Thursday, January 4, 2018

Seiko Spirit Chronograph Giugiaro Design 'Ripley Aliens' Limited Edition SCED041 - Cute and Quirky Timepiece that Speaks Volume, A Review (plus Video)

Designed by the Italian designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro, the Seiko Giugiaro 7A28-7000 is an asymmetric chronograph first seen in the movie Aliens. In fact, this watch was one of the first of the collaboration between the two powerhouses using the 7A28 movement. This caliber is famous as being the first analogue quartz chronograph movement in the world. The year was 1983. It was only in 1986 with the release of the movie 'Aliens' did the watch became insanely famous.

When it was announced in 2016 of the reissue, I was initially interested. However, the urge waned as I was more interested in mechanical watches (On hindsight, I didn't realised that I was turning into a typical 'mechanical watch snob' - everything not mechanical considered trash. Fortunately, I saw the light to the correct path for a horologist). 

The Seiko Giugiaro 'Ripley Aliens' reissues are all limited edition pieces. Due to the indecisiveness, I missed out a lot of the models on sale. I thought I would never get the chance to get one until I saw an offer by SeiyaJapan. The model reference was SCED041 and I quickly made the order. This is the second Giugiaro designed watch in the collection.
The SCED041 has a black stainless steel case with matching bracelet. The black paint is PVD coated. However, the rectangle pusher housing is polished stainless steel. Measuring 41.8 mm tall, 42.2 mm wide and a thickness of 10.8 mm, this model is limited to 2,000 examples only. The dial is protected by Hardlex crystal. Made in 2016, the watch weighs in at 113 grams total.


Other major characteristics of the watch are: (a) It is made in China (b) It has a simple deployment clasp (c) It uses the Seiko Caliber 7T12 Chronograph movement (d) Listed price of YEN38,800 (e) Bracelet capable of supporting up to maximum wrist size of 195 mm or 7.7 inch (f) 100 meter water rating (g) Battery life of 5 years (h) Manufacturer's stated accuracy of +15/-15 seconds per month.

The SCED041 is not strictly a reproduction of the original 7A28-7000 series but an adaptation. There are a number of differences that differentiate it from the original. Since there are a lot of reviews written about the differences, I shall refrain from spending too much time highlighting them. If you want to know more, do visit some of the reviews for the required information. 



The Back Story 

Giugiro Design is synonymous with Mr Giorgetto Giugiaro, an Italian automotive designer who created many iconic cars, such as various Alfa Romeos, the 1977 BMW M1 and the DeLorean. In 1983, Seiko in collaboration with Giugiaro released a series of motoring watches under the 'Speedmaster' moniker. Created from a fertile mind of a futurist, the watches were either liked with a passion or loath with a vengeance. There were only the two extremes when it came to opinions. 

It was only after one of the designs was used by the lead character of the movie 'Aliens' in 1986 did it became famous. The very industrial style of the 7A28-7000 watch blend in nicely with the concept of the movie and that what made it feel 'natural'. People started to take notice of it almost immediately.


The Casing

As highlighted earlier, you either love the design or you hate it. In my case, I love the design due purely to it quirkiness. From a design standpoint, there are a lot of inefficient characteristics which can be simplified or made more ergonomically better. However, once you think like a futurist, you would start to appreciate what Giugiaro was trying to accomplish with this project. I believe the message that he want to tell is that we humans, if we continue to pursue creating mega industrial businesses as the only reason to being human, future products will no longer be made to our requirements but rather on what the industrial complex wants to make. In the future, it is the industry that dictates wants and needs instead of humans. A bleak future for mankind but let's hope it doesn't come to this.


Closely sharing the same case design of the 1983 original, the watch is modestly proportions. Measuring 41.8 mm (tall),  42.2 mm (wide) and 10.8 mm (thick), it sits nicely of an average sized wrist. The rectangle housing on the right side of the watch casing creates an illusion of a large watch but in reality it wears well. Moreover, the choice of not painting the rectangle pusher housing black reduces the size impression somewhat.

The main case is a monoblock construction with a snap-on case back. It has a step-up dial lip that creates a strong circular element to the design. Coupled with the short hooded lugs, the designer is able to create a watch that can sit squarely on any wrist by reducing the possibility of any lug overhang. The rectangle box that contains the pusher housing is bolted on to the right side with two large hex screws straddling the crown. In the push-in position, the crown is well protected as it is tucked inside the housing. Unfortunately, I feel the crown to be a bit small. Measuring just 4.5 mm across, it is difficult to use if you have stubby fingers.



The flat Hardlex crystal that protects the dial sits slightly above the dial lip. I would have preferred it to be flushed with the dial lip to reduce the possibility of a side impact. 

The primary purpose of the rectangular housing is to create the necessary space to add a special mechanism to redirect the pushers vertically. Mechanically, the push rods are located at the 2 o'clock and 4 o'clock positions. However, the ecstatic of the design requires a special mechanism to rearrange the pushers motion alignment. Unfortunately, the additional complication makes the pushers less sensitive that what you would expect of pushers on a typical Seiko chronograph. The fact that the pushers feel loose due to the substantial gap between the pusher caps and the pusher slot, makes for a poor chronograph experience. Although a lot of reviewers highlighted this problem, I find it impossible to believe that Seiko would allow such 'poor' quality control. If my assessment is correct on the design concept, I believe this was done (the pusher issue) on purpose to reflect the fact that humans are no longer in control. In the future, it is no longer what we want that is important. In the future, we may no longer have a choice. Philosophically, this is deep.

 


The Dial

The dial of the SCED041 also stays very close to the original. The dials consists of two surfaces and a chapter ring.

The sloping chapter ring is painted black and consist of a Tachymeter scale in white. With this scale, one can use the stopwatch to determine how many seconds it takes to go 1 km or 1 mile and use the corresponding scale to indicate the speed of travel.

The top surface is white and features a black index scale. The index features large rectangles for the hours, smaller lines for the minutes and seconds, and very small lines for the 1/5th seconds. The SCED041 features a quartz movement that does tick at 1/5th second intervals, which makes the scaling useful to some extent.

The lower surface is seen through a large partial-circle cutout in the upper white surface. Black in colour, it creates a nice contrast to the white. On this surface at 3 o'clock, 6 o'clock and 9 o'clock are sub-dials for the 24 hours, 60 minute counter and active seconds, respectively. There is also a date aperture at the sub-dial at 3 o'clock with a white on black date wheel. If given a choice, I would replace the 24 hours hand with a normal chrono hour-counter.

The hour and minute hands are black with white lines running down their middle. No luminous paint is used throughout the dial. Meanwhile, the chrono-seconds hand is a thin stick in black. Two interesting aspects of the chrono-seconds hand is that (one) it looks like it stays very thin as it passes through the center of the watch, but it actually connects to a white disk, and (two) as the chrono-seconds hand moves over the hours and minutes hands, it appears to merge or disappear as the black chrono-seconds hand covers the centre white lines of the other two hands.


The Bracelet

The SCED041 comes with a unique steel bracelet that is very close to the original. Again, it's a love or hate to most people. I guess those that hate it could be due to two factors. The complexity of resizing the bracelet and the overall feel of it. Those that love it could also be due to two factors. The clean look of the links and its pure uniqueness.



The bracelet is very steampunk yet industrial. It starts at the lugs with a width of 18 mm. The bracelet then spreads immediately to 20 mm before slowly tapering back down to 18 mm at the clasp.

Each links are thin rectangles, each with 3 square slots for esthetics. Each link consist of an outer folded shell, an inner sheet and a separate hidden hinge piece. Since the links are hinged at the back, it gives each link a very clean look. Using the technique of folding metal creates a vintage feel to the bracelet.

It is here where opinions differs considerably. On one side of the fence, the 'vintage' style manufacturing process of the bracelet seems cheap and flimsy whereas the other side of the fence find it very true to the original.



Resizing the bracelet is a lot different than resizing a typical Seiko bracelet. Instead of a typical 'pin-and-collar' system, the bracelet on the SCED041 has a sliding plate that needs to be removed (similar to a pin). An additional step of removing the hinge pieces left and right of the link that is to be removed is required before it can be completely separated. This makes it rather tedious. This factor also polarized opinions. Some welcome the resizing complication while some frown on it.



When I was resizing the bracelet, despite being gentle, I did scratch a bit of the paint. The fact is that it is very difficult to not scratch since you need tools and some effort to dislodge the sliding plate.


The Movement

The case-back is solid and is a snap-in instead of a screw-down. Underneath the polished case-back is Seiko's 7T12 quartz chronograph caliber. This movement has time functions such as 24-hours, hours, minutes, small seconds; calendar function such a date wheel; stopwatch functions such as measures up to 60 minutes in 1/5th of a second increments as well as split time measurement.


The 7T12 has the following specifications:
1 Frequency of crystal oscillator: 32,768 Hz
2 Loss/gain (monthly rate): ±15 seconds at normal temperature range (between 5° C and 35° C)
3 Operational temperature range: Between –10° C and +60° C
4 Driving system: 3 step motors
5 Battery: 1 Seiko SR927SW
6 Energy reserve: average 5 years if the stopwatch is used less than 2 hours per day

Replacing the battery will need some care due to the black PVD coated case. As the case-back is snap-in design, the need to use a prying blade increases the possibility of scratching the paint. It would be interesting to note how a Seiko technician would tackle this risk. I suspect Seiko must have a unique tool to overcome this problem. If anyone knows anything about this, please feel free to put a note on it in the comment section below.
This is also the first quartz chronograph movement from Seiko in the collection.


The Packaging

For a limited edition piece, the packaging appears very simple and generic. I half expected something more ornate to reflect its association to a movie classic. I guess Seiko did not have a commercial arrangement with the movie 'Aliens' hence the lack of any explicit movie tie-in.

The manual is just a large thin printed sheet folded neatly into a 7 cm by 3.5 cm booklet.


The Price

I bought the watch from SeiyaJapan. Based on a coupon that I have, I was able to get it for USD308.75 (listed price USD325.00) or RM1,312.59 (plus a further RM100.05 for taxes). The manual for the watch is attached at the end of this review.

The MSRP for the watch is YEN36,000 (before taxes).

As highlighted earlier, the SCED041is limited to just 2,000 units. I got number 1748/2000.


The Wearing Experience

At 113 grams, the watch is very light compared to most of my other watches. It wears well on the wrist, despite the rectangle pusher housing extending the width by an addition few millimeters to the right. Although, the watch casing is asymmetrical along the lugs axis, it does not affect balance due to the light weight of the watch. Wearing the watch on the left wrist or the right wrist is also not an issue.



As the corners of the bracelet links are not beveled, you do feel some sharpness along the edge. This increases the possibility of nicks and bumps appearing along the edge of the bracelet. Luckily, the edges of the watch casing are beveled. Below is the watch on my wrist.

Below is a video of the watch on my wrist. 




Conclusion

Having an industrial feel and unique at the same time is special. The SCED041 is iconic in that it was able to connect and resonate with a lot of people about the future. The brilliance of Mr. Giorgetto Giugiaro by incorporating futuristic expectations in a design that goes against the conventional ideas of 'quality' is commendable. Hats off to Seiko to buy into the idea and bankrolled the project. 

The SCED041 is a cute and quirky timepiece that speaks volume. Granted it feels 'cheap' but for USD300 and a bit, with big names such as Seiko and Giugiaro plus the famous movie tie-in associated with the watch, its worth it.

My only regret was not committing to the purchase when Seiko first announced the reinterpretation of the 'Ripley Watch'. I would have preferred the SCED035 with its matte steel surface (similar to the original 7A28-7000) instead of the black PVD and polished surface combination of the SCED041.





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