Grand Seiko just released four new limited edition watches for their 60th anniversary earlier this week, but this hasn’t stopped the respected Japanese brand from releasing another seven, and this time they’re full-production. So far in 2020, we’ve seen that Grand Seiko is really prioritizing quartz, revealing the new 9F85 movement, and today’s release not only adds three new 9F85-based watches, but two new 9F86-based watches, each of which is essentially the vanguard of a modern Grand Seiko quartz revival.
The 9F85 is a lot like some other 9Fs that came before it: a hyper-accurate three hander with date. Given that, you might be asking what the big deal is, but the reason that Grand Seiko fans are so excited for the 9F85 is that it finally introduces an independent hour hand, which you might be familiar with from other watches with “true” GMT complications. That allows the wearer to, in essence, disconnect the hour hand from the seconds and minute hands, and rotate it backwards or forwards in one-hour increments. Originally designed to make it easier for travelers to change time zones, independent hour hands have found a second life in extremely high accuracy quartz movements, and the reason is simple: when daylight savings time comes, or if you have to change your time zone, you ordinarily have to hack (stop) the seconds hand to change the time, and all that wonderful accuracy you were enjoying is lost. You are once again given the unwanted task of synchronizing your seconds hand with some reference time. But now, with the 9F85, you can change the hour hand without affecting that +/- 10 seconds per year accuracy, and you can do so without the addition of a GMT hand, lending itself to simple, uncluttered design.
But onto the watches. We’ll start with the core of the new 9F85 collection, which will carry this movement long after the recent limited editions are sold out. From left to right, that’d be the SBGP001, SBGP003, and SBGP005. Each 40mm watch is a very classic Grand Seiko in its own right, something for the traditionalists (like me). All three are will cost $3,200. But there’s a little more to this than meets the eye.
The first 9F movement with an independent hour hand, the 9F86 GMT, isn’t left out of the party either, with two new models, also 40mm. On the left we have the SBGN011 and on the right we have the SBGN013, again very classic examples of reserved Grand Seiko design. Each are just $3,000, and unless I was given the wrong pricing, this makes the GMT watches slightly more affordable than the non-GMT watches. Why that would be I will leave you to ponder, but it does make it a pretty impressive value proposition compared to the three-handers.
The final two models, the SBGH277 and SBGH279, are a bit of a deviation on the early 2020 formula, using the Hi-Beat 9S85 automatic movement instead of a novel quartz. They’re both quite good looking and, thankfully, also very reasonably sized at 40mm. Each are $6,100.