Grand Seiko “Snowflake” SBGA011

October last year was indeed a very exciting time here at Arizona Fine Time. We learned a few very important pieces of information from Seiko. First, Grand Seiko was finally and officially coming to the US. Second, Arizona Fine Time had been named the 1st official US dealer. And finally, that we would be hosting a Grand Seiko Launch Party and Road show.

By the beginning of November, the Grand Seiko watches had started to trickle in and the day was fast approaching for our Launch Party and Road Show. This was to be a grand event where you could actually see a master watchmaker assemble an entire Grand Seiko time piece.

The day came for the event faster than any of us had expected and we were truly excited to be part of this special launch. We were introduced to a number of people in Seiko’s staff, mostly from the US, but also two gentleman that flew in from Japan specifically to be at our launch party.

The two distinguished gentlemen from Japan were Junya Kamijo who is considered to be the top master watchmaker on staff and Kosuke “Reggie” Kiryu who is the Marketing and operations manager for Shinshu Watch Studio. Shinshu Watch Studio is where Grand Seiko is made and is located in Suwa, Nagano Japan.

Master Grand Seiko Spring Drive Watchmaker Junya Kamijo

The 1st thing I noticed (of course) was the timepieces on their wrists, and Junya Kamijo was wearing one I had admired for a long time, but I had never actually seen in person. This watch was the SBGA011, AKA the Grand Seiko “Snowflake”. From that moment on, I was truly hooked on this piece.

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

Several of us sat down and took turns staring at this truly unique dial, each one of us in awe. That’s when Reggie chimed in to help explain the design of this piece.

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

“This models nickname in the factory is the Snowflake. It is an homage to our hometown, Suwa”. Reggie went on to explain in detail how Suwa’s winter influenced this piece and its entire design.

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

Suwa is almost dead center in the middle of Japan, and because of this, the humidity level is lower than in other parts of the country. Because of this lower humidity, the snow fall during the winter is very light and airy. This allows the wind to sculpt the snow lying on the ground to make beautiful patterns. They set out to create a dial which resembled this light snow fall and patterns. In this, the SBGA011 Grand Seiko “Snowflake” was born. It is a unique 6 step process to replicate the snowfall in the dial. While the most complex dial in the Grand Seiko line takes 12 steps to complete, this “Snowflake” still one of the most intricate dials in the series.

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

The case and bracelet of this model are made from Seiko’s in house developed and patented “High-Intensity” Titanium. This titanium is slightly stronger than stainless steel, and also about 40% of the weight, making it “as light as a snowflake”.

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

The blue second hand (and text of SPRING DRIVE) was to complete the winter character of this timepiece. They wanted to give the watch “the cold feel”. To me, this adds just enough detail to make the piece really stand out.

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

To complete this Grand Seiko piece, they chose their Spring Drive for the movement. It had nothing to do with snow, but was for good reason. They only wanted their finest movement in the piece that represented their hometown. Spring Drive has the beauty and the accuracy to be more than qualified as the right movement for the job. I personally can’t say I would do it any different.

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

The night continued on to be a huge success and I will always have very fond memories of our 1st Grand Seiko Road show. And, until I have one myself, I will be very jealous of anyone who owns a SBGA011 “Snowflake” (including Junya Kamijo).

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

Which brings me to my “unofficial” announcement…

On Friday, October 14th 2011, Arizona Fine Time will once again be hosting a Grand Seiko Road Show.

This is a tremendous opportunity to appreciate and understand what makes Grand Seiko so special. We will again have a master watchmaker assemble a complete Grand Seiko timepiece live in the store and you will be able to share in the stories that only people from the factory can share. Please join us on this date for this incredible event.

This is also a great opportunity to purchase a Grand Seiko with an autographed box and picture from the watchmaker (and whoever else from Seiko you would like that is in attendance). We should have also received most of the new products from Basel. If you are not able to attend, you will be able to call to order and get the autographs, but I would highly recommend coming if it is possible.

As always, thank you for your time. Please let me know there is ever any help I can be.


Joe @ AZFineTime

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011

Grand Seiko Snowflake SBGA011


Grand Seiko 130th Anniversary SBGW040

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.

KHattori130 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

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

GS-SBGW040-1 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-2 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-3 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-4 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

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-SBGW040-5 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-6 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-7 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

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-SBGW040-9 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-10 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-11 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-12 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

The 2011 model (SBGW040) features a solid 18kt yellow gold 35.8mm case. The original was only gold plated, but the same case width.

GS-SBGW040-13 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-14 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-15 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

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-SBGW040-17 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-18 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-19 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

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-SBGW040-21 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-22 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-23 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

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.

GS-SBGW040-25 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-26 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-27 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

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.

GS-SBGW040-28 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-29 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-30 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-31 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

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.

GS-SBGW040-32 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-33 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-34 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

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.

GS-SBGW040-35 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-36 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-37 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

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.

GS-SBGW040-38 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-39 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-40 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

GS-SBGW040-41 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

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-SBGW040-42 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr

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!