When Grand Seiko is in question, there are no doubts that movements in each watch released under the brand are superior, because they follow the high, so called GS standards that all Grand Seiko watches much satisfy. But not all Grand Seiko movements are equal and our goal is to discuss some of the types of movements on the mechanical side, with Spring Drive being its hybrid. Let’s first learn what is what, in order to be able to compare them.
First, we’re going to give you more information on the nature of Hi-Beat mechanical movements under the Grand Seiko brand. Hi-Beat translates to fast-ticking, which again translates to high precision, which is best seen in chronographs. For example, chronographs are, for the same reason, mostly used by people who largely depend on the time - astronauts, pilots, race drivers and doctors. Watch collectors implied, of course.
Grand Seiko Hi-Beat
As with many other movements, Hi-Beat movements were born from the watchmakers’ chase for supreme accuracy. In the 60s, when Hi-beat movements were born, the frequency for movements was 18,000 bph (beats per hour). Just for comparation, todays average frequency is 28,800 bph. But it wasn’t the Seiko that pioneered Hi-Beat movements, but rather Girard-Perregaux, Swiss luxury watch manufacturer, in 1966. And it also wasn’t the Grand Seiko that got one into its case.
1967 Seiko Hi-beat Lord Marvel 5740-8000 (LM5740) , image source : wornandwound.com
The first Seiko Hi-Beat movement was 5740C, a hand-wound movement that powered the famous Lord Marvel. The Lord Marvel, introduced in 1967, was the first Seiko Hi-Beat watch vibrating at 36,000 bph. It was only a year later that Grand Seiko had its Hi-beat representor - the famous 61GS, powered by the 6145 automatic Hi-beat caliber with 25 jewels, beating at 36,000 bph. The production of 61GS consisted of symbolic 36,000 watches. Now, you can imagine how 61GS raised the accuracy bar for Seiko at the time.
The 61GS developed from a base Seikomatic 5, image source : Hodinkee.com
Hi-Beat movements found their ways into other Seiko lines, such as King Seiko, for example. Maybe the best sign of Hi-Beat calibers worth is that they are still highly appreciated among serious collectors. Hi-beat movements in Seiko are also called 10 beat movements, because they beat 10 times per second.
It’s important to distinct that all Hi-Beat movements are mechanical and that their modern versions are even better than the originals. When it comes to Grand Seiko, it is 9S8X group of movements, where the most famous may be the 9S85, which vibrates at 36,000 bph.
Before we learn more about 9S8X group of movements, it is important to note that not all of Hi-Beat movements are automatic. The automatic watches are self-winding mechanical watches powered by the kinetic energy of the watch wearer’s movements. They can, but they don’t have to, have hand-winding option, so choosing one over another it’s just a matter of taste. When it comes to Grand Seiko, you don’t even have to choose, which leads us to caliber 9S85, the automatic movement with hand winding option.
Caliber 9S85 is a mechanical Hi-Beat movement that beats at 36,000 bph, has 35 jewels and power reserve of 55 hours. Its accuracy is rated to -5 to +3 seconds per day and is made possible by the use of Seiko designed Spron alloys and MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical System) technology, along with the magnificent skills of its watchmakers. The most known watches with 9S85 are: Grand Seiko Hi-beat SBGH001 (white dial), SBGH005 (black dial) and SBGH035 (white dial), rated as Special and delivering even more accuracy than the standard 9S85 caliber.
Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional 600m Diver SBGH255, images source : timeandtidewatches.comThere’s another worthy timepiece to mention here that is Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Professional 600m Diver's. With all the benefits that come with 9S85 caliber packed in its Zaratsu polished case with rotating bezel, iron dial with magnetic resistance of 16,000 gauss and titanium bracelet with a sliding extension to fix the pressure changes, it basically delivers the functionality of professional diver’s watch shaped into wonderful aesthetics of Grand Seiko. In short, a masterpiece.
Grand Seiko 9S86 is a self-winding Hi-Beat movement with GMT functionality. It is basically 9S85 with addition of a GMT function. It delivers the accuracy of -5 to -3 seconds per day and has 37 jewels, along with power reserve of 55 hours, as its brother 9S85. As with all GMT watches, the GMT hand servers for showing the time in their home time zone to the international travelers. The best representors are Grand Seiko Hi-Beat SBGJ001, SBGJ003 and SBGJ005 (limited edition). The caliber 9S86 is also featured in Special, super-accurate watches: SBGJ007, SBGJ008 and SBGJ010.
Seiko Prospex Marine Master Professional 1000m Hi-Beat 135th Anniversary SBEX005, image source : watchviews.com
Aside from Grand Seiko, the best representor of Seiko Hi-Beat watches would be Seiko Prospex Marine Master Professional 1000m Hi-Beat 135th Anniversary SBEX005. It’s a JDM model (Japanese Domestic Market) with 8L55 caliber inside, hugged by titanium case topped with a diamond shield. With 37 jewels, it delivers the accuracy of +15 to -10 seconds per day and has power reserves of 55 hours.
Grand Seiko Spring Drive
This brings us to the famous Spring Drive. The beauty of it is that it combines the works of automatic mechanical movement and a quartz watch, which shoots it to the top of the charts when it comes to the accuracy. Therefore, Grand Seiko timepieces with Spring Drive inside are on the higher-end of pricing under brand.
The Snowflake, most wanted Grand Seiko, image source : Youtube - Horology House
One of the most famous Grand Seiko watches with Spring Drive inside is certainly the Snowflake (SBGA011), with its captivating white dial that reminds of a fluffy snow and 9R65 movement with 72 hours of power reserves. The Snowflake’s accuracy is rated to 15 seconds per month, just for a reference, as well as that of other watches with the same caliber inside, such are Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA001, SBGA003, SBGA083 and SBGA085.
Other Grand Seiko watches powered by the Spring Drive are often those from limited editions, such as Grand Seiko SBGA103, SBGA105 and SBGA107 (all with 9R15 movement, rated to 10 seconds per month). Grand Seiko Spring Drive watches also include GMT watches with 9R66 inside (SBGE001, SBGE 005 and SBGE011), diving watches (SBGA029, SBGA031) and chronographs (SBGC001, SBGC003 and SBGC005).
The Seiko Spring Drive Tuna SBDB009
Aside from Grand Seiko, Seiko Prospex Marine Master 600m Spring Drive SBDB009 is another example of a magnificent watch with Spring Drive inside. The so-called Spring Drive Tuna, SBDB009 has a protective titanium case and Spring Drive 5R65 movement, which is basically the rougher version of the caliber 9R65, meaning it delivers accuracy of less than 15 seconds per month and a power reserve of 82 hours.
Grand Seiko SBGD202, 9R Spring Drive 8 Days, image source : Hodinkee.com
It may be ungrateful to compare Grand Seiko Hi-Beat with Grand Seiko Spring Drive watches, as both groups contain supreme timepieces, so it is extremely difficult to pin one as the better one. Both groups deliver exceptional accuracy and will impeccably do their job, whether it comes to time-telling, making you look great or making other collectors jealous. But if we had to choose, we may align more with Grand Seiko Spring Drive watches, at least when it comes to their power reserves. Grand Seiko Hi-beat watches usually have power reserves of 55 hours, while Grand Seiko Spring Drive timepieces have 72, with the exception of those powered with caliber 9R01 that has astonishing 192 hours of power reserve. The best examples of power of the 9R01 are SBDG201 and SBDG202, from the GS 9R Spring Drive 8Days. So, in case if you wanted to choose the champions and needed a recommendation, there you have it.
Written by M.H. , Photo by Toni and others as noted
Continue to read the Whole Grand Seiko Reading Series
The Road To Grand Seiko - SUWA & DAINI Seikosha
Seiko vs Grand Seiko - Grand Seiko Timeline
Grand Seiko Spring Drive vs Hi Beat
Grand Seiko Movements, 3 Driving System
Grand Seiko Boutique Limited Edition SBGJ235 Hi-Beat 36000 GMT
Grand Seiko 9S Movement
Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R movement