I have written this article for Czech watch portal Chronomag.cz. Original English translation is posted on my blog watchpassion.spaces.live.com and on this forum.
Enjoy it! Martin
Story began one day in year 1959, when management of Seiko decided to form team of engineers, who will be responsible for development of the first quartz wrist watch. Consequence of this decision and 50 years of technical development are watches with certified deviance 5 seconds per year!
History of quartz
First prototype of quartz watch has been developed by Swiss engineers. But it was Seiko, who has placed first quartz wristwatch on the market. In year 1958, Seiko began to experiment with quartz technology. Year later, engineers were forced to decrease size of single components of quartz movement to fit mall wristwatch. Movement had to be more accurate than best mechanical wristwatch at that time, and had low production costs. Ten years later, on Christmas 1969 Seiko has placed first quartz wristwatch on the Japanese market - Seiko 35SQ Astron. According to Wikipedia, “Within one week 100 gold watches had been sold, at a retail price of 450,000 yen (US$1,250) each (at the time, equivalent to the price of a medium-sized Japanese automobile).”
Source: Jayhawk’s Watch Photograph Database
My way to high-end quartz watches
Almost all my articles and reviews were focused on mechanical watches (except Traser GMT Pro Blue). Main reason was that majority of produced quartz watches are boring: low-end Asian production in price of few USD, fashionable watches produced no matter where and also cheap models of renowned brands (with high profit margin).
In my mind quality watch was always connected with mechanical painstakingly decorated movement – combination of technology and art. What has changed my mind? Watchuseek High-end Quartz forum.
No matter how developed, decorated and expensive mechanical watch you have, in most cases you will have to live with two significant disadvantages of mechanical movement:
Even the cheapest quartz movement don’t have those disadvantages, but only high-end quartz watch will give you the same feelings as watch with inhouse beautifully decorated mechanical movement. What is high-end quartz? You can find official WUS definition here, but I think it should contain little bit more criteria:
- Accuracy – even the most accurate mechanical movements gain +-30 seconds per month
- Source of energy – in case that you don’t own A. Lange 31 you will have to wind/wear your watch daily or buy watch winder
Super accurate quartz movement are produced by Breitling (based on ETA movements), Seiko, Citizen and some other Swiss brands. Below mentioned picture shows hand assembled movement 9F62 used in Grand Seiko models. Service intervals are guaranteed to 50 years (except change of battery).
- Annual accuracy guaranteed by producer has to be mostly 20 seconds (per year”). Some movements like Seiko and Citizen will lose/gain only five seconds per year. Many ordinary quartz movements have monthly accuracy guaranteed +- 15 (for example Seiko 7T62). High end quartz watches are several times more accurate
- Movement is equipped with thermo compensation methods to eliminate effect of temperature changes to watch accuracy. Watch can also have low sensitivity to changes of temperature
- All parts of movement has to be made with sufficient design to guarantee decades of operation
- Design and manufactory quality of remaining parts of watch have to be on high level
You can find similar movements in Grand Seiko SBGX039 with magnetic resistance 40000 A/m. According to ISO 764, watch can be classified as an antimagnetic with magnetic resistance 4800A/m.
Source: Jayhawk’s Watch Photograph Database
Only few renowned brands use thermo compensated movements in its models. In most of Omega Seamaster quartz models you will not find high-end quartz (but in omega). Initial investment to new watch with high-end movement is around 1500USD, average price of high-end quartz is between 2000-3000USD. One of exceptions are watches equipped with Seiko 8F family movement (8f32, 8F56...). These watches can be bought in price below 500USD.
Seiko has already produced about 40 models with movement 8F56. I have chosen SBQJ015. Why?
- Curiosity – I wanted to have watch with high-end quartz movement, but I was not sure if I will not sell it in one week
- Excellent readability – black background of dial in combination with simple white hands and indexes. I do not know why, but overall design of watch suggest design of pilot watch
- Titanium case and bracelet covered with technology Diashield, which should be much more harder than steel 316L
- Maximum annual deviance +-20 sec (according to official manual)
- Perpetual calendar until 2100
- 10 years battery
- GMT indicator
- You can easily adjusted summer time and time zones without any impact to position of minute hand
Case has reasonable diameter 39mm with height only 10,9mm. Case is relative short – length of case is only 45mm because of short lugs. Therefore watch looks compact.
Case: front view
Forget drown out curved lines of case and lug as have for example Rolex oyster. Seiko case has shape of whisky barrel. Upper edges of case are beveled and polished. Beveled edges end three millimeters before end of lugs. On right side of case you will find two crown guards with polished surface. Crown guards optically tie up to beveled polished edges of case. This design detail is used also in Seiko Alpinist models, where it looks little bit more beautiful than on Seiko SBQJ015.
Case: side view
Dominant part of watch is bezel. It is optically separated from the rest of the case and it looks like it has been ticked to case few minutes ago. Side profile of bezel has simplified shape of “>”. Total diameter of bezel is 40 mm, what is one millimeter bigger than case. Basement of bezel has diameter about 37mm. Bottom parts of bezel are polished. Upper side of bezel consists of two beveled surfaces, outer is polished and inner is brushed.
Lugs have rounded endings and are drilled-thru to make band/strap changes easy. Line of case between lugs is not rounded, but narrow. On following photo you can see how bezel goes over this line.
Surface of watch is mostly brushed, only edges of bezel and case are polished. Absence of large polished areas in combination with dark grey color of titanium gives watch decent and elegant appeal. It is real pleasure to see how light is playing on beveled edges. Based on position and orientation of watch and light source you can see mirrors and flashes caused by beveled edges (as you can see on next two photos).
Glass is flat, made from sapphire crystal. Crystal is not equipped with anti-reflective coating what I evaluate as a minus of this watch.
Crown is partially protected by case. Crown has simple design, it is polished and without any mark or sign on it. Crown fits to watch, but is without any idea or attention to detail. It seems, that designer of watch was very tired, kicked and left by muse when he was working on design of crown. Another small minus.
When you pull-out crow to position one, you move with hour hand (jumping movement). Position of minute or second hand does not change. By moving hour hand, you can set up date (increase or decrease date). This position is designed to set-up actual local time during traveling or set-up summer/winter time.
When you pull-out crown to position two, second hand will stop (hacking). You move with minute hand. When you move minute hand, GMT hand and hour hand move, but not date. This mode is used for initial set-up of minutes and GMT hand. When minute hand and GMT hand are set-up, you have to push crown to position one to set-up hour hand (because it moves when you move GMT hand).
GMT hand is designed to be set to home time. When you travel, you will easily change hour hand to actual local time (crown in position one). Setting time and date could be solved easily.
When you pull-out crown to position one and push it back immediately, watch will show you set-up of perpetual calendar:
Video is here.
- Second hand will show number of years since last lap year
- Date indicator show you month for five seconds (for January it shows “1”)
- Watch still measure time. When indication of perpetual calendar setup finish, all hands jump to current time.
Black background, white indexes and decent signs are key elements of perfect readability even with GMT hand - no matter what light conditions are. Indexes have white luminous filling surrounded by polished borders. Biggest index is on position “12”, bigger indexes are on position “6” and “9”. Date indicator on position “3” has black background and is also surrounded by polished border.
Dial indicator is supplemented by shortened index. Seiko has crushed-down perfect design of some models by using wild combination of date indicator hour labels (Some Seiko SARB models). Luckily, Seiko made good job here. I really like black background of watch indicator, white background would broke design concept and kill watch.
Inner beveled bezel contains white second indexes and also seconds labels in five seconds intervals. Inner GMT scale contains white even hour labels. Odd GMT hour labels are printed as dots. Background of GMT scale is grooved (as Breitling do).
Logo of manufacturer is silver and polished, “Perpetual Calendar” label is white, “GMT” label is red (GMT indicators have traditionally red color).
Watch is equipped with GMT hand. GMT hand can be used to:
GMT hand is classical arrow hand, painted by shiny red color equipped with luminous filling. Hour and minute hands are black&white with luminous filling. Second hand has shape of long triangle and is made of silver metal. Night reading is excellent; you can see what time is it even at 6:00 morning.
- Indicate home time or as am/pm indicator (time to be at work/time to drink Pilsner Urquell)
- Show time of different time zone or UTC time (used by pilots)
Watch is equipped with titanium bracelet with Diashield technology. Titanium is softer than steel and is very easily scratched. Diashield gives titanium higher hardness of surface than steel 316L. Diashield is applied also to case, but not to mechanism of bracelet clasps.
Scratch resistance has been tested by sharp edge of scissors under soft pressure. Scissors have left small hair scratches on steel 316L, but not on titanium with Diashield. Diashield will protect watch against hair scratches, but it does not protect against damage caused by hard pressure or crash. Energy will deform soft titanium under Diashield and Diashield too. In case that wedding ring with sharp edges hit case of watch, it will leave the same dig as on the steel (personal experience).
Bracelet is inspired by design of oyster bracelet. Surface of bracelet part is matt, except two narrow polished strips. Sides of bracelet are also matt. Thick of bracelet parts is aprx. 3,2mm, width of bracelet is 22mm, width of clasps is 18mm. All bracelet parts are very well made with minimal distances between single parts. Clasp is standard Seiko clasp with two buttons. “Seiko”signed. Buttons have adequate resistance. Inner parts of clasp are robust. Big minus of bracelet are end pieces. Pieces itself are very well made, but holes between end pieces and case are big for such producer as Seiko is.
Watch is packed to grey paper box with cappuccino color inside, manual and guarantee card.
In category of High-end quartz watch you will not find new model which will offer you interesting movement, developed design and Diashield titanium for 400USD. Seiko SBQJ015 is perfect entry to world of high-end quartz watches. But be prepared, if high-end quartz will catch your heart, next purchases will be much more expensive.
Maybe collecting watches is not your hobby and you just need to buy new watch for everyday wearing. Your choice should be Seiko SBQJ015.
Watch could be interesting also for core opponents of quartz watches. As I can say from my experience, after few days I was not irritated by jumping second hand and realize that high-end quartz is a really good idea….
Next year I have plans to buy vintage Rolex Oyster…maybe I should buy some quartz Grand Seiko…