Grand Seiko SBG, Why?
16 Jun 2022
This is my Grand Seiko SBGY003, a steel-cased centre seconds dress watch running on a hand-wound Spring Drive movement. Coming with a 38.5mm dial diameter and a curvaceous case that hugs the wrist, this was a limited run of 700 units to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Spring Drive.
Seiko’s movement technology is an entire fascinating story. What these photos are not able to show is that the movement technology gives the second hand a smooth glide as it traverses the dial and each of the highly polished markers. Once one becomes accustomed to this glide, ticking seconds hands feel antiquated in comparison.
The SBGY003 was the only stainless-steel model amongst a parade of precious metal watches. In keeping with the other white metal models, all had largely monochromatic dials with only the heat-blued smooth sweeping seconds hand to animate the otherwise restrained aesthetics. The other anniversary models included the eye-wateringly artisanal SBGZ001 (with an equally eye-watering asking price) down to the more approachable SBGY003. I personally was struck by its pebble like form, with a tasteful mix of high polish and fine brushing.
I chanced upon the SBGY003 in a shop window of a GS dealership. I tried it on, I liked the svelte feel, the tactile charm of hand winding, the textures on the dial, I could only thank the salesperson for the experience. However, this experience haunted me and compelled me to return to the shop a few days later surprised to find it still on display. This must be fate I thought, and having recently arrived at a career milestone, I was feeling a little self-indulgent. So, after the slightest sideways glance of enthusiasm from my better half, I took this as enough affirmation to leave the dealership with the SBGY003 on my wrist.
Dial and case finishing is Grand Seiko’s forte. From a distance, the dial is plain silver white, but up close you see the grooves that reach all the way to the centre pinion, that become so fine as to become unresolvable by the naked eye. A small turn of the wrist sends the polished hour markers into little strobes. The dauphine hands stay sharp and legible in even the faintest breath of light.
I admire the whole, it’s tidy, restrained design and the excellent under-loupe details. Movement side, the watch eschews the rotor and the reveals the industrial beauty under the exhibition case back, just wind it up, set and go. It takes 3 days for the movement side power reserve to run down. Even the deployant buckle is also well thought out and can be readily converted into a simpler pin buckle with a couple of quick minutes with a spring bar tool. My other watches do not have this added value feature.
I bought into Seiko as I started with a Seiko. I still have my first mechanical which is a Seiko 5 SNK809, bought many moons ago with change in my pocket from a Hong Kong street market. Grand Seiko has horological know how and provenance in spades. Near-on every single component of their watches can be made in-house and even down to cultivating their own rubies, sapphires and quartz crystals.
This mega-corporation caters to every stratum of watch buyer, from those who only have a pocket full of change, to high-horology statement pieces from their Grand Seiko and Credor studios. Seiko and Grand Seiko is a reminder of my watch journey from the streets to the boutiques. I for one am pleased that such an every-man company exists, allowing us all a gateway into the world of horology.