By Adi Soon
It used to be that when one thought ofÂ Grand Seiko, one would picture theÂ prototypical Grand Seiko asÂ aÂ watch that presented a conservative appearance. Legibility, practicality andÂ reliability were the key traits of suchÂ a watch and anyone looking for these characteristics would be well servedÂ byÂ buying one.Â This changed last year, with the appearance of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Black Ceramic Edition â€” a watch that not only featuredÂ aÂ compound ceramic and titanium case, but one that was also designed withÂ anÂ aesthetic vision thatÂ wasÂ set firmlyÂ inÂ theÂ future.
With an inner case made from Bright Titanium â€” a proprietary SeikoÂ concoction said to be 50-percentÂ harder than regular titaniumÂ â€” and scratch-resistant ceramicÂ for the bezel and lug claddings, it was a mÃ©lange ofÂ straight lines, sharp angles and futuristic complexity. It was a watch that one could more easily imagine on the wrist of a pilot in one of the giant robots inÂ theÂ Japanese manga Gundam than onÂ the wrist ofÂ anÂ average salarymanÂ going toÂ workÂ every day.
Grand Seiko rethinks its Black Ceramic Spring Drive Chronograph GMT for the future with the release of three striking new editions.
Strong and lightweight, the two versions of the 2016 watch â€” the SBGC015 with black dial, and SBGC017 with green dial featuring an embossed fir tree guillochÃ© motif â€” were a clear signal ofÂ Grand Seiko embracing the futuristic side ofÂ Japanese culture, after having definitively proven their technicalÂ chopsÂ in the traditional.
While some might have questioned such a deviation in design from theÂ traditional character of Grand Seiko, the watches have remained true to the brandâ€™s mission to be a symbol of quality and extreme dedication to craftsmanship. Indeed, a Grand Seiko could embody any kind of design principle, as long as the manufacture of the watch was done to theÂ same high standards that Grand SeikoÂ fans have always been used to.
For a watch with an exterior that embodies a new aesthetic direction forÂ Grand Seiko, it was no surprise thenÂ that it would take the well-regardedÂ and similarly futuristic SpringÂ Drive caliber 9R96 (a fine-tunedÂ version ofÂ the 9R86) as the basisÂ for the modernÂ transformation.
Utilizing the Seiko-invented Spring Drive movement thatÂ uses a quartz crystal forÂ regulation, everything is the same as a regular mechanical movement up until theÂ fourth wheel. In place of aÂ traditional escapement system, there is aÂ continuously turning glide wheel running at eight revolutions a second, with an electromagnetic braking system that regulates its speed, allowing the system to achieve an unheard-of (forÂ aÂ primarily mechanical system, atÂ least) +/- 15 seconds per month accuracy. TheÂ original version of the Spring Drive caliber for this watch, theÂ 9R86, was first seen in 2007. The most complicated Grand Seiko movement even today, itÂ offered a whole suite ofÂ complications, including column-wheel chronograph, GMT, dateÂ andÂ aÂ powerÂ reserveÂ ofÂ 72Â hours.
Grand Seiko SBGC001
THE PERFECT LINK
This year, Grand Seiko has doubled downÂ on the theme of modernizing theÂ line byÂ introducing three new variations of last yearâ€™s watches â€” SBGC219, SBGC221 and SBGC223 â€” but now coming on aÂ hybrid titanium-ceramic bracelet instead of an alligator band. This is a move that makes the already good-looking watch even more attractive, showcasing as well the abilities of the manufacture to make a good bracelet.
Indeed, any watch brand can make a watch head to place on a strap, but itÂ takes a brand with much more know-how to make an integrated bracelet. Many aspects of its fabrication and design have to be considered, because the bracelet has to not only hold the watch head inÂ place securely on the wrist, itÂ has toÂ also maintain the same aesthetic style in order that the entire package looks good as a whole. Complicating theÂ process in this particular instance is the necessity of fabricating each individual ceramic center-link, whichÂ upsÂ the difficulty quotient.
Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Black Ceramic Editions SBGC015
The verdict on whether the job has been done well can be felt when one wears the new watches. Due to the titanium-and-ceramic construction, theÂ watches feel very light on the wrist â€” a stark contrast to the original all stainless-steel version of the watch, theÂ SBGC001 from 2007. Additionally, even with the hardness of ceramic, theÂ edges of these parts are Zaratsu polished, retaining theÂ sword-like shine that has been GrandÂ Seikoâ€™s hallmark.
FIRST AMONG EQUALS
Grand Seiko announced big news atÂ Baselworld 2017 that it would become its own independent brand, separate fromÂ its parent brand Seiko. This was aÂ move prompted by the need to distinguish Grand Seiko as its own unique entity. TheÂ move is reflected in a change of the text on the dial, with the removal ofÂ the word â€œSeikoâ€ from the center andÂ replacing this with the â€œGSâ€ logo andÂ the words â€œGrand Seikoâ€ below, slightly off-center to the left in order toÂ balance with the 30-minute subdial.
In sum, what we have with the new versions of the Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Spring Drive Chronograph GMT is the ultimate expression of what Japanese watchmaking can achieve technically, as well as an expansion ofÂ what the Grand Seiko brand can stand for aesthetically. As a precursor for theÂ future, it definitively opens the door forÂ the use of more advanced materials and other new ideas by the premier Japanese watchmaker of our time.
Grand Seiko SBGC219