A Glimpse of Sun Flirts With The Dawn On The Dial Of The New Grand Seiko SBGR321
Editor’s note: This review of the new Grand Seiko SBGR321 is part of our ‘W.R.A.T.H’ series, or ‘What’s Really Available Today Here’ watch photo reviews. It is a new series where we go hands-on with watches that can at least at the time of photographing be bought! For our other reviews of the latest novelties, please head here. For our in-depth deep dives, please head to our dedicated review section here. Today’s watch is brought with the grateful assistance of J Farren-Price Sydney
The Watch: The Grand Seiko Heritage Collection SBGR321 — limited to 2500 pieces globally — that continues Grand Seiko’s 60th-anniversary celebrations in full swing
Available At: J Farren-Price Sydney
Suited For: Those who understand that there’s more to the world of fine watchmaking beyond the shores of Europe. And more importantly, for those who can appreciate the plethora of minute details that make GS timepieces stand out from the crowd
Our In-person Impression: The Grand Seiko Heritage Collection SBGR321 is a serious piece of wrist equipment, that marvels in its simplicity. Inspired by Mount Iwate’s — a stratovolcano complex — beauty and colours of the sky at dawn, the new Grand Seiko SBGR321 is a sight to behold.
There are some blues that pass you by, without even warranting as much as a second glance from you; and then there are blues that force one to stand in awe. The blue dial of the Grand Seiko SBGR321 falls in the latter category.
Like all GS watches, the beauty of the new Grand Seiko SBGR321 is fully appreciated when viewed in person. Generic photos (and many other review websites’ photos look like any standard product photography) and don’t really reveal the nuances; they just show the best profile, without diving deep into the actual personality of the watch. Like all of our images, we have tried something a bit different here; we have taken shots based on how the watch actually looks and feels in person and not as how it’s shown in stock-standard pictures.
To be honest, when I looked at the press photos for the new Grand Seiko SBGR321, my first reaction was of dismay at the addition of another blue dialled watch. But after spending some time with it, in my humble opinion, it should be hard for anyone to deny the presence of the beauty of the nature represented on this dial.
The shimmering sunburst blue that changes from dark to a lighter shade upon being touched by light is divine. And like the volcanic mountain it is inspired by, the subtle touch of red on the seconds hand is an excellent nod to the red lava that once spewed out of Mount Iwate. Though if you come to think of it, the red also goes with the red of the rising sun.
This concerto of red and blue is more vividly displayed on the case-back, with the presence of a blue titanium oscillating weight with peripheral red ring.
When it comes to watches like the new Grand Seiko SBGR321, it’s best to just let the simplicity of the dial, the finishing of the cases and the inspiration from Japanese culture and nature engulf you.
Will You Like It: Once you see in it person, and if you like the colour blue, chances are you will be falling in love with it. Measuring 40mm in diameter and 13mm in thickness, it sits perfectly on my 16 and a bit cm wrist, and owing to the downward side case profile, the 13mm thickness almost feels like 10. It’s a smart dress watch but on the the steel bracelet brings to itself a daily wear outlook as well.
Do We Like It: Grand Seiko timepieces are a study in perfection. The new Grand Seiko SBGR321 is no different.
“We are born of light. The seasons are felt through light. We only know the world as it is evoked by light,” said the American architect Louis Kahn. The new Grand Seiko SBGR321 takes that to heart, revealing the beauty of the finely finished indices as light falls on them.
The double-width index at 12’o clock is sharp as ever, with the multi-faceted rectangular markers showcasing the brand’s impressive skills.
Further caressing light is the highly black polished bezel that complements the highly polished planes of the watch.
The thing I find interesting about GS watches is that even though intrinsic to their nature they are 3D objects, the way GS designs their surfaces, they all end up being two-dimensional.
Add to this the hand-finished Zaratsu polishing and the watch case reflects light to the point to amazement. Ever thought that it was possible for time to stand still if you looked at the case and dial of a timepiece? GS timepieces make you feel like that.
Where does it score: That shade of blue has to top the list. But like I said earlier, there are a plethora of elements that raise the watchmaking bar with this one.
- Let’s start with something obvious but ignored fairly regularly by watch brands – the crown. Any collector would agree that manual or automatic, all watches in a collection wind down and need to be rebooted. The crown plays a significant role here, and the way it’s positioned and the size of it matters. Sometimes one would be wearing gloves, sometimes fingers could be oily, yada yada yada. Like their other offerings, the new Grand Seiko SBGR321 features a half-recessed crown.
Polished and embossed with the logo, it is comfortable and easy to manoeuvre.
And from the side profile, it also adds character to the case, breaking the monotony of lines and surfaces
- The dial like we said is the leading man here, and the flatness of it complements the raised and faceted indices. True its got a sunburst pattern under direct light, but in the shade it’s a flat, dark blue dial. Timepieces are essentially tools for telling time, and legibility is of-course crucial. The new Grand Seiko SBGR321 ensures that no matter what the lighting, there are enough polished surfaces and enough contrast on the dial for the wearer to tell the time in an instant.
- It is not just the hour markers that are multi-faceted; the classy dauphine hour and minute hands embody the same spirit. In fact, I am sure volumes can be written about the finishing and the beauty of these hands. Like a katana they are sharp and mean business. Look carefully enough and you see the contrasting polished and brushed surfaces working in harmony.
Then there’s also the red tip of the seconds hand that evokes the rising sun. On a dial that is plain and simple, with just a blue background and polished steel elements, this red brings about a sense of vibrancy and a dash of fun.
- The date window at 3’o clock is another talking point with the SBGR321. Perfectly proportioned to the size of the dial, the polished and sloping window frame complements the dial.
Another impressive detail here is the attention to detail when it comes to the interaction of the hour hands with the date window. If you look at the picture below, you will see that is ever so perfectly sits flush with the date aperture.
- No review of a GS timepiece is complete without talking about the side profile and the wrist feel. The SBGR321 features a curved sideline, that meets the reversed slanted bezel wall and the case side to seamlessly place the watch on the wrist.
Due to this, the watch sits slimmer and can be easily slid under the cuff.
Talking about the the case, the interaction of it with the bracelet is another noteworthy feature to talk about. This intersection features a curved, highly polished side that mars the case and bracelet meeting of any non-required voids.
- The bracelet is nicely finished with a mix of polished and brushed elements and features a three-fold clasp with push-button release. It is decently comfortable as well, despite being nothing revolutionary or different for other brands’ works, such as say Omega’s. Personally, I am someone that never wears a timepiece with a bracelet, so if I was buying this, I would be replacing it with a leather strap right out of the box.
The Movement: The heart used — calibre 9S65 — is an automatic movement using the brand’s MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical System) technology. The calibre 9S65 uses a reverser gear train system, hardened components that help improve the durability of this reverser system, and a semiconductor manufacturing technology to produce watch parts.
It beats at the standard frequency of 4Hz (28’800 A/h), comprises of 35 jewels, and boasts of an impressive 72-hour power reserve. It also has a stated accuracy of +5/-3 seconds a day when static and +10 to -1 seconds per day when is use.
The movement itself is beautifully finished but the star of the display caseback is the blue oscillating weight (and the peripheral red ring).
GS informs that the blue of the oscillating weight is achieved through an anodic oxidation process in which metals are subjected to electrolysis so as to generate an oxide film. This oxide film produces colour according to the light refraction index when the thickness of the oxide film is carried.
Anything Else: The movement is encased inside a 40mm diameter and 13mm thick stainless steel case that is covered by a dual-curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on the inner surface. The 100m water-resistant and 159g heavy timepiece also features the lion emblem on the screw-down case back along with the words ‘Limited Edition’ and the engraved serial number. The legibility like we said is not an issue and is a strong scoring point, though I would have still personally preferred some lume on the dial.
Aesthetically it also very similar to the Heritage Collection Hi-Beat 36000 LE reference SBGH281, and also the SLGH003. The latter is a Hi-Beat 36000 Limited Edition coming in only 1000 pieces, measuring in at the same diameter of 40mm but with a thinner case of 11.7mm.
We managed to get some side-by-side photos of that with the SBGR321 and personally, I prefer the looks of the one we are reviewing in detail today.
The SLGH003 is less ‘clean’ looking despite featuring the albeit revamped but nonetheless celebrated 44GS case and doesn’t feature an as impressive case-back as that of the SLGR321. It is also costlier by almost twice the amount, coming in at $14’500 AUD compared to the $7’750 of the SBGR321.
I know, I know the SLGH003 has a new high-beat movement the Calibre 9SA5, but purely based on aesthetics, I would choose the SBGR321. The design of the larger hour hand, thicker indices and wider lugs is a frankly a no-no for me personally.
The Verdict: Needless to say, I like the watch; in-fact I am in awe of the myriad touches GS has lavished on to the timepiece. I love the use of blue and a hint of red and love the display case-back.
What I do find a bit problematic is the use of this colour on so many GS variants from this year. It seems GS is heading towards an Omega like approach by releasing limited after limited editions, and if I owned one of the earlier 60th anniversary releases from this year, I would personally have been a bit bummed about seeing something so similar within their catalogue.
Overall, the new Grand Seiko Heritage Collection LE SBGR321 may not be a revolutionary colour segue, but it is impossible to resist the charms of the highly smooth and mirrored case surfaces that are polished to perfection. On top of that, the multi-faceted indexes on a sun-ray dial are legible to the degree of crime.
I will wrap this review up by another Lois Kahn quote – “A room is not a room without natural light”. A timepiece is not a timepiece without natural light falling and revealing the beauty of its parts. Grand Seiko ensures that the watch as a whole comes alive when hit by natural light.
What more can I say at this juncture except it’s time for you to let the red sun pierce through the enchanting blue sky to reveal the time on your wrist.
To find out more about the new Grand Seiko SBGR321 and other GS timepieces, please head to the GS website here or visit their authorised retailer J Farren-Price at 80 Castlereagh St, Sydney (02 9231 3299). To explore the J Farren-Price website, please head here. All images unless otherwise stated are ©WatchYaGonnaDoAboutIt.