Grand Seiko A Bumper Harvest For The 60th Anniversary Year
Five new watches in three months: despite celebrating its 60th birthday, Grand Seiko shows no signs of slowing down. The stunning 2020 vintage has succeeded in cementing the reputation of the Japanese manufacture, and in reaffirming its ambitions.
We’ll probably never know what role, if any, Covid-19 played in the sequence of events. Grand Seiko, created in 1960, had the whole of 2020 in which to celebrate its 60th anniversary. And yet the manufacture decided to launch almost all of its anniversary watches during the last quarter. It’s a sensible choice, given that they will also irrigate the year 2021 – a year still shrouded in uncertainty, in terms of both events and economics.
Collectors have probably been taken a little off guard, particularly given the breadth of Grand Seiko’s offering, ranging from everyday watches to sports chronos, dive watches and vintage timepieces.
Indeed, hitching a ride on the vintage wave would have been the obvious approach to take. But, as Jean-Claude Biver says, “If tradition is no more than repetition, even executed to the highest level, it’s still just repetition. Tradition must evolve and adapt.” And that’s why Grand Seiko is drawing inspiration from its heritage while continuing to innovate.
The most sought-after series, in runs of 100 and 1000
One of the best examples of this approach is the calibre 9SA5. Although the movement was unveiled in March 2020, the anniversary collection chosen to feature it didn’t come out until September: the SLGH002 Mechanical Hi-Beat 35000 80 Hours or, more simply, the SLGH002.
Mechanical Hi-beat 36000 80 Hours © Grand Seiko
The 9S5A movement is probably Grand Seiko’s finest mechanical calibre. With a precision of -3 to +5 seconds per day, and an 80-hour power reserve, it is 15% thinner than Grand Seiko’s previous high-frequency calibre. It has a new dual impulse escapement: in one direction, power is transmitted directly to the balance, while in the other it is transmitted via the pallet fork, as in a traditional escapement.
Its design is inspired by the 44GS from 1967, which has been comprehensively revised (with a bigger, slimmer case, larger hands and gold markers). The SLGH002 in yellow gold is highly exclusive, in a series of just 100, with a price tag of 45,000 euros. The SLGH003 is fitted with the same movement, but its case is steel, with a blue dial. It nevertheless remains a rare piece, in a limited series of 1000, costing 10,000 euros.
SLGH003 © Grand Seiko
The most accessible anniversary watch
At first glance, the SBGR321 could be mistaken for the SLGH003. Grand Seiko’s somewhat impenetrable collection names don’t help matters. But there are a number of details that will help to identify the more accessible version. On the dial, the seconds hand has a red tip (rather than being all red, as in the Hi-Beat), the GS logo is in steel rather than gold, and the case finish is subtly different. It also has a different movement, of course. Driven by the 9S65 calibre and in a limited series of 2500, it offers a 72-hour power reserve and a precision of +5 to -3 seconds per day, for virtually half the price (5300 euros).
SBGR321 © Grand Seiko
In the diving watch segment, Grand Seiko has pulled out all the stops for its 60th birthday. Twenty-one years after the launch of the Spring Drive (in 1999), Grand Seiko has introduced a new generation Spring Drive calibre that is thinner, more precise and has even greater autonomy: the Calibre 9RA5. Its 5-day power reserve is 60% longer than the 9R6 calibre that drives the majority of models in the collection. The movement’s precision has also been improved, with a loss of accuracy of ±10 seconds per month, compared with ±15 for the calibre 9R6. The movement is just 5 mm thick (down from 5.8 mm) and the date change is also now much faster.
Spring Drive Calibre 9RA5 © Grand Seiko
Despite its slimness, the calibre 9RA5 benefits from increased stiffness and strength, thanks to the repositioning of the gear train towards the centre of the movement, and a central bridge that brings everything together. A diving watch (water resistant to 600 metres) has been chosen to be the first recipient of this prestigious calibre: the SLGA001, produced in a limited series of 700 (11,500 euros).
And if this is not exclusive enough, Grand Seiko has unveiled another Spring Drive, the SBGC238, a limited series of 100 in rose gold available exclusively from the Place Vendôme boutique. Its price is 45,600 euros. This sleek chronograph inspired by samurai armour is probably the one that most distinctively references the origins of Grand Seiko.
Spring Drive SBGC238 © Grand Seiko
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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