At Baselworld 2016, Seiko have announced a tourbillon from their Credor collection (review forthcoming), but the mainstay of their products are three hand watches, with the odd GMT. The SGBC003 Spring Drive Chronograph was introduced in 2007 and is an in-house developed column wheel chronograph with the Caliber 9R86. The innovative movement is now updated to Caliber 9R96 in the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Black Ceramic Edition.
This new edition comes in an enlarged case. The base case is in Bright Titanium, a special Seiko concoction of titanium which is claimed to be more than 50% harder than regular titanium, it now comes clad in a high tech zicronium ceramic. The ceramic is black and clad the sides of the case and is the material for the bezel as well. This is not the first time Seiko has used ceramic on the watches. The 55th Anniversary SGBC013 was the first to feature ceramic, and it had a ceramic bezel. The cladding is very well done, and at first glance it looks like the entire case is built from ceramic. But the tell tale signs of screws on the side panels and the crown guard reveal the story. The case is also now larger than the earlier Spring Drive Chronograph models, going from 43.5mm to 46.4mm, while the thickness remain the same at 16.5mm.
Comparing to the earlier models, the pushers are now direct action, instead of screw down, and proportionately smaller. Some commentators have found fault with the SGGC001/003/005/013 with the size of the pushers. While I never had issues with the pushers on my SGBC003, but with the Ceramic Edition, the critics are now silenced.
This dial is quite special, and the tree guilloché motif is quite beautiful, as is the green dial. The green is very dark, showing the emerald hue only at certain parts which catch the dark.
In both versions, the dial is now also multi level, and creates a sculptured three dimensional look. Aesthetically, this is more interesting than the flat dials of the SGBC001/003/005, but is perhaps required to provide eye candy as the case is now larger.
The hands are magnificent as in any Grand Seiko. The faceted hands are laser cut, and are razor sharp. The facets are all polished. The top of the hands get a brushed finish, and the sides are almost like a chamfer is highly polished to a near mirror finish.
The movement is now the Caliber 9R96, first seen in the Spring Drive Chronograph 55th Anniversary Limited Edition. Compared to the Caliber 9R86 found in the SBGC001/003/005, there does not seem to be any visual clues on the changes made. Perhaps there is none. But the accuracy is now improved to +/- 10s a month versus +/-15 seconds a month.
The finishing is top grade. Every traditional finnisage is executed in excellence. Anglage, fausse côtes, polishing, sand blasting is all beyond reproach, although we note the approach is more a very high level workman’s achievement rather than a fully decorative approach which Seiko reserves for the Micro Artisan Studio pieces. These command a different (much higher) price. One such example is the newly released Grand Seiko SBGD001 Spring Drive 8 Day Power Reserve.The Nagano Stripes is not a direct copy of the Côtes de Genève used in Swiss watches, but one which though is made in the same methodology, looks decidedly different. A Grand Seiko Lion of Seikosha medallion adorns the oscillating weight. The movement, though is regulated by a quartz crystal, is fully traditional up till the fourth wheel. Instead of an escape wheel and the mechanical balance system, the Spring Drive movement features a glide wheel which turns continuously only in one direction, and an electromagnetic braking system to regulate its speed to a constant 6 revolutions a second.
The Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph Black Ceramic Edition is a remarkable watch. We love it. The aesthetics work. The movement is a true gem. The finishing of the case, dial, hands and the movement is top class.