Grand Seiko Give quartz a chance
Indeed, quartz technology deserves a closer look. Grand Seiko keeps it alive and relevant with an almost unmatched quality mindset.
It's a bias many watchmaking journalists have, and it is even stronger than with many a mechanical watchmaking enthusiast. It is a prejudice against quartz movements. We spend so much time and energy praising gears, pinions and their prestige that we end up (as I confess I did) looking down on battery-powered timekeeping systems. Fortunately for me, Grand Seiko has come along, a welcome antidote to the disdain that loomed somewhere in the cogs and wheels of my brain.
The brand that basically sums up Japanese high-end watchmaking is in the midst of celebrating the 50th anniversary of Astron. As the first Seiko quartz timepiece, it ignited a worldwide technological and business revolution. Thenceforth, quartz never stopped growing, so much so that it has become completely cheap, that it powers almost all of the billion watches manufactured every year, and has become generic, plain and soulless. Which is everything haters hate about it.
Yet there is a high-end niche of timepieces powered by a quartz crystal regulator, of which Grand Seiko is a proud and vibrant powerhouse. It is embodied by their caliber 9F, which bears every mark of quality the brand is known for, features a hacking second and only needs to be set every six months, when daylight saving time comes and goes.
Calibre 9F82 © Grand Seiko
In order to remind us how relevant, advantageous and vital to their corporate culture that technology is, Grand Seiko have organized a small gathering in the form of a workshop. It stressed how caliber 9F is one of the very few high performance movements of its kind. Seiko manufacture their own quartz crystal in-house. They grow and rest for longer that any other, which provides them with unique stability. Caliber 9F's regulator is fitted with a thermal compensation device, which modulates timekeeping depending on how temperature squeezes or dilates the crystal itself. Its electromagnetic core is fitted with high-quality magnets and a high-torque step motor. It allows the date to jump in a 2000th of a second and for the seconds hand to make clean jumps. A special hairspring compensates jitter and positions said hand exactly in front of each index.
Its battery is isolated from the movement by a wall-like structure, so that if it leaks, the movements remains untouched. The icing on the cake is that caliber 9F is finished with the same level of care as a mechanical movement, with gold-plating and a pattern that would have been called Geneva Stripes had it been executed in Europe. Oh, and did I mention its accuracy is plus or minus ten seconds a year?
Reference SBGV205 © Grand Seiko
The 9F-powered ref. SBGV205 features the same level of finishing as any other Grand Seiko. Perfect polishings let you read and see yourself in them like in a mirror. The applied indices are rhodium-plated, rectangular with a slight slant. Dauphine-shaped hands are ideally beveled. The sun-ray pattern on the dial is subtly done and catches the light. And despite a gray on gray colorway, it remains highly contrasted and readable, even in dim light conditions, which is quite unusual for a non-luminescent timepiece.
So I have to admit this quartz timepiece looks every bit as good as a mechanical watch, plus it is half as expensive, always wound and on time. So I've dialed down the attitude and am now looking at quartz with leniency...as long as it is manufactured with care and an obvious quality mindset.
From the very beginning, Grand Seiko has been pursuing the essential characteristics of a watch: precision, beauty, legibility. Its design reflects the unique Japanese sense of beauty. The brand will continue to reach new heights as a global brand.Find out more >
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