bevelled edges. The case has a mix of satin-brushed surfaces and Zaratsu-polished surfaces. Forever associated with Seiko’s upmarket watches (this was before Grand Seiko was hived off as a separate company), Zaratsu or blade polishing involves carefully applying a rotating tin plate against the case at a precise angle to create distortion-free surfaces.
The case is fitted with a flat, glossy blue ceramic bezel that really elevates the look of the watch and gives it its distinctive appearance. Topped by a sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, the closed caseback and the Grand Seiko lion logo in relief and the 60th anniversary limited edition engraving. It has a screw-down crown, is water-resistant to 200 meters and has a magnetic resistance of 16,000 A/m. There is a real sense of quality in the construction of the case – the way it reflects light and just how comfortable it feels on the wrist. The case is 12.4 mm thick, which is probably the only jarring bit – but as I understand it, a case that’s water-resistant to 200 meters (that’s more than the Breitling Superocean Heritage '57 “Rainbow” diver) is not going to be the sort that slips under your shirt cuff easily.
The high gloss dial features Grand Seiko’s signature blue tone, the hour markers, the hour and minute hands are coated with Seiko’s proprietary LumiBrite to ensure optimum legibility even in low light conditions. A red lacquered seconds needle sweeps the dial and if you pay close attention, you’ll see what sets apart from the Grand Seiko quartz movements. The addition of a braking wheel in the gear train ensures that the seconds hand doesn’t twitch when it jumps to mark each passing second like in regular quartz watches.
Grand Seiko mechanical watches are known for its long, sword-shaped hands. However in a quartz watch, moving these heavy hands would be a drain on the battery life. So Seiko’s engineers developed a Twin Pulse Control Motor, which causes the seconds hand to make two jumps per second rather than one, as in a regular quartz movement. Smaller, more frequent jumps increases the output torque from the rotor enabling the fitting of the bold, easy-to-read hands that Grand Seiko used on the mechanical watches.
As mentioned earlier, the new movement allows for the hour hand to be adjusted without stopping the seconds hand. This ensures that the accuracy of the watch remains unaffected when user travels to a new time zone. The movement has an accuracy rating ±10 seconds per year (at temperatures between 5℃ and 35℃). The watch is paired with a three-link steel bracelet with three-fold clasp with push button release. Limited to 2,000 pieces, the watch is priced at AED 14,700. While the price may be a prickly issue for some, there is no doubting the quality of the timepiece.