The pursuit of innovation in the world of Seiko is more or less synonymous to precision time telling. Long-term accuracy then becomes the focal point of design and research in such a school of thought. But if one can blend complex mechanisms in the interest of time telling accuracy, then such efforts could perhaps lead to the very best the industry has to offer.
Seiko sought to bring something special yet again to Basel this year, and they again delivered something that is unique and different from what the Swiss-made pieces had to offer: a newly developed complex movement that taps into Seiko’s quest for Hi-beat precision, housed in a case similar to one they introduced during last year’s Basel – one considered to be a classic in the making. And to make matters even better, the company decided to slap a GMT complication on it for some added flare. We give you this year’s best from the land of the rising sun, the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 GMT.
Last year’s Basel led to the introduction of the Grand Seiko 44GS, a piece that in itself was a symbol of high precision and luxury that placed high emphasis on the company’s design philosophy called “the grammar of Seiko design.” The 44GS was hand-wound horological perfection adored by purists around the world. This is then followed through by the company’s affinity towards Hi-beat movements for their inherent precision, the history of which we have described in great detail in the articles Seiko’s Affinity to Hi-Beat Movements Part One and Part Two.
Discussion from the Monochrome bench:
It was also last year that the folks at Monochrome headquarters had a lengthy discussion on what single timepiece one could live with for the rest of his life. Long story short, one timepiece came out the victor. I will not mention which model or brand we settled on, but I will tell you that it houses a GMT-function. Needless to say, we were unanimous that the GMT-function is the most useful complication ever made for a mechanical watch. This is also why we at Monochrome think that we’ve got ourselves another winner with this new Grand Seiko timepiece.
The new Grand Seiko Hi-beat GMT will come in three different variants, two standard models and one limited edition model of only 600 pieces. First one on the list is the classic white dial design (SBGJ001) decorated with a beautiful radial pattern and a blue GMT-hand similar to its Spring Drive GMT brethren. The second model elicits a sportier look with a black dial (SBGJ003) and similar radial pattern. The black dial version will be equipped with a red GMT-hand and a red GMT text above the 6 o’clock marker to create the illusion of a racing red accent.
Last but not least, the SBGJ005 is a green-dialed, limited-edition release to commemorate the introduction of the new caliber. It is also said to be a tribute to the Iwate Prefecture of summer green as seen through the windows of the Shizukuishi Watch Studio where the designers of the piece took their inspiration.
The highlight of the new piece is of course the newly developed 9S86 caliber, a movement that is, still arguably, one of the most complex mechanical movements the company has ever developed. And here’s why…
A high frequency movement of 36,000 vph (10 bps) is said to be less vulnerable for external disturbances, also when the piece is worn daily. These external disturbances has their effect, however because of the high frequency it is equaled out high frequency movement therefore have a higher accuracy. Although such a movement already exists, in the company’s rich arsenal of calibers, created during their quest for higher accuracy 50 years ago, it was only in 2009 where the 9S85 caliber was introduced as a re-launching of the Grand Seiko Hi-beat line with a higher reliability vis-a-vis their vintage counterparts.
The continuous research and development had lead to several break-throughs in the Seiko hi-beat calibers. Higher frequency movement requires strong torque in the main spring and a durable structured movement to sustain it. This would require a more robust mainspring, which Seiko has developed in collaboration with Tohoku Universtity to deliver 50% more torque in contrast with a standard 8-beat (4Hz) movement to achieve a higher power reserve. The balance spring is also improved with a new material, developed in-house, to increase its resistance against shock and also against magnetism. At the same time, durability is also taken greatly into consideration to counteract the stronger stress impose by high frequency movements. The escape wheel and pallet where designed to improve surface smoothness, reduce weight and improve lubrication.
The open-worked wheel is a design choice that is said to improve elasticity and vibration absorption and should also help to improve accuracy and reduced deformation and rotor impact on the bearings – i.e., increased reliability. Thus, they have increased the usefulness and wearability of such a high-end piece of machinery. The only downer is that the unique anodized titanium will only be available in the limited-edition model. However, what you get with the standard models is a better view of the movement, with meticulously hand-finished patterns that the Grand Seiko is also known for. The GMT-function in this regard is merely the cherry on top. Coupled together with a Hi-Beat movement, you’ve got yourself one very fine timepiece that is designed to be as robust as any “daily beater” on the market, and with a very useful GMT complication.
Expect the pieces to sell extremely well, especially now that the Grand Seiko has already established itself as a global brand. Prices are said to be in the € 6,600 EURO range for the standard models and € 7,000 EURO for the limited-edition green dial.
- Case: stainless steel, 40 mm in diameter, 14 mm in height, magnetic resistance of 4,800 A/m, waterproof to 10 Atm (100m), dual curve sapphire glass with anti-reflective coating
- Movement: automatic winding movement, calibre 9S86, 55 hours of power reserve, 37 jewels, 36,000 vph (5Hz), displays: hours, minutes, seconds, 24-hour GMT hand, date
More details over at www.grand-seiko.com