Advent Calendar Day 14: Bennett Winch Briefcase
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Japanese watch powerhouse Seiko continues to go from strength to strength, unveiling a number of exciting new models this year at Baselworld and establishing the Grand Seiko collection as an entirely separate brand. Here’s a selection of our favourite of their models due to hit markets later this year.
In 1965, Seiko released its (and Japan’s) first ever dive watch. Back then watches with high levels of water resistance were not widely available like they are today, so the watch was particularly notable for its 150m depth rating. Designed as a functional tool watch, it was used by the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition from 1966 to 1969 before finding favour with a wider commercial audience.
In 2017, it is reborn into the Prospex collection as the Seiko Prospex Diver SLA017, a modern reinterpretation of this vintage classic. And while it very much looks like the original, it has enhanced functionality thanks to some modern-day updates. These include a box-shaped sapphire crystal and 200m water resistance for greater reliability and a silicone strap for enhanced comfort on the wrist.
The case in stainless steel is virtually identical to the original but now measures 39.9mm and has been covered with a super-hard coating to prevent scratches. Inside is the automatic Caliber 8L35, specifically designed for dive watches and offering a 50-hour power reserve. Assembled and adjusted by hand, only 2,000 examples of the SLA017 will be made. A contemporary reinterpretation, the SPB051, will also be made available later this year in a non-limited production.
The Grand Seiko name has always stood for quality and innovation in Japanese watchmaking. Despite the first model being launched in 1960 to critical acclaim however, the name remained largely unknown outside of Japan until recently. In 2010, the brand made its international debut and has been gaining popularity ever since.
To make up for lost time, Seiko has created a new series based directly on the original Grand Seiko design from 1960. The style is simple yet sophisticated, with the 38mm case available in three limited edition versions crafted from different metals; platinum, 18k red gold and stainless steel.
Providing the power is the manual-wind Caliber 9S64, which is accurate to -3/+5 seconds a day and offers a max power reserve of 72 hours. There is also a modern-day variation offered in a 40.5mm brilliant hard titanium case.
Marketed as one of, if not the, the most accurate luxury chronographs in the world, the standard Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph boasts timing precision of one second a day. First added to the Grand Seiko collection in 2016, this year the series has been expanded with the addition of three new watches, all of which are offered in 46.4mm light-weight, hybrid titanium-ceramic cases with matching bracelets. Capable of displaying an impressive amount of information, the dial remains easy to read thanks to a well-thought out design.
In addition to the central time display, there is also a 12-hour chronograph and a GMT indicator for tracking a second time-zone. Inside is the automatic caliber 9R86, offering a max power reserve of 72 hours. Of particular note is the limited edition SBGC219 model, which has been created to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Spring Drive Chronograph GMT caliber.
Offered in a limited production of just 500 pieces, it is equipped with a special movement, the 9R96, which has been expertly adjusted for enhanced accuracy (it offers a precision of 0.5 second per day). In addition, the bezel features a tachymeter instead of the standard 24-hour markers. The dial is finished in Grand Seiko blue, which for the first time, is matched with rose gold hands and markers. Even the oscillating weight carries an 18k rose gold Grand Seiko lion to mark the enhanced precision.
Although Grand Seiko’s dive watches have always been a popular dive watch of choice for recreational divers, the company has never produced a professional grade dive watch. In 2017, that all changes, with the introduction of the Hi-Beat 36000 Professional 600m Diver’s.
Designed to be highly legible and extremely reliable in all conditions, the watch is offered in a high-intensity titanium case and bracelet, making it extremely light and comfortable on the wrist despite its hefty 46.9mm x 17.0mm dimensions.
A tool watch in every sense of the word, the focus here is on practical functionality: the grooves on the rotating bezel are extended for secure use, even with thick gloves; the bracelet has a sliding extension setting to accommodate pressure changes; even the dial has been specially made from iron to protect the movement from the harmful effects of magnetism and delivers magnetic resistance of 16,000 A/m. Powered by the hi-beat Caliber 9S85 oscillating at 36,000 vibrations per hour, it offers accuracy of -3/+5 seconds and a max power reserve of 55 hours.
Tom Mulraney is the Founder of Luxury Content Creators Inc. a London-based media agency creating digital content for luxury brands and the Managing Editor of online watch magazine thewatchlounge.com.