GRAND SEIKO Releases 20th Anniversary Edition of 9S Mechanical Movement
Born During Changing Times, Changing the Times 20 Years Later
For Taiwan, the 1990s were a decade of radical change and an important transition period [to full-fledged multi-party democracy]. National politics, society, industry and even culture saw dramatic changes during that period. A very large part – probably the best part – of the face of contemporary Taiwan took shape during that era. For manufacturers of high-end watches around the world, the 1990s were also an important transition period. All of a sudden, wristwatches, previously practical tools in everyday life, became status symbols and tokens of good taste. Mechanical watches, originally squeezed out by the functionally superior quartz watches, had a comeback as luxury items thanks to their classical design and the refined craftsmanship behind their making.
Born During Changing Times, Changing the Times 20 Years LaterBy Grand Seiko
The Grand Seiko 9S mechanical movement was born against this backdrop. The quartz watch revolution, launched by Japanese watchmaker Seiko Instruments Inc. in the 1970s, disrupted the entire watchmaking industry. By the 1980s, Seiko had come to dominate the watchmaking industry. Seiko had always emphasized accuracy and practicality. However, as wristwatches gradually turned into luxury items in the 1990s, Seiko jumped on the bandwagon, reviving its mothballed mechanical watch production line to produce a brand-new generation of mechanical caliber 9S series timepieces. Although the mechanical movement 9S, introduced in 1998, was a product of the new era, the basic logic of the entire mechanical movement does not differ dramatically from that of the Grand Seiko mechanical watch of the Golden Era. The key lies equally in a sturdy, reasonable design and painstaking adjustment by highly skilled craftspeople. 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the 9S mechanical movement. In the two decades since its launch, the 9S saw a series of incremental improvements, which translated into a wide array of versions such as High-Beat, GMT, large size and women’s models. However, the core values of the entire series stayed true to the initial concept. Therefore, we can see the ultimate implementation of this spirit in the models of this year’s anniversary edition.
Top of the line of the caliber 9S anniversary edition is the limited edition V.F.A. model. The term V.F.A. is short hand for very fine adjusted. In the late 1960s, the Grand Seiko mechanical movements underwent an ultra precision adjustment, which achieved the incredible precision of a +2 to -2 seconds tolerance per day. This unprecedented degree of precision already tested the physical limits of mechanical watches. Timepieces with the V.F.A. designation constitute a milestone in Grand Seiko’s pursuit of precision and can well be called the best of the best. For the Caliber 9S85 Hi-Beat V.F.A. in the limited edition 9S collection, accuracy has been further enhanced by prolonging the period of testing and adjustment, which normally takes 17 days, to 34 days. Ultimately, the model’s precision improved from a tolerance of +5 to -3 seconds per day to +3 to -1 seconds per day, exhibiting a level of precision almost as high as the +2 to -2 seconds per day of the original V.F.A. model, and by far outstripping the +6 to -4 criteria required for Swiss chronometer certification.
This limited-edition timepiece comes with a platinum case that stands out as much for its elegant simplicity as for its graceful design. Its multi-faceted curved surfaces create a three-dimensional contour that is typical for what has become known as the Seiko Style. However, for the limited edition watch an additional facet has been added at the inner side of the lug which means that three curved surfaces – front, inner and outer side - must exactly meet in one point at its very edge. Shaping and polishing such a watchcase puts even master craftsmen to test. Only timepieces with such an exquisite look and quality deserve the designation V.F.A. The face of the limited edition watch was also revamped. A closer look at the silver white dial reveals an intricate pattern. Curved lines radiating out from the center of the dial form a grid inscribed with the initials G and S, interspersed with the lightning bolt-shaped S logo of Daini Seikosha, the Seiko precursor, who developed the GS High-Beat mechanical caliber. The design as such is already ingenious but so is the high level of craftsmanship which ensures that the insignia, which shrink to a very small size along with the grid cells toward the center of the dial, retain their shape and remain clearly legible.
Aside from the platinum V.F.A. model, Grand Seiko also released the Special 18K gold version. In this case, “Special” refers to a particular standard of accuracy which is not as high as the V.F.A. but, at a tolerance of +4 to -2 seconds per day, still higher as the GS Standard or the most widely recognized chronometer standard. While the V.F.A. and Special versions are identical in their outer appearance except for the material of their cases, the third model in the anniversary line-up, the eight-beat SBGR311 Caliber 9S68 sports a different shape. The mechanical movement of the SBGR311 lives up to the GS standard of accuracy. In contrast to the V.F.A. and Special versions with their newly designed cases, the SBGR311 uses the familiar basic Grand Seiko case, which highlights the brand’s trustworthiness and reliability. Its dial also sports the anniversary pattern but instead of silver white it comes in a rich maroon color that underlines its anniversary model character. The original Caliber 9S mechanical movement was born during an era of change. Twenty years later, it has not only successfully carved out its niche in the worldwide market for luxury watches but also outperforms Swiss-made watches in many areas, leading the industry in writing the rules of the game for the next era. In hindsight, the key to Grand Seiko’s astounding success was not disruptive change but the company’s dedication to its own core values. Persevering in our endeavor for twenty years is what has brought us to where we are today.
Translated by Susanne Ganz
Edited by HanSheng Huang
This content is sponsored by Grand Seiko.