Grand Seiko’s 60th anniversary may have been overshadowed by Coronavirus, forcing the brand to cancel its big bash and watch unveilings in Tokyo, but the Japanese watchmaker delivered some big horological highlights that should have collectors clamoring—even in the current environment. The company shined a spotlight on elite movements, signature case designs and dial finishes with five new collector’s pieces that honor its 60th anniversary.
The headline introduction is the new caliber 9SA5 from Grand Seiko’s elite 9S series of mechanical movements, one that will be used going forward in an entirely new generation of Grand Seiko mechanical watches. The automatic 9SA5 is a slimmer and more efficient version of the benchmark caliber 9S, introduced in 1998. To be precise, it is 15% thinner, with an accuracy rating of between +5 and –3 seconds a day and an 80-hour power reserve. It debuts in the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 80 Hours. The movement can be seen through the caseback, with a curved bridge inspired by the shapes of Mount Iwate and the Shizukuishi River near the Grand Seiko studio where the watch is made. The case is a variation of the exquisite 44GS that has defined the Grand Seiko brand since 1967, with slightly wider lugs. Case, markers and calendar frame are 18-karat gold. It is priced at $43,000 and limited to 100 pieces.
The second new movement is the 9RA5, a next-generation Spring Drive caliber that is slimmer, more precise, and has a longer power reserve (five days) thanks to two mainspring barrels. Its monthly precision rate has risen from ±15 seconds a month to ±10. The movement depth has been reduced from 5.8 mm to 5.0 mm, and the speed of the date change has been increased. The movement incorporates a level of shock resistance that meets the ISO standard for diver’s watches. Not surprisingly, it debuts in a diver’s watch, with 600-meter water resistance and a helium valve in a titanium case. It is limited to 700 pieces, priced at $11,000.
There is also a new ladies’ Spring Drive, with an equally impressive movement —the caliber 9R01 with an eight-day power reserve and an accuracy rate of ±10 seconds a month—but with a lot more glamour. The inner dial is set with 96 diamonds and 25 sapphires, all baguette cut. The chapter ring is set with another 48 round diamonds and 12 round sapphires. The center dial is finished in a “diamond dust” texture that sparkles like snow. It is limited to 10 pieces, priced at $185,000 in platinum.
A pair of slim, limited-edition dress watches uses the manual-wound 9S64 movement, with a 72-hour power reserve. Both pieces have engraved dials, inspired by the Shizukuishi region, where Grand Seiko watches are made. The hands of the platinum version are hand engraved in a water droplet motif, and hour markers represent splashing water. The imagery stems from a local legend about an old man who heard a strange sound coming from underneath an old cedar tree that turned out to be a bottomless cave. The sound he heard was the splash of water drops – “shizuku” in Japanese – dripping from the ceiling of the cave onto the rocks, “ishi.” Thus, the region was named Shizukuishi. It is limited to 20 pieces, priced at $97,000. An 18-karat red gold version has a guilloched dial colored green to represent the forests of the region. It is limited to 120 pieces and priced at $24,000.
And what would an anniversary collection be without a faithful reproduction from the archives? The Grand Seiko Re-creation 1960, also with caliber 9S64, resembles the original, but with a sapphire caseback—a feature of most neo-vintage watches today—to display the finish on the movement. Another typical difference between neo-vintage pieces and their original counterparts is case size: this one is 38 mm, compared to the 35 mm original. It comes in platinum ($38,000), 18k yellow gold ($26,000) or titanium ($8,000) with a Zaratsu finish—a high polish, proprietary to Grand Seiko, that creates a mirror-like finish.