A closer look at the SBGA111 and the SBGA109
The year 2014 marks the 10th anniversary of the 9R Spring Drive caliber. The self-winding movement was first introduced in the year 2004 by Seiko, designed and made in-house, after a long-time (27 years to be exact) vision of Seiko engineer Yoshikazu Akahane who started working on the “hybrid” concept in 1977.
Both the SBGA111 and the SBGA109 were introduced together as part of the 10th Anniversary edition, with the SBGA111 in a stainless steel case and the SBGA109 in a titanium case. Although at first glance they may look indistinguishable, but upon comparison they are significantly different. In fact, only some components of the watches are identical, i.e. the hands, hour markers and the power reserve indicator.
Here’s a quick comparison between the two watches:
|Case material||Stainless steel||Bright Titanium|
|Caseback||Closed caseback with Grand Seiko Lion of Seikosha medallion||Transparent caseback|
|Bracelet design||3 link design||5 link design|
|Dial||Arabic numerals as minute markers||Absence of such numerals|
The case, dial and hands
Nicknamed “tatami mat” by Seikoholics, the dial design on these pieces would be the core characteristic to identify the 10th anniversary edition from all other Grand Seikos.
The dial is made up of many pressed “+” symbol, which is Japanese kanji for the number “ten”, a suited symbol to commemorate the 10th year. Between the “+” there are tiny “GS” motif embossed on the first and the last thirds of the dial. The hidden surprise on the dial would be the Seikosha lion lurking just below the 10 minute marker, and once again making reference to commemorate the 10th anniversary.
The power reserve indicator features a blue hand that matches that of the smooth, gliding seconds hand. At the rehaut, there is engraving that states “Caliber 9R 10th Anniversary Since 2004”, and these are the only Grand Seikos with such engraving, which makes them even more special.
As are all Grand Seikos, the finishing is done Zaratsu method, also known as blade or black polishing, made by carefully applying a rotating tin plate against the metal at a very precise angle. The result of Zaratsu polishing is distortion-free reflections that are visible even in low light conditions.
The 12, 6 and 9 hour markers in these editions are rectangular in baton shape instead, similar to the SARB series “Kit Kat” hour makers (as nicknamed by Seikoholics), rather than trapezoid-shaped ones used on the Grand Seiko Snowflake.
The case on the SBGA109 uses Seiko’s “Bright Titanium” alloy which has lightweight properties, but known to be 1.5 times harder and more “wear resistant” than stainless steel.
The hands keeping in character with the Grand Seiko fashion, are the black-polished dauphine hands which both pieces share in identical.
The movement used in the SBGA111 is the 9R65, which has an accuracy of -/+ 1 sec per day.
On the SBGA109, the movement used is the more superior 9R15, which comes with a decorated rotor with the solid 18k gold medallion right in the middle of the rotor, increasing its weight for rotation. It is tested for accuracy at +/- 0.5 sec per day, thanks to the use of the specially selected Seiko lab-grown quartz crystal.
Detailed explanations about the Spring Drive caliber can be found here:
The watches are water resistant of up to 10bar (100m).
The SBGA111 is a majestic one on the author’s wrist, be it on its original bracelet or on the matching blue croc-leather. However, as eye-catching as they may be, Grand Seiko pieces are still often underrated for what they are worth. Perhaps it could be due to the legacy of the old “Seiko” logo on the dial, but things are definitely changing now.
Both are likely to be sold out from authorised dealers in Japan, but if you are tenacious, you will still be able to hunt for either in the secondary market ranging from USD3,000 to 7,000 depending on its general condition.
A special mention of thanks to the author’s friend for providing the SBGA109 as a comparison for our review.