This is my twentieth post! A minor milestone for me, at least!
In this post, I’m going to talk about something fairly unlikely to be seen outside of Japan, a re-issue of a vintage Seiko chronograph! This Brightz Ananta was released in May 2013 (to the best of my knowledge) and as of May 2014 it can no longer be found on the Seiko JP website, which unfortunately means its been discontinued. This is likely due to the higher than usual price bracket and the low domestic demand. The RRP is JPY 300,000, which brings it to the level of entry level luxury watches, where most people can already afford a brand name Swiss or German watch.
This is not an official re-issue, but the similarities is plain to see for all. The nickname for the vintage model (shown below) is the Blue Kakume, which in Japanese means “square eyes”. This is an obvious reference to the minute and hour sub square dials. Other obvious difference is the subtle continuous seconds in the re-issue, vs nil continuous seconds in the original . Also the Kakume had both the day and date while only the day is retained in the re-issue. Another point to note is the mesh-like design for the date wheel in the re-issue, which some vintage fans might not have taken a liking to. In my honest opinion, it gives a modern twist to an otherwise classical and striking design.
As this is not a comparative review (I do not have the good fortune to have the original Kakume for comparison), I will discuss about the Brightz Ananta and make comparison to the Kakume where I see fit.
The first time I laid eyes on this watch, I was immediately drawn to the outstanding level of case finishing, which is likely due to the Zaratsu polishing applied to all watches in the Ananta range. The polishing is extraordinary even in comparison to my other Brightz and Credor Phoenix watches, certainly at least a level ahead. If this is what a Ananta is capable of, I long to see the even finer finishing on a Grand Seiko!
Observe the alternating finishing of brushed and polished on the lugs. Also note how sharply the lugs ends on a perpendicular angle. Also this model has drilled through lugs to allow easier changing of straps. Surprisingly Seiko opted for a rarely seen 21mm lug width, rather than the conventional 20mm or 22mm.
There is also the bevelling on the underside of the case, which is then highly polished as well. The left hand side of the case has fine horizontal brushing. Very subtle, but effective enough to highlight the polished bits of the case. As can be seen here, the entire circumference of the ceramic bezel is highly polished.
On the right side of the case is where the chronograph buttons are located at the 2 and 4 o’clock positions, and with the time and date setting crown located at the usual 3 o’clock position. The crown is fairly large, with the words “Automatic Chronograph” laser etched on it. I believe for the non-chronograph Brightz watches, only the word “Automatic” is etched on it. One issue that I have encountered is that when I’ve set the time and about to push in the crown, there’s always some play in the crown which affects the position of the minute hand, causing it to jump slightly forward of the time I wanted to set it too. Not critical, but irritating.
Also I would like to point out that even the parts of the case between the chronograph pushers and the crown have alternating finishes. The parts of the case that you will see when reading the time, is highly polished, while the sides perpendicular to those are brushed, mirroring the brushed finished on the left side of the case.
It is not very obvious in my photo above, but the chronograph pushers are highly polished as well and any reflections can be clearly seen without any distortion. This is in comparison to my Credor Phoenix which is no pushover where case polishing is concerned, and the Credor is slightly lacking in comparison! Zaratsu polishing indeed!
The dial is slightly turquoise rather than a sky blue color. It might be due to the material used, as it is slightly reflective, rather than matt, with a very very faint sunburst radiating from the center.
All the hour markers have a vertical strip of Lumibrite applied. It is interesting to note that the Lumibrite is applied on a slightly lower level on the hour marker, in other words the hour marker is not perfectly flat, but appears to step down in the middle.
Also to note, the hour markers are actually of different lengths depending on their position to the square sub dials, date wheel and the Seiko logo at the 3 o’clock position. It most definitely shows the level of attention to details that Seiko looks at, and also the additional costs for the additional machinery required to manufacture the different lengths.
The hour and minutes hands are partially skeletonised close to the center with strips of Lumibrite starting from the middle to the ends of the hands. The hands are highly polished and is not flat polished, but appears to be polished downwards from the middle. This can be clearly illustrated in the above picture if you observe the very tip of the hour hand, or the center end of the minute hand. Given that the hands are skeletonised, I cannot imagine how difficult it must be.
The central chronograph second hands, the minute and hour registers are all painted in red, and are not luminous. I really like the fact that the square sub-dials are all framed with a silver border, and it adds a perception of depth as the minute and hour register clearly sits lower in the framed sub-dials. The dial of the minute and hour registers are finely vertically brushed steel, with the markers very finely and cleanly printed in black ink. The minute register ticks over every time the second hand hits 60 seconds, while the hour registers moves subtly over time, rather than having a definite tick over.
The words “Seiko”, “Ananta” and “Automatic” is printed at the 3 o’clock position of the dial as it is the only free space left available by the 12,6,9 configuration of the 6s movement, as compared to the 3,6,9 configuration of the other Seiko chronograph movement 8R28 available right now. Real pity that “Brightz” is not printed.
Here you can more clearly seen the vertical brushed finishing and the printing on the sub dial.
I mentioned that Seiko has 2 automatic chronograph movements available (6s28 and 8r28) on the market right now. To be more accurate, the 6s movement is only available in the domestic market right now, while the 8r movement is available in both the domestic and international markets. Also, the 6s models are always more expensive than the 8r models, it might or might not be due to the movement itself, as we will never find the exact same model with the 2 different movements. However, the 6s movement definitely has the better pedigree compared to the 8r movement which is itself derived from the 7s movement, which is the workhouse movement of the Seiko mechanical calibres available at this point in time. The 6s movement is found in the Credor Phoenix range of chronograph (gold plated nevertheless!) and also in the legendary and now discontinued Prospex Flightmaster, of which a fantastic review of the watch and movement (with an additional power reserve complication) can be seen here.
Another advantage is that the 6s has a 50 hour reserve while the 8r only has a 45 hour reserve. Both movements beats at 28,800 bph, and are both central second chronographs. One major difference that I’ve noted is that the 6s is a column wheel + oscillating pinion movement, compared to the 8r which is a column wheel + vertical clutch movement. I do not profess to know the exact difference between the two, but most people prefer the latter.
A short note about the movement found in the original Kakume, the 6138 movement. This was a 21600bps with the column wheel + vertical clutch movement. I’m not certain about the power reserve, but its likely to be in the 40-45hour range. As you can tell, neither the 6s nor the 8r is a direct descendant of the 6138/39 movement family. For those not already in the know, Seiko was one of the 3 parties, alongside Zenith and another Swiss group, who can lay claim to introducing the very first automatic chronograph in 1969. Please refer to this interesting read for more details.
***To digress, in the early 1970s another prominent watch maker, Citizen, introduced a 28,800 bps, column wheel + vertical clutch AND also with a flyback complication (8110). Now this movement is definitely finer than Seiko’s 6138/39 movement available in the same time period, and also whatever Seiko is offering to the market even today! Its amazing how Citizen managed to include the flyback complication at that price point, and its even more astounding to me how much cheaper a Citizen chronograph can be bought compared to the astronomical prices an equivalent era Seiko chronograph is fetching today.
I would like to end off by saying that I’m very pleased with this re-issue and Seiko should definitely do such unofficial re-issues more frequently. They have a rich archive of popular models, and should not restrict re-issues only to the Grand Seiko line ups or for special occassions! It is always good to see good designs updated with the latest technologies, such as better movement, sapphire crystals, ceramic bezels, etc.