Grand Seiko Celebrates 20 Years of 9R Spring Drive

Inspired by the sunrise at Mount Hotaka.

Grand Seiko is celebrating the 20th anniversary of 9R Spring Drive movement with a pair of limited editions featuring dials inspired by the sunrise at Mount Hotaka, a peak near the Grand Seiko workshop in Shiojiri.

The first model is the Heritage Collection Caliber 9R 20th Anniversary “Pink Snowflake” (SBGA497) that revisits the first ever watch model with the 9R but with the trademark “snowflake” dial in pink.

And the second is the Sports Collection Spring Drive GMT Caliber 9R 20th Anniversary (SBGE305) combining a black ceramic bezel with a dark red sunburst dial.

Initial Thoughts

The invention of the Spring Drive calibre is arguably one of Seiko’s most important achievements. It encompasses most of the advantages of mechanical movement while retaining the accuracy of quartz. Similar to a fully mechanical movement, it is powered by a spring rather than a battery, while timekeeping is regulated by a quartz crystal. As the first-ever commercially available Spring Drive variant, 9R marks an important feat for Grand Seiko.

Nevertheless, despite the two new releases being celebratory models for the 20th anniversary of the 9R Spring Drive movement, they don’t seem to offer anything remarkable or unprecedented.

Rather, the choice of a Hotaka mountain-inspired dial for both watches seems cliche, considering how pink and red colour dials have been relatively common in the brand’s catalogue. Plus, the inspiration behind Grand Seiko’s dial seems rather repetitive, as the brand too often makes dial patterns inspired by the landscape of where its watches are made.

The pink snowflake (SBGA497) is priced at US$6,300 and is limited to 1,500 pieces, while the new Sport GMT (SBGE305) is priced at US$6,200 and is limited to 1,300 pieces.

At around $6,000 retail, both offer a very good value proposition, considering how the standard snowflake and the standard Sport GMT from the brand are priced similarly. Grand Seiko, in general, is known for offering a good value proposition as their watches are hand-finished with the prominent zaratsu polishing technique and feature gorgeous dials with pretty unique patterns.

Sunrise at Hotaka Mountain

As always with Grand Seiko, the beauty of the dial takes centre stage for both watches. They are each a portraiture of the sunrise at Hotaka Mountain in Japan, with the pink snowflake dial of SBGA497 depicting the snowy winter scene while the dark red dial of SBGE305 captures the beauty of the mountain’s view during the summer.

Housed in a 41 mm case, SBGA497 is a three-hander watch made of high-intensity titanium, with a red power reserve indicator between seven and eight. SBGE305, however, sits inside a 40.5 mm stainless steel case and offers a GMT function. On the SBGE305, the wearer can change the time zone by manipulating the screwed-down crown. Both watches feature meticulously zaratsu-polished cases, hour markers, and hands, with contrasting mirror and satin-polished surfaces.

Inside the pink snowflake sits the Cal. 9R65 movement, which displays fine mirror-polished bevels amidst the prevalent “Tokyo stripes” throughout the movement. The movement inside Sport GMT is finished in the same spirit as that of the pink snowflake but is thicker due to the added GMT function. The movement engravings inside both 9R calibres pay tribute to the Shinshu region, with bridges and barrels echoing the ridges of the beautiful mountains.

Key facts and price

Grand Seiko Heritage Collection Caliber 9R 20th Anniversary Limited Edition 
Ref. SBGA397

Diameter: 41 mm
Height: 12.5 mm
Material: Titanium
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: Cal. 9R65
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date and power reserve indicator
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: Spring Drive
Power reserve: 72 hours

Strap: Matching bracelet

Limited edition: 1,500 pieces
Availability: At Grand Seiko boutiques and select retailers starting March 2024
Price: US$6,300

Key facts and price

Grand Seiko Sports Collection Caliber 9R 20th Anniversary Limited Edition 
Ref. SBGE305

Diameter: 40.5 mm
Height: 14.7 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 200 m

Movement: Cal. 9R66
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date and GMT function
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: Spring Drive
Power reserve: 72 hours

Strap: Matching bracelet

Limited edition: 1,300 pieces
Availability: At Grand Seiko boutiques and select retailers starting March 2024
Price: US$6,200

For more, visit


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Urwerk Introduces the UR-100V in Carbon Composite

A lightweight take on the entry-level model.

A lightweight version of Urwerk’s most affordable model, the UR-100V “Lightspeed” retains the signature wandering hours time and carbon composite case of the earlier “C52” model. The Lightspeed, however, gains a facelift with a display that tracks the speed of light from the Sun traveling through the solar system.

Initial thoughts 

At first glance, the Lightspeed may appear similar to the standard UR-100V. Yet, closer scrutiny reveals distinct features, most notably a display indicating the time it takes for light to travel to each of the planets in our solar system. Furthermore, the black carbon case easily complements the aesthetic of the watch.

Attention to detail was paid to the light speed display, which also incorporates a new, streamlined cover for the central carousel. And of course the calculations required for the display were clearly substantial.

That being said, the display might not be for everyone, as all of the text crowds the dial. A more streamlined arrangement of the planet names or even symbols might have worked better. 

The Lightspeed retails for CHF65,000 with a limited but unrevealed production run. As Urwerk’s entry-level watch, the new UR-100V is a reasonable proposition in terms of independent watchmaking. However, it has competition from Urwerk’s own catalogue, where the titanium “Magic T” with a matching bracelet (albeit with a simpler case construction) costs CHF10,000 less.

Tracing the speed of light

The new model is named after the speed of light, or 299,792.458 km/s. Because of the distances in the solar system, the Sun’s rays reach each planet at a different time.

Urwerk redesigned its wandering time display to reflect that with a display around the redesigned carousel cover. The cover functions as a planetarium of sorts, with Super-Luminova indications representing the eight planets of the solar system and their respective distances from the Sun.

Apart from the updated time display, the Lightspeed distinguishes itself from other UR-100 models with the carbon composite case. The case is made up of a titanium inner case clad in a 54-layer carbon composite that is sand-blasting and then circular grained for a smooth, patterned surface.

Measuring at 43 mm by 51.73 mm with a height of 14.55 mm, the watch is slightly larger than the metal-alloy models due to the case construction.

In addition to these cosmetic changes, the UR-100V maintains the design of the model. Time is indicated via three satellites arranged on an aluminium carousel, alongside a small pointer for the minutes.

Another signature element of the model is the “Windfänger” atop the rotor that controls the winding rate. Here the Windfänger has been redesigned with a more complex open-worked pattern than earlier models.

The calibre remains the UR 12.02, a Vaucher automatic with Urwerk’s own time display module on top.

Key facts and price

Urwerk UR-100V “Lightspeed”

Diameter: 43 by 51.73 mm
Height: 14.55 mm
Material: Black carbon with DLC-coated caseback
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 50 m

Movement: UR 12.02
Functions: Satellite hours and minutes; Speed of light to reach the eight planets in the solar system
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Rubber strap with folding clasp

Limited edition: 50 pieces
Availability: At Urwerk retailers
Price: CHF65,000 (excluding taxes)

For more, visit

Correction February 8, 2024: The base movement is by Vaucher, and not Zenith as indicated in an earlier version of the article.

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Raúl Pagès Wins Inaugural Louis Vuitton Watch Prize

With the RP1 Régulateur à Détente.

In its first year, the Louis Vuitton Watch Prize for Independent Creatives has been awarded to Raúl Pagès and his RP1 Régulateur à Détente. Selected by a five-person jury, the RP1 triumphed over five finalists, including Andreas Strehler with his Tischkalender Sympathique and Petermann Bedat and its Reference 2941 split-seconds chronograph.

A watchmaker, restorer, and automaton maker, Mr Pagès’ winning entry is a time-only wristwatch with a regulator-style display, and more importantly, a movement of his own design with a detent escapement.

Historically found in precision marine chronometers, detent escapements are highly accurate but typically not shock resistant, a problem Mr Pagès solved by taking inspiration from a 19th century escapement design. As a result, his escapement is shock resistant enough for everyday use in a wristwatch.

Besides technical features, the RP1 movement also boasts a high level of decoration that is artisanal in nature and accomplished by hand. The finishing, architecture, and construction are all classical in style, reflecting Mr Pagès experience as a restorer, most notably at Parmigiani, perhaps the most respected restoration workshop in Switzerland.

A drawing a traditional detent escapement (left), and the RP1 detent escapement

Tearing up as he gave his acceptance speech, Mr Pagès’ win is a milestone in a career that actually started over a decade ago. His skill and dedication were recognised by the jury, made up of Carole Forestier-Kasapi, head of movement development at TAG Heuer; collector and author Auro Montanari; watchmaker Rexhep Rexhepi; our founder Jiaxian Su; and jury president Michael Tay of The Hour Glass.

Mr Pages with the spiral trophy of the LV Watch Prize. Image – Louis Vuitton

As the winner, Mr Pagès receives a grant from Louis Vuitton, along with a one-year mentorship at La Fabrique du Temps, the Geneva manufacture owed by the luxury goods giant. He spoke of utilising the mentorship to further develop his brand, particularly since he will soon launch a wristwatch model powered by an all-new calibre.

The second Louis Vuitton Watch Prize will take place in 2026.


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