September 18, 2006

Why Christopher Ward and not Seiko

I’ve been a Seiko fan since I discovered mechanical watches. Good, superb value, durable, nicely detailed. Good stuff.

In the continuing course of my madness, I became convinced that I needed something better than the 7S26 movement. My blue Samurai runs +15s/day, even after I spent $65 (ouch!) getting it regulated locally. No fault of the watchmaker; it has lousy isochronism, which makes it hard to correct. I added the money I’d spent on it and decided that embroidered sow’s ear != silk purse, and started looking.

I wanted something that was handwind, hacked, and had good accuracy. Preferably less than 8s/day, so that in the course of the week I’ll be off less than a minute. Call it my personal criterion.

On the Seiko side, it’s a bit sparse. In the 200-and-less region, there’s Seiko 5s and divers, all based on the same 7S26 and variants. (7S25, 7S36, 7S26). If you have the money, a Marine Master is about 1200 used, with the excellent 8L35 movement. I don’t, but they’re reputed to be very nice. Seiko used to make the SUS series, with the 4S15 movement, but those are now going for more than I wanted to pay. Ditto the 4S15-based Alpinists, which are also a touch small. Briefly, there was the Yema Seaspider, an interestingly ugly diver that had a 4S15 in it, but they sold out fast and are now impossible to find. Damn!

Recently introduced at around $300, Seiko now has a new (perhaps based on the 7S26, it’s not clear) 6R15 movement:

6R15, from Velociphile6R15, from Velociphile

Specs, also shamelessly cribbed from Velociphile:

Velociphile rocks!Velociphile rocks!

The Spirit comes in several flavors, is a Japan-only model, and is quite nice. Well detailed, gets good reviews on Timezone and (of course) The Seiko and Citizen forum. It’s a dress watch, 37mm, no lume. Here’s one example of the styles available:

Spirit, from KSeiya's siteSpirit, from KSeiya's site

Compare that to the Elabore-grade ETA 2824-2 in my Christopher Ward Aviator:

Elaboré (regulated in three positions Dial up, 6H and 9H) Mean daily rate +/- 7 s/d Max variation across 5 positions: 20 s Isochronism: +/- 15 s/d

Also note that the CW is better finished: Rhodium plating, perlage, blued screws, CdG on the rotor and colored engraving:


It’s hard to compare directly, but the Elabore-grade 2824 is a better spec movement. From reviews, most of the Spirit owners are doing as well, but I’ve been burnt three times on Seiko movements and want something with a spec, damn it.


So here’s what it came down to: The CW has a better movement, an IMHO more attractive dial, cost the same, is readable at night and is more legible. I’m a bit disappointed that Seiko has less value at this price point, and for a new movement it has pretty wide error specs.

As a style note, I also greatly prefer that CW puts much less text on the dial. I really dislike superfluous bloviage (I’m looking at you, Rolex) and CW has a lot less.

It was a surprise to me, given the amazing value of the Seiko divers, but I’m delighted that they have competition.

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