BY HARLAN CHAPMAN-GREEN
It’s easy to forget that Grand Seiko makes more than just Hi-Beat and Spring-Drive movements for watches that will inevitably be compared to a Rolex and then left in the dealership window. Seriously, it’s perplexing how many people laud these watches and say how bad the Swiss are and then go and buy Swiss watches, I know Grand Seiko’s bracelets are not their best-received feature, but there’s got to be more to it than that right?
Grand Seiko showed us once before what its plans for taking on the entire Swiss watch industry were, but that was back in September of 2020 when the whole world was just thinking about stepping outside after months in lockdown. Also, it was only a movement concept then with no watch to show.
The Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon is where that movement ended up. The watch measures 43.8mm and its case is made of 950 platinum and also titanium, it’s even water-resistant to 100m. It’s exciting to see Grand Seiko’s “Grammar of Design” ethos being put into effect here, this looks like it will be one of those special watches from a big name in the industry that successfully takes the fight to those pesky low-production independent watchmakers that seem to have all the fun. Other watches I would put in this category include A. Lange & Söhne’s Datograph and Breguet’s Tradition Tourbillon, that’s high praise indeed.
I can’t think of exactly how to describe the workings of the movement right now, all the excitement of being stuck at home while Watches & Wonders Geneva has made me need a lie-down and quite possible a pie, maybe not in that order. To explain it better than me, here is a quote from the project’s team leader back in 2020: “As the outer carriage turns, it charges the constant force spring connecting the outer and inner carriage, and the charged energy will drive the inner tourbillon carriage. A pallet stone ‘stopper’ attached to the inner carriage which meshes with the teeth of the stop wheel [which is made of ceramic] is used to control the distribution of energy from the constant force spring, and as energy of the constant-force spring is released, the energy is supplied to the inner carriage that drives the escape wheel that meshes with the stationary wheel. The escape wheel now supplies constant and uniform energy to the balance. While the inner carriage is rotating, the outer carriage is stopped by the engagement of the stopper and the stop wheel. When the inner carriage rotates by six degrees, the engagement of the stopper and the stop wheel is released and the outer carriage rotates to provide energy to the constant force spring. When the outer carriage rotates by six degrees, the next tooth of the stop wheel engages the stopper and the outer carriage stops again. This sequence of movements takes place in one-second cycles, so that the second hand makes deadbeat (sic) motion.”
I do know that the movement runs for 72-hours before needing a rewind and runs at 4Hz despite the tourbillon mechanism. Grand Seiko is only making 20 of these. They’ll be available in October for a price of $350,000. Visit Grand Seiko here.