In a recent personal piece, our editor-in-chief Frank, gave credit (actually, let’s call it a love letter) to the superb Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8-Days. The watch he discussed was the platinum / white dial version that Grand Seiko (don’t call them Seiko anymore, as GS is now a brand on its own) introduced back in 2016. This was one of those rare occasions where we featured a watch without a classic escapement and balance, and it was fully justified for several reasons. Well, today we’re doing it again, as there’s a new kid in town: the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8-Days, now in Rose Gold with a Sparkling Black Dial (Ref. SBGD202).
To make things short, the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8-Days is the epitome of the quartz watch by the Japanese manufacture. It has it all: the technology, with the signature Spring-Drive movement (an hybrid mechanical/quartz); the looks, with a large but extremely elegant and daring style; the preciousness and high-end appeal, with a level of finishing that is to die for. It might be regulated by a quartz crystal but this watch (ref. SBGD201) simply rules. No balance wheel and Swiss-lever escapement? Whatever, the technology inside is astonishing! No Geneva stripes and a movement that doesn’t show much of its entrails? Whatever, there’s much more to contemplate! It comes from a Japanese brand that sells € 300 Euro watches? You might have to reconsider what these people can do…
Back in 2016, Grand Seiko launched this watch, the Spring Drive 8-Days ref. SBGD201, a watch born in the heart of Seiko’s sanctuary, the Micro Artist Studio in Seiko’s facility in Shiojiri, central Japan, where the Spring Drive Minute Repeater, Sonnerie and Eichi watches for Credor were also born. This kid was the flagship of Grand Seiko’s savoir-faire, sharing most of the features found in Credor watches (in terms of technology, finishing and decoration). If its looks weren’t so similar to that of other GS watches, it could have easily been stamped with Credor on the dial (editor’s note: Credor is a high-end brand of Seiko, with a collection that includes (among others) a minute repeater, a sonnerie, a tourbillon and artistic craftsmanships such as hand-enameling).
For 2017, this same stunning watch now comes in a second edition, however this time, considering the success of the first platinum version, no more limitation – which doesn’t mean it will be easy to get your hands on one. Same movement, same design, same case and overall specifications, however now, a rose gold case and a sparkling blanc dial (more on that later.) The first version was ‘cold’ and technical, this second iteration becomes much more present, but not void of elegance.
The evolution on the case for this Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8-Days Ref. SBGD202 only concerns the material used. Indeed, the dimensions as well as the finishings remain equal to the platinum version, meaning a 43mm x 13.2mm case, fully polished. This is not a small watch by any means, however it wears pretty comfortable. The lugs are rather short and the strap is attached low, meaning that it hugs the wrist. Of course, don’t think of it as a proper dress watch, but more as a statement piece with a very elegant shape.
The polishing of the case, which goes all around (lugs, bezel, casebands) is done by a Seiko-developed technique, named Zaratsu and gives the case sharply defined edges and bevels – just like the platinum version, this case is amongst the best finished cases you can find on the market. Sharp as a razor, flawless, extremely shiny… Of course, it is now made in 18k rose gold, with the characteristics of this metal: lighter than platinum but still with a significant heft to it, warm and dressy.
The Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8-Days Ref. SBGD202 combines a gold and black theme, surprisingly, with a brown crocodile leather strap but it just seems to work. However, it is the dial of this SBGD202 that really captures your attention. It is inspired by a starry sky at night. Seen at a glance and in certain light conditions, it will mainly appear as a glassy black dial. However, when the sun hits the surface and when you look at it in detail, you’ll see its beauty revealed and it starts sparkling.
Thanks to a special process that combines both plating and painting, the dial of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8-Days SBGD202 appears as if sprinkled with stardust. It is lively, extremely refined yet bold and unique. On the photo above, this “sparkling” dial has been enhanced so you can see it in all its beauty. Yet, in more standard conditions, this technique leaves just a slightly shining texture, not more (see below), and on a sunny day…sparkles! For the rest, the dial remains equally legible and shows the same hands and indexes as the platinum version, yet manufactured in rose gold to match the case. Both are finished with an immense attention to detail and precision, with razor-edge polishing and beveling. As you can see, no “Seiko” on the dial but instead the GS logo in gold and applied and “Grand Seiko” printed below.
In terms of movement, no evolutions. Inside the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8-Day Ref. SBGD202 is still the stunning calibre 9R01. While most of the Spring-Drive movements by Seiko offer 72 hours of power reserve (with one single barrel), the 9R01 stands apart with an 8-day power reserve, thanks to three barrels in series. To minimize transmission loss, the three barrels and ratchet wheels are linked without any intermediate wheel – and less friction means less wear and less loss of energy. Rubies are inserted into the barrels to reduce this friction between the barrels and the arbors. The power reserve can be read on a dedicated indicator on the movement side.
As said, this movement is a Spring-Drive, meaning that it’s a hybrid. As you can see, no balance and lever escapement here, as the movement is regulated by a quartz crystal. However, the energy isn’t provided by a common battery but by winding the three barrels, just like in a classical mechanical watch. This mechanical energy then drives the gears and rotates the hands. A fraction of the energy from the main spring is used to generate a tiny electric current, which powers a quartz oscillator. The main objective of this movement is far from emotional, however, it is driven by one goal: precision. Indeed, this Calibre 9R01 is precise to ±0.5 second per day (±10 seconds per month) – far better than any mechanical movement available… Frank explained the Spring Drive technology in detail here, in his review of the platinum SBGD201.
What sets this movement apart too, besides the 8-day power reserve, is its finishing. Not that regular Grand Seiko movements are badly finished (far from that) but this one is just on other level. The plates and bridges are crafted from German silver. The outline of the bridge and the beveling around the rubies and holes are hand polished. As you can see, the anglages are not flat but slightly rounded, something that only a handful of manufactures (even in Switzerland) can achieve. The bridges and plates are rhodium-plated, the surface is straight-grained and the screws are blued. Overall, it remains an extremely discreet movement that really needs a connoisseur’s eye to be fully understood. It is on par with the most exclusive manufactures of Switzerland.
This new Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8-Day Rose Gold Sparkling Black Dial Ref. SBGD202 is as impressive as the first platinum edition, however with a rather different visual taste. The first was a ‘technical and cold’ piece while this one has more warmth to it, and maybe requires a bit more confidence to wear. However, the new “sparkling” dial is a feast for the eyes and reveals stunning details, while the overall watch remains a masterpiece, both in terms of technique and finishing. The SBGD202 will be priced at Euros 52,800, and available worldwide. More details on www.grand-seiko.com.
Mind you, this one and the platinum version are no limited editions, however they are certainly limited in terms of production, as manufacturing these watches is very time-consuming.
Technical Specifications – Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8-Day SBGD202
- Case: 43mm diameter x 13.2mm thickness – 18k rose gold, mirror polished – sapphire crystal on both sides – 100m water resistant
- Movement: Calibre 9R01, in-house – Spring Drive technology (quartz / mechanical hybrid) – 8-day power reserve – manual winding – hours, minutes, seconds, power reserve on the back side
- Strap: crocodile with 18k rose gold folding clasp
- Price: Euros 52,800 (retail price Europe)