The history of Seiko begins in 1881, when at the age of 22, a young man named Kintaro Hattori opened a small shop in central Tokyo. This shop, K. Hattori & Co., specialized in the sales and repair of watches and clocks. 11 years later, the shop moved to a new location and evolved into the Seikosha Factory for developing clocks and pocket watches. Mr. Hattori could not fathom the journey that his company would embark on in the years to come. In his light, Seiko is still striving to achieve his main goal; the perfection of the world’s finest timepiece.
Mr. Hattori passed in 1934. This was 26 years before the creation of Grand Seiko. Tsuneya Nakamura, who joined Seiko in 1944, directed the Grand Seiko project and recognized the importance of perfection. Only Seiko’s finest, most experienced and skilled watchmakers were selected to complete this task. Grand Seiko’s ultimate ambition was to be the most durable, legible, and accurate timepiece in the world.
GSoriginal by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
Grand Seiko was created in the Suwa Seikosha factory in Nagano, (central) Japan in 1960 and they are still made in the Suwa factory today. They spared no expense in the manufacturing of Grand Seiko. But Seiko’s goal was to create the perfect watch, one that surpassed the highly regarded Swiss Chronometer, no matter the cost. There was very little profit involved due to all the advances in technology Seiko applied to the development of this piece. When it was released, retail was around $350,000 yen, close to $1,000 USD at the time, which was very expensive.
The first Grand Seiko debuted with their in-house 3180 manual winding caliber. With this movement, Seiko truly had one of the finest quality timepieces in production. Seiko’s in house “GS” Chronometer standard was used in certifying these watches. Each timepiece was presented with a rating certificate that showed the results of 15 days of testing and bested any Swiss watch.
2011 embraces the 130th Anniversary of the Seiko Corporation and the founding of Seiko by Kintaro Hattori. To honor the 130 years of dedication Seiko has brought to perfecting horology, they have taken one of their most amazing achievements and re-introduced it in a very special limited edition. SBGW040…
The SBGW040 was one of 3 pieces introduced in 2011 to commemorate the original Grand Seiko produced in 1960. The 3 variations of the 130th anniversary piece were made in Stainless Steel (SBGW033), Platinum (SBGW039) and finally 18kt Yellow Gold (SGW040).
GS-SBGW040-8 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
The SBGW040 was made to be almost an exact replica of the original release. There are few aspects of the piece that deviated from the original design and only for good reason.
GS-SBGW040-16 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
The gold is polished by hand, using the Zaratsu (Blade) polishing technique. This form of polishing was originally used on Katana blades to give them a pure mirror finish.
GS-SBGW040-20 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
This mirror finish was incredibly useful to the warriors who used the katana; using the reflection of the blade to monitor any actions behind them or around corners.
GS-SBGW040-24 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
The other offensive strategy used in the katana’s Karatsu finish was light. In battle, the reflection of the sun off the blade could easily blind enemies. Seiko applied this to the timepiece in a very unique way.
Most Grand Seiko’s do not have lume applied to the hands or indices. The reason is that the hands and index markers are brought to razor sharp edges and then finished using the Zaratsu technique. As the blade of the Katana would blind enemies with light, the hands and indices of Grand Seiko will reflect light to increase the legibility and also give them a sparkle, almost that of a diamond. In dark settings, the hands and indices will find the smallest amount of light and reflect, making the piece easily legible. Therfore, there is no need for lume.
To add to the legibility of these timepieces, Seiko used their High Definition Dual-Curved Sapphire Crystal with anti-reflective coating. Seiko has a whole optical division that manufactures high quality lenses for eyewear. They take research and development from the eyewear division and combine that with their manufacturing of sapphire crystals to create the finest quality crystal for their timepieces.
Back in 1960, the 3180 movement found in the Grand Seiko was one of the finest available. For the commemorative model, it was vital that Seiko used only the finest movement available today. The 9S64 movement was specially developed for the 130th Anniversary model. Seiko wanted to keep tradition with a manually wound movement, but as they did with the original, only use the latest advances in technology.
The 9S64 is a 24 jewel movement that uses Spron 510 (an in house developed alloy proprietary to Seiko) mainspring which gives the movement a 72 hour power reserve. This is one of the longest power reserves on the market for a one-barrel movement.
The escapement is (IMHO) one of the finest aspects of the movement. Seiko uses MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical Systems) for the manufacturing of the Escapement Wheel and Pallet Fork. This engineering allows shapes and designs not possible with traditional methods. Intense hardness, ultra precise parts with enhanced durability and smoother surfaces with less abrasion are some of the characteristics associated with this manufacturing process. Not only does the MEMS technology allow for a stronger more durable product, but also provides a longer lubricant reserve, giving the piece a longer length of time before servicing.
GS-SBGW040-43 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
The newly developed Spron 610 alloy is used for the balance spring, giving the timepiece improved shock resistance and anti-magnetism. This is one of the leading alloys used for a balance wheel in the industry today.
All mechanical Grand Seiko’s are certified and tested to -3 to +5 seconds a day accuracy and are issued with certificates as the original Grand Seiko was. The new 130th Anniversary model is no exception.
GS130Esc by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
Only 130 of these magnificent commemorative pieces were produced. There were originally supposed to be around 5 or 6 that came to the US. Unfortunately, that allotment was cut short due to high demand for the piece in Japan. This is the very 1st piece to come to North America.
The Platinum (SBGW039) is scheduled to arrive in Sept. sometime and the Stainless Steel (SBGW033) is scheduled for Oct. I will post many pictures when they arrive. Most of these pieces are pre-sold but we do still have some available for reserve. They will not be around for long. Please feel free to contact us at 1-800-486-3996 for more information.
Please keep in mind, on Friday, October 14th, AZ Fine Time will once again be hosting the Grand Seiko Roadshow. We will have a master watchmaker from the Suwa factory in store building a Grand Seiko timepiece. We will have many of Seiko’s staff here to answer questions in addition to complimentary food, drink and (our other business) cigars. It would be a pleasure to get some friends from the forum in attendance. There is no charge for admission, so please feel free to come by if you can and make yourselves at home. This is a great opportunity to purchase a Grand Seiko or Ananta watch and have the box autographed by the master watchmaker. Please feel free to contact us for any additional information.
I hope you all enjoyed the read and thank you very much for your support!