The Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional Diver's 600m
It now seems that diver’s watches can no longer be considered niche watches or, in their limited-series-versions, even flagship models. Never like this year before, have I seen so many professional diver’s watches being presented at Baselworld 2017. Rolex introduced its new Sea Dweller, Citizen its new Diver 1000, but there is a brand that has really surprised everyone. The brand is Grand Seiko that introduced the first automatic diver’s watch in its history; the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional Diver's 600m. It is not the manufacturer’s first diver’s watch ever because it already features a diver’s watch in its catalogue that is equipped with a Spring Drive caliber, but it is the first time that Seiko’s premium brand has used the legendary Hi Beat caliber in a watch of this kind.
Before we talk about content, the piece of news that deserves more attention is that, from now on, the name Seiko will disappear from the dial of a Grand Seiko; a major step towards the full autonomy of the brand and a confirmation of what we have suggested for years; you might have an excellent product, but segmentation and communication logic cannot be alike when you have gathered products with variable positioning ranging from 200 euro to 30,000 euro under one roof.
Without considering any aspects of industrial or organizational nature, this momentous choice will result soon in a marketing policy and in a product that will tend to set the two brands apart, keeping as a common factor everything that makes a Japanese mechanical luxury watch recognizable and focusing, rather, on the pros that a Grand Seiko is supposed to have: very high quality standards and a limited production (two pillars of haute-horlogerie).
While waiting to see how the Grand Seiko range will develop in the future, I think in particular to mechanical complications, innovations and a greater depth of the collection itself, the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional Diver's 600m is the first tangible result of this strategy and newborn independence. Until last year, the Hi-Beat caliber was relegated to the cases of those beautiful Prospex timepieces with a single block case and a 1,000m rating, but now they have acquired the right to enter the very first completely mechanical diver's watch by Grand Seiko.
Making professional diver’s watches for the Seiko Group is some sort of a religion; they are the undisputed owners of the best products on the market (from a technical point of view) and the only ones that craft a professional diver’s watch, where the presence of the helium escape valve represents some sort of an offense. Summarizing all these concepts inside the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional Diver's 600m means to give a new meaning to the classic concept of diving "feature”. The new Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional Diver's 600m is available in two versions; the reference SBGH257 limited to 500 pieces and the standard production reference SBGH255, which is not limited.
The case is massive, considering that we are talking about a Grand Seiko here, because it stops below the 47mm-threshold while the thickness reaches the 17mm. The dimensions are dictated not only by the style but by the design a professional watch must adhere to ensure complete waterproofing to helium and also meet the criteria of the ISO6425 standard, whose drafting Seiko contributed to. Although its general architecture is within the traditional rules provided for a diver’s watch, there are many things that distinguish this timepiece from other diver’s watches.
The case is built in High Intensity Titanium, a titanium alloy patented by Seiko which guarantees (according to the brand) superior sturdiness and resistance if compared to conventional titanium alloys. The mingling between the Hi-Beat, a diver’s watch and titanium metal is not unique in the world of Seiko's diver’s timepieces, but the criteria of fit and comfort required for a Grand Seiko are definitely more sophisticated than those required for a Prospex 1000m Marine Master. The Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional Diver's 600m features a dial with a pattern vaguely reminiscent of a Mega Tapisserie and is made of iron, in order to protect the movement from the influence of magnetic fields up to 16000A/m.
The limited edition version has a matte blue dial and a replacement silicone strap (much softer than rubber) while the reference SBGH255 features the classic pair of black dial and indexes with gold-coloured accents; a hallmark of Japanese tradition. The general appearance is that of a high-range diver’s watch, in which distinctive features such as the crown and the date at 4 o’clock match a particularly elaborate dial and a uni-directional bezel that is easier to operate if compared to other diver’s watches of the group that I know well, such as the Sumo or the Prospex Tuna.
The feeling in the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional Diver's 600m is that of a softer and easier to operate click with no backlash. The teeth on the bezel have a space between them that is wider and are perfectly vertical, abutting on the case; a feature that differentiates a Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional Diver's 600m from the timepieces crafted by the Swiss competitors.
The tribute to tradition and watch-making from the 60s is also in the presence of the through holes located on the lugs, which are squared with a complex geometry with a sharp edge and an alternation between satin and glossy surfaces without any visual separation in the proximity of the edge; the result of the experience and skills of the Zaratsu polishing masters.
The Hi-Beat caliber is not only the high frequency movement of Seiko but rather a piece of its history and is a summary of the creed of Grand Seiko and its philosophy; while European watch-making pushed for the use of materials like silicon-made balance springs, the engineers of Grand Seiko took the properties of metals to another level by developing a series of patents, such as the Spron610-made balance spring mounted within the 9S85 caliber.
This aims at counteracting the effects of two big enemies of precision and reliability; magnetism and accidental shocks. Another alloy, called Spron530, was created to build the main spring of the barrel and to ensure the proper torque transmitted to the regulating main body. If you have reached this line without getting bored, you are definitely a Grand Seiko enthusiast, but please keep in mind that there would be much more to write about this caliber.
The Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional 600m Diver's is the greatest gift the manufacturer could ever give to those who love this category of watches; a silent army of fans that makes its way with the noise of competence and that in Italy it is growing at a steady pace. This watch has all the features that a Grand Seiko should have; it is crafted in a special laboratory of the group by the best watch-makers, it is exclusive, it is manically finished and it is pleasant to use, it is also an elegant tool-watch. One could argue that, maybe, it is a bit too thick, despite being extremely light, but its construction is the result of pure performance, where the brand has given that touch of classicism and "refinement" that a Grand Seiko always requires. Their retail price in Europe? 12100 euro for the SBGH255 reference and 12300 euro for the SBGH257 one.
(photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)