The past few articles on the Japanese giant had been nothing but exclusives from the land of the rising sun. A trait shared by a similar sub-brand that has long been desired by people outside of Japan, that is until two years ago, when they have decided to go international. The grandest of them all from the Japanese market, the Grand Seiko.
The endearing move made by Seiko Watch Corporation of going international with the Grand Seiko has certainly catapulted them into the market of haute horlogerie. We here at Monochrome may have slightly missed a beat or two with such rise to greatness of this under appreciated brand. Thus, it is only fair that we give you a peek from its line-up on a piece that is certainly worth owning.
The timepiece you are looking at is one of the most sought after pieces from the Grand Seiko line. The Grand Seiko namesake alone already merits collectability on the piece, but there’s another underlying reason why this piece is so compelling, a reason that is justified by three simple words that only Seiko can use, and those words are “Spring Drive System”.
The Spring Drive is the culmination of Seiko’s years of research and development in moving forward the technology of time telling. It is in fact Seiko’s pride and joy, an amalgamation of the very best from quartz technology, and the beauty of a mechanical movement, to create a completely different piece that culminates Seiko’s passion for the art of fine watchmaking. The Spring Drive mechanism has been under the development as far back as the 1977. But it was only in 2004 that Seiko managed to deliver the first automatic spring drive movement.
The piece above is the SBGA029 Grand Seiko Spring Drive, or notably the Spring Dive Air Diver. The term “Air Diver” simply refers to its compatibility with saturation diving, a diving technique that employs the use of tanks or underwater habitat for greater depth and duration underwater.
It has a subtler look over its bigger Prospex brethren, even without the shroud, but the Grand Seiko is not always about professional scale activities, but rather delivering to its fans a simple “manufactured” timepiece that reeks of quality.
Movement wise, the Spring Drive Air Diver is powered by the Spring Drive Caliber 9R65 with date and power reserve indicator. Spring Drive fans might have just cringe that this piece isn’t powered by the superb 9S85 Hi-Beat movement, but rest assure it is worthy of the Grand Seiko namesake, perhaps even at par with the Hi-Beat movement in terms of accuracy, precision and power reserve.
All Spring Drive movements boast a 30% more efficient winding action in comparison with purely mechanical watches. This is all thanks to the implementation of the Magic Lever from Seiko. In Spring Drive movements, the Magic Lever is fitted directly to the shaft of the oscillating weight resulting to a higher efficiency, shorter winding period and a larger power reserve of up to 72 hours.
Then there’s the “Tri-Synchro Regulator” that replaces the standard escapement and that made the Spring Drive an icon that it is today. It is essentially the conversion of mechanical energy (not all of it) into electrical energy to power the quartz crystal, which is then used to create magnetic energy to control the speed of the glide wheel. In short, three forms of energy in one movement – mechanical energy to electrical to magnetic energy, hence the “Tri” prefix in its name. The result is a fluent glide motion of the seconds hand that only the Spring Drive System can deliver. Talk about watching in awe both from the fluid motion of the seconds hand, and the intricacies of the movement inside.
The SBGA029 or the Grand Seiko Air Diver is simply one of the many beauties from the Grand Seiko line. It’s relatively a good starting piece for aspiring Seiko collectors. Furthermore, with the launch of Grand Seiko’s International campaign 2 years ago, it would definitely be much easier to grab a hold of than its Prospex counterpart.
Evidently, it gained a much wider appreciation globally with its rich history and adherence to the classics. The Grand Seiko is without question, Japan’s very own luxury watch manufacturer. But with spot-on innovations and advancements year-in and year-out, they simply have become more than just another watch manufacturer, but rather a global innovator, and a very “Grand” one at that.
A huge thanks to Thirtyfivemill.com for the photos!
For a very thorough explanation of the Seiko Spring Drive System, you can read Ron DeCorte’s article on Timezone (a recommended read!!).
This article is written by Evan Yeung, contributing writer for Monochrome Watches.