Grand Seiko just released four truly all-new watches, offering a totally new design direction!
For years now, serious Grand Seiko fans like myself have been asking for more hand-wound GSes, more no-date GSes and thinner GSes, and it seems that the iconic Japanese watchmaker decided to answer all of those requests simultaneously with these new SBGK models.
But these new models are more than just improved stats–it’s a stylistic departure as well. While not unheard of, GS rarely uses numerals at all, and two of these new models feature prominent and stylized Arabic numerals, specifically just the 12:00 and 6:00. This isn’t an altogether new approach for Grand Seiko, having used it in much older watches like the SBGR013, but it’s still extremely uncommon.
Each of these 39mm watches is extremely classic, a true dress watch befitting its slimmer dimensions. At 11.6mm, it’s still not an ultra-thin, but you can still save a couple millimeters over many other GSes, and with all the perks of the new manual wind movement. We’ll get to that next, but first I want to discuss the elegant dial. The layout is very finely balanced, with sub seconds on the left and a power reserve on the right, and a healthy dose of space above the 6. Although I’ve yet to see them in person, I’m sure these urushi dials are magnificent. As hard as GS works to make the best dials, it really seems like they went the extra mile on these. The black and amber dials seen above are made with urushi lacquer, a particular kind of tree sap that, in this case, comes from the trees of Joboji village near Mount Iwate. To achieve the black dial, which GS describes as “deep, jet black,” iron was mixed in.
On these two dials, an artist named Isshu Tamura uses a special maki-e gold lacquer technique. Isshu Tamura is independently recognized as a prominent Japanese artist, so to have him prepare each dial is quite amazing. But what is maki-e? I’d better leave that to Seiko to explain: On both creations, the hour markers and the ‘’GS’’ letters are decorated with the traditional Maki-e technique by Urushi master Isshu Tamura in his studio in Kanazawa on the west coast of Japan’s main island. Through the application of layer after layer of lacquer, these markers are given a three dimensional profile and a delicate yet strong presence on the dial. Tamura then applies the powder, either 24k gold or platinum, and then polishes them by hand using his own special tools to give Maki-e its delicately shimmering appearance. These processes require great dexterity as it is very challenging to give every marker the same depth, especially on a curved surface.
Here’s a closer look at Mr. Tamura’s work. It’s extremely subtle, with a much more matte finish than a traditionally polished metal surface would provide, although it’s said to shimmer in real life. It’s yet another way that Grand Seiko manages to remain distinctly Japanese. Very impressive.
The steel and yellow gold model skip Mr. Tamura’s maki-e work in exchange for a substantial price decrease. You’re left with Grand Seiko’s incredibly well-finished hour markers, which hardly seems like a penalty. Because the dials on all of these new watches are curved, GS’ master watchmakers bend the minute and PR hands by hand, a subtle but not unappreciated touch.
This new dial configuration is made possible by the 9S63, the newest member of the 9S6 family. Like its older brother, the 9S64, it’s hand-wound, with no rotor to obscure the beautiful movement, but unlike it, it has sub seconds and a power reserve.
For me, any day we get a new GS movement is a day worth celebrating, and the 9S63, although not an all-new movement, is a sufficient enough departure from conventional GS design that it warrants special attention. Like other 9S6 movements, it has a 72 hour power reserve, so you’ll be able to go quite awhile between winding it if you desire, far longer than most hand-wound watches.
But what about the new watches? We’ll start with one of my favorites, the new SBGK005. The blue-dial SBGK005 is limited to 1,500 pieces and is priced at $7,400. It’s certainly the most accessible, as it’s the only one in a steel case, but I really like the blue dial and gold GS logo–I think it looks tremendous.
Taking a not insubstantial step up is the yellow gold SBGK006. This model is arguably the one that looks the most conventionally GS, with a clean white dial and matching yellow gold accents throughout. It’s probably the dressiest of the bunch, which is saying something. Like every watch here it’s 39mm. I don’t know how many of these will be made yet, but it’s priced at $19,000.
Now we approach the SBGK004, the first of the two versions that feature Isshu Tamura’s craftsmanship. It’s in a 39mm rose gold case with a deep black dial and it looks tremendous. Just 150 of these will be made at $29,000 a piece.
And finally we reach the pièce de résistance, the SBGK002, sure to be the most desirable of the bunch. Its amber-colored dial prominently displays the Mt. Iwate texture and the maki-e handiwork of Mr. Tamura, the only watch of the four that combines those traits. Unsurprisingly, this too is limited to 150 models at $29,000 a piece.
Make sure to click on any of those links to be taken to our pre-order page, or you can click here to see all of the latest GS models!