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  • Alvin

A Tale | Whirlwind to Whirlpool - How I got my Grand Seiko SBGH267.

Updated: Dec 29, 2021

The door was ajar, I figured that might be for my benefit so I knocked, waited a moment, and pushed it slightly while announcing myself. The bluish duck egg paint made the heavy oak door look lighter than it was. It didn't make a sound, and neither could I hear one. Again I called out a greeting to Tony, and popped my head past the door to see a large hallway with oak floors and a high ceiling. A dark stained floor to ceiling mirror to the left and walls painted white gave birth to grand oak beams that breached the vaulted ceiling. It was impressive stuff.

"I liked watches with a little quirk, whether a design feature, historical significance or engineering innovation, superfluous or not"

I had worked with Tony for about 4 months but I'd never met him in person, the reshuffling of everyday existence demanded by the pandemic has us working from home. His place, this big old farmhouse was in rural Llanfaredd, Wales wasn't far from the Welsh border. I lived in Hereford, England, about an hour drive away. It always felt a bit odd going over the border, into a different country but the road signs solidified the difference. Naturally, being a watch geek denied a holiday for so long I had wished it was in a different time zone so I could use the GMT on my Longines Conquest VHP flash setting. It works with an app that pulses light beams from the phones torch onto a sensor in the watch letting it know what timezone you're in, like morse code - who needs bluetooth eh? A gimmick you might think but I liked watches with a little quirk, whether a design feature, historical significance or engineering innovation, superfluous or not, it was my main thing, I was in deep. but not quite obsessed, not quite...


That's what had got Tony and I talking, after a meeting over video call I had pinged him a chat message having noticed he was wearing a Grand Seiko. Now you don't own a GS by accident, only watch geeks would dare, only those in the know would know, you know? We got chatting and it turned out he was a watch guy, obviously, recently divorced and had bought himself the watch as a symbol of freedom. The ex-ball and chain hadn't approved of spending on watches, or anything else that bought him joy for that matter, or so he said. A most excellent decision and choice if you ask me. To those not in the know, a Seiko is not something that is noted to cost thousands of pounds, but a Grand Seiko as the name implies, demands them. Understanding such decisions is tricky, spending thousands on a watch might not make any sense to some, especially a Seiko, his ex included.

Grand Seiko SBGH267 / img: Hodinkee

I was lucky in that respect, my not-yet-ex liked watches and I guess the fact that I was more than a poser (her words), made it easier to deal with. The implication I was poser is acceptable as long as it isn’t mentioned too often. I’m into watches not just as things but as a concept, a technology, a tangible in the history of humankind, in the philosophy of time and its relation to the human condition. I wasn't just into the luxury, big bucks, status symbol of it all, though bragging rights, design and the aesthetic side of it did get me somewhat. Not that I've got loadsa money.

"A bond secured by unfiltered ramblings about which Speedmaster is the best..."

After numerous watch and timekeeping related conversations, we had something more than work in common. A bond secured by unfiltered ramblings about which Speedmaster is the best, the idea of homages, never using the chronograph for timing things, overpriced Rolexes, ugly Hublots, and Chinese movements amongst other things. He was really interested to find I had bought a few Chinese made/brand watches and was entirely happy with them. He had requested I bring or wear the tourbillion I had showed him, quite the novelty these days.

A tourbillion, French for whirlwind, was the the prettiest and now one of the most pointless complications available. It places certain parts of the watches internal mechanics, into a rotating cage that was invented to counteract the effects of gravity in pocket watches, they look fantastical spinning away usually at the 6 0'clock position. A complex and intricate piece of engineering, it's staggering that it was patented in 1801 by Abraham-Louis Breguet. It is creative problem-solving at its finest Since then they have become technical showpieces for brands and until recently were shrouded in a veil of unobtainium by Swiss and German brand behemoths with prices starting at £16,000 or so and rocketing into the millions. The Chinese had begun making this movement in the early 2000s, to the chagrin of watch snobs around world. They made them affordable and accessible both for global and Chinese brands and consumers. It was rare to see one, but as the Chinese had improved their skill levels, they were becoming more accepted and popular. I love the watch and movement, it's one of my favourites for all the things it is and isn't.


Sugess ST8230, a Chinese tourbillion / img: Sugess
"the magical mechanical whirlwind"

I called out for Tony again, this time a little louder. No response. Stepping inside leaving the door open I took out my phone to call him, it rang through to voicemail, 'Hey, it's Tony, leave a message or furgerrabaariit,' in his best Italian-American accent - I chose the latter. Moving back outside leaving the door as I'd found it, slightly ajar, I walk to the left around house, on the drive towards the fenced off back garden. I shout there but no response, I try the gate but it's closed. I look at my watch, 1734, the tourbillion distracting me as it always does, blissfully ticking, the magical mechanical whirlwind creating this timeline. Where the hell is he? He really wanted to see the tourbillion, he hadn't seen one before. It was part of the reason we'd wanted to meet up. I hadn't seen a a GS like his before, the WHIRLPOOL, model no. SBGH267. A limited edition of 1500 with a beguiling repeat patterned deep blue whirlpool dial, my favourite of the fancy GS dials. A cold wind whipped me across the face, encouraging me to go inside. Whirlwind meets Whirlpool.


I was a little concerned, a natural worrier me. I try to keep calm and realise he could be asleep or gathering wood or something from nearby, so I go inside, and leave the door ajar as it was before. It's a big old lobby or entrance hall, to the left there's a door to the study, I recognise the bookshelf from our video calls. Books, model cars, and trinkets are lined up neatly. Photos of family, none of him with a women so I guess he's barbecued the photos of the ex. A world map on the wall above the desk, a large monitor on it, and to the right of it a window looking out to one side of the garden, a glance through and I see nothing but grass and a fence. I walk back to the lobby and guess I should stop snooping but move towards the living room directly opposite the study.


Just then I hear something, a short spluttered cough, from upstairs. I run to the end of the lobby, up the stairs, two rights, and on the landing I'm faced with an open door. I see a pair of legs on floor, I stop dead. I walk slowly, breathing quickly, to the door with the legs wearing brown loafers with lifeless leather tassels hanging there. I look to the floor and there, there on the floor, oh my god, something I never thought I'd see.

The Whirlpool is face down on the carpet, the weight of a wrist, an arm, pressing it downwards. I rush to save it from the fluff, I unclip it and can't believe what I'm doing, what is happening - a dull thud. It's a shock to the system, I am holding a Whirlpool, an SBGH267, unreal.

Grand Seiko SBGH267 / img: Hodinkee

It's heavy, but not too heavy, steel, solid and confident of its quality. The GS logo in gold complemented by the gold seconds hand, both jump off the dark blue dial as the light hits them. The dial is exquisite, immediately the most impressive I've ever seen, the mesmerizing GS whirling repeat is perfection. I imagine it's some sort of cryptographic puzzle that needs solving, and once deciphered will unravel in a mechanical serpentine fashion revealing a hidden world. It's as fascinating as I'd hoped it would be. The date is at 3 o'clock, the only place the date should be and the hands look razor sharp. The case and bracelet are perfectly finished a mix of brushed and polished steel. It is magnificent.


Whirlpool case back / img: Hodinkee

The back is only partly see-through which is a shame as I love a full glass case back revealing the movement. That's my only complaint. But you still get a taste of the 9S movement, the inner workings of the whirlpool. The oscillating weight that powers the watch takes the simpler circular form of a whirlpool, it's anodized blue stating limited edition to mark the 20th anniversary of the caliber 9s, in a few less words.


It has hypnotised me, I don't know how it's ended up on my wrist but it fits well. The bracelet is a little loose but that's the way I like it, looks to be around 48mm lug to lug, it's just right for my skinny wrist. As I walk out of the door, leaving it slightly ajar, to the car I realise I'm shaking. I place the box - the Chinese tourbillion safely inside - into the hidden compartment under the passenger seat, handy. I look into the whirlwind, I mean Whirlpool sitting perfectly on my wrist, 1743, time to call for help it tells me.


When they arrive I have tears in my eyes, I tell them my story. My life has changed, nervous energy powering the tungsten and titanium rotor on my wrist. It's emotional, tears in my eyes, my mouth slightly ajar and as if by magic in place of a whirlwind, sits a whirlpool.



Alvin


 


Longines Conquest VHP flash setting - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQhIRwLmJZA

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