With the march of technological progress ever moving forward, sometimes it’s difficult to look back and remember exactly what came before it. From the gas guzzling Model T to the electric powered Tesla, from the first grainy televised footage of the Mercury missions to the high-def, available anywhere stream of the Falcon Heavy, from traditional mechanical calibers to the unfathomable accuracy of quartz movements.
To many watch enthusiasts, the mere mention of quartz conjures up images of low quality timepieces that can never inspire the mind or enthrall the heart like a mechanical caliber can. Yet Seiko has always disagreed with that assumption and in 1993, they introduced the Caliber 9F83, a quartz caliber like no other. It was more precise and durable than anyone expected and was finished to the same exacting finishing standards of Seiko’s Grand Seiko mechanical calibers. The 9F Calibers were innovative in several ways as they included an auto-adjusting mechanism to eliminate any shuddering of the second hand, a twin pulse control system that delivered increased torque and a protective shield that kept dust and grime from interfering with the gear train or stepping motor.
In commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the 9F caliber, Seiko have announced two limited edition watches that pay homage to the designs of the past. The Grand Seiko Ref. SBGV238 is a re-interpretation of the classic 44GS from 1967 which, perhaps more than any other Grand Seiko, followed the ‘Grammar of Design’ rules of Seiko’s Taro Tanaka. Tanaka was Seiko’s first head designer and oversaw huge changes in how the Japanese brand approached watch design and by emphasizing straight lines, large facets and sharp angles, Tanaka revolutionized what a high-end Seiko could look like.
What is truly special about this watch is the sapphire crystal case back that displays the meticulously finished quartz caliber beneath it. It’s a bold move to display a type of movement that many watch fans have such disdain for, but it’s impossible to argue about the level of quality of the 9F as like the best mechanical movements, the 9F has a small gear that allows for fine adjustments to accuracy. The 9F also checks for temperature fluctuations up to 540 times a day and will automatically compensate itself to maintain its accuracy.
The other limited edition is the SBGT241 which pays homage to the first Grand Seiko from 1993 to use the Caliber 9F. At this point in time, Seiko had drifted away from the harsh lines of Taro Tanaka in favor of a more natural, curved look and this shows in the case and bracelet design. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t think the beads of rice bracelet has aged all that well, but it serves it’s purpose as a faithful re-interpretation of the original. A gold medallion featuring the Grand Seiko lion is proudly displayed on the case back, and even though the Caliber 9F cannot be seen, it is still finished to the same high standard.
Both watches feature an original repeating dial pattern that is composed of the traditional Seiko symbol for a quartz movement. At 6 o’clock sites a 5 pointed start which symbolizes the precision of the Caliber 9F, +/- 5 seconds a year. The SGBT241 is limited to 1800 pieces and will be available from April, and the SBGV238 is limited to 600 and will be available a month later in May. For more info, visit Grand Seiko online.