GS Grand Seiko

Conceived by a craftsman.
Made by a team.

In 1993, a young man who loved the technology of cars and motorcycles joined Seiko Epson. Nothing exceptional in that, you may think, but Masatoshi Moteki brought much more to his new position. He also loved the humanity of the technology that lies in the wristwatch. He saw the watch as perhaps the only product that truly shared and enhanced people’s lives, all day, every day and he had always wanted to make a contribution to what he saw as this unique industry. This was why he joined Seiko Epson and why he was so thrilled when, in 1994, he was introduced to the team that was working on prototypes for an entirely new type of watch mechanism which combined the longevity and self-powering beauty of the mechanical watch with the precision that only electronic watches could offer. It was love at first sight and Moteki was delighted to be given the chance to contribute to the development of what would come to be known as Spring Drive. However, frustration followed when the project was shelved in favor of other priorities. Nevertheless, the belief of Moteki and other members of the team were unshaken and they continued to conduct studies that drove the Spring Drive project forward, even if only on an unofficial basis. When the project was resumed in 1997, Moteki officially joined the development team and was deeply influential in the creation of the first Spring Drive movement.

Masatoshi Moteki of Seiko Epson’s Micro Artist Studio. Almost his entire career as a development designer has been spent in turning Spring Drive from a prototype into a full suite of movements.

From that moment onwards, Moteki was dedicated to the development of Spring Drive in all its many movement variations and its success has always been the source of his greatest pride. In 2003, he became one of the elite craftsmen in the Micro Artist Studio, the team that has been responsible for several extraordinary masterpieces including the Spring Drive Sonnerie and Minute Repeater. In 2013, the studio was tasked, for the first time, to create a Grand Seiko Spring Drive watch that had the uniqueness and hand craftsmanship for which the Studio was renowned. “The Spring Drive movement has always been important to, and more than worthy of, Grand Seiko but I wanted the Micro Artist Studio to push the envelope of what defined Spring Drive,” Moteki recalls. “Caliber 9R always had one second a day accuracy and a very respectable power reserve of 72 hours but we realized that many watch connoisseurs would love to see a Spring Drive watch with an even longer reserve. For them, the longer the watch maintains its extraordinary precision even when not worn, the better.”

But how long should the reserve last? Moteki and his colleagues initially thought that a week could be a realistic target but then thought again. Yes, most people’s lifestyles revolve around a cycle of a week but would it not be better if they could add an extra day? Moteki decided that this could be achieved by incorporating three mainspring barrels in the movement but he was determined to do this without making the watch too large. He set to work on the design while also calling upon the studio’s experts in each specialized area for their input. One of them was Katsumi Nakata, who has the distinction of having been awarded the title of Contemporary Master Craftsman by the Japanese government. Moteki asked him to take a look at the design plans. Nakata immediately re-imagined the design in three dimensions and gave Moteki several pieces of valuable and detailed advice, even down to adjustments of just one hundredth of a millimeter that would help Moteki make the overall assembly work easier and the movement more durable.

Seen through the sapphire case back, Caliber 9R01 evokes the landscape of the region where it was created. The bridge is in the shape of Mt. Fuji and the city lights of Suwa, as viewed from the Shinshu highlands, sparkle beneath in the form of the rubies, other jewels and the highly polished blued screws. And a craftsman’s touch; the position of the Micro Artist Studio’s symbol mark on the bridge corresponds to the location of the studio in relation to the City of Suwa and Mt. Fuji.

To make a Spring Drive movement with three barrels and a power reserve of eight days would, in itself, be an extraordinary achievement, but that was just the beginning for Moteki and his colleagues at the studio. They wanted to make the movement itself a beauty to behold, and to give the exterior appearance of the watch that housed this movement a uniqueness and a richness that would match it.

When you look through the sapphire case back at the Micro Artist Studio’s creation, Caliber 9R01, the first thing that strikes you is the large, one-piece bridge. Thanks to the strength that its extra depth delivers, this bridge, along with the mainplate, holds the components, of which there are nearly 300, even more securely in place and thus enhances the energy efficiency of the watch and helps to extend its power reserve. The surface of the bridge is polished by hand to a delicate hairline finish by the studio’s most skilled craftsmen and its shape draws the outline of Mt Fuji. With an understated authority, the power reserve indicator sits inside the edge of the crystal, quietly emphasizing the movement’s most remarkable feature.

The case is quintessentially Grand Seiko but it is made from Platinum 950, which is 95 percent pure platinum. The remaining five percent is made up of other metals that increase the case’s hardness without compromising the unique beauty of platinum. In order to burnish the platinum to a super-mirrored finish, a new method of Zaratsu polishing was developed to take account of the fact that platinum is softer than stainless steel. Polishing each case can take up to ten times longer than for steel.

The 8-Day Power Reserve is a tour de force of both advanced and traditional watchmaking, made possible by the skills and experience of many members of the Micro Artist Studio’s team. “This is like, for instance, a high performance, luxury car. When you see it in a magazine, even if it’s beyond your means, it gives you a rush of exhilaration. I thought there should be a watch like that, and that it could be made in Japan. And, of course, it would be great if you could eventually own one.” says Moteki.