Get Swept Off Your Feet With The Dance Of Light And Shadow – Going hands-on with the new Grand Seiko SBGE257
Editor’s note: This is a Mind (stats), Body (design features) & Soul (what’s special) review of the new Grand Seiko SBGE257 watch. Today’s watch is brought with the grateful assistance of J Farren-Price Sydney
What is it: The new Grand Seiko Sport Collection Spring Drive GMT SBGE257
Why: Because one can never, and I mean never, get enough of the smooth sweep of the second’s hand on the proprietary movement. It’s a Spring Drive GMT for the next generation, with a more wrist friendly size at 40.5mm
When released: July 2020, as part of a three watch permanent collection – SBGE253 (Black), SBGE255 (Blue) and SBGE257 (green)
Where: Available at J Farren-Price Sydney, and thankfully not a limited edition release.
Who is it for: For someone who doesn’t wish to take the road well travelled; it’s for those who would like to have a timepiece that’s different and relatively uncommon compared to say an Omega Planet Ocean GMT, or a Rolex Explorer II or even the Tudor Black Bay Automatic GMT M79830RB-0001. One of its charms is that its ‘in the wild’ spotting will be rare, perhaps akin to the likes of the Panerai PAM01321 or the Chanel J12 Chromatic GMT or the Breitling Superocean GMT or the Ball Chronometer Red Label GMT (and more on the comparisons in a bit)
How does it do: The market has no dearth of sporty GMT timepieces. But the inclusion of a smaller diameter and the Spring Drive movement truly sets the new Grand Seiko SBGE257 apart. Specifically the SBGE257 is furthermore distinctive as not many green coloured GMT offerings are around as well.
The SBGE257 itself is a stunner, to say the least. Off the wrist, it still retains the mammoth personality of the larger 44mm diameter SBGE248, but on the wrist, it surprisingly appears smaller, and wears somewhat like a 40mm. I reckon this decreased size and the bright, shiny zirconia ceramic bezel are the highlights
Missing: My main gripe was the discovery that the bezel doesn’t rotate. Personally, I am still a mile shy of acquiring a GS watch for my own collection, and if this had a functional, rotating bezel, I probably would have made my wife very unhappy. The problem with the SBGE248 lies in the presence of an internal GMT track and then its doubling up by including a fixed GMT bezel.
I would have also liked the inclusion of a gilt dial. When I first looked at this in person, the dark, forest green foliage colour was reminiscent of the Seiko Prospex SPB105 with gilt hands and numerals and I wished that was the case here as well. Though that said the yellow gold GMT hand and corresponding text at 6’o clock to bring in that missing element of gold. Also if they used too much gold elements it would end up looking like the Rolex GMT Master II 18k Yellow Gold Green Index Dial Ref. 116718.
I kinda contradicted myself up there; in short, I would have loved a bit more of golden accents to the dial but their absence is not something rejecting this watch over.
Talking about nitpicking, I also don’t know how I feel about the chamfered hands and truncated indices replacing the usual dauphine handset. Granted they work in cahoots to bring uniformity to the dial, but I for one miss the ‘complete’ look of the hands and indices of the recently released SBGR321 (reviewed detail here).
The heart used — calibre 9R66 — is an automatic movement using the brand’s Spring Drive technology. The calibre 9R66 was first introduced in 2006 and in the past 14 years has in my experience and knowledge seen a lot of Swiss watch enthusiasts fall in love with GS watches. I would even go on to say that despite producing exceptional timepieces, the main calling card for Grand Seiko is their Spring Drive movement.
One of the main reasons for this is its ability to achieve extremely high accuracy for a watch wound by a mainspring.
The way it works is that a traditional spring-driven movement is paired with Grand Seiko’s electronic technology that functions without batteries or other external power sources. The mainspring, as used in traditional mechanical watches, drives a series of gears as in any other mechanical watch. What’s different is that GS makes uses of a rotor that is connected to the end of these gears that generates a small electrical charge that activates an electronic circuit and quartz oscillator.
This Spring Drive movement comprises of 30 jewels, boasts of an impressive 72-hour power reserve and has a very impressive stated accuracy of ±1 second a day or ±15 seconds per month on average. It allows for the functions of power reserve display function and dual time function with 24-hour display.
This movement family currently has 5 members, including this GMT version we are looking at today. It is a GMT version of the base calibre 9R65. Without going into too much detail, the rest of the members are the calibre 9R01 (manual 8-day), 9R01 (manual 3.5-day) and 9R86 (automatic 3-day GMT chronograph).
The calibre 9R66 is encased inside a highly polished — featuring a mixture of Zaratsu polishing, buff polishing and hair line polishing — 40.5mm diameter and 14.7mm thick stainless steel case with a ceramic bezel. The case is covered by a dual-curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on inner surface.
For those of you who like to know the exact specifications, the new Grand Seiko SBGE257 is only 48.4mm lug to lug and 51mm end-link to end-link. And for those of us who like to swap out our straps fairly regularly, it is pleasant to see that the watch case features a standard 20mm lug inter-horn spacing.
This 172.0 g — think heavier than the new iPhone 12 Mini but lighter than iPhone 12 Pro — timepiece comes on a slightly tapered tri-link stainless steel bracelet with a three-fold clasp with a secure feeling push button release. Again, like most GS bracelets I have looked at, it’s nothing out-of-the-box but feels substantial and safe enough to use.
The case features a both screw down case-back and crown and the new Grand Seiko SBGE257 offers a decent 200m water-resistance as well. Again, with all of these features, why wouldn’t GS introduce a rotating bezel baffles me?!
With this water-resistance it comes as no surprise that the case-back is closed and features the lion emblem embossed logo. As pristine looking as this is, one of the cherubs of owning a Grand Seiko timepiece is the option of marvelling at the movement, and as ‘non-haute-horlogerie-level’ a Spring Drive movement maybe in terms of finishing, the mechanical nerd in me would have preferred to still view it.
The case design overall has a sort of ‘moustache’ looking downward arc across the wrist when looked from sideways, and its sloped case flanks help in making the over-14mm thickness disappear.
As always is the deal with GS timepieces, I am impressed by the highly polished surfaces and the curved sideline and the presence of extremely legible hands and indices. What I again don’t get is the half-hearted attempt at including lume on to the dial. The watch makes use of Lumibrite on hands and indexes but very sparingly.
Besides the number of aspects I am having trouble dealing with here, there is no doubt that aesthetically, the new Grand Seiko SBGE257 is a beautiful beast of a watch with a ‘hulk’ of a presence.
This offering from Grand Seiko’s Sports Collection competes within a range of existing timepieces, but for my money, the use of the colour green and that shiny bezel makes this one of the best offerings in this current catalogue. I am someone who prefers an aluminium bezel rather than ceramic, but it works here.
The other appealing aspect as I have mentioned earlier is the size; GS used to offer bigger — in the 44mm realm — timepieces such as the SBGE248 and frankly, the new collection is a relief for someone with smaller wrists.
Something else that took me by surprise here was my acceptance of the date location. If you have read my reviews you would know that I do not support the 4.30 date window. It just doesn’t work architecturally for me. And I wouldn’t have liked it here either, except that GS has impressively placed the crown at that odd position too, and suddenly it doesn’t look jarring. There is a whole sense of geometrical symmetry to the dial now, especially with the power-reserve indicator balancing out the LHS of the dial face. I also like that the power-reserve indicator is split into three clear sections, each marking one day of power reserve.
Before we wrap this up, we mentioned a brief comparison list in our intro. So where does the new Grand Seiko SBGE257 really sit? And how it compares?
- The Omega Planet Ocean 600M Co-Axial Chronometre GMT ref. 188.8.131.52.01.001 measures much larger at 43.5mm though retails for a very similar $9’275 AUD compared to the $9’300 AUD of the SBGE257. The METAS-certified version, the ref. 184.108.40.206.01.001, retails for a significantly higher $12’050 AUD. And both these Omega options are now chunkier than the SBGE257. Comparing a Spring Drive with a mechanical movement is almost apples to oranges, but in terms of dimensions and cost, the SBGE257 reveals itself as a pretty good option. The Omega offers a higher water-resistance but in reality for most a 200m water-resistance will be the same as 600m. The Omega also has a lower 60-hour power-reserve but where it does score is the inclusion of the helium escape valve, a bi-directional rotating bezel which can be used as a GMT option or to time events, and the presence of a display case-back.
- The Rolex Explorer II ref. 216570 on the other hand is the quintessential luxury GMT sports watch, and anything it competes with feels the brunt. But that said, the SBGE257 again gains a dimensional and financial edge, coming in at the 1.5mm less diameter and 2’400 AUD cheaper mark. The Rolex does have a much, much better lume but only 100m water-resistance and 48-hours of power-reserve. And like the SBGE257, it also has the same fixed, 24-hour graduated bezel and a screw-down case-back and winding crown.
- The one watch it does face stiff competition from, and like above I will leave the result in your hands, is the Tudor Black Bay Automatic GMT M79830RB-0001. Now let’s be honest, its pretty hard to beat in value proposition; for the price tag of only $5’510 AUD on a bracelet, one gets a COSC-certified, 41mm diameter, “Pepsi-bezel’ style GMT timepiece with the same water-resistance of 200m and a similar 70-hour power-reserve.
- In regards to watches that are less common like the Grand Seiko SBGE257, when it was 44mm, it best competed with the Panerai PAM01321. This Luminor GMT Power Reserve watch has the same diameter and a unique look, something that’s as iconic in my opinion as the unique Spring Drive movement. The PAM01321 however, retails for a substantially higher $13’200 AUD, though like the Rolex option features decent lume and like the Omega option features a display case-back. It is sans a bezel though but features the same 3-day power reserve alongside an increased 300m water-resistance.
In my humble opinion, the way the SBGE257 works in this category is due to competitive pricing and smaller sizing for people like me with 6.25 inch wrists. If they could re-introduce the SBGE001 in this diameter with a rotating bi-directional bezel, it would be a very hard watch to resist. In the meanwhile, allow that smooth, sexy, sweeping second’s hand to entice you to the point of mesmerisation.
Over Grand Seiko’s Shizukuishi Watch Studio region, the clouds glide, dispersing over the mountains in the distance. For a moment they cast a shadow, and then let the light grace the earth, allowing the green forest foliage to shimmer. The Spring Drive movement in the new Grand Seiko SBGE257 allows the second’s hand to smoothly glide across the dial, casting its shadow on the multi-faceted markers, and then lets the light do its magic on the forest green dial. Once you have it on your wrist, prepare to be amazed.
To find out more about the new Grand Seiko SBGE257 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.