I was recently at an event organised by Seiko Watches India to witness a grand presentation by Mr. Ikukiyo Komatsu, a Senior Watchmaker in Japan. He is one of the few watchmakers at the famous Shinshu Watch Studio in Japan where all mechanical Grand Seiko, Credor and Prospex watches are painstakingly hand assembled.
Mr Komatsu was qualified in 2014 as Modern Master Craftsman by the Japanese Govt. He was here in Delhi to show us the art of hand assembling the world’s first movement – Spring Drive Chronograph Caliber 9R65.
A 9R65 has over 400 parts and one can easily visualize the kind of perfection you need to assemble these 400 plus parts and come up with a masterpiece. Because of this precise and intricate work, a master craftsman like Mr Komatsu can assemble only 2-3 watches per day.
It simply was a display of the purest essentials of watch making, only elevated to the level of Art by the master watchmaker. The event was an attempt by Seiko to answer all the queries of watch enthusiasts.
The Grand Seiko Spring Drive is a monumental step taken by the giant Seiko Corporation to make a complicated watch based on their ground breaking spring drive technology.
In 1977, a young Seiko engineer saw a dream of making “the ever-lasting watch”. He wanted to develop a watch wound by a mainspring and with one-second-a-day accuracy, a precision that only the finest electronic watches could deliver. This engineer, Yoshikazu Akahane, spent 28 years, countless set-backs and over 600 prototypes, but he and his team eventually succeeded by inventing new technologies in every aspect of the watchmaker’s art. And in 2005, Seiko introduced the Seiko Spring Drive to the world.
So, what is a spring drive? It’s a radical new design for a watch movement. In fact, it’s the most radical change in watch making since the quartz movement debuted in the first wristwatch in 1969, and for your infromation, the quartz movement revolution was also created by Seiko.
The spring drive combines the accuracy of quartz with the mechanical beauty of a mechanical movement to create something altogether new. Virtually the entire movement is mechanical. But a tiny, yet critically important, area of the mechanical movement has been replaced, the escapement. In its place now resides the tri-synchro regulator, the key to the entire design. The TSR regulates three different kinds of energy–kinetic, electrical, and electromagnetic.
The technical details of how exactly that works are a bit more complex. Basically, a powerful permanent magnet is affixed to the glide wheel, called the stator. This simple little permanent magnet is basically the hairspring of a spring drive.
The spring drive is Seiko’s attempt to combine the strengths of quartz, that mainly being accuracy and stability with the beauty of a mechanical, to create something altogether new. They succeeded and the result has a beautiful advantage that neither of its constituent elements have; a perfectly smooth and silent sweep hand.
Spring Drive based movements give you “the best of both worlds; the technical interest and emotion of a mechanical watch and the accuracy of a quartz movement”.
It really was a great experience for me watching the master watchmaker at work, and then asking a few questions to him. The content has been framed based on a few questions and answers with Mr Komatsu.