And the other one…

Okay, the other incoming then – the Grand Seiko SBGK005, a limited edition of 1500 watches and already one that’s looking quite hard to get hold of.

First of all, what does Grand Seiko have to say about it?

A new manual-winding calibre. A new slim profile. A blue dial. The Grand Seiko Elegance Collection sets a new course.

Calibre 9S63 is a significant addition to the ever growing Grand Seiko family of movements. It has been eight years since the last manual-winding mechanical calibre in Grand Seiko and it has been worth the wait. Calibre 9S63 offers a small seconds hand at the nine o’clock position and a power reserve indicator at three o’clock. Calibre 9S63 has a power reserve of 72 hours and delivers an accuracy rate of +5 to -3 seconds a day.

A new slim design with blue Mt. Iwate pattern dial. The stainless steel cases are polished by a special Zaratsu method created to accentuate the beauty of the curved surfaces. The dials and the sapphire crystals are also curved to give the watches a classic look.

Blue accents for the movement and the case back. The blue lion mark and tempered screws can be seen through the sapphire case back.

A bit more about the movement, and the specification in general:

Type: Manual winding mechanical 9S63
Accuracy: +5 to -3 seconds per day
Power reserve: Approximately 72 hours
Vibrations: 28,800 vibrations per hour (8 beats per second)
Jewels: 33 jewels
Characteristics: Power reserve indicator, small seconds hand
Crystal: Domed sapphire
Strap: Crocodile with single-fold deployant clasp
Water resistance: 3 bar
Case: stainless steel with Zaratsu finish
Dimensions: 39mm diameter, 11.6mm thickness, 19mm lug width

The SBGK005 is part of a new line of Grand Seiko “Elegance” models (these tend to be dressier and more classic than the other GS collections which, to my mind, can come across as a little too austere and clinical at times). Most of the case is mirror (Zaratsu) polished, with only the central facet of the midcase brushed. Transitions between components are delineated either by razor sharp edges (for instance, where the bezel meets the case) or radiused curves (in the case of the lug shape), with the reflections emphasising the changes in geometry.

The 9S63 movement is Grand Seiko’s first new manual-winding calibre in eight years, but it actually builds on the well-established architecture of the tried and tested 9S64. It features a small seconds complication at 9 o’clock and a power reserve indicator at 3; the movement boasts 72 hours of power reserve on a full wind, and the accuracy is rated to +5/-3 seconds a day. It has 33 jewels and a beat rate of 28,800 bph.

However, whilst both the case and the movement are impressive this watch is really all about the dial. Whilst it isn’t lacquered like some of the other variants in the new line-up, it shares their finish in boasting a surface that’s intended to symbolise the texture of Japan’s Mt. Iwate. Whilst it’s quite hard to photograph (because of the domed crystal rather than the dial itself) it really is nothing short of spectacular in the metal.

So, on that note to the photographs… with apologies for not really producing the quality of image that I was looking for. It transpired that the crystal – when under my lights – presented a challenge that I didn’t quite have the time yesterday evening to overcome but perhaps I’ll have another shot at it at some point soon.

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A long-overdue update

A while ago, I decided that a consolidation of my collection was somewhat overdue. My target was to go from 16 to 10 in total, and having mulled over what to retain and what to let go a few very nice watches were moved on. Out went my Aquanaut (it funded my motorcycling adventure, and frankly the value of it as a wrist trinket was getting silly); my Royal Oak Diver (a bloody gorgeous watch, but just a little too hefty for my wrist); and both my Parmigiani and Zenith chronographs.

What I didn’t count on was any new arrivals, but – true to form – I seem to have struggled in achieving my objectives in respect of any meaningful reduction. As there are some nice new trinkets now fighting for wrist time, though, I thought I’d pop up a quick incoming post with an image or two to liven it up 🙂

Rolex (Zenith) Daytona 16523

I only recently moved a steel Zenith Daytona on, but when I saw this beauty from 1996 listed for sale I felt a strange compulsion to nab it. The seller was happy to take my Parmigiani in part trade, and given that I was thinking of moving it on anyway a deal saw very swiftly concluded.

I must admit that I was in two minds when it arrived. It was clearly a lovely thing, but I wasn’t 100% sure how I felt about wearing a steel and gold watch. A couple of days in, though, and I was absolutely loving it. Maybe it’s because I’m in my late fifties now, but in any event it makes a lovely change, and it’s surprisingly adaptable. My task now is to keep it away from Bea, who has an uncanny knack of nabbing the watches she takes a fancy to.

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Grand Seiko SBGE245G

This one was a real surprise, as – whilst I’d admired them from photos on the web I’d never considered buying one. However, when a trade deal materialised and I tried it on, it became a bit of a no-brainer.

It’s a Spring Drive GMT, and is a limited edition of 600 available from Seiko flagship salons, Seiko Premium Boutiques, and Seiko Premium Watch Salons across Japan (to quote Seiko, that is – they’re about to start appearing here in the UK, though, and this one seems to have been one of the very first received by authorised dealers here). Its water resistant to 200m, and offers three time zones using both the GMT hand and the 24 hour bezel. Unlike most GS Spring Drives, it also has torch-like lume.

Aside from the stunning sapphire bezel it has a mahogany-red dial with a very subtle sunburst finish, there’s a power reserve on the dial (which I think looks fantastic, and contrasts beautifully with the dial itself). It measures 44mm and is about as big as I’d want to go with it, but it wears nicely and (being a Spring Drive) features that mesmerising sweep of the second hand. I love it.

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Seiko SLA025J1

This is another watch (limited this tie to 1500 pieces) that came in a trade, but – given how much I liked the original vintage 6159-7001 when I owned it – it’s probably less of a surprising choice.

Anyone who knows the 6159 will see immediately that this is a very faithful homage in terms of both design and specification. It measures a fairly hefty 44.8mm in diameter, and features a monobloc case and coin-edge bezel; like the 6159, the lugs are long and angular. Inside is Seiko’s calibre 8L55, a hi-beat (36,000 bph) movement that’s essentially a less decorated version of the Grand Seiko calibre 9S85. What remains is a high-end movement with a 55-hour power reserve, 37 jewels and very decent accuracy.

The case is also finished in the same way as a Grand Seiko. This means that the polished surfaces are finished by hand using the traditional Zaratsu method, with sharp angles and perfectly flat surfaces.

The black aluminium insert has a golden track and numerals, designed just like the 1968 version. Seiko again harks back to the original with a matte black “gilt” dial, and having now owned both I would say that they’ve come up with a fantastic tribute to a real horological icon from the 1960’s. They even provide it on a classic waffle strap that – again – mirrors what one would have worn the 6159 on all those years ago.

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So, that’s about it in terms of changes. Oh, save for the fact that – a few months ago now – I sold the Fifty Fathoms Mil-Spec on the sailcloth strap, and snagged the bracelet version instead (along with a sailcloth strap as well, so the best of both worlds). I’m not sure that I’ve ever posted a photo of the watch on the bracelet, but I finally managed to take one this evening.

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For what it’s worth, I have no worries whatsoever in having sold a few “high end” watches, and frankly no longer enjoyed wearing wrist jewellery worth in excess of £20-30k. In any event, they helped fund some work on the house and my newfound motorbike madness, which to my mind is money well spent.

Some Changes at HPTH…

I sealed a trade on a lovely watch last week, and in doing so I realised that there have been quite a few incomings over the last few weeks and months but my focus (excuse the pun) on other types of photography had meant that I hadn’t had any time to set up my lights and take some shots of any of them. That, and my recent decision to move my larger watches on and stick to watches of 36-40mm (with a couple of exceptions) mean that an update is probably long overdue.

Some lovely watches have moved on to new homes, including my Fifty Fathoms, PAM346, B-1 and vintage Seikos. It hurt, to be honest, but there have been some beauties coming in to replace them – all of which are a wearable size for me…

Vacheron Constantin Overseas Chronograph

This was the last of the “Holy Trinity” for me to try, and I must confess that I had no intention of buying one until I had a beer with my good mate Howard and tried his on. It was about to go off to VC for a full service (and they certainly take their time), but it returned recently and as we often do we ended up agreeing a trade that suited both of us.

I’m delighted with this one, from 2001 and now in as-new condition again; in fact, it makes me wonder whether I’ll keep the ceramic Daytona that’s due any time now as I think the VC is a fair bit classier. The bracelet is absolutely wonderful too, which helps.

Launched in 1999 and in production until 2004, this Overseas was Vacheron Constantin’s first sports chronograph. It houses an automatic calibre 1137, was made in about 500 pieces in yellow gold and a bit over 2000 in steel; this uses the Frederic Piguet 1185 as the base but when VC were finished with it it looked quite beautiful, albeit that you can’t see the damned thing!

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Anyway, a couple of shots…

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Zenith Chronomaster Triple Date Moonphase

These amazing watches – possibly my favourite modern era Zenith, in fact – have taken on near-iconic status, and it’s easy to see why. Housing the marvellous El Primero movement in a beautifully finished 39mm case, this one (from 2006) is the second that I’ve owned. The first was the non-moonphase version, though, and for the last three or so years ‘ve been sitting in wait, looking for the right example to come up on the used market.

Finally, this popped up on SC and I was absolutely delighted to snag it. Yes, that’s two white dialled chronos already, so that Daytona (when it arrives) is going to cause some real angst.

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Grand Seiko SBGW033

This watch was released back in 2012 as Seiko’s limited edition 130th Anniversary model and a tribute to the first ever Grand Seiko (note the lovely dial text, and the somewhat anachronistic mention of the Diashock anti-shock system that nowadays wouldn’t even get a mention). In fact, this is another watch that I’ve waited years to find, and amazingly this one was first sold in 2016 so it really is as new.

It’s a lovely 35.8mm in diameter, and has a beautifully inscribed case back befitting of it’s deliberately vintage look and feel. Inside is the calibre 9S64 hand-wound movement, which I believe was made specifically for this watch. After such a long wait I’m delighted with it, and certainly prefer it to the SBGR061 that I’ve owned previously. The dial is a bit lighter in shade, the text more refined, and it meets my new criteria in terms of size (well, within 0.2mm).

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Dornblüth Kal 0.40

Now, this is a genuinely rare watch; only one year of production (2006) and in total 75 pieces were made, of which 50 were in stainless steel and 25 in rose gold. With a very wearable 38mm case, the other striking difference to Dornblüth’s other models is that the internals in these are based on a GUB movement from some time around the early 90’s. In fact, when I owned my first one of these (it’s unbelievable two have had a pair, as they’re so hard to get your hands on) I wrote to Dirk and asked for some more detail on the movement. His reply was as follows:

Kal. 04.0 movement includes 50% parts of an old GUB movement and 50% of the ebauche movement AS 1560 from the 1950’s. We have overworked and finished this parts to be able to create one movement.

The applied numerals are black steel whilst the hands are blued, and all in all it really is a wonderful watch. This one certainly won’t be going anywhere!

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Rolex Sea-Dweller 16600

Not much to say about this as everyone knows them. However, this is a tritium-dialled beauty from 1997, with a lovely sharp case and lume that’s just beginning to turn. A perfect example from my perspective, and currently on a Rubber B strap to make a change from steel and leather.

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Right – that’s it! A few months-worth of additions together with some recent exits, and I’m nearly there in terms of meeting my new 36-40mm rule. Happy days 🙂

There’s no such thing as perfection… is there?

The very first vintage watch I bought was a Grand Seiko from all the way back in 1968. The nanosecond I saw it I knew it had to be mine, and when it arrived it exceeded my expectations. Back in those days, the designs were all pretty simple but the modern variants can be found in all manner of guises, from some substantial divers to complications and snowflake dials. However, the watch that I chose to get married in was again something quite beautiful as a consequence of it’s simplicity; the SBGR061 is a three-hander with date, sporting a deep ivory dial, blued second hand and sub-40mm case. I love it, and whilst I do tend to flip my watches I’d like to think that I’ll keep this one for obvious reasons.

Bizarrely, the actual watch in question is not the same one I wore on my wedding day. For some reason, I told myself that the dial was a bit too ivory, and that the style wasn’t quite dressy enough to be a dress watch, nor sporty enough to wear casually. I have no idea what I was thinking, to be honest, and having stupidly sold it I jumped at the chance to snag one for a second time when the opportunity arose. Equally bizarrely, I recall speaking to Coady, a friend on TZ-UK, at the time of my “confusion” as he was contemplating getting one himself. In the end, he took heed of what I said and went for something similar but, in some ways, quite different – the SBGW001. His choice was a little smaller at about 37.2mm; was handwound, as opposed to automatic; had no date, so was a classic dress three-hander; and had a paler dial, which was somehow a little less… contrived. I always wondered, in fact, if his was the better choice, but have in any event been completely consistent in my view that the pair of them are arguably the most lovely of all the modern Grand Seiko references. (Well, aside from a particular anniversary edition that’s just about impossible to get hold of anyway.)

So, there I was, quite happily enjoying my “wedding watch” (and it does get worn regularly, as it happens) when Coady decided to move on his SBGW001. I saw it pretty much the moment that it hit Sales Corner, and read (and re-read) the sales post with a slightly quickening heart. I know how rarely these watches come up for sale, and it was fairly certain that if I didn’t buy it straight away someone else would do so and would almost certainly hang onto it. So, even though I knew it was fairly similar to the GS I already had we were soon engaged in correspondence, and not long after I’d paid for it. It took a while to get here as Fedex needed organising and for one reason or another that took a few days, but I’ve been waiting patiently and today the package was delivered to my office.

The SBGW is based around a handwound 9S54 movement offering accuracy of -3/+5 seconds per day and a power reserve of 50 hours; It beats at 28,800VPH, contains 20 jewels and is adjusted in 6 positions and at 3 temperatures (indeed, Seiko provides certification of this testing with each watch sold with the movement, all contained in a leather wallet inside the box). The movement finishing/decoration is by allegedly carried out by machine, but it really is very pretty and by all accounts the finish under a loupe is impeccable. I’ve pinched a web photo to show what it looks like, albeit that it can’t be seen on the SBGW001; however, Seiko has confirmed that the finish of the hidden movements is no different to those that are visible through a display back.

The case measures 37.2mm, as I mentioned above, with relatively long but gently curved and drilled lugs. The design is decidedly simple, but the casework is full of lovely curves and polished steel, and it has the feel of real quality. The domed sapphire crystal, with it’s double AR coating, stands about 1mm proud of the bezel before sloping upwards another millimetre or so. The view it affords of the pale ivory dial is just as it needs to be, and the richness of Seiko’s dial finishing is clear to see (and no surprise, as the GS dials are all similarly impressive). Because it’s a handwound movement there’s little text on the dial, and what there is (Seiko, the GS logo and Grand Seiko) is very subtle. The un-lumed dauphine hands and hour markers are typical of the GS dress watches, and add to the impression of simplicity.

Coady and I were chatting over PM yesterday, and we both came to the same conclusion about the SBGW001. If you want a watch that will get you noticed, this isn’t the one; it just does what it was designed to do, quietly and efficiently. However, if you’re the kind of guy that always noticed the shy but alluring girl, standing in the corner of the room and not looking anyone in the eye, then this is a watch that you’ll probably appreciate. It just exudes class, and – without needing to raise it’s voice – seems to be saying “I know what I am, and I don’t have to make a fuss about it.”

It really is a little piece of perfection.

(Sorry about the photos – it’s a tricky watch to get right for some reason, but I’ll add some new ones as and when I have time to shoot them.)

GS Heaven

I’m not even going to talk about how difficult this photograph proved to be, but suffice it to say that I’m now the very proud owner of arguably the two most beautiful modern Grand Seikos. The one on the left is the watch I got married in – the SBGR061. To be honest, I wasn’t planning on adding another, but when a member of TZ-UK popped an absolute beauty up on Sales Corner I simply couldn’t resist. It’s the SBGW001 – a tad smaller, handwound, with no date and a slightly lighter dial.

Yes, they’re similar, but it’s a bit like having a date and no-date Sub and I love them both. I’ll do a proper write-up on the incoming as soon as I can.

Wedding vows restated?

I had one of these – a GS SBGR061 – (and wore it when I got married) about three years ago. It’s a lovely watch, with an impeccable standard of finish typical of the Grand Seiko marque… can’t actually recall why I sold it, but then that applies to many of the watches I’ve sold! The history of the “Grand” element of Seiko is interesting, and one that I became quite familiar with when I first owned a vintage 61GS from all the way back to 1968. This is taken directly from Seiko’s website, but it encapsulates everything pretty well…

“Seiko won every accuracy competition in Japan in the 1950’s and then sought new challenges on the international stage. Seiko’s application to join the Neuchatel Observatory Contest in 1960’s was graciously accepted , but the first results were a disaster! Seiko finished no better than 144th. However, the results improved rapidly and, by 1968, Seiko achieved first place in the mechanical watch category of Geneva Observatory Contest. The rapid development of Seiko’s mechanical watchmaking expertise made possible the creation of the Grand Seiko standard and the determination to create the best, functional watch in the world.

Grand Seiko became a truly attractive commercial proposition when, in 1968, automatic winding was added to the already renowned accuracy of the first Grand Seiko creations. In 1968, a 10-beat automatic model 61GS was made, immediately followed by a 10-beat hand winding model 45GS and a 10-beat women’s model 19GS. In 1969, specially adjusted models of 61GS V.F.A. and 45GS V.F.A. were created, delivering one- minute per month accuracy, which remains the gold standard in the mechanical watch industry.”

Impressive, eh?

Anyway, I picked this up over the weekend, and I have to say that I’m very happy with it; it really is a kind of all-purpose, classic style and i’ll be able to wear it both formally and casually without any problems. Should you be interested the spec is below, with details on the Seiko website here:

Drive system – Mechanical Automatic (Hand winding capability)
Caliber No. – 9S65
Case – Stainless steel
Case back – -through case back with sapphire crystal
Glass – High definition dual-curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Band – Crocodile
Buckle – Stainless steel with three-fold clasp with push button release
Accuracy – 5 ~ -3 seconds/ day
Water resistance – 3 bar
Magnetic resistance – than 4800 A/m (60 gauss)*
Weight – 84g
Case thickness – 13.1mm
Case diameter – 39.5mm
Jewels – 35

The movement is impeccable, although I have to say that the finish in terms of decoration is fairly utilitarian. That aside, it contains 35 jewels, regulated at six positions and three temperatures; this compares favourably with COSC, which I believe requires testing in 5 positions and two temperatures (Seiko’s additional temperature is one that is intended to match the conditions on the wrist). The daily variation is between -3 to +5 seconds per day (yes, even better than COSC, which of course permits a variation of between -4 to +6 seconds). The 9S65 beats 28,800 times per hour and provides a very good power reserve of 72 hours.

Finally, the obligatory photos…