GCBR993 ‘Alpinist’ Credor Phoenix
Credor never made an Alpinist proper but, in the GCBR993 Phoenix, they came within a bee’s dick. This Phoenix hails from the late 90s, a time when Seiko was first attempting to take Credor well upmarket. The distinction between Grand Seiko and Credor was in the design: Grand Seiko was to embody robust, faceted, Zaratsu-polished classic GS cases and Credor was to represent thin, elegant opulence. Credor as a subbrand manufactured only a very few steel ‘tool’ watches at the start of their efforts under the Phoenix name. The GCBR993 Phoenix was effectively millennial Seiko’s most elegant take on the Explorer/Alpinist aesthetic.
As to be expected from Japan, the result was extremely thoughtful and highly individual to Credor. First, they nailed the proportions: a 38mm case with brushed lug tops, stepped side, and polished bevels. Rather unusually, they even set the crown with an indigo Azurite cabochon in a seeming nod to Cartier. Imagine seeing a cabochon crown under a cuff only to later discover that this is what is attached to it, just madness. Then, they got the field watch look just right. Broad lancette hands, a subtle crosshair dial, and red seconds tip. And if you look very closely, the 5 minute subdivision numerals on its rehaut are striked through by a red line. Lastly, since most in Japan use the date on their watch (to my gaijin understanding) they added practicality with a cyclops. The bizarre confluence of elements is so defiantly unexpected and yet sings in perfect harmony.
Inside, Credor utilized an automatic calibre 8L75A made by the Shizukuishi Studio, then their top studio. It was effectively a modified GS 9S55 with a few improvements and only ever appeared in 3 references: this Phoenix and two Pacifique models. This is certainly a different level to the calibres found in Alpinists of the time. The Phoenix ‘Alpinist’ isn’t terribly well-discussed today, sales were so slow in period that today there simply aren’t that many to talk about. For pure intrigue, uniqueness, practicality, and that intangible thing charm, however, it’s hard to imagine a stronger value.
This example has light to moderate surface wear on its extremities but commensurate with age. It wears its use well, this is a steel sports watch afterall. It comes from a well-regarded Mexican retailer. Service history not known.
Find this GCBR993 here from Relojes Vintage Mexico for 5000 USD.