Friday, March 27, 2015

The Grand Seiko SBGE001 Spring Drive GMT – A Beautiful Watch in All Aspects, A Review


Another week of so will be 1 April 2015. It is also April Fools Day as well as the birth date of my first child. For avid watch collectors in Malaysia, it is also a day when the country formally introduces the Goods and Services Tax of GST. When I was looking it up, I was surprised to note that Malaysia is one of six countries in the world that have yet to introduce GST. As it is, by 1 April 2015, all watch purchases will come with an additional GST charge of 6%.

So, in view of this additional cost in funding my WIS addiction, I did what every WIS would do. Get another piece before the tax free window closes! The piece that would forever remind me of this momentous occasion is a watch brand that I have yet to get into the collection – The Grand Seiko SBGE001 Spring Drive GMT.
 
This time around I got this piece by negotiating with an authorized dealer, AWG in Kuala Lumpur. I was able to get a price that is even better than the internet merchants such as Higuchi and Seiya (more about this later). As the watch is not in stock, the shop needs to make an order and by agreeing to a price at this point, I guess they are willing to give a lot away from the difference between merchant price and retail price. After three weeks of waiting, the watch was delivered.

Since this is the first time I have a Grand Seiko (let’s call it GS for short) in the collection, I would like to spend some time on the packaging.





The watch box is relatively sizable at 185 mm long by 165 mm wide and 113 mm tall. It is protected by a white cardboard sleeve that does not have any brand marking. Instead, a warning label is printed on one side of the sleeve in many languages. Addressed specifically to the dealers, the warning request the sleeve be removed before handing the box to the purchaser.

From Seiko’s point of view, this sleeve is just a protection for the watch box from the manufacturer to the dealers and should not be shown to the buyers. It does not part of the GS experience. From a buyer’s perspective, this simple act does seem over-the-top. I actually would like to keep the sleeve as it provides additional protection for storage purposes.

Once the white sleeve is removed, you will get to see a dark blue watch box that opens from the top. The GS logo and brand is printed in silver on the top of the box, right in the center. The box is made out of high quality material. The look and feel of the box is first class.



If you turn over the box, you will find something interesting and not seen in most watch boxes – a description of the materials used for the watch box and its origins. 

When everything else is “…Made in China…” this item is made in Japan! It is truly a JDM (Japanese Domestic Model).

I don’t think you will ever find anything like this with Swiss watches. I bet Omega and Rolex use watch boxes made from other countries (i.e. not Swiss).

I bet this is why Seiko insist on eliminating the white sleeve from the package that buyers get to bring home. They want them to see this and come to the same conclusion. 

This is a very strong statement of the quality that Seiko puts on its high-end products.

Taking the top of the watch box you will find the rice paper covered display box plus a space where the manual as well as the guarantee card are kept.

Apart from these two items, nothing else is provided. 

I wish there was something more with the package. I half expected a high quality wiping cloth or a leather strap or a strap changing tool.  

The manual is thick with explanations in a number of languages. The guarantee document is completely old school. Where modern brands have credit card-like guarantee document, Seiko decided to go with the old method of a booklet where the information are written by hand. An interesting point to note is the use of gold lettering on these two books.




The display box is also blue. Unlike the main watch box, this display box is made out of wood. The logo and brand is printed in gold and located at the bottom half of the top surface. The display box opens upwards and pivots at the back.
 
The Reveal

The SBGE001 sits on a nice blue velvet rectangular pillow in the center of the box. The inside top of the box has the famous Grand Seiko lion logo in gold. The inner surface of the display box is all velvet.

The SBGE001 is a GMT watch and part of the Grand Seiko range. One of the bigger watches in the range, it has a 43.5 mm diameter face and a 14.7 mm thick case. The stainless steel construction (including the bracelet) tips the scale at 177 grams. Powered by the Spring Drive movement, this is one of the most accurate hybrid mechanical timepieces one can find apart from pure quartz watches.

The Spring Drive is a watch movement that was developed by Seiko Epson through collaboration with Seiko Instruments and Seiko Holdings. To date, it is the only commercially available wristwatch embedded technology capable of truly creating a continuous movement of the second hand, instead of the traditional beats per time unit as seen in quartz or mechanical watches.


It uses a mainspring, barrel, automatic winder and stem winding like in a mechanical watch to store energy. The conventional escapement is replaced with a device that Seiko calls a Tri-synchro Regulator to regulate the unwinding of the mainspring. The regulator controls the use of the three forms of energy used in the Spring Drive mechanism; the mechanical power of the mainspring, the electrical energy generated from this mechanical power, and the electromagnetic energy that governs the rotation of the glide wheel. The energy produced by the glide wheel is used to power a control circuit and quartz crystal oscillator, which in turn regulates the electro-mechanical braking of the glide wheel.

The glide wheel's speed is sampled 8 times per second (i.e. each time it makes a complete revolution around the regulator) and compared with the reference quartz signal by the circuit. A variable braking force is continuously applied to regulate the glide wheel's frequency. This is the only movement with a time-only feedback (or phase-locked) loop in existence today.

The Tri-synchro Regulator's innovations result in a watch where the hands glide instead of ticking as in a conventional mechanical or quartz watch. This is because the movement never stops as in a traditional escapement, it is slowed to the proper speed by the brake. The movement is specified to 1 second accuracy per day. However, 1-2s per month is the norm.



The quality of manufacturing and finishing is unsurpassed and sublimed. Using the best modern Japanese manufacturing technology can muster; Seiko also infused the traditional arts to make the end result something spectacular. The ancient art of Karatsu “blade” polishing derived from the manufacturing the katana blade (or Samurai sword) has been utilized on the SBGE001.

The perfect combination of the steel they use, the way it is forged, and the polishing technique applied, gives the piece a gorgeous sparkle that competes with the finest haute horlogerie anywhere in the world.

The lug-to-lug length is approximately 51 mm while the lug width which is 21 mm. Not a standard width but a 20 mm strap would be fine. I was also made to understand a 22 mm is also possible. Despite the lack of a facility on the clasp for micro-adjustments to the bracelet length typical in other Seiko designed clasps, Seiko does provide half-links on the bracelet to effect the adjustments.



The dial is all black with hour markers and a power reserve indicator at the 8 o’clock position. Where the fourth hour marker supposed to be has been replaced with a date window with a white background. Only four markers at the top-bottom and left-right planes are partially painted with luminous paint. There are two other scales provided; the minute scale at the edge of the dial and a 24-hour scale in Arabic numbering on the sloping chapter ring. 

The hour, minute and second hands plus the hour markers are brushed with a high polish beveling. The GMT hand is painted red and luminous paint is put on the arrow head part of the GMT hand. Only the hour and minute hands were given luminous paint. The second hand is polished to a mirror finish.  

There are five lines of text on the dial all of which uses different fonts and sizes. Only the word ‘GMT’ is printed in red whereas the rest are printed with white paint. 

The whole dial is protected by a domed, dual anti-reflective coated, high-definition sapphire crystal.
What makes this watch looks different than other is its sapphire bezel. Seiko created a domed sapphire crystal for the bezel that gives it a seamless transition from bezel to dial window. Under that crystal are indexes and numerals painted with luminous paint. Unlike other watches, the index and markers on the bezel can be seen in the dark. The bezel is bi-directional and allows you to view up to three time zones at once. The use of sapphire crystal instead of the more commonly used ceramics for the bezel show the length that Seiko would go through to make the watch special. Although using ceramic bezel will give the same scratch resistance properties as sapphire crystal, taking a harder and expensive route is a testament of Seiko’s watch making pedigree. Only a true watch enthusiast will understand and appreciate this effort.



The photos above show you how mirror-like the polishing was done on the watch. It was extremely difficult trying to get a photo without getting any reflection despite not using flash photography. The sharp reflections you see were from the room lights.

The screw-down crown located at the 4 o’clock position has the Grand Seiko logo stamped on the top surface. In the same photo you can see the straight-through pin holes on the lugs for ease of changing straps. Meanwhile, the domed sapphire crystal protecting the dial is also obvious in the fourth photo above. Also note the clarity of the dial display despite the acute angle of reference; the anti-reflective coating doing its job well.

The watch comes with a solid screw-down case-back. In the picture below, the Grand Seiko Lion logo is prominently etched in the center of the case-back. The blue protective plastic was still on the case-back when I took the photo. Have yet to take it off.

Under this case-back is Seiko’s in-house movement the 9R66. With 30 jewels, this watch has 72 hours of power reserve and a magnetic protection of up to 4,800 A/m or 60 Gauss. Accuracy has been officially rated at + or – one (1) second a day although in reality it is more like + or – one second a month!

The watch has a dive rating of 20 ATM or 200 meters.



Someone asked me before about the correct way of using the GMT function on a watch with a rotating bezel. Here is an example how to maximise the use of the GMT function on this watch:
Set the red GMT hand to track GMT time using the hour markers on the sloping chapter ring. The hour hand should track the time in your current location. In this example, my local time in Kuala Lumpur is 6:00 am on 25 March 2015 (i.e. GMT+8 hours) while the GMT time is 10:00 pm the day before by reading off the hour markers on the sloping chapter ring. Let’s say you want to track the time in Jakarta which is GMT+7 hours. Turn the bezel until you get the 7 hour marker directly North of the watch (or at the 12 o’clock position). From here, you will be able to the following data:


  • Home (Kuala Lumpur) time: 6:00 am on 25 March 2015
  • GMT (using the inner chapter ring): 10:00 pm on 24 March 2015
  • Jakarta (using the rotating bezel): 5:00 am on 25 March 2015


By using this technique, you don’t have to ever use the crown to adjust any of the hands when travelling. You just need to manipulate the bezel for the desired time zone



The lumiBrite paint used in the watch is proprietary to Seiko. It is brighter, longer-lasting and completely free of radioactive substances. Prove of its capabilities can be seen in the photo above. Despite the bright ambient surroundings, the lamination from the paint is obvious. 

Interesting to note the bezel being illuminated like this. One interesting observation about the watch is the possibility of confusing the time when it is dark and what you only see are the illuminated markers and numbers. In most Seiko watches that has luminous paint on every marker, one of the markers will be replaced with a date (and sometimes a day function as well) window. Although it makes the watch looks asymmetrical in the dark (an area where it should be lighted is now dark due to the substitution), it gives a good anchor point for time reference. In SBGE001’s case, to eliminate any confusion, there a second luminous point above the 12 o’clock marker. These two luminous points is the anchor that would make referencing easier when in the dark.



The watch uses a dual push button release  with the Grand Seiko logo prominently etched in 3D (the the photo on the right). 

The watch sits perfectly on my wrist. With my 7.5 inch wrist, the 43.5 mm wide SBGE001 has the right dimensions. The highly polished stainless steel casing and bracelet makes it pop in a similar way precious metal s do. 

The use of sapphire on both the bezel and dial window makes it look as if it is one continues piece. Overall, an impressive watch and I am actually glad to get it before GST kicks in.



Earlier in the review I mentioned about the better pricing I got from an AD compared to known internet merchants such as Higuchi or Seiya.

How it works is that AD are more willing to give a much bigger discount if a sale can be assured even before they take any stocks. The savings in stock handling and display/safekeeping costs can be shared with the buyer. This means an AD's cost structure in this scenario is even better than an internet merchant who still has to keep stocks.




Photo Folio





Grand Seiko SBGE001 Grand Seiko SBGE001






















3 comments:

  1. Great site! I am loving it!! Will be back later to read some more. I am taking your feeds also.
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    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for sharing bro could you share where you purchase this watch at such good pricing

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's mentioned in the 3rd para. Thanks for visiting.

      Delete

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