Credor is a brand that is seldom seen outside of Japan. The name derives from the French term Crete D’or, meaning “crest of gold” and represents the pinnacle of fine, elegant timepieces, typically crafted from precious metals. Since its creation in 1974, Credor has brought some of the thinnest watches Seiko has made to the market, one of which, was actually developed before the brand itself. The Caliber 68 series of movements was created as far back as 1969, which was and is still, one of the thinnest hand-wound movements in the world at 1.98mm thick. Over the years there have been many variants of the Caliber 68 since its creation, but one of the most notable is the 6899 hand engraved skeleton.
In 1970, a gentleman by the name of Kiyoshi Terui joined what was Daini Seikosha (today Seiko Instruments Inc.). By 1984 he had started his work with high jewelry watches and by 1993, was certified Grade 1 in precious metal accessory making. Terui had devised his own method of hand engraving, utilizing tools he created himself to create beautiful expressions in the metal, with a sharp and brilliant surface that reflects light at multiple angles, and requires no need for buffing after the cuts are applied which might typically round and dull the surface. It was through his expertise that the Credor 6899 hand engraved skeletons had such unique and distinct character. Terui was awarded as a Master Contemporary Craftsman in 2002 and then the Medal with Yellow Ribbon in 2007, both high honor awards in Japan for his craft.
For 2017, Credor has introduced a new limited production variation of the Credor hand engraved skeleton that pays tribute to a significant part of Japanese culture that has spanned its history for centuries, The “hanami”, or cherry blossom festivals, that celebrate the introduction of Spring to Japan. Cherry blossoms, known as “sakura” in Japan, have a symbolic meaning of renewal, and express the beauty and short-lived nature of life. The sakura begins to bloom in Spring and it is only a matter of a couple of weeks before the flowers start to fall.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a famous Daimyo (great lords of the feudal era in Japan) of the Heian Period who ruled near Kyoto, held one of the largest hanami in 1594, celebrating the sakura with over 5,000 people in attendance. This particular hanami took place at Mt. Yoshino in the Nara prefecture.
Back then as well as now, Mt. Yoshino is famous for its sakura and one of the best locations in Japan for watching them bloom. There are over 30,000 sakura planted on Mt. Yoshino, and it is rumored you can see 1,000 cherry trees in a glance. The trees are planted in 4 different groves, each at different altitudes causing them to bloom at different times. It is said that when you hike the mountain, you can see the cherry blossoms bloom at each grove as you get higher on the mountain. The Credor Hand Engraved Skeleton GBBD961 pays tribute to the beautiful Mt. Yoshino, the sakura, and the hanami.
For the GBBD961, the lower half of the dial is hand engraved in the cherry blossom motif. These engravings are quite a delicate process to apply as the craftsman is executing work on bridges that are as thin as 0.25mm. The engravings themselves go as deep as 0.15-0.2mm. The engraving work alone for the bridges takes a minimal of a week for other variations of hand engraved Credor skeletons, but this process is a bit more elaborate, so it does require more time.
On the right-hand side of the lower dial, you will find cherry blossoms executed in mother of pearl. The color varies from near white pink dependent on exposure to light. The dominant color is a pinkish white, but in darker settings and specific angles, it seems pure pink. You will also notice that the mother of pearl is in a three-dimensional shape, slightly rounded or domed, with small cuts to define its texture. This in itself is an extremely delicate process to achieve, not only is the mother of pearl fragile, but it is under 2mm in thickness. The three-dimensional shape can only be achieved by hand polishing to attain its rounded edges, giving the piece a unique characteristic not found on other models. The cuts removed from the mother of pearl are hand engraved, just as it is executed on the bridges.
The upper portion of the dial also features a new and unique attribute. The sky is expressed through a new “silk finishing” technique. This creates the visual effect of the motion of the wind and is achieved through use a diamond burr tool. This process is very difficult to perfect as distortion can easily occur in this method. In order to avoid distortion, the craftsman have to complete the silk finishing all in one sitting, keeping the consistency of texture and feel of applying the appropriate amount of pressure.
In the sky, you will notice the depiction of two hand engraved birds. These birds are swallows, known as tsubame in Japan, and are an expression of the coming of Spring as the birds migrate there around the same time the cherry blossoms start to bloom. The tsubame is a sign of good luck in Japan because when they arrive they eat pests, but leave crops undisturbed.
Visible through the case back you can see more expressions of the hand engraved cherry blossoms, as well as blue mother of pearl inlay surrounding the movement. This pays tribute to the weaving flight pattern of the swallow. In order to eat pests flying in the sky, the birds must fly in an up and down weaving pattern, which creates a unique visual. This expression is executed through a tapering pattern of mother of pearl pieces.
The ultra-thin Caliber 6899 utilized in this model is still only 1.98mm in thickness, and requires tremendous skill to assemble and adjust. Nearly all items within this caliber must be delicately adjusted by hand, within a tolerance of 1/100th of a millimeter. Due to it being such a small movement, the components themselves are also very small. Parts such as the pallet fork, balance and hairspring are small items in larger size calibers, so for an item such as this, they are far smaller, creating a higher difficulty level in assembly and adjustment. Typically, only 1-2 of the Caliber 68 series movements can be assembled in one day, by one of very few craftsmen dedicated to their assembly.
Finishing on the caliber is also a delicate process, but remains a part of the finest details found inside. Wheels in the gear train are all radially satin finished, despite the fact they can hardly be seen. Items such as the ratcheting wheel and crown wheel are finished in a circular wave graining pattern as well as mirror finishing.
The Credor Hand Engraved Skeleton GBBD961 Is a limited production model of no specific quantity produced, however, is still extremely small production. These models are made and assembled at Shizukuishi Studio in Morioka, Japan, with all hand engravings done under the supervision of master craftsman Kiyoshi Terui. The case is 38mm wide x 7.3mm thickness in 18k white gold, with a lug to lug length of 44mm. The crystal is dual curved sapphire with inner anti-reflective coating. The Caliber 6899 within has a rate of 21,600bph and a 37 hour power reserve. MSRP in the USA is $42,000.