Chapter 2

The natural beauty of Shinshu expressed in a watch

It’s little surprise that a movement that so thoroughly captures time’s natural, quiet flow would be crafted in a region so blessed by nature’s beauty. From the beginning, Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive watches have evinced an affinity for the natural surroundings of Shinshu, where they are crafted and in which their makers find inspiration.

It all started with the first 9R Spring Drive movement, which debuted in 2004, some 27 years after the idea for Spring Drive was conceived. Functionally, the 9R65, which is still a mainstay of the Grand Seiko catalog, was a groundbreaking development. For the first time in Spring Drive, it brought automatic winding and a power reserve of three full days, and it did so while providing an accuracy of ±15 seconds per month. Aesthetically, the new 9R platform began a tradition of referencing the geography and nature of Shinshu in its designs.

Viewed through an exhibition case back, the bridges and gear trains of Caliber 9R65 are configured in the image of the Hotaka Mountains, which can be seen in the distance from the Shinshu Watch Studio, where Spring Drive watches are made.

Using this movement, the SBGA005, a limited edition from the first year of 9R, debuted a dial motif inspired by fir trees cut from nearby mountains and used for the Onbashira Festival. With a history going back more than a millennium, the festival is held every six years in the Suwa area. A forerunner of Grand Seiko’s nature-inspired dials, the motif went on to grace the limited edition SBGC017 of 2016, a year in which the Onbashira Festival was celebrated.

More recent evocations of Shinshu’s natural world include the SLGA021, which is powered by the Spring Drive 5 Days Caliber 9RA2. With a dial that takes inspiration from nearby Lake Suwa in the early morning hours before dawn, it summons gentle waves on this placid body of water. It’s a quiet morning scene that might be taken in by a local inhabitant of Suwa City, perhaps a Grand Seiko watchmaker as they commute to work to craft the best possible watches they can. The mold used to make this watch’s dial was created by hand, the skilled work of a craftsman using a hammer and other tools.

From the Micro Artist Studio, the manually wound 9R02 movement references a symbol of the city in which the studio is situated. In combination with the torque return system, its barrel housing two mainsprings set in parallel provides 84 hours of power reserve while adopting the form of the bellflower, the symbol of Shiojiri City. The edges of each of the three shapes that form the bellflower are convex and polished by hand.

Nearly three decades of research and development have culminated in the Grand Seiko Caliber 9R. Powered by a mainspring but regulated by the advanced technology of an IC and crystal oscillator, Caliber 9R combines the tradition and craft of mechanical watchmaking with the accuracy of recent timekeeping technologies. In 9R-powered watches, a distinctive seconds hand reflects the natural flow of time, while dial and movement designs express the unique natural beauty of Shinshu.

These dial and movement designs are two ways in which Grand Seiko strengthens the connection between its watches and the region whence they come, serving as an enduring link between the craftsmen and women and the watches they painstakingly create. From the wind-swept slopes of the Hotaka Mountains to the lapping shores of Lake Suwa, beautiful sites and landscapes inspire the 9R Spring Drive watches that bear the name Grand Seiko.