Sometimes it feels as though the world of high-end Seikos is a niche ‘connoisseurs’ club where the assumption is that, by and large, the average watch enthusiast (let alone the average punter) has no idea of the existence of these watches. The fact that some of them (especially the Grand Seikos) are quite unassuming adds to this almost clubby feeling. Their scarcity in many worldwide markets (not to mention the ‘Japan only’ models that are difficult to find out about, let alone obtain) adds another layer to their aura.
One of these Seiko lines, about which I’ve written before, is the Spring Drive. Within the Spring Drive line there was, for a brief two years between 2007 and 2009, a series of models called Izul, the only known Spring Drives that used the automatic Calibre 5R85 (49 jewels) sans GMT function, with a power reserve of 72 hours.
Izul was Seiko’s fourth ‘premium brand’, the others being Grand Seiko, Credor and Galante. Its 2007 launch coincided with the market debut of the Spring Drive chronograph. Seiko’s intent was that Izul be an exclusive line of innovative high end Spring Drive chronographs, but they did not prove to be popular with the Japanese market design wise, size wise, and price point wise. Basically, it was doomed. By 2008 it was clear that the Izul brand was not going to take off, especially in light of the new Ananta line, so it was terminated in 2009, making the models rare collectibles and not very well-known ones at that.
The cases were a retro bullhead type design, playing homage to the stopwatches that Seiko developed for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. They are big, but as with many bullheads, they don’t actually feel that large on the wrist, and the use of titanium also helps in terms of wearability.
The Izul collection was composed of two models:
1. Those with a rotating case (SDAA001 or SDAA007) (white or black dial)
2. Those without a rotating case (SDAA003 or SDAA005) (white or black dial)
The SDAA001/ SDAA07 are 51.0mm in diameter with a thickness of 14.2mm and the SDAA003/ SDAA005 are a smaller 47.2mm with a thickness of 14.4mm
The Izul in this post is the SDAA001 with the funky rotating case. To me, this is the distinctive appeal of the Izuls, and the more interesting version for that.
The case can be turned the full 360 degrees. Yes, that means that the chrono can be upside down or the time keeping mode upside down, whichever way you choose to look at it (no pun intended). You can see a quick demonstration of the rotation and chrono in this video :
Here are some of the instructions that came with the watch. Click on each image to enlarge.
For the owner, the one niggling thing about the Izul has been the rather pedestrian strap, but that is easily fixed. Other than that, this is a retro-cool watch with, almost counterintuitively, a groundbreaking movement. Despite its size, it is actually very wearable and sits comfortably on the wrist. Large it may be, it still manages to be fairly unassuming for such a scarce and collectable watch. To look at it, you’d not know what it is, or why it’s so special, but there’s something about it that demands to be worn and used.
They were available, to my knowledge, only in Japan and the Seiko Centre in Paris, so they were not only scarce, but difficult to obtain, during their production years. What was their retail price? Well the SDAA03 and SDAA005 went for 735,000 Yen and the SDAA001 and SDAA007 for 892,500 Yen. This one was approx AUD $10k, although they were not for sale in Australia.