October last year was indeed a very exciting time here at Arizona Fine Time. We learned a few very important pieces of information from Seiko. First, Grand Seiko was finally and officially coming to the US. Second, Arizona Fine Time had been named the 1st official US dealer. And finally, that we would be hosting a Grand Seiko Launch Party and Road show.
By the beginning of November, the Grand Seiko watches had started to trickle in and the day was fast approaching for our Launch Party and Road Show. This was to be a grand event where you could actually see a master watchmaker assemble an entire Grand Seiko time piece.
The day came for the event faster than any of us had expected and we were truly excited to be part of this special launch. We were introduced to a number of people in Seiko's staff, mostly from the US, but also two gentleman that flew in from Japan specifically to be at our launch party.
The two distinguished gentlemen from Japan were Junya Kamijo who is considered to be the top master watchmaker on staff and Kosuke "Reggie" Kiryu who is the Marketing and operations manager for Shinshu Watch Studio. Shinshu Watch Studio is where Grand Seiko is made and is located in Suwa, Nagano Japan.
The 1st thing I noticed (of course) was the timepieces on their wrists, and Junya Kamijo was wearing one I had admired for a long time, but I had never actually seen in person. This watch was the SBGA011, AKA the Grand Seiko “Snowflake”. From that moment on, I was truly hooked on this piece.
GS-SBGA011-1 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
Several of us sat down and took turns staring at this truly unique dial, each one of us in awe. That's when Reggie chimed in to help explain the design of this piece.
GS-SBGA011-2 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
"This models nickname in the factory is the Snowflake. It is an homage to our hometown, Suwa". Reggie went on to explain in detail how Suwa's winter influenced this piece and its entire design.
GS-SBGA011-8 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
SuwaJP by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
Suwa is almost dead center in the middle of Japan, and because of this, the humidity level is lower than in other parts of the country. Because of this lower humidity, the snow fall during the winter is very light and airy. This allows the wind to sculpt the snow lying on the ground to make beautiful patterns. They set out to create a dial which resembled this light snow fall and patterns. In this, the SBGA011 Grand Seiko “Snowflake” was born. It is a unique 6 step process to replicate the snowfall in the dial. While the most complex dial in the Grand Seiko line takes 12 steps to complete, this “Snowflake” still one of the most intricate dials in the series.
GS-SBGA011-4 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
SnowonGound by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
The case and bracelet of this model are made from Seiko's in house developed and patented "High-Intensity" Titanium. This titanium is slightly stronger than stainless steel, and also about 40% of the weight, making it "as light as a snowflake".
GS-SBGA011-3 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
The blue second hand (and text of SPRING DRIVE) was to complete the winter character of this timepiece. They wanted to give the watch "the cold feel". To me, this adds just enough detail to make the piece really stand out.
GS-SBGA011-5 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
To complete this Grand Seiko piece, they chose their Spring Drive for the movement. It had nothing to do with snow, but was for good reason. They only wanted their finest movement in the piece that represented their hometown. Spring Drive has the beauty and the accuracy to be more than qualified as the right movement for the job. I personally can't say I would do it any different.
GS-SBGA011-6 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
GS-SBGA011-7 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
The night continued on to be a huge success and I will always have very fond memories of our 1st Grand Seiko Road show. And, until I have one myself, I will be very jealous of anyone who owns a SBGA011 “Snowflake” (including Junya Kamijo).
GS-SBGA011-9 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
GS-SBGA011-10 by JoeAZFT, on Flickr
Which brings me to my "unofficial" announcement...
On Friday, October 14th 2011, Arizona Fine Time will once again be hosting a Grand Seiko Road Show.
This is a tremendous opportunity to appreciate and understand what makes Grand Seiko so special. We will again have a master watchmaker assemble a complete Grand Seiko timepiece live in the store and you will be able to share in the stories that only people from the factory can share. Please join us on this date for this incredible event.
This is also a great opportunity to purchase a Grand Seiko with an autographed box and picture from the watchmaker (and whoever else from Seiko you would like that is in attendance). We should have also received most of the new products from Basel. If you are not able to attend, you will be able to call to order and get the autographs, but I would highly recommend coming if it is possible.
As always, thank you for your time. Please let me know there is ever any help I can be.