Grand Seiko. Ten stories embracing the future. Vol.9 From sports timing to a high precision chronograph.

CHRONOGRAPH Grand Seiko's next challenge: Developing the chronograph

Central to the DNA of Grand Seiko is high precision, so it was natural for the Grand Seiko team in the early 2000’s to want to create a chronograph as its first real “complication.” The company had all the experience required to achieve this thanks to its long history at the forefront of two key areas of horology, sports timing and the manufacture of mechanical chronographs.

Seiko was the official timekeeper at a total of six Olympic Games, starting with Tokyo 1964 and Sapporo 1972 through to Barcelona 1992, Lillehammer 1994, Nagano 1998 and Salt Lake City 2002. This was a responsibility that required a very high level of technological proficiency and a complete understanding of the rigors of sports timing of every kind and, of course, the elapsed time stopwatch was, from the very start, a central part of the timing service. At the Tokyo Olympic Games, Seiko’s hand held mechanical stopwatches had won high praise for their precision and the logical next step was to see if the same level of accuracy could be achieved in a wristwatch. In 1969, a year in which Seiko made several world first breakthroughs, the world's first automatic day date chronograph, the Seiko 5 Sports Speed-Timer, was created. Caliber 6139 brought the precision of world class sports timing to the wrist with the use of a vertical clutch to transmit power to the chronograph mechanism. This system remains the gold standard today and is used in all the best chronographs because it prevents the second hand from jumping when the stopwatch is started.

With such a history, it was natural for the Grand Seiko team to want to create a chronograph movement. However, the Grand Seiko standards of precision, operability, and legibility were high and no existing technology would allow the creation of a chronograph that would match them. The idea was shelved for several years until, in 1999, Spring Drive was created, a development that opened up new opportunities for a luxury chronograph.

CHRONOGRAPH Grand Seiko's next challenge: Developing the chronograph

Central to the DNA of Grand Seiko is high precision, so it was natural for the Grand Seiko team in the early 2000’s to want to create a chronograph as its first real “complication.” The company had all the experience required to achieve this thanks to its long history at the forefront of two key areas of horology, sports timing and the manufacture of mechanical chronographs.

Seiko was the official timekeeper at a total of six Olympic Games, starting with Tokyo 1964 and Sapporo 1972 through to Barcelona 1992, Lillehammer 1994, Nagano 1998 and Salt Lake City 2002. This was a responsibility that required a very high level of technological proficiency and a complete understanding of the rigors of sports timing of every kind and, of course, the elapsed time stopwatch was, from the very start, a central part of the timing service. At the Tokyo Olympic Games, Seiko’s hand held mechanical stopwatches had won high praise for their precision and the logical next step was to see if the same level of accuracy could be achieved in a wristwatch. In 1969, a year in which Seiko made several world first breakthroughs, the world's first automatic day date chronograph, the Seiko 5 Sports Speed-Timer, was created. Caliber 6139 brought the precision of world class sports timing to the wrist with the use of a vertical clutch to transmit power to the chronograph mechanism. This system remains the gold standard today and is used in all the best chronographs because it prevents the second hand from jumping when the stopwatch is started.

With such a history, it was natural for the Grand Seiko team to want to create a chronograph movement. However, the Grand Seiko standards of precision, operability, and legibility were high and no existing technology would allow the creation of a chronograph that would match them. The idea was shelved for several years until, in 1999, Spring Drive was created, a development that opened up new opportunities for a luxury chronograph.

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「SBGA011」と「SBGL001」 「SBGA011」と「SBGL001」

Left: Seiko 5 Sports Speed-Timer, released in May 1969, was the world's first automatic-winding day/date chronograph. It used Caliber 6139.
Right: Grand Seiko SBGC003, released in 2007. It featured the Caliber 9R86 Spring Drive chronograph movement. Legibility was enhanced by placing the 30-minute and 12-hour counters vertically on the 3 o'clock side of the dial.

Taking the tradition of sports timing into the realm of sports watches.

A mechanical 1/10 second counter stopwatch used at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. In Spring Drive Chronograph Caliber 9R86, the same two-stage button operation system was used to ensure maximum precision.

The Vertical Clutch System

The Vertical Clutch System

The energy that powers the time of day movement also drives the chronograph. This power is transmitted to the chronograph mechanism when the start button is pressed. The company invented its vertical clutch system using a disc spring in Caliber 6139 in 1969. This prevents the second hand from jumping when the power is transmitted, and increases the accuracy of elapsed time measurement. A new version of this very successful mechanism was used in the Spring Drive Chronograph.

*Some of the watches shown here have different specifications than at the time of release.