Grand Seiko often pulls inspiration from the natural splendor surrounding the facilities where its watches are made. Lake Suwa, located in Nagano prefecture, sits near Shinshu Watch Studio, the home of Grand Seiko Spring Drive. Today, Grand Seiko introduces its newest reference, this time featuring a dial directly inspired by Lake Suwa during winter.
Reference SBGY007 evokes “Omiwatari,” otherwise known as “A God’s Crossing.” Every winter, Lake Suwa freezes over entirely. Due to the hot springs that flow beneath the lake, the surface of the ice stretches and forms large cracks and ridges, forming what looks like a path along the ice. This naturally occurring phenomenon is the source of the Omiwatari legend, which describes the Shinto gods crossing over the surface of the ice, creating the aforementioned path.
The dial is ice-blue in color and textured to mimic the undulations of the frozen lake. This effect is achieved by hammering the dial mold to create its pattern and rounded shape. The indexes are multifaceted and curved to match the curvature of the dial. The hours and minutes hands are razor sharp, and the sweeping seconds hand, rendered in thermally-tempered blue, glides across the dial courtesy of the proprietary Spring Drive caliber. The minutes and seconds are also curved by hand, a necessity because there are strict tolerances for the hands to fall between the dial and the dual curved crystal without touching either part. Overall, the dial, with its delicate and organic pattern paired with Grand Seiko’s exemplary hands and indexes, wholly embodies the brand’s Nature of Time design philosophy.
The stainless steel case measures 38.5mm in diameter, 10.2mm in thickness, 43.7mm in length, and has a lug width of 19mm. Known as the “Dress Series,” this case design was introduced in 2019. The inspiration came from the shape of a wind-filled sail, and the goal was to create a slimmer form that could easily slip under a shirt cuff. The curvature is most pronounced in profile, and despite its relative thinness, the case design remains highly complex and well thought out, emphasizing on-the-wrist ergonomics as much as it does aesthetic beauty. And despite having a tall, heavily curved crystal (about 2mm tall at its highest point), SBGY007 is the thinnest steel Spring Drive watch to date.
A new adaptation of Zaratsu polishing was developed for this design to address the challenge of creating a distortion-free finish on a curved surface. This approach, which involves polishing a curved surface against a flat disc, is far more labor intensive and requires even greater dexterity from even the most experienced artisan.
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of Spring Drive in 2019, Grand Seiko unveiled four hand-wound Spring Drive models with two new calibers: 9R02 and 9R31. Both are beautiful and technically impressive movements, the former produced by the craftsmen and women of the Micro Artist Studio, and the latter by the Shinshu Watch Studio where Grand Seiko produces all of its Spring Drive timepieces. 9R31 is the movement you’ll find here in SBGY007.
One of the first things you’ll notice is that caliber 9R31 moves the power reserve off the dial and carries it over to the movement side of the watch. This brings symmetry to the dial, effectively making it time-only on the dial-side while still retaining the functionality of having a power reserve on a manual-wind timepiece.
Architecturally, it has the same dual mainspring structure as caliber 9R02, as well as a high precision rate of one second a day with a power reserve of 72 hours. The Dual Spring Barrel achieves a greater power reserve by housing two mainsprings in one barrel, which has the added benefit of keeping the movement compact. These two springs, which are longer and thinner than a typical mainspring, extend the power reserve without diminishing the torque by unwinding simultaneously.
9R31 uses a single bridge, much like 9R01, which serves to improve durability and energy efficiency. The movement is also beautifully decorated, with the large hairline-finished bridge exposing jewels, tempered screws, and some of the gear train. That hairline finish is meticulously applied by hand by highly skilled craftspeople at Shinshu.
Altogether, despite featuring more than 200 components for a time-only movement, 9R31 is the thinnest Spring Drive caliber produced by the Shinshu Watch Studio.
SBGY007 comes paired with a crocodile strap with blue stitching and backing, a tonal configuration that picks up the blue in the dial.
Available in July, SBGY007 will retail for $8,300, and will be available for purchase at Grand Seiko Boutiques, the GS9 Club Shop, and select retail partners.
Case: Stainless Steel
Dimensions: 38.5mm in diameter x 10.2mm in thickness x 43.7mm in length
Movement: 9R31 Manual-Wind Spring Drive
Availability: July 2021, Grand Seiko Boutiques, GS9 Club Shop, and select retail partners