In working for Andrew Michaels Jewellers my wife says I’m living the dream. I can certainly understand that opinion from an outside, naïve perspective. I love watches and have done since I was about six years old. However, the life of a luxury sales man isn’t always as glamourous as it appears. We are in the fortunate position of being constantly busy at Andrew Michaels Jewellers. Inevitably, the day-to-day often gets in the way of enjoying my hobby. How rude.
There are days, however, when you know you’ve made exactly the correct career choice. That very day happened recently when a Credor Eichi II Spring Drive 10th Anniversary Limited Edition, reference GBLT998, turned up at the store. It was love at first sight. Not the sort of “That’s nice, I love it” admiration but one that runs so much deeper to the core of your very being that it’s almost all-consuming to the point where you start to consider selling your spleen. If I were in a film at that time there would have been the sound of a choral vibrato reaching a steady crescendo as we cut to a view of my facial expression going slightly gormless. The Eichi II, stirred emotions in me that I didn’t realise I had available to express over a timepiece. My wife on our wedding day or my newly born niece, maybe, but not a watch.
This wrist worn art form epitomises everything that I love about watches. It is the zenith of what is humanly possible within the constraints of it’s design brief. You gaze in awe as you realise the minimal expression of simple time telling cannot get any better than this.
Alas, the emotion was fleeting as I realised that this gorgeous and exceptional creation from some of the world’s greatest craftsmen and women was destined to be sold to some other lucky bugger. Only 10 Eichi IIs are manufactured each year. Almost all of these don’t get the chance to venture towards a retailer outside of Asia. Having one in the UK is a rare occurrence. Having one at our humble store in Newark is akin to seeing Madonna in your local supermarket.
So, at this point, let’s address the elephant in the room here. The Rose Gold 10th Anniversary Eichi II has a retail price of £35,500. Hopefully, I can transpose that open mouthed look of incredulity with a closed mouth appreciative nod of approval by the end of this completely biased prose. You have been warned.
For those unfamiliar with the Credor brand, please allow me to quickly enlighten you.
I am a massive fan of the Japanese, their culture, their humble approach to life, their attitude to, well, everything, their pioneering spirit and, most of all, the pride they have in all aspects of their life. There are noteworthy watchmakers across the globe, some of which are creating ridiculously complicated timepieces, but the Credor Eichi II could only have been created in Japan.
Seiko is my favourite brand. I own a lot of them. From simple vintage Seiko 5s, that cost the same as a nice meal out, to my SLA025 1968 Saturation Diver re-creation, that costs the same as a adding a reasonable sized conservatory to your house. They have so many attributes to admire: reliability, integrity, honesty and innovation. This is also reflected in the largest and enthusiastic, loyal fan base for any watch brand I have witnessed. The research and development, technology and innovations witnessed by this one brand has moved timekeeping on to new levels of reliability and accuracy over the last 50 years. Some horological purists may resent the electronic basis for some of these breakthroughs. If you have settled in that particular camp then I would ask you to consider Seiko’s ability to produce full in-house movements with unparalleled verticalization. Seiko are the only mass production luxury watch company that produce every component in house, including screws, springs, sapphire glass. You name it. So, regardless of who you are, you have heard of Seiko.
Moving up from Seiko we find Grand Seiko. A brand in its own right that is celebrating its 60th Anniversary. Officially unavailable outside of Asia until about 10 years ago, this luxury manufacturer is still a fairly nascent entity. However, Grand Seiko is growing at an exponential rate. This delights me because most members of Joe Public would scoff at the idea of a Seiko brand that starts at the £2000 price point and peaks at just shy of £100,000. This is where Seiko are a victim of their own success. They make reliable and great looking timepieces that fit in the high-street-sub-£500 category. Outside of Asia they are still struggling to be accepted as a luxury brand. However, sit yourself down with a Grand Seiko timepiece, even the “entry level” quartz like my very own SBGX263, and you will have instant respect and admiration. Please see my review here of this technical marvel. It is most definitely not just a quartz watch. My other Grand Seiko is the famous Snowflake, called thus because of the glorious hand finished dial, for which no two are the same.
This watch epitomises Grand Seiko with its hand assembled, high accuracy proprietary Spring Drive movement, hand finished dial and Zaratsu polished high-density titanium case. So, if you have an inclination towards luxury horology you will have heard of Grand Seiko.
Finally, residing proudly at the top of the Seiko hierarchy is Credor. The name is a truncation of Crete d’Or, or crest of gold, or golden crown, according to the official website. It was first introduced by Seiko in 1974 as a line of simple and elegant timepieces with precious metal cases and bracelets. These were to sit atop the Seiko collections of the time. By the mid 1980s the Credor family of watches had housed the world’s thinnest quartz movement and also a fully diamond encrusted lady’s timepiece with a price tag of 220 million yen, or the equivalent of about £1,500,000, back in 1980! The Credor family continued to be the vehicle of choice by Seiko through to the 1990s where it showcased its thinnest mechanical movement to date and also the most important movement of its time, The Spring Drive, in 1999. This is, however, still a far cry from the use of the name today, which, since 2004, has been reserved for showcasing the absolute finest of craftmanship the brand can produce. Think Tourbillons, Grand Sonneries, Minute Repeaters, etc. The brand also captures the pinnacle of every aspect of a timepiece. The movement, the dial, the hands and the case have to be unsurpassable in quality of construction. The Credor Eichi II 10th Anniversary is the personification of this attitude.
In 2004 the Micro Artist Studio was set up in Shiojiri, with the guidance of independent watch maker and horological genius Philippe Dufour. The best of best from Seikos wealth of watch making talent took up residence within this studio. The dial of the Eichi II is created from the finest Noritake Porcelain by the only person capable of such perfection, Mitsuru Yokosawa. Yokosawa San joined the Fuji Porcelain Enamel Company Ltd in 1971. His years of dedication to this craft have resulted in him increasing the reproducibility in this notoriously complex field. Even still only 1 out of 10 dials produced are deemed perfect enough for the Eichi II.
This dial is then hand painted by another artist at the very top of his craft, Isshu Tamaru. Even in his 64th year, and fast approaching retirement age, Tamaru San is still committed to the craft that he has spent his life trying to perfect. He is a master craftsman at both the difficult art of Kaga Maki-E gold lacquer and Urushi Lacquer decoration. Each marker and every letter on the dial are hand painted.
All aspects of dial decoration are applied by one of the most talented hands in Japan
The attention given by Yokosawa San and Tamura San further adds to the covetable nature of these rare timepieces. With the Eichi II you know the very best have lovingly created your watch.
The Rose Gold case of the Eichi II is cold fired to give it surface strength and scratch resistant properties. The entire case is then meticulously Zaratsu polished by hand. This polishing technique has been passed down through the millennia and was originally used to polish katana swords. Only a very few employees of the Micro Artist Studio are capable of this unique case finishing technique, which results in a lustre not witnessed anywhere else.
This case affords the Eichi II with a magnetic resistance of 4800A/m and a water resistance of 30m. The 39mm diameter by 10.3mm height are also suitable for a dress watch. If there is such an equation out there like legibility/comfort = diameter, then the answer would be 39.
The highly polished hands have been heated treated to create the perfect blue to contrast the pure white of the dial. This is yet another level of perfectionism targeted by the Micro Artist Studio because heat treated hands will not fade over time, unlike sprayed or painted examples, which is the normal procedure for creating such a finish.
Finally, we come to the element of a watch that is usually the divider between a luxury high-end timepiece and those that aspire to be the very greatest of their genre, the movement. The Eichi II is no different because it houses the incredible 7R14 movement. Based on the proprietary Spring Drive technology, that took 28 years to develop and returns around 1 second per week accuracy from a mechanical movement, the 7R14 is hand assembled from start to finish by just one of a chosen few watch makers. Each component is fastidiously finished by hand. The simplicity of the dial, which is enhanced by further mesmerising calmness upon the wearer by the perfectly sweeping seconds hand of the Spring Drive movement, belies the complexity of this 41 jewel horological puzzle which has a few hidden complications. First is the power reserve, for which Seiko have made the sensible decision to move to the rear of the movement. This maintains the utility of such a function without disturbing the purity of the dial. The second is the unique Torque Return System. Yet another reflection of Seiko’s desire to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible within watchmaking whilst always keeping in sight the end goal of added performance. This proprietary mechanism maximises the high torque of the Spring Drive movement. When the spring is fully wound this torque is at its highest, to the point where 30% would normally be wasted. However, this patented system uses this energy to rewind the main spring. This results in a 25% increase in the power reserve up to an impressive 60 hours.
This is an unexpected level of complexity for such a beautiful austere face. It can be likened to being presented with a beautiful young child and finding that they are 10th Dan in Karate.
Towards the end of last year I had the pleasure of being invited to a Seiko event in London. On display were two Credor Spring Drive Grand Sonneries, an Eichi II in platinum and an Eichi II in rose gold.
Understandably, these rare and exceptional timepieces were incredibly well marshalled and time alone with them was both limited and scrutinised. This was still, however, one of the all time highlights of my career. So, to have a Credor at Andrew Michaels Jewellers that I could readily lust over was a dream moment.
So, a £35,500 “Seiko” that is worth the money. It is not an arduous challenge for me to add verisimilitude to this statement.
The Eichi II is the most perfect dress watch I’ve ever seen. It exudes luxury from every single component. Just like it’s humble creators, it is so unpretentious. It quietly (quite literally with the Spring Drive movement) goes about its business with the knowledge that it is the best of an aspirational breed.
The aesthetics are flawless. It is far more difficult to create a paired back, austere case and dial than a contemporary appearance where the designer is given free reign. The Eichi II is triumphant in its simplistic elegance. The natural beauty of the hand fabricated porcelain dial does not require any further cosmetics than the hand painted markers and Credor moniker. The Rose Gold of the Anniversary edition gives a warmth to the simple design that the platinum fails to achieve. The Anniversary status adds an element of romance to proceedings.
Breaking down the Credor Eichi II to its individual elements we are left in awe at the level of effort and attention to detail afforded to each single component, on a level that is bordering on obsessive. Every aspect of the design is considered. The Eichi II truly is greater than the sum of its extraordinary parts.
In the interests of trying to complete this article as an actual review I have just one complaint about the Eichi II. However, it is so trivial and inconsequential to the point of being mute. The script at the bottom of dial, depicting the movement, is not symmetrical. That’s it. It’s all I’ve got.
So, to recap: What are the ingredients required to create the most perfect classical dress watch?: The most exquisitely finished case constructed from a unique, toughened gold? Tick. Incredible performance through the most accurate mechanical based movement available with clever, hidden technology that has been hand assembled? Tick. The most gorgeous hand produced porcelain dial that has been hand decorated by a gifted artisan? Tick. That sweeping seconds hand that makes viewing the time a pleasurable and satisfying experience? Tick. Exclusivity assured with only 10 pieces per year produced? Tick. An amalgamation of all these elements that come together in the purist of harmonies to create the most covetable dress watch you can get for the money? Absolutely.