Grand Seiko Spring Drive: Root of Excellence
Micro Artist Studio, home of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive watches is where the extremely high-end Grand Seiko Spring Drive timepieces are made.
Grand Seiko has two homes, so to speak. The Shizukuishi Watch Studio in Morioka to the north of Japan serves as one base of operations. This is where mechanical Grand Seiko watches are made. The other location, the Shinshu Watch Studio in Nagano, is dedicated to the production of Spring Drive and quartz powered Grand Seiko watches.
Our article focuses on the latter, as it also houses the Micro Artist Studio where the extremely high-end Grand Seiko Spring Drive timepieces are made. The studio was established in 2000 with the purpose of “uncovering, examining, and mastering the technologies and skills passed on by our predecessors for the production of luxury watches so that world-class Japanese watches could be created”.
Presently, about a dozen highly skilled people work in this studio. In addition to the master watchmakers, movement designers, technicians and craftsmen (three of whom are proud recipients of the Medal with Yellow Ribbon from the Japanese government) combine their expertise to deliver one masterpiece after another, including the Credor Spring Drive Sonnerie from 2006 and the Credor Spring Drive Minute Repeater from 2011.
Of more relevance to a wider audience of watch collectors are the Calibres 9R01 and 9R02, which have been used in several Grand Seiko models since 2016 and 2019, respectively.
We remember seeing Calibre 9R01 for the first time at Baselworld 2016, together with the watch models SBGD201 in platinum with a diamond dust textured dial and SBGD202 in rose gold with tiny twinkling stars on a black dial. This hand-winding movement is notable for being a Spring Drive calibre with eight days or 192 hours of power reserve, thanks to the use of three barrels. Its accuracy range is +/- 0.5 second per day or +/- 10 seconds per month.
At that time, we quickly took notice of the one-piece bridge design as it mimics the silhouette of Mount Fuji. We learned later on that the glide wheel next to the mountain is supposed to represent the sun. The studio’s decision to put the power reserve indicator on the back of the movement ensured minimalism of the dial on those two watches.
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The same methodology is preserved on the Calibre 9R02. Introduced in 2019, this other hand-winding movement is intended to give life to the even slimmer Grand Seiko watches in the thin dress series. In a stroke of genius, the team at the Micro Artist Studio designed a single barrel with two mainsprings inside. Together with the Torque Return System, which is activated for 48 hours from when the mainsprings are fully wound, the movement is able to deliver an extended power reserve of 84 hours.
Calibre 9R02 premiered in two platinum watches that year: SBGZ001 and SBGZ003, both measuring 38.5 mm in diameter and 9.8 mm in thickness. Those were followed in 2020 by the SBGZ005, also in platinum, to celebrate the 160th anniversary of Kintaro Hattori. The latest timepiece to use Calibre 9R02 is the SBGZ007 for the 140th anniversary of the Seiko company. Once again, this is a platinum watch.
One interesting bit of detail on Calibre 9R02 is the plaque on the back of the movement. As a standard practice, this piece of 18K yellow gold is engraved with the words “Micro Artist”. However, the customer has the option of having different words engraved, provided that they fit in the space. After all, we are at the upper echelons of watchmaking, and we will continue to see impressive pieces coming out of this Micro Artist Studio in the years to come.
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