Grand Seiko may be best known for its highly refined dress and everyday watches, but not only does it have a history of several truly great sports and tool watches, it seems to have been increasingly focused on them lately. No one could ignore the SBGA229 or SBGE201, but other models include the SBGA101, SBGX115 and SBGX117, not to mention the all-new quartz GMT models it recently released. Now Grand Seiko is ready to present its next three quartz tool watches, the SBV245,SBGV247, and SBGV243, in order of appearance, and these may be some of the best GS has made yet.
Each of these models excels in both the look of a tool watch and the functionality. They're all highly legible three handers, but in addition to their exceedingly reliable 9F movement, they have anti-magnetic shielding and a 200 meter water resistance rating. They don't just look like tool watches, they're the real deal.
We will start by examining their dials. You might expect that, since these are intended to be rugged watches designed to be beaten up, that Grand Seiko didn't put much effort into the dial. In fact, you probably think that the silver SBGV245 or black SBGV243 have plain, utilitarian dials. But you'd be wrong.
The SBGV245 is perhaps the most straightforward of the group, with no colorful accents to contribute a bit of levity to it. It's all business, with its ever-so-slightly off-white dial coming off more as silver in real life.
But all GSes deserve a close look, particularly where dials are concerned, and upon examination, you will find that it's subtly horizontally brushed.
It's a very different situation with the limited edition SBGV247, thanks to its playful combination of blue and orange.
The textured dial is also far more elaborate as well. It appears to be the same basic design as the 25th anniversary of the 9F limited editions. Regardless, it looks great, particularly in direct light. If you were complaining about Grand Seikos being too under the radar, this might be aimed at you.
Finally, there's the North Flag-esque SBGV243, black with yellow accents. Like the SBGV245, it's a regular production model, and its color scheme is more aggressive than playful.
Yet even it receives a refined dial, with vertical brushing. It's the most subtle of the three, requiring quite a bit of direct light to appreciate, hence the extra magnification, but I suppose that suits its character. This is also a good time to point out how restrained the dial is. There's a lot of thankfully empty space here, which I really appreciate.
The hands vary slightly depending on the model, aside from the different colored second hands, of course. If you pick up the SBGV247 or SBGV243, you'll get brushed hands, aiding legibility against their dark dials.
If, however, you get the SBGV245, you'll get polished hands, made possible by the lighter dial. Disappointingly, its the only model that comes close to having a color-matched date. As the years go on, I become ever more convinced that there is some behind-the-scenes agreement between watch brands that they won't color-match date rings. At least the 9F's date changes over instantly.
By now you've probably also noticed something that's fairly rare for Grand Seikos: lume.
Yes, it has both luminous hands and markers, and it's every bit as good as you'd expect. These watches can keep up with many divers, and the application of the lume is extremely sharp and even.
One of the reasons this watch really works is its case, which is an aggressive, muscular interpretation of traditional Grand Seiko design. The alternating brushed and polished sections are still there, but they're coupled with highly angular lugs and a very attractive polished edge that surrounds the case.
The broad, flat, brushed bezel has Genta cues, and it seems to be one of the more dominant design trends in the watch industry today. From the Zenith Defy to the North Flag, it seems like this has become a hallmark of sportiness. Regardless, it certainly works here.
Many have complained about the increasing size of Grand Seikos lately, but they'll be pleased to know that the SBGV245, SBGV247 and SBGV243 all share a 40mm case, which is actually pretty modest for this style of watch. Better yet, it's just 11.8mm thick, which while not an ultra-thin by any means, is still very competitive in its genre.
While these aren't dive watches, GS saw fit to give them 200 meters of water resistance, so there's no need to worry about swimming. The signed crown screws down, too, and unlike on many comparable watches, this will never become annoying. That's because you'll never need to wind it and it's extremely accurate. Basically, only short months and DST require you to use the crown at all.
Not only are these new models highly water resistant, they're also very resistant to magnetic fields, a feature that is rarely found in quartz watches. I've got no doubt that some people will be turned off by the fact that all three of these are powered by quartz movements, but I'm not one of them.
Quartz movements are inherently tougher than mechanical or even spring drive movements, and, at any rate, the 9F inside this watch is no ordinary quartz to begin with. On top of a variety of other innovations, it's accurate to just 10 seconds per year, so on the purely functional level that tool watches are judged upon, it's simply the best movement for the job.
The last thing I want to mention are these awesome new ballistic nylon straps GS is using. They're all color-matched to the dial and look terrific.
Here's a better look at one of the new straps, which feature, apparently for the first time in a GS, Cordura fabric. After seeing them in person on these straps, I can't imagine them without it.
Each of these watches seems to offer a significantly different enough aesthetic that they may even appeal to entirely separate people, although I genuinely love all three.
The subdued SBGV245 is clearly the everyday choice and could easily be worn in the office. It's the most sober of the bunch. There is a degree of seriousness to it, as well, that the other watches don't quite match.
The limited edition SBGV247, conversely, is entirely the opposite, with its elaborate blue dial and bright orange accents. It's certainly the best weekend watch of the bunch.
But for me, it's the SBGV243 that I'd buy. It finds itself squarely within the "Goldilocks Zone" of the new trio, being not only more exciting and visually interesting than the SBGV245, but also somewhat more subdued than the SBGV247.