Because the Grand Seiko SBGN00X collection was launched again in 2018, I’ve been greater than slightly considering getting my arms on one. Given the watch group’s enthusiastic response to Grand Seiko’s first 9F quartz GMT-powered watches, I’m clearly not alone. The massive query mark in my thoughts was how I’d get on with a quartz watch (albeit a Grand Seiko quartz, which is a distinct beast solely, as we’ll get to shortly) as a each day put on. Since tumbling down the rabbit gap of horology practically a decade in the past, I’ve nearly solely worn mechanical watches, other than some lower-priced journey watches. That mentioned, I’ve been properly conscious that my bias towards mechanical has disadvantaged me of many excellent watches — particularly these from the Japanese masters of quartz at Grand Seiko. Fortunately for me, our buddies over at J. Vair Anderson in Calgary had been capable of supply a stunning black dial SBGN003 so I might lastly be taught what I’ve been lacking.
Grand Seiko clearly loves its GMT watches — you will discover them all through the lineup (43 SKUs final I checked, not together with restricted editions). However, for one purpose or different, most of them haven’t ticked sufficient containers for me to make the leap and decide one up. Many fashions, particularly within the Sport line, are a bit too giant for my 6.75” wrist, and many of the smaller-diameter items within the Heritage assortment don’t have lume. For an on a regular basis watch, I actually want watches with diameters lower than 41mm, and the SBGN003 is available in at a super dimension for me at 39mm diameter (12.1mm excessive, 46mm lug-to-lug). On wrist, it feels spot-on. It’s extra snug and matches higher than any watch in my present assortment, which admittedly makes me a bit grumpy.
I’ve heard the SBGN003 known as a Rolex Explorer II homage, and, whereas I perceive the place that comparability comes from (metal 24-hour bezel and orange seconds hand), it’s form of like calling any watch with a dive bezel a Submariner homage. I suppose there are many individuals who do — however regardless, my suggestion could be to disregard these comparisons. The SBGN003 is its personal watch with its personal character and traits that make it particular in its personal proper. Plus, you possibly can at all times select one of many different colorways if the black and orange is simply too shut for consolation. Personally, I like deep black dial of the SBGN003 with simply sufficient orange to provide it some additional visible curiosity, and it’s the colorway I’d select for myself (although I’d be tempted to grab up the limited-edition SBGN0025 with its darkish grey “bark” dial if I might get my arms on one of many 56 made).
Even should you don’t know a lot about Grand Seiko, one factor you’ve undoubtedly heard is that the match and end is excellent. And sure, it completely is. Although the SBGN003 is on the extra accessible finish of Grand Seiko’s worth spectrum, it’s nonetheless 100% Grand Seiko ending. You get fantastic, exact brushing coupled with case elegant traces (Grand Seiko’s casework is solely superior) and its well-known Zaratsu sharpening. Yup, it’s nearly as good as marketed.
One factor that Grand Seiko will get a little bit of grief about is its bracelets. Within the case of the SBGN003, that criticism is partially justified. The three-link model isn’t flashy, and it fits the sporty look of the piece. No polished bits on the middle hyperlinks, simply s clean, stunning brushing and polished sides. The bracelet is gentle however well-constructed (although not as refined as one thing like a Rolex Oyster bracelet), and hyperlinks are secured by screws, making including and eradicating hyperlinks comparatively simple — which is an effective factor, because the clasp has no changes. For those who’ve gotten used to tool-free micro-adjustments, and even simply micro-adjust holes on the clasp, properly, robust luck. The one technique to modify the match is thru the usage of the included half-links (really barely lower than half a hyperlink). It took a little bit of fiddling, however as soon as I acquired the bracelet match dialed in, it was fairly snug, and the push-button clasp with the embossed GS brand is a pleasant aesthetic match. However nonetheless, I did discover myself often pining for some adjustability when my wrist swelled. On-the-fly micro-adjust is one thing watch lovers have come to anticipate at this worth level, and I’m hoping Grand Seiko will get this sorted quickly. Lastly, for higher or worse, the SBGN003 has a 19mm lug width, which fits the case dimension however does make discovering aftermarket straps a bit difficult.
To my eye, one of the best half concerning the SBGN003 — and all Grand Seikos, for that matter — is the dial. The dial on the SBGN003 is an inky black. I imply, actually inky — the form of liquid ink that you may see your self sinking into. (The anti-reflective coating on the sapphire crystal helps, too.) Set off by these lethal sharp brushed arms and hour markers with razor-sharp transitions, the dial simply pops. These traits are all in line with what you’ll discover in Grand Seiko’s dressier items, however what brings the SBGN003 firmly into the Sport assortment is the colour pop supplied by the orange GMT hand, the addition of lume on the arms and markers, and, in fact, the metal 24-hour bezel. Throw in crown guards and 100m of water resistance, and the SBGN is a sports activities watch, via and thru, albeit with Grand Seiko’s distinctive design language that leans towards dressy and stylish. The SBGN003 is a watch that’s eminently versatile and could be an impressive alternative for somebody trying to purchase their first and solely “good” watch. (To be clear, this could be a really good first watch!) That mentioned, the SBGN003 is equally well-suited to being a grab-and-go or journey look ahead to a seasoned collector.
The SBGN003 is a “true” GMT, that means that that you may independently modify the native hour hand, leaping it to shortly set the time. That is particularly handy should you’re typically hopping between time zones, as you don’t must cease the motion in an effort to change the hour hand — simply pull the crown out one place, and you’ll bounce the hour hand forwards and backwards. Even should you’re not touring, it’s handy at daylight financial savings, particularly since this can be a watch you’ll not often must appropriate the time on.
Now, let’s discuss concerning the elephant within the room — the SBGN003 is powered by a quartz motion. I do know that some lovers are prone to write this watch off just because it’s powered by a quartz motion somewhat than one in all Grand Seiko’s automated, hi-beat, and even Spring Drive actions. However actually, you’re doing your self a disservice to not a minimum of be taught a bit about this 9F86 quartz GMT motion and, when you have the possibility, expertise its precision in particular person. The shortage of respect for quartz actions (in some circles) comes from a couple of locations, however I’d argue that a lot of the issue stems from the ubiquity of quartz actions in low-priced watches. And positive, it’s low-cost and simple to mass-produce quartz actions for throw-away watches, however even a quick look at a 9F quartz motion (on this case, the 9F86 with date and GMT performance) can inform you that it’s not your run-of-the-mill quartz. The ornamental ending and visual artisanship of the motion are lifeless giveaways that it’s time to revisit any pre-conceived notions you’ll have about quartz actions (a minimum of, it was for me). Sure, the accuracy is excellent: +/- 5 seconds a 12 months is fairly mind-boggling — and most customers report even higher accuracy. However take a better take a look at this hand-finished and hand-assembled motion, and it retains getting higher: instantaneous date change. (I imply significantly instantaneous, none of this “someday round midnight” enterprise.) However what actually makes the distinction when the watch is in your wrist is the precision of the seconds hand.
For many of us who love mechanical watches, the sweep of the seconds hand is mesmerizing, the practically fluid motion a reminder of the anachronistic mechanism beneath. Strapping on an affordable quartz watch with its deadbeat seconds will be jarring, particularly because the seconds hand tends appears to inevitably miss the minute marks and, with every tick, the seconds hand provides a slight jiggle. Certain, it’s completely purposeful, nevertheless it’s not one thing I discover myself captivated by in the identical manner as a sweeping seconds hand. The 9F quartz is a complete completely different story. The seconds hand hits every minute mark, spot-on. Completely exact, proper on the cash. Higher but, the excessive torque of the 9F, much like a mechanical motion, means there’s no play within the seconds hand. Every beat feels intentional and exact. In truth, the seconds hand makes a quick cease, quicker than the attention can see, halfway via its passage from one second to the subsequent, eliminating the annoying seconds hand wobble related to low-cost quartz.
Sure, this can be a quartz watch. Sure, you must change the battery each few years. But it surely’s an unimaginable piece of engineering and craft, and spending time sporting any of Grand Seiko’s 9F quartz fashions is an effective reminder of simply why quartz endlessly modified the world of watchmaking. Quartz actions are extraordinarily correct and sturdy; there aren’t any considerations about an errant knock on a doorframe or, God forbid, dropping the watch on a tough ground. Servicing prices are negligible (a couple of dollars for a battery each few years is difficult to beat) they usually’re at all times set to the right time — it’s simple to overlook simply how good that’s, particularly should you’re continuously switching between watches and resetting the time.
For those who’re within the firmly anti-quartz camp, then you definately’re unlikely to be swayed by any of those arguments. Nevertheless, even should you’re only a bit quartz-curious, the 9F quartz watches actually are one thing particular. Again when Seiko first launched quartz in 1969, it modified the world of watchmaking endlessly. It’s no shock that Grand Seiko has, arguably, taken the know-how additional than anybody else. As a lot as I like my mechanical watches, I can’t assist however marvel what would have occurred if the massive Swiss homes had invested as closely in quartz as Grand Seiko.
So, what have I realized after sporting the Grand Seiko SBGN003 as my each day look ahead to the previous couple weeks? For one factor, it’s reaffirmed my appreciation of what Grand Seiko is doing over within the Iwate Prefecture. The model has a definite design sensibility and its ending and a spotlight to element actually are excellent. Extra importantly, I like that the model has saved pushing the envelope in making high-end quartz watches (to not point out creating Spring Drive) when the remainder of the watch business has largely deserted that section of the market. So, the massive query is, will my first Grand Seiko buy come within the type of a 9F quartz? We’ll must see, however the SBGN003 is definitely excessive on my record in the meanwhile. That mentioned, I’d like to put the SBGN003 head-to-head with the newly launched SBGM247, an automated GMT with a color-shifting inexperienced dial and that very same hanging orange GMT hand. As beautiful as that inexperienced dial is, it’s a tall order to prime the goldilocks dimensions, beautiful deep black dial, ridiculously excessive accuracy motion, and considerably cheaper price tag of the SBGN003 ($3,200 USD vs. $5,700 USD). Both manner, the final two weeks have positively given me a renewed appreciation of high-end quartz, and should you’ve been solely targeted on mechanical watches, I’d strongly suggest taking the time to see what Grand Seiko’s 9F motion is all about. To be taught extra about Grand Seiko and the SBGN003, go to the model’s web site.
>Model: Grand Seiko
>Value: $3,200 USD
>Measurement: 39mm-wide, 12.1mm-tall, 46mm lug-to-lug, 19mm lug width
>When reviewer would personally put on it: Glorious each day put on, particularly when touring.
>Buddy we’d suggest it to first: A good friend on the lookout for a high-quality each day watch who doesn’t need the effort of an automated or guide wind. Particularly well-suited to a frequent traveler and somebody who appreciates fantastic issues that fly a bit beneath the radar.
>Finest attribute of watch: Very good dimensions and Grand Seiko’s signature fit-and-finish. I like how the saturated orange pops towards the inky black dial.
>Worst attribute of watch: Lack of micro-adjust on the bracelet.