I keep in mind waking up on September 2, 2020, after six brutal months of a pandemic making just about everybody besides billionaires depressing and opening my social media to scroll whereas I brushed my tooth and obtained prepared for work. As I swiped by means of posts on Instagram I ended in my tracks, toothbrush dangling from my gaping mouth, eyes extensive, and one singular thought working by means of my head as I stare at my telephone.
Proper there, completely framed among the many quick vehicles, memes, meals, journey pictures, and a ridiculous variety of self-proclaimed “influencers” was a tantalizing picture of a loopy tourbillon motion, clearly model new and beautiful. However this watch wasn’t from some edgy impartial model; no, the account that posted it was none apart from Grand Seiko.
This will’t be . . . Grand Seiko doesn’t make actions like this. That is an avant-garde tourbillon motion with a continuing power escapement and unimaginable uncovered mechanics! However it’s certainly from the oft-humble Japanese model. Grand Seiko has created a motion that not a single Swiss fanatic will be capable to (truthfully) criticize as a result of it’s superb. AND it’s from Grand Seiko.
I’ve all the time appreciated the model and the ethos behind what it creates, however I perceive the place some persons are coming from after they level out that Grand Seiko simply lacks among the pizazz of the Swiss or German manufacturers.
The Japanese aesthetic often isn’t about bravado or pomp and circumstance, however reasonably good, sincere, and exact watchmaking.
However the T0 Fixed Power Tourbillon is what occurs while you take good, sincere, and exact watchmaking and mesh it with the type of loopy and daring mechanics often solely discovered within the Jura valleys. This one comes from an island within the Ring of Fireplace, which is becoming for a motion like this.
Not solely is it aesthetically in contrast to your typical Grand Seiko motion, it’s also mechanically groundbreaking, and, most frustratingly, solely an idea motion.
However don’t let that distract you: this motion is among the finest horological issues to come back out of the watch trade in 2020, which truthfully was a surprisingly good 12 months given all the pieces else that occurred.
So let’s dig into this unhealthy boy and see simply how fantastical Grand Seiko has been to bless us with this superior creation.
Grand Seiko and the inevitability of the T0
Grand Seiko began as quest by Seiko to make the very best high quality and most exact watches it may make to compete with the reigning trade leaders from Switzerland, debuting with its first mannequin in 1960 after just a few years of exhausting work and growth.
That first chronometer-grade watch was solely the tip of the iceberg that might develop into the largest haute horlogerie model in Japan – a model that just about killed your complete mechanical watch trade with the introduction of the quartz watch in 1969 and one which has been targeted on chronometric efficiency for the reason that starting.
The event of the Spring Drive motion took twenty years earlier than it was launched in 1997 and has gone on to develop into a Seiko pinnacle. Utilizing a typical mainspring to drive a tiny electrical generator, which in flip powers a piezoelectric quartz oscillator (known as the Tri-Synchro Regulator), the standard mechanical gear prepare is regulated through a magnetic braking power, which leads to an accuracy of +/- 1 second per day (as much as solely +/- 15 seconds monthly).
Why did it want 20 years of growth? Excessive precision and minimizing friction had been key, alongside the event of an ultra-efficient built-in circuit and excessive output coil with extra-thin hexagonal wire to make sure that the tiny electrical present may energy the oscillator.
The Spring Drive has stood for over twenty years as a implausible achievement combining conventional horology and cutting-edge know-how. However the inclusion of the quartz-equipped Tri-Synchro Regulator goes too far for some purists with the consequence being that the model is usually discounted just because it selected to make use of a extra exact regulating mechanism than custom would dictate.
Since precision has been on the core of Grand Seiko for all of its 60-year existence, it makes good sense that it might observe the paths that it has.
But Grand Seiko continues to be a really conventional firm with a deep respect for the historical past and craftsmanship that has come earlier than, so new works are developed inside that mindset of precision and mechanical excellence on a regular basis.
Grand Seiko has repeatedly proved its capacity to provide extremely correct and expertly made mechanical, quartz, and Spring Drive actions. This led to motion designer Takuma Kawauchiya deciding in 2012 that he would mix all of the knowhow and abilities the model had acquired over the previous a long time for an ultra-precision watch constructed round a tourbillon (one thing the model had not carried out earlier than) with the addition of a continuing power mechanism.
The objective was unquestionably tremendous watchmaking calling upon historic mechanisms to be mixed with fashionable manufacturing and engineering to create one thing solely Grand Seiko may produce. The consequence was years of growth resulting in the debut of the T0 Fixed Power Tourbillon idea motion, a mechanism so exact it beats the already hyper-accurate Spring Drive and is totally and inarguably mechanical.
What’s the Grand Seiko T0 Fixed Power Tourbillon?
At its core, the T0 Fixed Power Tourbillon takes among the construction from Caliber 9S65 then goes off to the races. Utilizing the fundamental construction for the gear prepare, mainspring, setting lever, and escapement, the remainder couldn’t be much less just like the traditional 9S65 – and it’s straightforward to see why.
First, the T0 has twin mainsprings working in parallel to assist push the big tourbillon carriage and cost up the fixed power mechanism, guaranteeing 50 stable hours of constant torque and a complete usable energy reserve of 72 hours.
Being pedantic, the mainsprings don’t push on the tourbillon carriage in any respect; that’s the job of the onboard remontoir spring of the fixed power mechanism. This is the reason the motion known as “the Fixed Power Tourbillon”: it actually is a tourbillon with a continuing power mechanism throughout the tourbillon itself.
Whereas this isn’t technically the primary time in historical past this has been carried out it’s a very unusual mechanism alternative, making this sort of tourbillon extraordinarily difficult.
So why would Kawauchiya go this route? Straightforward reply: for a similar cause Grand Seiko has targeted on improvements for the precision and accuracy of its watches for the final 60 years. It makes for a greater timepiece. Let’s go step-by-step.
Absolutely wound, a mainspring delivers extra energy (torque) than when it’s largely unwound as its torque curve shouldn’t be flat and constant from starting to finish. Which means when the mainspring is sort of unwound, the stability will get much less energy, making it oscillate quicker and measure time much less precisely. A continuing power mechanism acts as a buffer between the mainsprings, gear prepare, and escapement to eradicate all of the variable forces and supply – you guessed it – fixed power.
It does this utilizing the addition of a small spiral spring connected to a wheel that’s robust sufficient to supply a constant quantity of energy over a brief time period; the spring takes over for the mainsprings in delivering energy to the escapement. The fixed power mechanism releases as soon as each second (or each eight beats of the stability wheel) to recharge the spring and supply the power to push the stability wheel.
In lots of designs, each single gear between the fixed power remontoir spring and the escape wheel robs that spring of some torque and presumably introduces variations. So the very best guess is to get the remontoir spring as near the escapement as potential.
How did Grand Seiko do that? By including the spring straight subsequent to the escape wheel to drive the carriage itself.
That is how the T0 Fixed Power Tourbillon works: the remontoir spring (and fixed power mechanism) is mounted throughout the tourbillon carriage and creates the rotation of the tourbillon.
The mainsprings have one essential job: to wind up that small spring so it may well do its job. The parallel mainsprings on the T0 have sufficient torque to completely cost the remontoir spring for 50 hours, after which it lacks the facility to constantly totally rewind the small spring, which introduces variation to the escapement as soon as once more.
Technical achievements mix for excellence
That easy torque curve was no small feat; it required a whole lot of downside fixing to supply the smoothest switch of energy potential with the precision and robustness recognized from Grand Seiko. One characteristic that helps with that is the addition of a proprietary low-friction coating on the middle and third wheels, which considerably minimizes friction due the elevated torque of the mainspring barrels.
Nonetheless, that torque goes to make its method by means of the gear prepare and it may trigger injury to the fixed power mechanism because it must lock and unlock each second to cost the remontoir spring, risking the cease wheel of the mechanism.
This was solved by making the cease wheel from stable ceramic, a tough and sturdy materials proof against abrasion and impacts, which can also be low friction when polished easy.
Nonetheless, the gear prepare itself wanted extra consideration, and it got here within the type of MEMS, which stands for Micro Electro Mechanical Methods, the proprietary Seiko technique to create high-detail, microscopic parts by constructing a element layer by layer in some type of steel – typically silicon – however it may be a wide range of different supplies. The parts might be made hyper precisely, all the way down to the micron degree, leading to extraordinarily easy and uniform shapes.
This works wonders for gear tooth profiles that must transmit vitality easily and as free from friction as potential by means of a gear prepare. Because of this, MEMS was used not solely to make the escapement lever and escape wheel, as is common for Grand Seiko, however for nearly all gears within the gear prepare. This additional helps cut back friction, smooths out energy supply, and avoids any binding points, even on the microscopic scale.
Widespread for a lot of high-precision watches, Kawauchiya selected to make use of a free-sprung stability and not using a regulator. Whereas harder to design and assemble, it reduces the probabilities of the timing altering after a robust shock to the stability since there are not any regulating pins that may get bumped or tremendous adjustment that may dislodge or shift.
Combining this with a better beat price than most tourbillons have – and particularly most fixed power mechanisms – the stability is of course much less liable to variation. A better variety of beats per hour helps any stability self-correct after a shock, and because of the preservation of angular momentum (a spinning object with mass desires to maintain spinning and resist altering route) any shocks will extra shortly be averaged out.
All of it comes collectively
In spite of everything this difficult work and ingenuity to make a steady and constant oscillator, how do you halt the mechanism to set the watch to the closest second after which get it going once more with out shedding that accuracy?
Brief reply: it’s a tough downside. Nonetheless, Grand Seiko had additionally already solved that downside again in 1964 for a stopwatch used within the Summer time Olympics in Tokyo. The hacking characteristic principally assists the tourbillon carriage by giving it a push to start out its rotation. And whereas that’s necessary for a tourbillon beating at 2.5 Hz, it’s essential for the 4 Hz frequency of the T0.
When all of this comes collectively into the creation that’s the T0 Fixed Power Tourbillon, we’ve got one unimaginable motion. It is usually completed to a degree that rivals most manufacturers, reminding me of how Roger Dubuis finishes actions – and everyone knows that RD actions bear the Geneva Seal – in order that exhibits the extent Grand Seiko is attaining.
Even with the ending being so effectively carried out, the true check is the chronometric efficiency since that was your complete function of making the T0.
In lab situations, the T0 Fixed Power Tourbillon carried out round +/-0.5 seconds per day, which comes out to a motion that’s 99.9994 % correct. Whereas it’ll certainly not obtain these outcomes beneath regular wrist situations, it nonetheless is nearly as good as – or higher than – the Spring Drive, which is quartz regulated.
I don’t find out about you, however I’ve completely no qualms calling this one of many pinnacles of 2020.
The one challenge that continues to be is that it’s a idea motion with no plans for commercialization (but), regardless that the analysis and options will probably discover their method into different fashions. However who is aware of: maybe Grand Seiko will double down on this model of motion growth and we’ll see a complete line of extra avant-garde, experimental items designed to stir the pot slightly bit.
Kawauchiya has hope that it’s going to proceed ahead with growth and that options from it is going to be utilized all through Grand Seiko. I hope he’s proper.
However one factor is for certain: Grand Seiko lastly did it. The T0 Fixed Power Tourbillon is a masterpiece like all the different Grand Seiko and Credor masterpieces which have come earlier than, however it breaks the mould for Grand Seiko.
Hopefully there shall be such an excellent response that it’s going to enhance the arrogance of Grand Seiko to stretch its design legs and go for a run, and maybe watch followers and collectors who haven’t given Grand Seiko its full due will take part. The model has so many unimaginable choices, and the T0 Fixed Power Tourbillon is only a sugar-coated appetizer to all the remainder of what the model has created.
For the reason that T0 Fixed Power Tourbillon additionally isn’t a watch, however a motion, and isn’t on the market, there’s no want to interrupt it down any additional. I’ll simply say that I really like this darn factor and I hope you all do too!
For extra info, please go to www.grand-seiko.com/us-en/particular/T0-story.
* This text was first printed on December 27, 2020 at Grand Seiko T0 Fixed Power Tourbillon: I Couldn’t Imagine My Eyes.
Fast Details Grand Seiko T0 Fixed Power Tourbillon
Motion: guide winding Caliber T0 Fixed Power Tourbillon, 72 hours energy reserve, 28,800 vph/4Hz Hz frequency, free-sprung stability in 60 second, fixed power tourbillon, fixed power mechanism
Features: hours, minutes, lifeless beat hacking seconds; energy reserve indicator
Limitation: idea motion
Value: not on the market