7 Signs You May Be A Closet Grand Seiko ‘Skyflake’ Lover
Editor’s note: This review of the new Grand Seiko ‘Skyflake’ SBGA407 is part of our watch photo reviews where we go hands-on with watches that can at least at the time of photographing be bought! 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 Elegance Collection SBGA407 ‘Skyflake’ that continues Grand Seiko’s tryst with exceptional dial creation destiny
Available At: J Farren-Price Sydney
Basic mumbo-jumbo: Retails for 8’700 AUD, features the famous 9R65 Spring Drive movement encased inside a 40.2mm x 12.8mm stainless steel case, boasts of an impressive 72-hours power reserve and ±1 second per day / ±15 seconds per month (average) accuracy. The timepiece is water-resistant to 100m and comes on a classy and comfortable crocodile leather strap.
For those of you who like to know the exact specifications, the Grand Seiko Snowflake is only 48mm lug-to-lug, weighs only 89g on the crocodile leather (with a three-fold clasp with push-button release), features the somewhat annoying 19mm lug inter-horn spacing and marvels with the presence of Zaratsu polished lugs and a blued steel seconds hand that complements the baby blue dial
And Now For The 7 Signs You May Be A Closet Grand Seiko ‘Skyflake’ Lover
- Sign 1: Do you like Snow Monkeys? Or Mountains? Or Ponds? Or Nature?
Japan’s Honshu island is home to the Shinshu or Nagano Prefecture region. This region is famous for the sightings of Snow Monkeys and the presence of snowy mountains. In fact, the original Grand Seiko Snowflake with both Seiko and GS branding from 2005 (and its subsequent incarnations) have been inspired by the soft falling snow of this very Shinshu region.
And the Grand Seiko ‘Skyflake’ SBGA407 is no different; the brand describes it as “beauty of Shinshu on the dial, and is characterised by a texture that shows a rough snow surface”.
Now we all can’t travel to Japan and witness the natural charm of the flora and fauna of the Shinshu region anytime soon, but with the dial of the ‘Skyflake’, one gets to revel in it whenever one’s heart desires.
The dial is a work of art in itself; it’s not hand-engraved or anything, but in real life, under different lighting conditions, it changes colour from almost pale white to a deep baby blue. It’s one of those versatile shades of blue that will be equally comfortable complementing a blue business shirt and suit combo or a tattered pair of blue jeans and a white t-shirt.
Its shade is a versatile blue, not too stark to appear showoff-ish but also not too obscure that it doesn’t get attention. When it comes to watches like the Grand Seiko SBGA407, it’s best to just let the intricacies of the dial, the presence of myriad textures and the inspiration from Japanese culture and nature engulf you.
Even though I am a staunch supporter of the view that the power-reserve indicator on these should be banished from the dial side for good and moved to the back of the case, I still can’t deny the intricate finishing on the indicator at 8’o clock and when looked at in macro, how the varying textures speak volumes of GS’ ability to showcase immaculate attention to detail.
In reality, the dial features a pattern that is simply stamped onto a blank wafer made of brass. But it draws differing imagery based on the angle and the lighting. The texture of the traditional Japanese Washi (和紙) paper is beautifully replicated, and nicely mimics the falling of the icy-blue snow. Like natural flakes of snow, it can also evoke the imagery of a calmly sleeping fluffy dog whose chest is slowly heaving. To us, on a macro level, it’s got a texture akin to a gum-tree bark if it was floating on an airy cloud.
Allow the light to touch it at a different angle, and the texture changes imagery; then it’s like ripples in a pond, caused by the brush of wind softly blowing through the pond waters.
Simply put, no matter how you look at it, you can’t help seeing nature being reflected on the dial.
- Sign 2: Want a dress watch that can take a shower or two?
I prefer dress watches over sports watches personally. But a majority of times, they don’t come with enough water resistance for me not to run away at the mere mention of H2O. Rolex’s OPs and Date-Justs are a few of the exceptions to this rule. And the Grand Seiko ‘Skyflake’ is thankfully 100m water-resistant as well.
So you can dress it up or down, wear it wherever you want, no matter what, you have peace of mind.
- Sign 3: Are you someone who finds himself irritated by the noisy ticking movement of the seconds hand?
If you are anything like me, you may find the tick-tick motion of the second’s hand on quartz watches to be very annoying. And even the 4Hz frequency of many mechanical watches with their 8-beats per second can have the hand take a fleeting pause, flickering and breaking the momentum of time.
There is something so calming and zen-like about the butter-smooth gliding sweep of the second’s hand of the Grand Seiko ‘Skyflake’ that one ironically loses track of time under its hypnotic spell.
Personally, I didn’t know how relaxing this could be until I had a surgery couple of years ago and was rendered in bed for a bit. Much of the memory of recovery is looking at this table clock I own — not GS — that features a similar albeit less smooth second’s hand sweep. I would lie in bed, lose myself in the sweep, and momentarily forget about the pain.
Post recovery, at first I thought that this calming effect was thanks to the heavy medications I was on, and they were making me loopy enough to remember a watch face calming me down. But later that year I got to try on a GS watch with their spring drive movement, and I was hooked.
This same spring drive movement is present in the Grand Seiko ‘Skyflake’. Despite producing exceptional timepieces, the main calling card for Grand Seiko still 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 movement family currently has 5 members, the base calibre 9R65, calibre 9R66 (automatic GMT), the calibre 9R01 (manual 8-day), 9R01 (manual 3.5-day), and the calibre 9R86 (automatic 3-day GMT chronograph).
- Sign 4: Do you find yourself getting increasingly annoyed by wearing a watch or brand everyone else is?
At least here in Australia, Rolex and Omega have a stronghold. Nothing wrong, they are both exceptional Swiss brands and are the best at what they do. But their extreme fame also means their excessive presence on the majority of wrists.
The Grand Seiko ‘Skyflake’ SBGA407 provides one with an alternate timepiece that’s also exceptionally well built but follows its own design DNA and provides a break from monotony.
Besides the SBGA407, the brand offer lots of other timepieces that are distinctively GS in their architecture, and should you want to look at some of them in more detail, we have recently gone hands-on with references SBGR321, SBGJ201 and STGK007, SBGJ241, and SBGE257.
- Sign 5: Do you like exceptional finish, hand-detailing, attention to detail and black polishing but — eye-roll — want it all for under 10k AUD?
Grand Seiko watches are famous for their high level of polishing. The first thing you notice with the ‘Skyflake’ is that caressing light is the highly black polished bezel that complements the highly polished planes of the watch. Add to this the hand-finished Zaratsu polishing of the lugs and the watch case reflects light to the point of amazement.
Moving on to the dial, the Grand Seiko Skyflake 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. The hour markers are multi-faceted, and 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.
On the whole, the Skyflake like very other GS timepiece features superb finishing including bevelled, faceted and polished surfaces and excellent readability with polished and faceted hands and applied indexes.
- Sign 6: Do you find yourself taking a loupe and appreciating the finer details in a watch?
We have described above how the Grand Seiko watches are finished to perfection. Given a picture is worth a thousand words, below, we will let some pictures do the talking instead.
- Sign 7: Are you stressed out or anxious in life and want a Zen way out?
Zen is a form of Buddhist Meditation that can be described as “this practice, according to Zen proponents, (that) gives insight into one’s true nature, or the emptiness of inherent existence, which opens the way to a liberated way of living”.
I will wrap up this review by taking inspiration from the Zen philosophy above; when you have the Grand Seiko ‘Skyflake’ on your wrist, the simplistic beauty of it allows you to get an insight into the true nature of pure watchmaking and opens the way to having a more liberated watch collection.
Like the nine enduring elements of the Grand Seiko Style, namely simplicity, purity, practicality, precision, beauty, legibility, ease of use, and harmonious form and function, the Grand Seiko ‘Skyflake’ SBGA407 is a combination of the following nine features that elevate it to a Zen-like pedestal:
- the classic round case is appreciated though I would have preferred if alongside a textured dial it also featured a textured case reminiscent of the 56GS watch from 1971 that seems to be the inspiration for this series
- I find the SBGA211 to be more sporty and being a dress watch kinda guy, I admire the dress watch vibes of the SBGA407 that are presented in a more contemporary and wearable 40.2 mm diameter body
- talking about Snowflake vs Skyflake, I also like how the ‘Skyflake’ SBGA407 is part of the GS Elegance collection and the SBGA211 a part of the Grand Seiko Heritage Collection. They both feature different case architecture (and materials) despite the similar dimensions and that gives them a wider clientele and audience. Another difference worth noting is the replacement of the trapezoidal hour markers of the SBGA211 with the straight rectangular ones of the SBGA407; it visually adds a sense of coherency and sleekness to the dial. This said, the 2019 Grand Seiko SBGA403 Spring Drive 20th Anniversary Limited Edition in my opinion had the best architectural language and textures
- a welcome 3-day power reserve
- the double-width index at 12’o clock is sharp and the multi-faceted rectangular markers showcase the brand’s impressive skills. The textured dial complements the raised and faceted indices. The watch is sans lume but there is enough polishing and contrast that the absence of lume is hardly noticed
- on my nearly 16cm wrist, the watch sits snug and clean; there is no unnecessary hang and its presence it duly noticed
- rather oversized for the watch design, the crown is easy to grip, turn and use
- the 3’o clock date window is perfectly proportioned to the size of the dial, and its white date wheel provides a welcome contrast. Also welcome is the partly-polished, faceted and sloping window frame that complements the Zaratsu finishing of the cases
- and the box-shaped sapphire crystal evokes a vintage vibe and thankfully features an anti-reflective coating on the inner surface. I am also thankful for the inclusion of a leather strap – for anyone who has read my reviews would know that personally, I prefer leather over metal for straps
Coming full circle, so if you are anxious about which your next watch should be, then the Grand Seiko ‘Skyflake’ SBGA407 boasts of these fantastic features to make this decision a bit easier. And if you are stressed out like I was after my surgery, then the smooth sweep of the second’s hand is ever-present to whisk you away to serenity.
That’s All Folks!
As Buddha once said, “those who are awake, live in a state of constant amazement”.
When the light hits the textured dial of the ‘Skyflake’, it wakes up. Then the smooth hands calmly glide across, ruling all that it surveys. And you find yourself in a state of constant amazement.
So, what do you think? Are you a closet Grand Seiko Skyflake SBGA407 lover? To find out more about the Grand Seiko Skyflake 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.