Grand Seiko Hi Beat GMT Limited Edition SBGJ021 - The Hi Beat GMT comes in a new intriguing color variation»
The idea behind the brand Grand Seiko was to conceive the best luxury watch in running precision, reliability, comfort on the wrist, and refinement inside and out. The Seiko Group's goal was to build the ultimate luxury watch, outperforming the high standards of any Seiko watch, and any competitor across Japan first and foremost.
The first-ever Grand Seiko timepiece debuted an entirely new caliber, the 3180 movement, whose running precision was between +12 and -3 seconds per day, along with a 45 hours power reserve when fully wound.
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In 1964, Grand Seiko introduced the reference 57GS else know as Self-Dater; hence the first Grand Seiko watch to showcase the date display.
It also debuted wide and flat lugs to make the watch look bolder and larger than its 36,5mm.
The 44GS came in 1967; it featured a running precision unlike any other industry competitor back then. It looked as simple as it was esthetically refined to inspire current collections too.
The designers put much effort in carefully studying the case proportions, overall finishes, and details while abiding by the rules of a specific design philosophy based on three principles and the combination of nine elements in each timepiece. Here are the requirements:
the index at twelve twice as large as the standard ones
multi-faceted rectangular indexes
a meticulously polished bezel
meticulously mirror-polished profiles and two-dimensional surface
a multi-faceted hour and minute hands
slightly inclined profile
bezel and case side showcasing an inverted lower profile
The 44GS is a milestone in Grand Seiko's design philosophy and inspires the current Heritage collection.
From 1967 onwards, the Japanese watchmaker introduced a long series of timepieces geared towards improving its precision and refining design and user experience. After launching the 44GS, Grand Seiko introduced the 62GS, the first-ever automatic Grand Seiko, followed in 1968 by the 10G, and the hand-wound 45GS Hi-Beat. The latter was then followed by the Grand Seiko 19GS, specifically designed for women, sporting once again a Hi-Beat caliber, and later on, the 61GS VFA, an evolution of the 61GS Hi-Beat capable of guaranteeing a +/- 1 minute per month accuracy. The name VFA stands for Very Fine Adjusted, and the brand revealed a commemorative collection of the original VFA in 2018. In 1969, the brand introduced the 45GS VFA followed, in 1970, by the 56GS Hi-Beat, whose caliber measured a mere 4,5mm in thickness. The 61GS Special further increased the accuracy, while the 19GS VFA ensured a +/- 2 minutes per month accuracy and an uncommon-for-the-range rectangular case.
Although the quartz age was almost over, Grand Seiko kept believing in quartz technology by introducing a high-end quartz watch, the Grand Seiko 95GS. It brought quartz watchmaking to new heights, thanks to a ± 10 seconds per year accuracy.
In making its quartz watches, the watchmaker adopted the same vertically integrated approach when crafting mechanical watches; each part was and still is made in-house. Grand Seiko grows crystals in its factories, following specific and rigorous procedures, and selects only those oscillators that surpass the strictest selection criteria. Such quartz crystals must guarantee specific performances in terms of resistance to temperature, humidity, and shocks. After the 95GS, two other quartz watches appeared.
The first in this lineup is the 1989 reference 8NGS, the first Grand Seiko quartz watch offering water resistance of up to 10 bars.
The second one is the 1992 reference 3FGS, which guarantees a women's watch the same accuracy level.
In 1993, Grand Seiko introduced the 9F83 caliber, which debuted the following technologies: a self-adjusting kickback mechanism, the dual-pulse control system, the quick date change mechanism, and the Super Sealed cabin surrounding the movement.
The first 9F8 series from 1993 is followed by the 9F6 series, which introduced Zaratsu polishing on the steel case for the first time.
In 2003, the watchmaker introduced new quartz watches offering resistance to magnetism up to 40,000 A/m.
The series employed advanced design and new case-making techniques that allowed for a running accuracy of ± 10 seconds per year, unaffected by proximity to computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.
Alongside quartz technology development, Grand Seiko's engineers began developing a new generation of top-class mechanical movements, filed under the 9S namesake. The prototypes underwent testing at the COSC (Contrôle Officiel Suisse des Chronomètres). Three out of four prototypes performed successfully, and, as a consequence, fifty movements from the production line also underwent COSC tests. Grand Seiko decided to raise the bar and created its own standard of tests to surpass the COSC requirements. Grand Seiko's credo is to meet two opposite targets: timing accuracy and power reserve. The original 9s powered timepieces guaranteed at least 50 hours of power reserve. The 9S series debuted in 1998 with the 9S51 and 9S55 calibers. The caliber 9S67, introduced in 2006, raised the power reserve to 72 hours.
The title above might sound misleading since the Spring Drive technology originally appeared on a Seiko-branded watch; Grand Seiko introduced its first Spring Drive powered watch in 2004. However, let's bear in mind that Spring Drive is today widely available in Grand Seiko's offering rather than a Seiko watch. The latest generation first appeared in 2020 on a Grand Seiko to celebrate its 60th anniversary and is exclusive to Grand Seiko. The Spring Drive was conceived by Yoshikazu Akahane, a young and brilliant engineer, in the late seventies. His idea was to combine a mechanical movement's beauty with the precision guaranteed by an electronic watch while providing a continuous flow of the second's hand (the so-called "glide motion"). It took more than twenty years and over 600 prototypes to bring the first watch to the market. Released in 1999, the first Seiko Spring Drive began a success story.
The photo above shows the original 1999 Seiko Spring Drive, powered by a hand-wound caliber, the 7R68, featuring the signature power reserve indicator that immediately identifies any Spring Drive equipped wristwatch. The photo also shows on the right the first Grand Seiko Spring Drive instead; it came with automatic caliber 9R65 and a 72-hour power reserve. Yoshikazu Akahane passed away in 1998, thus a year before his idea came to life.