Milestones Of Grand Seiko & Louis Erard
We highlight two phenomenal watchpieces: the illuminating Grand Seiko Elegance Collection Spring Drive SBGY008 and the whimsical Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein II.
Getting to the end of 2021 itself calls for a celebration, given the grim outlook at the start of the year. I believe it is a sentiment shared by Ashok (Editor-in-Chief WOW Singapore), Ruckdee (Editor-in-Chief WOW Thailand) and Kelvin (Associate Publisher WOW Malaysia) as we navigated various restrictions imposed on us by our different (Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia respectively) governments. The light at the end of the tunnel does seem a tad brighter and as we hope the return to normalcy accelerates, let us take some time to celebrate and savour the incredible watches released this year that have kept us moving forward.
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The year 2021 is truly one of celebration for Seiko and Grand Seiko as the Japanese manufacture commemorates its 140-anniversary; Kintaro Hattori founded the company in 1881 at the tender age of 21. A stellar lineup was released to mark the momentous occasion — headlined by a pair of platinum watches in the vein of the Masterpiece Collection Seiko 140th Anniversary Limited Edition SBGZ007 and Heritage Collection Seiko 140th Anniversary Limited Edition “Tree Rings” SLGH007 amongst the other exclusive releases such as the Prospex SPB213. Apart from its 140th anniversary, Grand Seiko unveiled the next generation Spring Drive calibre 9RA2 and was well represented at the 2021 edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève. Nominated for the Iconic and “Petite Aiguille” categories respectively were the SBGW258 Re-Creation Of The First Grand Seiko and SJE083 Re-Creation of King Seiko. The icing on the cake is the SLGH005 “White Birch” winning the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève Men’s Watch Prize.
Picking a watch from this year’s stacked list of Grand Seikos and Seikos is no stroll in the park. This struck me even more when I was asked by one of the local Seiko reps recently about my favourite watch from this year’s novelty release. With 10 subcategories combined under Grand Seiko and Seiko (four and six respectively, excluding Credor), releases were spaced properly throughout the year. Just when I thought model X was the one, another release comes along and takes my breath away. Such is the predicament I faced when I was sifting through this year’s new watches.
Maintaining a strong year of novelties is no easy feat and for that, I tip my hat to the Japanese watchmaker. It began in March and with every subsequent quarter after, a slew of new watches kept coming our way. In other words, there is something new to talk about both Grand Seiko and Seiko every month. I personally believe this will be the ideal way for brands to schedule their releases moving forward. With two brand new calibres to work around with, I believe Grand Seiko will continue to impress in 2022 especially now that the brand is officially confirmed to participate in next year’s edition of Watches & Wonders. And before I present my pick, I’d like to make one final note and that is to congratulate Grand Seiko for garnering the now infamous waitlist for the SLGH005 “White Birch”. For a brand that continues to be underappreciated in Singapore, this a strong sign of progress.
Having had the opportunity to handle more jewellery watches this year and now being an advocate of men’s diamond watches, my eyes were drawn to the Grand Seiko Elegance Collection Spring Drive SBGY008. When done tastefully, diamond watches can be the ultimate form of discreet luxury and the SBGY008 embodies it perfectly.
The 60-piece limited edition SBGY008 sees 53 diamonds (~0.38 cts), set in the case sides. Unconventional, but as I mentioned, understated. Whether it is worn under a shirt cuff or displayed in a jewellery box, not many will notice the diamonds at first glance. The precious stones are set according to size — the ones in the middle are the largest and the sizes gradually decrease to follow the tapering towards the lugs. Grand Seiko opted for a rose-gold case that complements the textured dial. Mirroring the ever-popular “Snowflake” dials, the SBGY008 captures the ephemeral beauty of shizuri-yuki or gentle snow at the wintery Shinshu Watch Studio, home of Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive watches. Naturally, a Spring Drive movement does timekeeping duty here as Grand Seiko prefers the manual winding 3-days 9R31 to maintain a svelte profile. The power reserve indicator set at the rear should face little to no protests because it does not disrupt the gorgeous dial.
This pick would have surprised many but choosing from the usual suspects felt too predictable. The “White Birch” was definitely on the list alongside the “Tree Rings” but ultimately my vote went to the underdog.
Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein II
The regulator makes for an interesting case study — a historically important complication that still sits on the periphery of modern watchmaking. Amongst the various collections of numerous brands, it is an uncommon sighting with an equally uncommon (but unique) layout. For Louis Erard though, the complication forms an important pillar amongst its offerings and is going from strength to strength as it ends the year on a high with a slew of unique regulator novelties.
From collaborations with Alain Silberstein and Romaric André to the trio of precious stone and artisanal glass dials or dating slightly further back to the Vianney Halter piece, picking a favourite is never easy, but since they each have such strong and distinct design languages, you naturally find yourself gravitating towards one more than the others. This was a conversation Ashok and I had over text, albeit very briefly, and we both agreed that the Le Régulateur Louis Erard x atelier oï ranked high on our lists.
Sticking strictly to novelties released in 2021, the Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein II called out to me, mainly for its quirky, whimsical and unconventional design. No matter how you view it, the timepiece is bound to polarise opinion to the extent that hardly anyone can sit on the fence about it — either you like or dislike it.
An evocative clash of shapes, colours, materials and mechanical movement highlights a mischievous approach to watchmaking. You could even reckon it as an anti-establishment answer to the usual serious and at times stoic expressions of Swiss watchmaking. Tearing apart the layers of fun and humour is the masterful execution of proportions guided by Silberstein’s design philosophy, heavily
influenced by the Bauhaus art movement. That in itself is a stroke of Parisian genius that won my heart over.
The II denoted at the end of the watch name represents the second collaboration between Louis Erard and Alain Silberstein with the most notable difference being the case construction. Made from a combination of grade 2 and 5 titanium, the case construction is a departure from the conventional shapes used in watchmaking. It sees a pair of brancards extend from the main case to meet at the lugs — De Bethune’s floating lugs immediately come to mind. Silberstein then populated the dial with his signature lacquered hands — flashes of red, blue and yellow pop against the greyish black dial. It might seem a lot to take in at first but it gets better once you get the hang of things. As with all regulator watches, the handsets are separated. The red circle pinned with a triangle is Silberstein’s latest iteration of the hour hand while the extended blue arrow and wavy yellow “S” shaped hand serves as the minute and second hand respectively.
Released alongside the Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein II were the Le Chrono Monopoussoir Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein and La Semaine Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein. The entire capsule collection is limited to 178 models each, 78 of which are to be sold in a collector’s box consisting of all three watches and comes with a personal, non-fungible token linked exclusively to the triptych. Unfortunately, the pieces were snapped up in a flash virtually immediately upon release and must count as “one of those that got away.” Although prices of the Le Régulateur Louis Erard x Alain Silberstein II have not reached unrealistic levels, chances of finding one with a relatively decent price tag remain fairly slim, though with a bit of luck and good fortune, a bargain might come my way this Christmas.
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