Not every watch produced with get a nickname that sticks across collectors globally. We can think of some from one brand in particularly but outside of that very few come to mind. One that stands out is the Grand Seiko SBGA011, aptly named the Snowflake – not by collectors but rather by its designers.
SBGA011 Spring Drive
The SBGA011 was released in 2010, quickly becoming an icon representing the Grand Seiko lineup and design. The watch is designed in a traditional Grand Seiko style; a date indicator at 3 o’clock and textured power reserve indicator between 7 and 8 o’clock. The watch itself is 41mm across and a moderate 12.5mm thick, even with an exhibition caseback.
The dial of this watch is where the true magic comes in, giving it nickname Snowflake. At a quick glance, or from a certain angle, one may not see the detail and claim it is a plain white dial. However, upon closer inspection and a quick turn of the dial in the light, the unique texture shows through.
Looking at the dial, the color and texture may remind you of light snow. In fact, the dial was inspired by the snow that falls outside of the watchmaker’s workshop. The dial doesn’t just resemble the snow, it even looks like it could be a fresh coat of snow! Watchmakers put the dial through a 6-step process to create this unique texture and final look.
There is a combination of clear-coating, metallic treatment and paint work. This creates a random pattern on the dial channeling the untamed wild of the winter in Japan.
Contrasting the white snow-like dial are brushed metallic indices, faceted dauphin hands and a blue lancet style seconds hand. These are anything but ordinary. Upon closer inspection, every edge is crisp, highly polished and faceted.
The Case and Bracelet
The 41mm case is made from the patented “high-intensity” titanium, making it slightly stronger than steel and lighter weight. Grand Seiko uses a Zaratsu polishing technique on the surface of the titanium which gives it a mirror like steel appearance. There is alternatively brushed satin finished around the case and bracelet, adding to the impressive nature. Zaratsu, or blade polishing, results in an interesting play between light and metal.
This continues onto the bracelet where you will see satin finished flanks and a hairline of high polished beveling on the shoulders of the outer links. The bracelet is completed by a trigger actuated folding buckle, making it very secure on the wrist.
Spring Drive Movement
Grand Seiko is known for it’s Spring Drive, neither a conventional mechanical movement nor quartz, which features a continuous motion seconds hand. The watch is extremely accurate with precision equal to +/- 15 seconds per month. The chronometer standard is +6/-4 seconds per day. This model is powered by the caliber 9R65, featuring a robust 72-hour power reserve. The Spring Drive is a mainspring that can be wound by the rotor or by manually winding the crown.
The movement generates a small electrical charge activating an electric circuit and quartz oscillator. In a traditional automatic movement, the mainspring stores energy and transfers it to the escapement and balance. The Spring Drive does not have a traditional escapement. Instead, the electrical energy powers an integrated circuit then powering the Tri-synchro regulator, controlling the unwinding of the mainspring.
Not only is the movement sophisticated, the watch in entirety is refined. The Snowflake white dial can be worn diving (water resistance is 100m), desk diving, or in more formal occasions. While not a true dress watch, the beautiful textured dial lends itself to a suit for semi-formal occasions.
What are some of your favorite parts of the Snowflake, or some of your favorite watches with a nickname? Let us know in the comments below!