Seiko Credor Phoenix GCBR993 – The Resurrection of Quality Seiko Mechanicals

In Greek mythology, a phoenix or phenix (Ancient Greek φοίνιξ phóinīx) is a long-lived bird that is cyclically regenerated or reborn. Associated with thesun, a phoenix obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.

The phoenix was subsequently adopted as a symbol in Early Christianity. While the phoenix typically dies by fire in most versions of the legend, there are less popular versions of the myth in which the mythical bird dies and simply decomposes before being born again.

In terms of physical appearance, the phoenix, when pictured or described in antique and medieval artwork and literature, will sometimes have a nimbus (a physical feature that emphasizes the phoenix’s connection with the sun). Quite often, the oldest images of phoenixes would have nimbuses with seven rays, just like Helios (the embodiment of the sun in Ancient Greece). Pliny also described the bird as having a crest of feathers on its head and Ezekiel the Dramatist compared it to a rooster.

The phoenix is also commonly associated with royalty and the color purple.

Taken from Wikipedia

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Just like its mythical counterpart, the Phoenix is also well known to Seiko Fans in the form of the Brightz Phoenix diver (SAGQ007), which was discontinued recently in 2012. However, others will remember the Phoenix under the luxury “Credor Phoenix” range which appeared for a brief span of time in 1998-2000. I am unable to confirm this for a fact, but the Credor Phoenix that I have was made in 1999. Nevertheless, i can say with certainty that the Credor Phoenix was only around for a very short span of time before Seiko dropped the  “Credor Phoenix” branding to concentrate on the luxury “Credo” range which is still around today.

The underlying design for the Credor Phoenix was tooth shaped hour markers, skeletonised hour and minutes hands which ended in arrow heads and a red tipped second hand. The dial colors have varied from black, white, to salmon orange.

In addition, from my research, it appears that most Credor Phoenix were made from stainless steel, with a particular variant made from titanium. I have yet to discover the model number of the titanium model but will update when I do. The most common Credor Phoenix models are the 3 handers (8L75) and chronographs (6S78). There were also some retrograde models with the 4S77 movements.

Over the past few months in 2013, I have seen a few time-only Credor Phoenix pop up for sale. Surprisingly it is fairly common to find more of the chronograph models being offered for sale on Yahoo Japan, ebay, etc, compared to the time-only models. I have yet to see a single retrograde Credor Phoenix for sale though.

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Salmon dial Chronograph

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Retrograde model

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Time only model

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KUMAKAWA Limited Edition

Recently I saw a limited edition Credor chronograph on sale (KUMAKAWA Limited Edition). I tried googling for more information on the limited editions, however due to the fact that the Credor were Japan-only (I believe) and of a fairly upmarket pricing (USD 1500 upwards), there were and still is limited information on these limited edition models. In addition, given that the Credor Phoenix range was introduced back in the late 1990s before the exponential increase in interest in Seiko watches in various Internet forums, there are, unfortunately, limited information on the entire range in general.

However, based on the pricing, quality of the workmanship and the movement used in the models, it can safely be said that the Credor Phoenix was just below the Grand Seiko in the Seiko hierarchy. The Seiko mechanical renaissance started in 1998 with the introduction of the first modern Grand Seiko using the 9S55 caliber. The 8L movement (undecorated, unadjusted version of 9S55) was introduced at the same time, probably appearing in the Credor Phoenix at this point in time. This is not dissimilar to how the Brightz/Brightz Ananta range is to the modern Grand Seiko today, with Credor and Galant being the only 2 ranges priced above the Grand Seiko watches at this point in time.

Pricing

YEN 150,000 ~ USD 1,700 in 1998

Some time earlier this year I had the opportunity to purchase a Credor Phoenix GCBR993, which was the stainless steel, black dial, time-only variant. Of special note, is that it is equipped with the 8L75 movement, which is the highly decorated version of the 8L35 found in the popular MM300. Pity, the movement is hidden behind a solid caseback, with thankfully a gorgeous phoenix motif. The 8L accuracy specifications is -10/+15 sec a day, which is tighter than that for the 4S15/4S25, and is on par with the now long discontinued and almost never seen 4S35 caliber. The power reserve is 50hrs, on par with the 6r caliber, and much longer than the 40 hours of the 4s family. One additional point to note, which pleased me greatly, is that the date changes inside of a minute to 12 midnight. This is a sign of how much attention was paid to the movement assembly. All of my other watches, with the 4s and 6r calibers, generally changes any time within 10 mins of midnight.

8l75

8L75 movement shot

The hour markers of the Credor Phoenix family are uniquely tooth shaped, bordered with metallic trim. This improves visibility both by having highly reflective trims (similar to the Seiko Shogun), and also a generous amount of Lumibrite applied. In fact, I am surprised that Seiko did not recycle the same marker design for use in their diver’s watches, as I would imagine it will work very well for a dress diver.

IMG_0036The minute and hour hands are also uniquely designed being partially skeletonised near to the center and lume filled towards the ends, with arrow or snake-head shapes. Once again the highly polished hands and generous lume ensures visibility.

IMG_0018In contrast to the hands and hour markers which adds a lot of depth and a touch of luxury, the dial face itself contains the text “CREDOR”, “SEIKO” and “AUTOMATIC” printed on a glossy black dial, rather than being applied.  To complete the picture, there are fine white lines to indicate the minutes running on the outside of the dial and an internal bezel stating the minutes in ten minutes increments.

IMG_0019A domed sapphire glass sits on top of the dial. It has no anti-reflective coating. There is also an external cyclops located at the 3 o’clock position. This is a polarising point for many watch lovers. Some love it, some will hate it. I would have preferred it to be an internal cyclops instead, rather than sitting above the glass. To note that the 4s Alpinist range released during the same decade also has the cyclops design.

IMG_0025The crown is capped with a coloured stone. This design is similar to how Cartier caps their crown with a sapphire stone.  The lugs is fairly rectangular with a slight curve.

Last point to mention about the finishing of the case. Although Credor was positioned only below the Grand Seiko in the late 1990s, upon comparison with my Brightz, I actually find that the Brightz finishing is better. It might be due to the case material used (Brightz Titanium vs Stainless Steel), however I am not aware why this is so. Nevertheless, the finishing is definitely a factor that contributes to the cost of the Credor Phoenix, it is in a different class to the usual Seiko watches that one usually sees.

To date, this Credor Phoenix has been one of my 2 favourite dress watch, alongside my Brightz 4s.

Just a short note, although it is unverified to date. Based on the pricing and the time the watch range was introduced and discontinued it is likely that the Credor Phoenix was replaced by the Brightz range and was preceded by the Seiko Laurel range (although Laurel was way underpriced compared to both the Credor and Brightz).

Laurel, Credor Phoenix and Brightz

Laurel, Credor Phoenix and Brightz

The Credor Phoenix was aptly named as Seiko prepared to reclaim their standing among the giants of horology with the re-introduction of the Grand Seiko. Now 15 years since the Grand Seiko was relaunched in 1998, the Grand Seiko can be found beyond the shores of Japan, gaining worldwide repute for their quality and timekeeping.

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8 thoughts on “Seiko Credor Phoenix GCBR993 – The Resurrection of Quality Seiko Mechanicals

  1. Pingback: The Credor Thread - Page 2

  2. Pingback: Credor Seiko GCAY999 – 4S79 Handwinding | musingsofawatchaddict

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