W&W 2024 Grand Seiko Sport Collection – Calibre 9R 20th Anniversary Limited Edition

Growing up in the 90s, Japanese goods were the stuff of dreams. Toys, electronics and home furnishings were always a step ahead of the rest, being designed with functionality, good looks and user experience in mind. As a third culture kid, Japan made Asia cool – and as the 2010s rolled around for millennials, we saw the rise of Grand Seiko and its finely finished dials and movements, echoing the considered design of gadgets and gizmos of yore. It is hard to believe that the 9R Spring Drive series of movements is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year – such is its innovative combination of mechanisms for a watch movement. To celebrate this monumentous occasion, Grand Seiko unveils the Calibre 9R Anniversary Limited Edition at Watches and Wonders 2024 – a watch that evokes child-like memories of playing with Japanese toys and video games through its meticulous design and presentation. 

Developed by one of their engineers, Yoshikazu Akahane – it is said he was enamoured with the idea of combining instant starting nature and power of mechanical watches, with the accuracy of (then) recently developed quartz watches, whilst eliminating the need to change batteries. His idea was to power a quartz watch with a mainspring – to which his supervisor thought impossible. Akahane came up with the idea in the late 70s, and the result – the power and gear trains of a mechanical watch, combined with what Seiko call the “Tri Synchro Regulator”, which is a hybrid of mechanical and electronic regulating mechanisms, incorporating a flywheel, electromagnets and a quartz crystal, with the first prototype finalised in 1982. Spring Drive is one of the most novel methods of controlling the energy from a mechanical watch. In the words of a Seiko engineer, interviewed by Hodinkee, “It is a device that ensures constant rotational speed”. In this sense, the addition of a quartz regulator enables this style of movement to achieve accuracy to within 1 second a day – an amazing feat for a watch with a mechanical drive train. Originally released in 1999, the Spring Drive movement was put into serial production in 2004, and has been going for 20 years as of 2024.

The new Sport Collection Calibre 9R 20th Anniversary Limited Edition features a case design inspired by the lion – an emblematic Grand Seiko symbol since the brand’s inception in the 60s. Its angular lines on the curved lugs incorporate claw-like designs that highlight the incredibly refined Zaratsu polishing, the hairline brushed finishes and the contrast between the two. The case and bracelet are crafted from Seiko’s High-intensity Titanium – a material that is 30% lighter than stainless steel, and has a brighter hue. Thick H-shaped links on the bracelet ensure a great fit for all wrist sizes – combined with the lightness of the case material makes for a great wearing experience, even accounting for the 44.5mm case diameter. 

Arguably the most distinctive element of the watch is the sunrise-hued dial of the 20th Anniversary Limited Edition. Inspired by the summer sunrises of the Hotaka mountain ranges that are near the Shinshu watch studio (where the Spring Drive movements are manufactured), the reddish hue of the dial appears to change as the light hits it at different angles. This is thanks to a patented Optical Multi-layer Coating, which utilises a physical vapour deposition (PVD) process to apply several layers of nanoscale film to the dial, which enables the colourshift effect to occur when the dial is viewed at different angles. Not only does this dial showcase the nature of time that Grand Seiko takes its inspiration from, it also displays a myriad of complications – chronograph hours and minutes, running seconds, date, power reserve and a GMT hand. Dial furnishings are also highlighted with Lumibrite luminescent material – blue for the GMT indications, and green for the time keeping indications. When the chronograph hand is activated, the movement of the seconds hand combined with the changing sunrise hues of the dial bring a poetic sense to the fluid motion of time.

Housed within the high-intensity titanium case is the 9R96 movement. Based on the 9R86 movement that is already jam-packed with complications (chronograph, date, power reserve and traveller’s GMT), the movement within the Calibre 9R 20th Anniversary Limited Edition is further adjusted to an accuracy of +/- 10 seconds per month (+/- 0.5 seconds per day). 

For Grand Seiko to trigger a sense of 90s nostalgia around Japanese goods of yore, it has to be jam-packed with features, designed with user experience in mind, and have a character that is distinctively Japanese. The Calibre 9R 20th Anniversary Limited Edition has all of these things and more – with its nature-inspired dial, impressively equipped movement, and great wearability with proprietary titanium construction. A fitting celebration to the 9R series of movements, this watch is the full Grand Seiko experience – the most accurate movement, paired with exquisite design details.

Technical Specifications

Caliber 9R 20th Anniversary Limited Edition: SBGC275 Spring Drive Chronograph GMT Caliber 9R96
Driving system: Automatic

Accuracy: ±10 seconds per month (±0.5 seconds per day)
Power reserve: 72 hours

Functions: GMT hand/ Chronograph up to 12 hours
Number of jewels: 50

Case: High-intensity titanium case and bracelet 

Three-fold clasp with push-button release, secure lock, and extender
Dual-curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
See-through screw case back
Screw-down crown
Water resistance: 20 bar
Magnetic resistance: 4,800 A/m
Diameter: 44.5mm, Thickness: 16.8mm
Approximate recommended retail price: $13,400
Limited edition of 700