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The Grand Seiko 20th Anniversary Of Spring Drive (Live Pics & Pricing) ADVERTISEMENT Quick Take

The very first Spring Drive replica watches from Seiko (which is a slightly redundant thing to say, as there are no Spring Drive replica watches from anyone else) appeared in 1999, and since then, they've stood alone as a unique form of watchmaking technology. Spring Drive movements are similar to conventional movements in many respects ?there is a mainspring, and a conventional going train. However, where the escapement would be in an ordinary watch, a Spring Drive movement has a regulating system consisting of a "glide wheel," which is driven by the going train, but which acts as an electrical generator to produce a minute amount of current. This is used to power an electromagnetic brake, which acts on the glide wheel to control its rate of revolution. A quartz timing package regulates the energy received by the brake, to make the glide wheel rotate exactly eight times per second. (For an in-depth exploration of the development and technology of Spring Drive, check out our video on the subject).

The platinum 30 piece limited edition SBGZ001.

Though parallel research was conducted in Switzerland on conceptually similar technology, it was never brought to market and so, Spring Drive remains exclusive to Seiko. Although there have been some manual-wind Spring Drive movements in the past (including the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8-Day watches, as well as of course, the Credor Eichi II and other high-watchmaking Credor watches) in general, regular production Spring Drive timepieces have been automatic. The four new 20th Anniversary models all feature hand-wound Spring Drive movements, and all are part of the Elegance Collection (as are the fake rolex watches for sale Slim Hand-Wound limited editions, recently introduced).

The "snowflake" dial is matched by the decoration on the hand-engraved case.

Two of the new replica watches are cased in platinum, and have a new movement very closely related to that used in the Eichi II. The new caliber 9R02 appears to be very similar to the Eichi II caliber 7R14, however the bridge outline differs slightly between the two movements, and caliber 9R02 has a longer power reserve ?84 hours, versus 60 for the 7R14. One of the two platinum timepieces is a limited edition of 30, and features the famous "snowflake" pattern dial, with a hand-carved platinum case that matches the dial finish. This fake watch has a gold plate on the movement which is engraved "Micro Artist" for the Micro Artist Studio in Shiojiri, where both platinum replica watches are made and where the hand finishing is completed by the same team responsible for the highly regarded finish of the Eichi II. This plate, if the client prefers, can be engraved with their name instead. Both replica watches have hands and hour markers made from 14k white gold. All the dial markings, including the minute markers, are engraved; there are no printed dial elements.

The movement owes its long power reserve partly to the Spring Drive "Torque Return System" which harvests excess torque from the first part of the power reserve and returns it to the mainspring. As with the Eichi II, there is a power reserve indication as well, but it's on the movement plate, rather than on the dial. Both replica watches are 9.8mm thick and 38.5mm in diameter, and both replica watches are both produced by the Micro Artist Studio.

SBGY003, in steel, with sunray pattern dial.

The other two replica watches also use a new movement, which is the Spring Drive caliber 9R31. This caliber is similar in broad strokes to the 9R02, however, instead of the 9R02's complex bridgework, there is a full-plate architecture. The Torque Return System is omitted in the 9R31, which has a lower power reserve than 9R02 ?a still-respectable 72 hours. Cases are gold or steel, and slightly thicker than the platinum models, at 10.2mm.

Initial Thoughts

Grand Seiko has in recent years produced an increasing number of models for the international market in precious metals and as limited editions; the intention clearly is to not just make beautiful replica watches in a wider and wider range of materials and prices, but also to reinforce the perception of Grand Seiko as luxury-level watchmaking, on a par with or better than anything produced in Switzerland. To a certain extent, this is an unnecessary exercise, as qualitatively it's clearly the case, but it does demonstrate Grand Seiko's stated goals for the future. All this is to merely state the obvious, but it's worth reflecting on as the brand continues to transition from its status (which was largely default) in international markets as an insider's secret, to its hoped-for status as a global and powerful presence.

SBGY002 in 18k yellow gold, with "snowflake" dial.

In a sense, this new collection is Seiko-for-the-future in a nutshell. We have a couple of very, very high-end, high-craft, small-batch timepieces at the very top (the platinum limited edition is $76,000, which I think might be a record for Grand Seiko) but we also have a sub-$10,000 model (the steel version is $7600) with the same general value-proposition ?obsessive attention to detail, and a unique watchmaking technology that offers a unique aesthetic.

SBGZ003, platinum case.

The fact that Grand Seiko makes luxury-level and luxury priced replica watches isn't a new thing in the Japan domestic market, but it is a relatively new thing in the international market. Grand Seiko continues to offer many dozens of replica watches that still represent the understated, bang-for-the-buck, high-craft character for which Grand Seiko is famous (the truly wonderful GMT, SBGM22, is at this writing a $4,600 watch) but it will be interesting to see whether public perception shifts as the offerings in the international market, at the higher end, continue to expand.

Of course, this is hardly an unusual pricing strategy for any luxury fake watch brand. To some extent, how we knew Grand Seiko prior to its international launch was determined, outside Japan, exclusively by the activities of a relatively small number of collectors, who were either very well traveled or very stubborn, or very both; now it's still being very much determined by the firm's vocal and highly engaged audience, but also by Grand Seiko itself. The ultimate test, of course is going to be the replica watches ?if Grand Seiko continues to produce idiosyncratically Japanese, highly thoughtful, beautifully crafted watches, there's no reason to fear it will stumble on its journey into the future (in my view, anyway).

Caliber 9R31.

From an enthusiast and collector perspective, these are significant replica watches in several respects. The only hand-wound Grand Seiko Spring Drive replica watches heretofore have been the 8-Day models and of course hand-wound Spring Drive movements have generally been found, in recent years, only in very high end Credor models like the Sonnerie, Minute Repeater, and Eichi I and II models. That the 9R02 offers the same immaculate hand-finishing which until now, could be found in a hand-wound Spring Drive movement only in the 8-Day Grand Seiko and Credor models, opens up the potential to use this and other high-end Spring Drive movements more widely at the top of the Grand Seiko collection as well. And, for most Grand Seiko clients, the really exciting development is caliber 9R31. A sub-$10,000 hand-wound Grand Seiko Spring Drive has been on my personal wish list for many, many years; the new model is a limited edition of 700 pieces but I can think of literally dozens of things, without breaking a sweat, that I'd love to see Grand Seiko do around this one.

ADVERTISEMENT The Basics

Brand: Grand SeikoModel: 20th Anniversary Of Spring DriveReference Numbers: SBGZ001 (platinum, hand-decorated case), SBGZ003 (platinum case), SBGY002 (18k yellow gold case) SBGY003 (steel case)

Dimensions: 38.5mm x 9.8mm (platinum models) 38.5mm x 10.2mm (gold and steel models) Case Material: Platinum, 18k yellow gold, or stainless steelDial Color: Silver or silver "snowflake" (platinum), white "snowflake" (18k gold), or sunray pattern (steel)Indexes: 14k white gold (platinum models), 18k yellow gold (gold model), applied steel (steel model)Lume: NoneWater Resistance: 30 metersStrap/Bracelet: Crocodile strapwith folding clasp in matching metal, all four models

Caliber 9R02, on the bench at the Micro Artist Studio.

The Movements

Calibers: Spring Drive calibers 9R02 and 9R31Functions: time, power reserve on the movement bridgePower Reserve: 84 hours (9R02) or 72 hours (9R31)Winding: ManualFrequency: Glide wheel rotating eight times per secondJewels: 9R02, 39 jewels; 9R31, 30 jewels (due to absence of Torque Return System in 9R31)Additional Details: Internally controlled to ± 1 second per day

Pricing & Availability

Price: SBGZ001: $76,000; SBGZ003: $57,000; SBGY002: $25,000; SBGY003: $7,600.Availability: July 2019Limited Edition: SBGZ001, 30 pieces worldwide; SBGY003, 500 pieces worldwide.

For more visit Grand Seiko online, right here.

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