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Not Swiss: The Grand Seiko SBGA407 Skyflake

One of the best-kept secrets in the world of horology are the watches produced in Japan by Seiko, but more specifically Grand Seiko. Founded in 1960 by Kintaro Hattor, these watches are nothing like the Seikos found in your average department store. Grand Seiko has earned a reputation for their standout fit and finishing, rivalled only by the best in the world while not needing to pay an arm and leg.

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The SBGA407 (dubbed the Skyflake by some) is a follow up to the massively successful SBGA211, known to collectors as the ‘Snowflake’. Much like the watch that preceded it, a unique dial texture is carried into the SBGA407. An ode to the snowy landscape that surrounds the Shinshu Watch Studio, the SBGA407 features a bit of a twist with the introduction of an icy blue variant of this snowflake dial.

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Bring a loupe, because the artisans at Grand Seiko leave no stone unturned—no detail is too small. The hands and hour markers feature a beautiful mirror finish with large bevelled edges. Depending on the angle and surface, the light plays off the mirror finishing differently, giving them either a very bright reflection or becoming almost black. Sorry to disappoint any Seiko Lumibrite fans out there but the SBGA407 has no lume. Worry not as the hands and markers are able to find whatever light there is to tell the time, even in lower light conditions. 

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Found inside the SBGA407 is the famous 9R65 Spring Drive movement. The Spring Drive is neither a fully mechanical nor battery operated movement. They are a combination of mechanical and quartz technologies developed over a period of 28 years by Yoshizaku Akahane. While some may pooh-pooh that it has a quartz crystal inside, there is no battery anywhere in sight. Much like a conventional mechanical watch, the movement gets its power through a mainspring, however unlike a conventional mechanical movement the escapement is replaced with a proprietary ‘Tri-synchro’ regulator.

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Getting its name by highlighting the three forms (mechanical, electrical, and electromagnetic) in which the movement gets its power; the Tri-synchro regulator controls the mechanical energy from the mainspring, converts mechanical energy into electrical for the Spring Drive, and lastly generates an electromagnetic force to control a small disc (glidewheel) at the end of the gear train that translates to the uniquely smooth sweep of the second hand. The results of combining the best of quartz and mechanical technologies means the movement can achieve the accuracy of quartz watches while retaining the soul and character of a mechanical watch. 

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Fans of more traditionally designed dress watches with a touch distinct character may rejoice! With a rounded 40mm stainless case and long lugs, the SBGA407 harks back to an era of traditional and classical design languages. The mirror finishing on the case is what you would expect with how particular the artisans over at Grand Seiko are. Achieved through what Seiko calls Zaratsu polishing, the super crisp lines on the case are enhanced by the incredible uniformity of the mirror finishing to the point where there is no distortion whatsoever.

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At a thickness of almost 13mm the watch sits comfortably on the wrist or under a cuff and doesn’t lack presence. Don’t let the classical design language of the case shape or the crocodile leather band fool you however, the watch packs a very capable 100-meter water resistance rating. This watch is very capable of whatever or wherever you need to do.

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Grand Seiko stands out in the world of horology for the level of fit and finishing they put into their watches, especially at the prices that you pay for one. It makes you really wonder what and why it is that some of the other big names can’t do what Grand Seiko does. From the combination of the ultra modern technologies, unique dial, and rich artisanal techniques, it is clear that the SGBA407 has something for everyone, from the ardent collector to the average passer by.

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