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A Blast From The Past - A Grail Reviewed

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Anonymous User
May 04, 2011 12:48AM
As far as I can tell, this one never made it into the Official PMWF Review Archive. Oops!

And while it's not a watch I'd consider personally, much less consider a Grail, it is a darned good Review, sooo.. Wink

One caveat - In the end, I don't believe this watch qualified as a True Grail For Bro. Headrick, either. Certainly it was nowhere the Last Watch he ever acquired. Rolling on the floor laughing my a.. off

Watch or Accessory Review Seiko Sportura SNA481 Multiple pictures in this post
Saturday, 12 November 2005, at 9:35 p.m.

Is it too soon to write a review of my new watch? I have after all only had it for about four days. I’m familiar with the movement though - since I sold a Seiko SNA225P with the identical movement to raise funds for this watch, the SNA481 Sportura. So really, my review will not require that I live with the watch for a few weeks to get a feel for how the movement works - I already know about that. My impressions of the watch will deal mainly with its aesthetics, which are what drew me to the watch in the first place, based solely on having seen an internet picture (and frankly, not even a very good picture at that). But the Sportura’s styling is so dynamic and modern that it transcends the limitations of even a poorly rendered dealer’s photo.

We all talk about the possibility of the existence of certain grail watches. Usually they are expensive manifestations of the best that horological design has to offer. They typically reside in a financial neighborhood just a little beyond our reach, always tempting us, not just with their beauty, but also with their (at least temporarily) unobtainable nature.

But what if you were to one day discover a watch that not only met most of the design criteria you had established for your personal grail watch, but also was ridiculously affordable? For me, that watch was the Seiko Sportura SNA481. I may be momentarily suffering from WIS honeymoon insanity, but this watch makes me wonder whether I will ever again need another watch. If our collecting is in certain ways a quest for a grail, I may have reached the end of my journey. The 481 just does that much for me.

I have had a love affair with sport cars and auto racing since I was a young kid. My obsession started with Hot Wheels and slot cars, and took me to my first real cars, a Plymouth Road Runner, and a Ford Mustang, among others. I loved movies like “LeMans”, starring Steve McQueen, and living in Indianapolis, I was inundated with racing every May. When I started collecting watches, it wasn’t long before I realized that watches with a racing theme or look held a very special fascination for me.

The Sportura immediately grabs your attention with it’s F1 inspired looks. The dial layout is identical to the layout of Valjoux 7750 powered chronos, but features the added bonus of your choice of an alarm function or a dual time zone dial. The 7T62 quartz movement is mind numbingly accurate. Grab it and go - no winders, no re-setting the time to match an atomic time server. When the chrono is activated, the seconds hand moves with a mechanical like sweep, rather than the “tick, tick, tick” stepping common to quartz movements.

When I first began collecting watches, like many guys I avowed I would never bother with quartz again. That mind set was reinforced at some of the first internet watch venues that I frequented. But thankfully, I have come full circle on the issue of quartz, in no small part due to the influence of many enlightened members of PMWF.

Seiko has wisely chosen to use eccentric hands on each of the dials and sub-dials. They all differ slightly from each other, but they appear to belong together. The overall effect is very readable, and also very attractive. The chrono seconds hand and the minutes sub totalizer hand are both done in a red that skews toward the orange end of the spectrum, resulting in greater legibility - a small detail, but evidence of a well thought out design. The Seiko logo and dial indices are applied. I've always found this approach much more elegant looking than painted on logos and markers. The indices and hour/minute hand have a Luminova paint that is easily readable after 6 hours.

The bezel, which appeared black in the dealer’s pic that inspired me to buy the watch, is in fact stainless steel coated with Titanium CarboNitride. On your wrist, the look of the bezel is deep, dark gray with a stunning reflective quality. The tachymeter scale is etched through the TiCN coating, allowing the steel to show through. At the four “corners” of the watch, screws are scalloped into the bezel, and also into the case below. I am not sure whether they serve any actual function (holding the bezel in place?), but they add to the automotive look of the watch, and even if they’re only ornamental, I think the watch’s looks would suffer without them.

I’ve attempted to find information on the internet regarding the properties of TiCN coating. So far, I’ve had little luck. I want to believe that Seiko used this approach to improve scratch resistance - the crystal, after all, is sapphire. It would seem an unnecessary expense had it been done only as decoration.

The crown screws in - a nice feature that I assume contributes to the watch’s 100m depth rating, as does the screw in case back. Both the crown and chrono push buttons are decorated with reddish orange paint that matches the chrono seconds hand and accents the stitching on the perforated black leather strap.

I’ve already fielded a few questions regarding the integrated strap - how do I like it, does it bother me that I won’t be able to change it? I recently realized that integrated straps, ala the Oris TT1, don’t bug me - it’s integrated bracelets I don’t like. I’m a strap kind of guy first and foremost. For those who want the bracelet look, the 481 is available with a bracelet option. But the strap that it comes with is my hands down favorite look in a strap - perforated with a contrasting stitching that compliments the dial. The strap helps the artistic design to be completely integrated - each component matches, and leads the eye to the next. I can’t imagine a more unified appearance!

The strap buckle is equally well done, with a beefy tang and beefy spring bar. In order to extend the life of the strap, I removed the buckle and immediately replaced it with a push button double deployant. In two days time the strap had conformed to the shape of my arm and easily sits exactly where I like it to on my wrist.

I hope you guys like the looks of this one, because this may be it for me for a long time - maybe forever. You’re gonna be seeing a lot of pics of this one in the coming weeks! Smile

Thanks for reading,


It's also worth noting that Jeff was absolutely correct in his assumption that the TiCN coating functions as a deterrent to scratches. Titanium Carbonitride (TiCN) is commonly used on cutting tools, and is a good performer in the machining of stainless steels. So, yeah, I'm quite familiar with it. Laughing You'll find various specs on the hardness of TiCN, but generally it's given as 3000 Hv (80 Rc). By comparison, uncoated tungsten-carbide typically checks in at 2200 to 2400 Hv, depending. So, yup, Titanium Carbonitride is mighty hard stuff indeed!

As an aside, I think that his confusion at least partly explains why most watch companies simply say "PVD" or "PVD coated" and leave it at that. For - make no mistake! - the TiCN on this Seiko was applied with the PVD process. Yet when they specify the exact coating used (a high-grade at that, TiCN!) it causes confusion and at least some degree of suspicion. Crazy! Loco!



Live long and prosper.

A Blast From The Past - A Grail Reviewed Image Attachments

Anonymous User1505May 04, 2011 12:48AM

Always love to see reviews and this ones very good! (n/t)

Mark_Kershaw387May 04, 2011 10:17AM

SmileThumbs up! (n/t)

IF165May 04, 2011 04:20AM

I've had that same model for about 5 years.... Jpeg Attachments

Les187May 04, 2011 03:13AM

This watch has a TiCN coated bezel and... Image Attachments

Jimmy50278May 04, 2011 01:18AM

Re: ..truly is tough stuff. I wacked the bezel hard up against a stone counter top not long ago. Not a mark!

Anonymous User192May 04, 2011 01:32AM

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