The Grand Seiko Self Dater
Quartz never felt so good!
It is rather difficult to write about almost any timepiece after having pleased our readers for two days with a review of a piece of haute horlogerie such as the Girard-Perregaux Neo Tourbillon; this is true unless you are about to propose something similar (e.g. a tourbillon) or superior in terms of appeal or mechanical complication, so as to intrigue an enthusiast's fancy. I guess it is even more challenging if the wristwatch we are about to discuss has to combine two opposites in any connoisseur's mind: luxury watchmaking and quartz caliber.
Unless the one who combined the two is a manufacturer that has patented the quartz movement: SEIKO. The Japanese brand strongly supports this technology since it first unveiled it to the general public back in the seventies while amazing the entire world of watchmaking and has pursued its further development even after Switzerland reaffirmed its leadership. SEIKO has been the first and, most probably, the only manufacture to have ever adopted a quartz caliber on a classic luxury timepiece for men, the Grand Seiko Self Dater in 1964.
The Grand Seiko Self Dater 1964 SBGV011 is the re-edition, 50 years later, of a historical Grand Seiko model and, on the occasion of Grand Seiko's general introduction to the European market, reveals SEIKO's will to prove that a three hand quartz operated timepiece can be luxury as well. Quartz calibers are widely used in luxury watchmaking in Europe; just take a look, for instance, at the Breitling's Super Quartz operated watches or those small ones encased in a woman's luxury watch. In the first case quartz technology is the only way to a luxury timepiece as it powers a multifunctional tool watch. In the second instance, quartz is housed into a small case, made of precious materials or featuring a set of precious stones or a strong brand.
Grand Seiko aimed at purity of design and has debuted a high-end timepiece powered by a 9F quartz series caliber. It is precision timekeeping at its highest and is based on seven technical solutions, some of which I'm going to list and describe. The Grand Seiko Self Dater SBGV011 has three hands longer than what you might find on any quartz timepiece out there as it is equipped with a twin pulse motor that ensures a torque stronger than ever before; this “trick” grants its dial looks like a mechanical one.
The second hand which on a traditional quartz watch usually trembles around its sticking point, here stops exactly along each marker as Grand Seiko has equipped this watch with a tiny set of gears to fully eliminate that effect. Seiko is using mechanics in this case to improve timing precision. As hours, minutes and second hands boast movements that are different in extension and frequency, three indipendent rotation axis have been provided to diminish any interference between them.
Moreover, ambient temperature variations normally affect a quartz movement's accuracy: in order to ensure a +/-1 second per day accuracy caliber 9F82 automatically tracks temperature range 540 times per day and adjusts itself. And last, but not least, the Grand Seiko Self Dater SBGV011 ensures a super fast 1/2000th second date change.
Its design is pure and timeless, classy and sober and its finishes are those we have become accustomed to with the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 GMT: indexes and case polishing is so mirror like you can get the photographer's hands in one of these photos. This timepiece will be produced in just 900 pieces at a price tag of 3750€. So, what is missing to a Grand Seiko Self Dater SBGV011?
If you own the original 1964 model you most likely would like to add this one to your personal collection and this means you're already a Grand Seiko's admirer. If you are, however, from Europe and are new to Grand Seiko, things are different: craftsmanship and technology are not the issue but a price tag a bit lower and a better communication strategy, based for instance on a video comparison between caliber 9F82 and any other quartz movement features, will help skeptics to vastly appreciate 50 years of development by Grand Seiko's watchmakers.
(Photo credit: courtesy of SEIKO; Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C. @Horbiter®