In the past few years I have been warming to many of Seiko’s offerings – including the prestige end of Grand Seiko and Credor. Like many folks I had previously and perhaps unfairly consigned the brand to the also-ran bin – possibly due to the vast quantities of cheap quartz models pumped out in the 70s and 80s. To be fair though, there were also some very good mechanical offerings at that time, including of course various sports chronographs. Indeed, Seiko were in the first batch of brands (Breitling, Heuer and Zenith) to produce an automatic version in the late 60’s. In fact I bought a used “Pogue” model from a retailer in Gibraltar in the late 70’s – only for it to be stolen in a burglary some years later. That ended my Japanese watch ownership for nigh on 30 years!
More recently I became reacquainted with Seiko when I bought a nearly new Presage Sakura Fubuki. This has a superbly textured dial which is meant to represent falling cherry blossom. All in all the watch is highly attractive – exuding quality plus accuracy, and as a result I have been wearing it a fair amount. Bearing in mind the fact that it is also a proper numbered limited edition, the original rrp in the £600s was extremely good value. The fact that I in fact paid a mere £400 (including accompaniments) was just insane!
Anyway, getting back on track, I have been paying much attention to Seiko of late and in particular the Grand Seiko offerings. The more I looked and read, the more I thought that the designs, finish, technical innovation, quality and pricing were just spot on. In all this, one main aesthetic feature prevails and that is to show off some cracking dial textures/finishes. These would include the enamel Arita and Shippo types and on the cheaper models via ingenious galvanising. This is at variance with with, say, the Swiss higher end where guilloche engraving would predominate. The subject matter of the dials is also interesting, and seems to reflect some of Japan’s natural and iconic features using a variety of techniques, including hand painting with traditional pigments.
I had already been aware of the GS Snowflake models but of late my attention has been captured by one in particular. That is the Blue Snowflake reference SBGA407. In fact I was passing a retailer in Manchester only the other day when I noticed that they had started to offer Grand Seikos. I paused for a better look at the display and, hey presto, there was a Blue Snowflake! To cut a long story short I went in and was able to view and take some pictures. Incidentally I am known to this retailer so they did not mind and, who knows, I may be tempted to buy in due course!
In terms of the watch details, we have a 40.8 x 12.8 nicely Zaratsu polished stainless steel case, with a conventional straight-sided crown topped by the GS logo. There is a box sapphire crystal fore and an exhibition back. Water resistance is to 100m.
The dial is of course the main draw here. It has a powdery looking surface in translucent white, with an ever so pale blue hue. Apparently inspiration for this came from the view out of the Shinahu Watch Studio windows in winter, where the snow assumes a blue tinge – something I myself have seen with icebergs and glaciers. The 3D effect is obvious and is created by the initial pattern being imprinted onto a brass dial and then layers of semi-transparent matt coatings applied. There is a square date window at 3 and a power reserve segment between 7-8. Within this segment is a nicely engraved base and this has an ever-so-slightly more blued finish. The main hands are highly polished steel with the sweep in bold blued steel. Hours markers are steel rectangles.
Regarding the power train, this is the usual Spring Drive 9R65 calibre and uses what Seiko calls Tri-Synchro. I will try (sic) not get too technical here, but this mechanical/quartz hybrid movement is frankly ingenious and is worthy of an attempt to explain. The watch is still wound by a rotor and power stored in a barrel, but to release the required power, a glide wheel is used (constantly spinning) which in turn generates an electrical current. This is then fed to a quartz oscillator which produces a 32,768 hz vibration and is detected by the IC (Integrated Circuit). This compares the speed of this to the glide wheel. A braking system then regulates the glide wheel to the required speed in order that the hands move at the correct rate. The sweep hand actually moves in a very uncanny fashion as it has no discernible tick/tock movement – it just glides round with no noise. The result of all this is that one really gets the best of all worlds as the watch winds automatically (so no battery to wear out), but offers a greater degree of accuracy than normal. In this case the figures are: +/- 1 second per day and +/- 15 seconds per month. The quoted reserve is an impressive 72 hours and 30 jewels are used.
To finish off the package, the watch comes with a dark blue crocodile three clasp folding strap. This is of course of commensurate quality to the rest of the watch, but just a word of warning: For some reason it comes in a pretty long length. I have average wrists, but with the watch snug there was too much strap end showing. To me the next size down should be offered as standard.
In conclusion, this watch is pretty iconic. It looks and wears well and the quality of design and finish is superb. The dial – well, just sublime. Bearing in mind the rrp is some £5,250, this has to be a bargain – a Swiss equivalent would be at least double this. I will seriously think about adding to my collection – how about you?
Rating: 5/5 (I really cannot find any negatives!)
Words & Pictures: The Writer
Thanks go to Chisholm Hunter in Manchester for allowing access to the watch.