Grand Seiko has long been the benchmark of a ‘value’ timepiece. Decades before the proliferation of micro-brands, the Seiko Grand Seiko brand could well be held in the status that many try to get a pie of today. It had the right amount of hand-made, the right amount of mechanical superiority, the right amount of manufacturer pedigree and ‘had’ the right price.
A look at a ‘neo-vintage’ Grand Seiko GMT 9S56-00B0
There are some key factors that draw watch collectors to Grand Seiko. Succinctly put, case design and finishing and hands and indices finishing. Their movements are technically exceptional but in a world of movement makers, there are plenty of competitors. What truly sets Grand Seiko apart however, is its zaratsu treatment of its exterior metal parts.
Take for example this Grand Seiko GMT 9S56-00B0. At first glance, there is nothing spectacular about it. In fact, one might find a crowded cream dial with 3 different fonts on a 3 line text, a printed 24 hour scale and a date window. But what makes a GS a GS, is how it finishes its hour indices and hands. It sacrifices some height in the watch case to make taller indices and this gives the hour indices more depth. This extra length, perhaps less than a millimetre, goes a long way in visually enhancing a zaratsu finished multi-sided index. As a testimony of how longstanding the quality of the dial is, this is an unserviced watch with almost 20 years of wear.
In fact, this style and design of its indices is almost iconic to Grand Seiko. Citizen too has very similar take on its indices; not to say who came first or who copied the other. But apart from these 2 major Japanese brands, most other watch brands don’t use indices that are as tall as those used on the Grand Seiko.
In terms of case design and finishing, the best of modern day Grand Seiko in my opinion has to be the 44 GS and 62 GS. Sharp faceted cases which require special tooling to hand finish is what makes these pieces even more desirable. Their unique designs make them stand out anywhere, but more so in a crowd of Grand Seikos.
There is something special about how the lugs on the SBGM003 is finished. The bevelled edge polish rounds all the way to the back and curves with the contour of the back of the lug. This makes the lug look almost cylindrical from the back, which is possibly the most unique part of the watch.
We checked on the latest iteration, the SBGM221 and the case is almost identical including the turning lug polish, which is good, apart from the closed-to-open caseback. Traditionalists prefer the closed caseback with the lion medallion, which makes it more similar to the caseback of the pre-2000s Grand Seikos.
The SBGM003 is a very nice watch, a nice blend between tool and dress with just the right amount of nuances in finishing. The complication; a GMT, is commonly agreed to be much more useful than a chronograph. The current edition SBGM221 has less clutter at the bottom after the brand decided for the Grand Seiko logo to replace Seiko at the 12 position. Apart from that no significant changes were made. This is a classic GS, that has been in production for 2 decades and will likely stay in production for several more to come.