Twenty years ago, the luxury branch of Seiko, named Grand Seiko and now a company in its own right, unveiled a technology that would make history. With precision, reliability, and practicality in mind, the brand developed a hybrid movement, based on the beauty and perpetuity of an automatic calibre, and benefitting from the precision of a quartz regulator. Its name was Spring Drive. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of this achievement, Grand Seiko presents a new design and a new concept: meet the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Sport Collection.
As we’ve seen in a recent review of the much-coveted Snowflake – a.k.a the Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA211 – Seiko has pioneered a technology that no one else is using today: Spring Drive. The idea was simple: quartz does have advantages, as it features fewer mechanical parts and, mainly, because it is regulated by a stable quartz crystal resonator, resulting in watches that can be far more accurate than a mechanical watch. However, no passion and no beauty of the mechanics here. And quartz has to be powered by a battery, which will, at one point, die.
Seiko’s idea was to create an ‘everlasting’ watch. The base was a traditional watch, powered by a mainspring, that would deliver the one-second-a-day precision of which the company’s electronic watches were already capable. Mixing a traditional mainspring with an electronic regulator, the idea was to combine the best of both worlds. On one side, the perpetual energy delivered to the watch, powered by the wearer’s motion, and the beauty of an almost mechanical movement with wheels, gears, pinions, bridges and oscillating weight. On the other side, benefitting from the utmost precision offered by quartz technology.
The basic principle is to switch the regulating part, all the rest (80% of the components) remain identical to a mechanical watch. Energy is stored in a mainspring barrel, powered by the motion of a rotor, and delivered to the regulating organ by the means of a gear train. The regulating organ is rather complex. A Spring Drive movement utilizes an exclusive speed control mechanism, incorporating an IC, an electronic brake and a quartz crystal.
As a result, a Spring Drive movement has a power reserve of usually 72 hours and an impressive precision, with an average monthly rate of ±15 seconds (or ±1 second per day on average). The other advantage is having a seconds hand with an extremely fluid motion. Very technical, very rational, highly precise, almost entirely mechanical.
The Grand Seiko Spring Drive Sport Collection
To celebrate the Spring Drive technology, Grand Seiko unveils a brand new collection with a clear sports bent. The design, while reminiscent of other watches in production at GS, is more aggressive, more angular and more robust than before. Based on the logo of Grand Seiko, a Lion, the brand has developed a case that draws its inspiration from the lion’s strength and power, resulting in a strong and angular case, with claw-like shaped lugs.
The cases are Zaratsu polished, with brushed and polished surfaces – and expect the finishing to be superb, as always with Grand Seiko. The surfaces of the hands and hour markers have diamond-cut edges, again reminiscent of the brand’s production. These watches are large, with a 44.5mm case, but made for action, with large crown and pushers, scratch-resistant sapphire bezels and crystals, 200m water-resistance and large indexes and hands.
The dials of the watches comprised in this new Grand Seiko Spring Drive Sport Collection are rather unusual, with a bold, mottled pattern. Once again, with its brown colour and texture, the brand wants to pay tribute to the lion, with this surprising mane pattern. Certainly not the most discreet… But these watches are all limited editions, and we can expect some more classic designs to be featured later. All three watches carry the lion symbol in the form of an 18k gold insert in the oscillating weight.
The Grand Seiko Spring Drive Sport Collection comprises 3 models: a time-and-date watch (SBGA403), and two GMT Chronographs (SBGC230, SBGC231).
First, the time-and-date version is the thinnest with a 14.3mm profile. Its case and its bracelet are made of high-intensity titanium, with brushed and polished surfaces. This reference SBGA403 displays the hours, minutes, seconds and date. As all Spring Drive watches, it also indicates the remaining power of the movement. Inside its case is the calibre 9R15, with a 72h power reserve. Its accuracy has been improved compared to previous movements with this technology, as now offering ±0.5 second per day or ±10 seconds per month. The movement is self-winding thanks to a central rotor. The Grand Seiko Spring Drive Sport SBGA403 will be limited to 500 pieces and priced at EUR 11,200.
In the same vein as the model above, Grand Seiko also has a Chronograph with GMT Function in its Spring Drive Sport Collection. Sharing the same dial and the same high-intensity titanium case/bracelet as above, the SBGC231 differs in height due to the more complex movement – it is 16.8mm in height. Inside the case is the in-house Calibre 9R96, a powerful engine that combines the precision and self-winding capacity of Spring Drive with a column-wheel chronograph. In addition to the classical chronograph sub-dials (yet quite unusually positioned) is a centrally-mounted GMT hand. This movement has a 72h power reserve. Its accuracy is also announced at ±0.5 second per day or ±10 seconds per month. The Grand Seiko Spring Drive Sport Chronograph SBGC231 will be limited to 500 pieces and priced at EUR 13,700.
Last but not least, the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Sport Collection also comprises a luxurious gold version of the chronograph. The SBGC230 shares the same movement and display as the titanium version but opts for a refined (and probably rather heavy) 18K rose gold case, presented on a crocodile strap with a three-fold clasp. The dial also appears different from the two others, with a red colour instead of brown and a less textured pattern. The Grand Seiko Spring Drive Sport Chronograph SBGC230 will be limited to 100 pieces and priced at EUR 44,800.
All of these watches will be officially unveiled during Baselworld 2019 and are expected to be available in a phased release, starting in May 2019.