SEIKO ANANTA AUTOMATIC CHRONOGRAPH

SPECS

Manufacturer: Seiko Watch Corporation, 8-10, Toranomon 2-Chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-8467, Japan

Reference number: SrQ003J1

Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds; chronograph with counters for 12 elapsed hours and 30 elapsed minutes; date display; stop-seconds function

Movement: Manufacture Caliber 8R28, automatic, chronograph; 28,800 vph; 34 jewels; fine adjustment via index; Diashock shock absorption; bidirectional winding; 45-hour power reserve; diameter = 28 mm, height = 7.2 mm

Case: Stainless steel, flanks coated with titanium carbide; flat sapphire crystal is nonreflective on its inner surface; case-back with sapphire viewing window held in place by six screws; water resistant to 100 meters

Bracelet and clasp: Stainless steel with secure single-folding clasp

Pros

+ Manufacturemovement

+ All exterior components are well crafted.

+User-friendly chronograph

Cons

– Somewhat hard to read

– Irregular rate

– Imperfect finishing of movement parts

The Ananta Automatic Chronograph, at 46 millimeters in diameter, appears big enough to use as a weapon. This, however, is not its primary similarity with the katana, the Japanese sword invented in the Middle Ages. In developing the Ananta models, Seiko’s intent was to have its cases echo the distinctive shape of the sword’s blade and to apply the same elaborate manufacturing process to the time-pieces that was used to forge the ancient Samurai weapons. The Japanese word ananta, which means “the infinite,” was chosen to serve as the collection’s name ‘because its development team had been given an unlimited amount of time in which to work on the new high-end collection to the point where it was ready for’ serial production.

That moment finally arrived in 2009 at the Baselworld watch fair, where Seiko unveiled wristwatches with flanks that arced like the blade of a katana, had daringly diagonal slopes and were polished with the utmost exactness. Bold diagonals reappear on the applied indices and on the middle row of links in the bracelet. The rotor’s styling recalls the artistically crafted tsuba, or hilt, which protects the swordsman’s hand.

The traditional weapon is made by hand: the forging and polishing can require as much as six weeks to complete. The watch, of course, is produced with the aid of high-tech machinery at the modern Seiko factory, and its architecture makes an unmistakable statement. The unusually shaped case admittedly won’t appeal to everybody, and there’s no denying that the case is quite wide where it joins the bracelet. The body of the watch is essentially pot-shaped and is screwed to the caseback. A black overlay of titanium carbide is another daring detail: it’s found on the middle piece of the case.

The case’s styling is a matter of taste, but there can be no doubt about its processing. Clean polishing and satin-finished elements combine with exact edges and a perfectly engraved tachymeter scale to create an immaculate unit. The sole weakness in the case results from the design specifications: fingerprints soon blemish the large expanse of the polished flanks.

THE BACK is no less well constructed than the rest of the case. Six thick screws securely attach the underbody to the blackened middle part and help make the case water resistant to 100 meters. Like those of many other mechanical Seikos, the caseback features a sapphire viewing window.

A peek through that window reveals manufacture Caliber 8R28, which made its debut in the Velatura watch line in 2008. Its advantages include an especially efficient self-winding mechanism with the so-called “Magic Lever,” which Seiko first introduced way back in 1959. One end of it is eccentrically borne on the rotor’s staff; two spread arms at the other end engage on either side of the pawl winding wheel, which conveys winding energy to the barrel. Thanks to the Magic Lever’s elliptical motion, one arm pulls on the pawl winding wheel while the other pushes the same wheel whenever the ball-borne rotor turns. This technique is more efficient than other, similar automatic winding mechanisms, like IWC’s Pellaton winding system, in which only one of the two arms pulls (and its counterpart doesn’t push) on the pawl winding wheel in each of the rotor’s directions of rotation.

When the rotor begins to turn in the other direction, both arms again cooperate by either pulling or pushing. A more efficient way to wind an automatic movement would be difficult to imagine. Just a few minutes on the wrist are all that’s needed to replenish the mainspring with its complete reservoir of power. The Ananta Automatic Chronograph accumulates only a 45-hour power reserve rather than the lengthy 72 hours of some other Seiko models.

Furthermore, this movement is also equipped with a column wheel that ensures, among other things, equal and regular pressure points for the start and stop functions. Unfortunately, however, the chronograph mechanism in Caliber 8R28 is positioned on the dial side of the movement, so the column wheel is hidden beneath the dial. Vertical chronograph coupling is another user-friendly feature: it helps the elapsed-seconds hand get off to a clean start, rather than jumping ahead, when the start button is pressed. A person determined to find something to criticize about this highly functional manufacture movement will find what he’s looking for when he scrutinizes the escapement: Seiko gave this one neither a freely breathing hairspring nor a fine adjustment mechanism with weight screws on the balance. Instead, there is only a simple index-based system to finely adjust the rate.

In the rate test, our electronic Witschi timing machine calculated major deviations among the various positions. With the chronograph switched off, the rates in the two most widely separated positions differed by 14 seconds; with the chronograph switched on, the difference increased to a full 18 seconds. On the other hand, the daily gain in ordinary operation was a fairly low value of slightly more than three seconds, as measured both by the timing machine and on the wrist. When the chronograph is running, the highly dissimilar rates in the positions average out and yield a scarcely measurable gain. Despite the acceptable average values, we had to subtract several points for the large rate differences.

The fine processing of the movement’s components is also not overly impressive. Seiko gives satin finishing only to the bridges on the top of the movement and polishes only the edges, which are boldly beveled. It’s especially unfortunate that tool marks blemish many individual components, such as the pawl winding wheel, the visible screws and, worst of all, the base plate. The most beautiful component is surely the rotor: it has a graphite-gray coating, it’s pierced in several places and it’s adorned with Geneva waves.

THE ANANTA is very easy to operate thanks to its oversized, mushroom-shaped buttons and its large, tapered crown. Furthermore, the watch is equipped with both a stop-seconds function and a quick-reset mechanism for the date display. People who go to bed late will appreciate the jumping date: the one on our test watch switched to the next day’s date two minutes early, but this beat having to wait an hour or two for the date display to advance.

The watch is also quite comfortable to wear. Although its case measures 46 millimeters in diameter and tips the scales at a hefty 236 grams, it fits very well around the wrist. The supple bracelet and single-folding clasp also contribute to the good fit. The watch tends to be a little top-heavy on the wrist, but considering its weight, this is unavoidable. Fortunately, adjusting the bracelet to fit snugly results in a surprisingly comfortable wearing experience. The 15-millimeter height and the many edges of the case make it a bit more difficult to slip the sleeve of a shirt or a suit jacket over this watch than it is to do so over most other timepieces.

Both the bracelet and its secure folding clasp are top-notch in terms of their styling and craftsmanship. Only the outer flip-lock on the clasp detracts somewhat from the high-quality impression: this is the sole component that’s not milled from a solid block of metal. It’s made from a steel plate, although the plate used is, fortunately, quite thick.

The legibility of the watch isn’t quite as satisfying as the operation and wearing comfort. The three center-mounted hands are somewhat too short, and their long counterweights often obscure the chronograph’s elapsed-time counters. Furthermore, the elapsed minutes and hours aren’t really easy to read because the sub-dials are small, with very narrow numerals and thin strokes.

The dial’s color scheme is very well thought out. All of the chronograph hands are red, while the ordinary time-telling hands are steely silver. This contrast makes it delightfully easy to distinguish among the various subdials, and the red elements add welcome chromatic accents to the dial. In other aspects, the dial is rather conventionally styled, although the wide rim around the elapsed-minutes counter adds an individualistic touch. Another pleasing detail is the black date disk, which harmoniously integrates into the black dial.

With a retail price of $3,200, the Ananta Automatic Chronograph isn’t what most would consider inexpensive, but the functional diversity of the movement, the outstanding craftsmanship of the case, bracelet and dial, and the high-level of user friendliness make it a good investment.

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