The first Grand Seiko was launched in 1960, the result of a dedicated effort by a team of Seiko watchmakers to see how much further they could take their skills. Over the course of the 1960s their efforts would be refined further, and by 1967 we had the 44GS, the watch which is credited above all others with establishing the Grand Seiko "look" - sometimes referred to as the 'grammar of design'.
For fifty years Grand Seiko watches were only available for sale on the Japanese mainland; they were finally marketed around the world in 2010, and in 2017 it was announced that the Grand Seiko name would be treated as a brand in its own right, with the GS logo taking pride of place at 12 o'clock on all watches, rather than sharing the limelight with "Seiko" as it had done thus far. Grand Seiko also celebrated its very first watch in 2017 with a series of faithful re-issues, so rather than tracking back to the ancestral root, today's set of four Grand Seiko 60th anniversary watches embody everything we've come to identify with the brand.
To anyone familiar with Grand Seiko and its recent pattern of limited editions, these are predictable fare (and predictably appealing) but there are one or two very interesting details to note along the way that might hint at future, non-limited Grand Seiko developments.
First up we have reference SBGH281, a Hi-Beat automatic that sits in the Heritage collection. It uses calibre 9S85, which has a 55 hour power reserve and daily accuracy of +5/-3 seconds. It beats at 5Hz (36,000 vph) and has a sapphire display caseback. This watch joins the many other 40mm Hi-Beat references in the range, and is mechanically identical; all the changes for the limited edition are on the dial.
Here we have a rich blue dial with a very subtle sunburst texture emanating from the GS logo, which has been picked out in gold. Contrast is provided in the form of a bright red seconds hand and matching red dial text. With the three bright, bold colours and the usual highly reflective Grand Seiko case finishing, there is something quite powerful and maximalist about this take on what is normally seen as a pretty conservative family of watches. The SBGH281 will be available from February in a limited run of 1,500, priced at €6,200.
It is accompanied by a ladies watch, reference STGK015. This uses the automatic calibre 9S27, which suffers from slightly worse daily accuracy (+8/-3 seconds) but still manages a 50 hour power reserve despite its smaller size (27.8mm). It has a mother-of-pearl dial, coloured to match the blue of the men's watches, diamond hour markers and a bezel that is decorated with a further 45 brilliant-cut diamonds. It will be available in a limited edition of 300, priced at €9,900.
Next up we have a quartz model, reference SBGP007. This introduces a new quartz movement for Grand Seiko - calibre 9F85, the latest upgrade on the 9F base which was brought out in 1993. This adds a quick-set hours function, whereby the hours can be adjusted without stopping the second or minute hands from running. Adjusted to a high accuracy rate of +/-5 seconds a year, it gains a five-pointed gold star on the dial as a reminder of its performance.
That dial keeps the deep blue that runs through this entire set, but this time is joined by a "2020" tessellated pattern. It may be one of those things that varies person to person but looking at the watch, I don't see the numbers "2020" but just a geometric repeating pattern - which, I'll be honest, I prefer. There is the same red seconds hand as SBGH281, but no gold logo.
The case has also been re-shaped: the bezel made thinner and the curve of the caseband sharpened to give a more expansive, sleeker feel at the same 40mm silhouette. Given that an occasional criticism of the Grand Seiko design language is that it can feel very well-endowed in the bezel department, I can see this move towards larger dials being welcomed. The watch will be available in March in a limited series of 2,500, priced at €3,900.
Last but not least we have reference SBGP015, another quartz piece. This, however, is an all-new design that slots into Grand Seiko's Sport collection, but in reality bridges the divide between the existing Sport and Heritage models. The case is much smaller, at 40mm - other Sport models are at least 43.5mm across - and it adds a pronounced, blue ceramic bezel.
This is the standout aesthetic feature that marks the watch as "sporty", as it isn't a diver, chronograph or hulking Godzilla, but there are other credentials: 200m water resistance, a screw-down crown and improved magnetic resistance (16,000A/m compared to 4,800A/)m). It's an intriguing play from Grand Seiko, and one that we hope translates into more of these more wearable sports watches later in the year - and potentially with mechanical movements.
Elsewhere, you will perhaps notice that the case shape is more dramatically faceted than the Heritage designs, with wide, flat, sloping shoulders towards the lugs and multiple points where finely polished surfaces meet - always one of the hardest things to execute flawlessly. It uses the same new quartz calibre as the SBGP007, but here it is only regulated to +/-10 seconds a year. The SBGP015 will be available from April in an edition of 2,000 pieces, and is also priced at €3,900.
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