Grand Seiko needs no introduction as the luxury watchmaking arm of Seiko, which allows the company to flex itself fully in the unrestrained pursuit of excellence. That is what Grand Seiko is for, that while production Seikos fill the field with pragmatic quality at accessible prices (we’ll make a note that inflation has left the bench and is doing warm-ups by the track), Grand Seiko watches coming out of two units — Seiko Epson at Nagano and Seiko Instruments at Iwate — are created to chase the ideal of the perfect watch. As poetry that aims to say much with very little, the ideal of what constitutes perfection is rather succinctly defined at Grand Seiko: of enduring beauty and precision, made in-house with world-class skills.
In this regard, the SBGH287 “Snow on the Blue Lake” is like many of its stablemates, simply styled and beautifully proportioned. The case is flared from the top view but nothing too crazy, and the crown is slightly nestled into the caseband that affords some protection but without actual shoulders that could disrupt the harmonious flow of its profile. The surfaces polished and brushed and bevel lines are sharp and crisp; nothing looks muddled, every surface and body line is sharply defined, from the fine detail of the dauphine hands, the facets of the hour markers, to the ‘folds’ on the case. It’s a treat like looking at an object with the perfect vision of a child (before myopia).
Beating within is a state-of-the-art mechanical movement, the Caliber 9S85 with frequency of 5Hz. All things equal, a balance wheel oscillating at a faster rate is less perturbed by disruptive forces all around and hence beat more consistently, resulting in a more accurate watch. However, running at a higher beat rate presents a whole new set of challenges, from lubrication, energy waste, excessive wear… there’s no free lunch in physics, redline an engine too much and something will blow. By doing everything in-house, down to the alloy recipe of the hairspring, Grand Seiko was able to create a movement that can operate reliably at 5Hz, with a decent power reserve of 55 hours.
Various in-house technologies were employed to make this happen. The alloy, Spron 610 was invented to create hairsprings with improved impact and magnetic resistance; precision engineering know-how from semiconductor manufacturing was used to fabricate low-friction pallet forks and intricately shaped escape wheels that retained more oil than conventional designs to meet the greater lubrication needs of a fast-beating movement. The alloy, Spron 530 was also developed to make mainsprings with higher energy ratings, to deliver 55 hours of power reserve from a single drum. The result is a mechanical movement rated a touch more precise than a COSC-certified chronometer: at a mean daily rate of -3/+5 seconds.
While technical prowess and competence would rank a Grand Seiko as among the best wristwatches in the contemporary (European) school, it needs something from its roots to truly stand apart. And that’s where its series of dials come from. The Grand Seiko menu has several models with coloured/textured dials to express the hues of the seasons, and natural features such as Mount Iwate.
In this instance, SBGH287 “Snow on the Blue Lake” expresses the wintry beauty of Hachimantai, a city in Iwate Prefecture where mechanical Grand Seiko watches are manufactured by Seiko Instruments in the town of Shizukuishi. The ethereal scene of waterfalls frozen over, frost-covered trees and the clearest of blue skies have been abstracted into the SBGH287’s frosty blue dial.
The SBGH287 “Snow on the Blue Lake” is a limited edition of 140 pieces, exclusive to Thong Sia which is the distributor for Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and Brunei.
Grand Seiko represents the pinnacle of classical watchmaking at its price segment, bearing a certain purity of purpose that informs the minimalist styling of much of its collection, and the sheer focus of its mechanical innovations. For the wearer, the Grand Seiko is a simple, yet utterly sophisticated timepiece, with unique dials that reference the awesome natural beauty around which it was created. Not least a fingerprint, terroir matters, no?
Movement: Self-winding 9S85, 5Hz, -3/+5 mean daily rate, 55 hours power reserve
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Case: 40mm, steel
Strap: Crocodile leather
Price: SGD 8,881
Price: Limited to 140 pieces