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Review: Grand Seiko Elegance SBGK series

by Chester Lau on January 18, 2020
Watches
Overview
Brand

Grand Seiko

Complication / Type of Watch

Time, Power Reserve

Recommended Retail Price

US$29,000 and US$7400

Grand Seiko released a ‘new’ cushion case and modified manual winding movement with the 2019 SBGK series. The SBGK series consisted of 3 limited edition models, and 3 regular production models. In this article, we feature the SBGK002, 004 with an urushi dial and gold case, and the SBGK005 with a Mt. Iwate blue dial and stainless steel case.

SBGK002 with Urushi lacquered dial priced at US$29,000.

A Quick Summary

A quick summary of what most blogs and reviewers have said about the SBGK series – nice thin (by GS standards) case, beautiful dial, impeccable case and exterior finishing. They then balance the review with one complaint being the lion logo on the caseback blocking the new 9S63 manual winding movement.

Maki-e techniques are used on the hand painted numerals and indices.

The watch measures 39 mm by 11.6 mm and uses a 3 day power reserve manual winding 9S63 movement. The movement is based off the 9S64 movement, but with a seconds at 9 and power reserve indicator at 3.

The SBGK004 on a full black lacquer dial priced at US$29,000.

There are a few ‘firsts’ marketed with this piece, namely, first new manual winding movement in 8 years, first curved case polish with the latest Zaratsu polishing method, and possibly the first curved dial with bent hands. The final first and perhaps an important factor for consideration, is the upscaled pricing – US$7400 for a stainless steel regular manual winding Grand Seiko.

Important questions to ask before buying the SBGK005

Considering the relatively higher price tag in the Grand Seiko family, it is useful to weigh some options before pulling the trigger.

The SBGK005 Mt. Iwate blue dial in stainless steel and priced at US$7400.

We will stay within the brand. It is cumbersome and sometimes unnecessary to compare with the Swiss or Germans or any other non-GS brands. Pitting products within the brand is already a fun exercise.

1. Spring Drive or Purely Mechanical?

The first competitor is the SBGY003. Also within the Elegance collection, the SBGY003 uses a manual winding Spring Drive movement with power reserve indicator at the back. It is a thinner 10.2 mm and limited to 700 pieces. It is priced at US$7600.

The new 9S63 Movement with 3 days power reserve.

Spring Drive movements are produced at Shiojiri while the factory that makes fully mechanical movements are at Shinzuku-ishi. Also known as Morioka or Shizuku-ishi watch studio. The Mt. Iwate dial pattern was inspired by the Iwate Mountains visible from the watch studio.

Seiko Morioka.
Hand assembly at Seiko Morioka.

For Grand Seiko fans, they will be familiar with the Spring Drive and it is widely accepted as the more premium movement that is used on the top line products like Credor Eichi and Grand Seiko SBGZ001, 003.

9R02 movement finished and assembled at the MAS used in the SBGZ001 and 003.

2. Do you prefer more form or more function?

The SBGK005 is not the first Iwate blue dial model. There is also the SBGJ235 with the ’44GS’ case. In quotation marks because it lacks the original 44GS horizontal lugs. In a way, both watches are pretty different, but because both have the same blue dials, we included it in comparison.

SBGJ235 priced at US$6300.

The SBGJ235 is a boutique edition with a hi-beat automatic movement, a GMT and date complication, and comes with bracelet. The watch is understandably more sporty and measures 14 mm thick. It is also at list, priced at US$6300, more than US$1000 less than the SBGK005.

The watch uses the same blue Mt. Iwate dial pattern.

Essentially, a higher performance movement and complication with the same pretty dial at a lower price. Of course, there is no need for consideration if thinness and a more ‘elegant’ look is a primary concern.

3. Why not a SBGW with essentially the same movement and similar thinness/classic styling?

It costs almost 40% less after all. At US$4300, the SBGW231 is one contender with a mostly similar manual winding 9S64 movement. It does not have a power reserve indicator, and for some it may be on the smaller side at 37 mm vs the SBGK005’s 39 mm. Both watches are equally thick at 11.6 mm.

The older generation SBGW031, the equivalent model of the SBGW231 in current production.

Limited edition to 150 pieces, the SBGW255 Thong Sia with a green Iwate dial is another piece that trumps the SBGK005 in terms of value for money within the Grand Seiko ecosystem.

Concluding Thoughts

Sometimes rationality gives way to primitive instincts. If one were to consider who has the better movement, the SBGY003 wins. If one were to consider having a more versatile and tougher watch with more functions, the SBGJ235 wins. If one were to consider getting the most out of their money, buy another brand, I jest, but the SBGW series offers significant savings. That said, get the SBGK005 if you love having an unorthodox dial layout, a wonderfully curved mirror-polished case and lugs, and only if it speaks to you. This is a beautiful watch, but is possibly not the wisest choice even when compared within the brand.

Of course, this discussion is moot for the many GS owners who would just, buy all of them. Why stop at one when you can have them all?

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