Grand Seiko released not just one but seven new watches today, ranging from a quartet of mainstream models all the way to haute horology. The cause for such an event? Celebrating the brand’s (in this case, we mean Seiko’s) 140th anniversary, all the way back from 1881. All but one of these new watches continue Grand Seiko’s highly successful theme of natural inspiration, complete with gorgeous textured dials. Click here to visit our Grand Seiko Pre-Order page where you can see all of the brand’s most recent watches and reserve one for yourself.
Let’s begin by looking at the four new “seasons” GMT models. Each of these models is inspired by a Japanese “sekki,” or seasonal phase, of which there are 24 in total, as opposed to the four broader seasons.
We’ll begin with one of my favorites from tonight’s releases, the “Tōji,” or the SBGE269. I figure I can’t improve on Grand Seiko’s description of their inspiration, so I’ll let them kick it off: The winter solstice is in Tōji. The days are short, the air is crisp and clear and snow muffles the sound of the wind. The dial has the texture and color of a winter landscape as the sun sinks lower in the sky.
I lack, sadly, the firsthand experience of Japanese “sekki” to make any meaningful commentary on whether or not this invokes similar ideas to me, but the watch certainly has a dial evocative of winter broadly, thanks to its beloved blizzard dial, made famous by the SBGA125 some years back. Interestingly, GS has opted not to use blue accents, the color most associated with cold weather, and has instead gone with gold accents. Regardless, the color combination looks fantastic, and I don’t have to tell you that I’m predisposed to liking blizzard-dial GMT watches.
This is a good angle from which to observe that beautiful gold GMT hand, which gives the watch just enough color to keep it interesting. Grand Seiko has opted for a power reserve placed on top of the texture, as opposed to engraved in it, much like our own SBGE249, and potentially for similar aesthetic reasons.
Here GS gives us a closer look at why this dial is associated with blizzards, itself an implied comparison to the gentle snowdrifts of the SBGA011/SBGA211 Snowflake. To my eye, this dial has always resembled extremely dense snowfall. This also gives you a good view of the often-overlooked silver qualities of the dial, which are hard to represent in photography.
Elsewhere we see that GS has gone to using a more traditional, dressy case, which is an interesting choice as they make their high-end automatics ever sportier. The size is just right, at 40.2mm, and powering the watch is the 9R66 spring drive GMT, making for an all-around great package. It’s priced at $6,000 and should be coming in September.
But my favorite watch tonight is this one, the Shōsho SBGJ249. Deferring once again to Grand Seiko’s description of the season: High summer approaches and, at last, the rainy season ends. In Shōsho, the warm wind creates delicate ripples in the many thousands of lakes and ponds that shimmer in the early summer sun throughout Japan. The wave pattern dial brings Shōsho to life.
Here we return to the now-familiar blued GMT hand, which is paired with blue accents throughout the dial. Unlike the preceding watch, this one’s mechanical, and features the top-of-the-line automatic GMT, the 9S86 Hi-Beat (the 9SA5 is not offered in a GMT, for those wondering).
Taking a closer look at the dial, we can appreciate the apparently deep texture, depicting choppy soft-blue waters. The blued GMT logo and what appear to be blued applied GMT numerals gives it an ever-so-slight Portuguese property, which I love.
The surprisingly rich and deep texture of the dial is reminiscent of the new Series 9 design watches, both the SLGH005 and the new SLGH007, which we’ll take a look at a little later. Grand Seiko’s greatest aesthetic strength is their dial work, and it feels like they’re getting bolder with it as time goes on.
While aesthetically very similar to the spring drives in the new “seasons” watches, the automatics get a slightly smaller, case, now just 39.5mm, again, a practically perfect size for this style of watch in my view. As per price, the SBGJ249 costs a bit more than the spring drive, no doubt thanks to the 9S86, at $6,800. They should be available in May. (Update: GS has informed me that this has been moved back to September).
Next we look at Kanro – SBGE271, or in Grand Seiko’s words: The evenings draw in and there is a chill in the morning air. The glide motion seconds hand moves silently, like the moon across the night sky. Autumn is at its height.
This spring-drive powered watch has similar gold accents to the SBGE269, but expands upon that a bit by using them on the GMT numerals throughout the dial. The contrast against the gorgeous black dial also gives it a very different effect, something a bit more mysterious.
As Grand Seiko’s images show, the dial seems to evoke imagery of a dark, cloudy night while the gold hand perhaps introduces the contrast of the moon behind the clouds. Regardless of the theme, it’s an unmistakeably beautiful watch, and in some ways it’s the best pure dress watch of the four, managing to have a low-key character without being boring.
The dressy 40.2mm case appears to be identical to the SBGE269 and is well-suited to its dressy nature. The Kanro will be available this September for $6,000.
Lastly we look at the Shunbun SBGJ251, likely to be the most popular out of all four new seasons models. Grand Seiko has this to say about the beautiful green watch: It is in Shunbun that the spring equinox finally arrives and everyone senses spring is truly in the air. The cherry trees in the mountains start to bloom and their sakura blossom decorates the slopes. The green dial and rose gold accents perfectly capture the promise of spring.
They’re quite correct with regard to it capturing the feeling of spring, and Grand Seiko has a certain unique insight into finding just the right green hue on their watches, one of the reasons that they’re among the first to sell out of any release like tonight’s.
The dial almost seems to have a slight oil painting quality to it, with a subtle diagonal texture descending from left to right, perhaps evocative of wind in the grass. Once more we see a preference for gold-colored accents, making that three out of four Seasons watches tonight. Like the SBGJ249, it features the 9S86 automatic movement and costs $6,800. It’ll also be available in May.
Taken together, this new four seasons collection is somewhat of a return to more traditional Grand Seiko design, as compared to its more recent “Series 9” offerings. The cases are all on the dressier side, perhaps because these better resemble the original 1960 Grand Seiko, given the release’s tie-in to brand history, and the movements are all firmly in the current generation. But this is also true of the pricing, which is far more consistent with what Grand Seiko fans are used to compared to the emergent 9RA5 and 9SA5 models. In a sense, then, these four are a reminder that mainstream Grand Seiko, from prices, to designs, to movements, isn’t going away. The brand is still very interested in producing these watches for the traditionalist, such as myself.
Staying with the theme of nature-inspired watches, we gaze upon the absolutely phenomenal SLGH007, the latest in “Series 9 Design.” This amazing watch, one of the best offered by Grand Seiko, was inspired by none-other than the founder of Seiko himself, Kintaro Hattori, so the brand is making quite a statement here.
This astonishing textured dial resembles wood grain, or in GS’ estimation, tree rings, symbolically representing the passage of time from the founding of Seiko through today and beyond. Alongside the SLGH005 that was recently announced, we’re starting to see a very interesting, and attractive, tree theme in Series 9 Design that I can only hope continues. Also like the SLGH005, the textured dial has far more depth than we’re used to in Grand Seikos for a more pronounced, three-dimensional look.
With regard to Series 9 design broadly, we can see that the hour hand and hour markers have been made wider and bolder to accentuate their appearance. This is coherent with the flat, vertically brushed bezel. Basically, Series 9 design seems to like broader, flatter, angles throughout, which tends to give the watch a sportier, more aggressive look. I was reflecting on the similar SLGH005 the other day and it occurred to me that, in some ways, these SLGH models may be Grand Seiko’s answer to high-end sports watch staples like the Overseas or Royal Oak, whether GS intends that to be the case or not.
Being a Series 9 watch means, of course, that it has the absolute latest in Japanese horology inside it, and that’s the 9SA5 automatic. This new movement is a multi-generational leap even over Grand Seiko’s already-excellent automatic movements, both in appearance and design.
Breaking down how a new movement works is a little beyond the scope of tonight’s news, but if you want to know more about why the 9SA5 is so special, please read my article on the SLGH003, which examines the new movement, here.
While the recent SLGH005 and the new SLGH007 have much in common, they differ quite greatly, however, when it comes to materials. Most obviously, gone is the new bracelet (of which I’m quite fond), but more subtly the steel has been replaced by platinum. The star emblem at 6:00 indicates that the indices are now solid gold as well. Now, ordinarily, you might think that this means that the watch costs more than its steel SLGH005 counterpart, and you’d be absolutely right. At $59,000, and limited to just 140 pieces, the SLGH007 is for only the most devout Grand Seiko fan. On the plus side, that means that the SLGH005 remains a great deal at below $10,000, but it’s really a shame to make such a remarkably gorgeous watch available to so few.
That brings us to the last of the nature-inspired models, the glamorous SBGD207, by far the highest-end of the watches we’ll look at today. This “jewelry watch” is inspired by Mishaka Pond, which is apparently to be found east of Lake Suwa and not far from the Micro Artist Studio, the elite group within Seiko that makes some of the absolute finest watches in the world. The green mother of pearl dial certainly captures that look, with an almost lifelike view of the waters.
Surrounding the dial is, of course, a vast array of gems composed of diamonds and green garnet which function as minute and hour markers, respectively. You’ll also find a rather impressive diamond at the tip of the watch’s crown. Naturally, a platinum case is present, really the only material suitably matched to such an extravagant dial. With the exception of the mother of pearl center, this new model is in some ways a green variant of its SBGD205 predecessor, so if you missed your shot at that watch, this may be your new chance.
The movement is similarly high-end, using Grand Seiko’s top-of-the-line 9R01 movement, the gorgeous, yet comparatively minimalist, 8-day hand-wound spring drive, so no expense was spared in the creation of the SBGD207.
As you might guess, however, this is reflected in the price of $185,000, and a suitably exclusive production run of just 15 pieces. These will be available through Grand Seiko boutiques in May, but given how few they’re making, I’d probably be on the phone with them tomorrow morning if you want one. Interestingly, the official render I was given shows 1 of 10, although I think it’s possible they’re just re-using an image from the SBGD205 that came before it, which was limited to ten pieces–no problem there, in my book, since the movement is the same anyway, just a slight oddity.
Lastly, we turn to the only new chronograph of the night, and indeed, the only sports watch of the night, the SBGC240. Having studied the press images a little bit, the watch seems to be a bit more than the sum of its parts. Where at first I saw a good-looking, yet ultimately unremarkable, new two-tone variant on something like the SBGC203, I now think it’s somewhat more worthy of this night’s occasion. Of course, many of the changes are obvious, namely the gold hands, pushers, crown, and outer bezel, but look a bit deeper and there are more important details to discover.
For instance, note that the pushers lack their somewhat infamous screwdown design from watches like the SBGC201. This isn’t unprecedented in 9R86 or 9R96-powered watches, but it’s generally associated with their cushion-case shaped models, like the SBGC238 and SBGC230.
Much more interesting is its new, highly-angular case shape. Grand Seiko old-timers such as myself might recognize a similar design going way back to the SBGR017 and SBGR019, but to see it return is definitely surprising. In this era of Genta-revivalism, however, strong and angular bezels are more popular than ever, so this is a very natural fit. In terms of size, the case is large at 43.8mm, but not absurdly so for an aggressive watch such as this.
Other changes include the rings around the chronograph subdials, helping to focus attention on the most important information. We also see an interesting inversion of the hands, with chronograph-relevant hands being (ostensibly) steel, and all hands not related to the chronograph are in gold, with the exception of the GMT hand.
Grand Seiko has always had a penchant towards color-coordinating watch functionality, something that improves usability, but in this instance it also looks great. I really like the gold subdial borders in particular.
Powering the watch is, of course, the extraordinarily complex spring drive 9R86, and with a dial layout like this there was never any doubt that this would be the case. The SBGC240 is a limited edition of 500 watches, so not quite as difficult to obtain as the SBGD207, and since its mostly made from steel with gold and ceramic helping it out, the price is kept down to $18,600. Like the SBGD207, however, it remains a niche piece for seriously hardcore Grand Seiko enthusiasts.
My takeaway from tonight: the “Seasons” models remain stars for the foreseeable future. The Seasons watches tend to find that perfect Grand Seiko balance of gorgeous dial work, highly-sophisticated movements, availability, and a reasonable price point. Now we have four incredibly lovely new versions to choose from, each with GMT complications, and a more conservative case. They’re all unquestionably excellent, and I’d consider buying any of the four. I think for me, however, and perhaps this is merely because I already have a blizzard-dial GMT watch of my own, the one I’d order is the SBGJ249. The dial is the most special out of the four new watches, and it even takes on some elements of Series 9 Design, with its relatively deep and bold texture. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that I’m a sucker for blue dials and blued accents, either. Really, you can’t go wrong with any of these four.
If, however, you’re an extremely successful, extremely dedicated, Grand Seiko fan, I would suggest taking a good look at the exquisite SLGH007. Owing to its extreme rarity and precious metals, it’s difficult to justify in comparison of Grand Seiko’s numerous other great sub-$10,000 options, but if this resonates with you, and I think there are many that it will resonate with, it’s worth consideration. You must keep in mind, however, that you can get the equally beautiful SLGH005 (albeit with a white dial) for just $9,100, so you need to make sure that this black dial, and the platinum, is what you really want.
Please make sure to visit our Latest Grand Seiko Page, where you can pre-order the watches you’ve seen today before they’re all gone.