Monday, October 26

Review: Tranquility on a Dial – The Grand Seiko 60th Anniversary Limited Edition SBGW264

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The Grand Seiko 60th Anniversary Limited Edition SBGW264

Grand Seiko is Japan’s answer to Swiss fine watches. It is to Seiko what Lexus is to Toyota, a brand positioned as the high-end wing of Japan’s most well-known watch brand. Responsible for Grand Seiko’s mechanical wristwatches is the Shizukuishi Watch Studio, located in the Iwate prefecture. Legend has it that about a thousand years ago, an old man who lived in what is now Shizukuishi started to hear a strange sound from deep underneath a huge old cedar tree. People traced its source to what seemed to be a bottomless cave and realised that the sound was that of water drops, “shizuku” in Japanese, dripping from ceiling of the cave onto the rocks, “ishi”, and resonating throughout the cave and beyond. Thus, the area became known as Shizukuishi.

This year Grand Seiko celebrates its 60th anniversary by paying tribute to the natural beauty of Shizukuishi, the home of the brand’s mechanical watches. Two timepieces were released to commemorate this occasion. The first was the SBGW263, a stunning watch, limited to only 20 pieces, featuring hand-engraved dial and hands. Then there’s a second watch that is a little more accessible and has a more striking case and dial combination. Here, we bring you the low-down and our thoughts on the Grand Seiko 60th Anniversary Limited Edition SBGW264.

The Case, Dial, and Hands

The case of the SBGW264 is rendered in 18k rose gold. It measures an elegant 39.0 mm in diameter, and at 11.6 mm in height, it is 0.2 mm thinner than its sibling the SBGW263. While not particularly thin on the grand scale of things, the watch should still slide under most dress cuffs without issue. The case is a standard Grand Seiko case for the Elegance collection and is entirely polished for a refined look.

The warmth of the rose gold case complements the green of the dial well.

Where the watch truly shines – and quite literally – is on the dial. Its resplendent green dial has an intricate yet sharp pattern that only precise machine engraving can achieve. The dial pattern is inspired from the forest of white birch trees near the studio where the watch is made. As the viewing angle changes, the dial shimmers in green and white, just like the trees when sunlight catches the leaves and the white bark of the trunk. Other elements of the dial include multi-faceted applied hour markers, two dauphine-style hands (with edges polished using Grand Seiko’s signature Zaratsu technique) for the minutes and hours, and a lancet-style central seconds hands – all of which are crafted in rose gold. While not exactly classic in design, the overall visage of the SBGW264 is immaculate and elegant.

Up close with the machine-engraved details on the dial.

The Movement

Driving the Grand Seiko 60th Anniversary Limited Edition SBGW264 is the Calibre 9S64, which is also found in the SBGW263. The 24-jewel, manually wound movement has a power reserve of 72 hours and operates at a modern 4 Hz beat rate. It has an accuracy rating of +5 to – 3 seconds per day (when static).

While not exactly as jaw-dropping as the works of the finest Swiss manufacturers, we still found finissage on the Calibre 9S64 to be plenty attractive. At the very least, it certainly is more decorated than the movement of a typically mass-produced Seiko watch. Seen through the sapphire crystal case back are some well-executed decorative elements, such as the waves on the surface of the plate, the polish on the mainspring barrel cap and screw heads, and the circular graining on the base plate.

The Calibre 9S64 as seen through the sapphire crystal case back.

The Competitive Landscape

Grand Seiko are no strangers to decorative dials – some would even say that they are the masters of it. Prime examples of this (among others) are the SBGZ001 from 2019 which features the brand’s signature snowflake dial in silver, and also the SBGW263 with its hand-engraved dial. The SBGW264 itself has an intricately machine-engraved dial with a striking colour choice. One can’t help but wish that the dial were hand-engraved, but according to Grand Seiko, the delicateness of the pattern design made it unpractical to do so. As part of the 60th Anniversary Limited Edition release, the SBGW264 is limited to only 120 pieces and is priced at a substantial EUR25,000. The burning question is, how does it compare against other like-watches in the market?

One watch that comes to mind immediately is the A. Lange & Söhne Saxonia Thin with copper blue dial. Much like the SBGW264, the Saxonia Thin in question is time-only and manually wound, though it lacks a seconds function. Its dial is solid silver, but faced with stunning aventurine glass. The effect that this achieves is a visage that sparkles like a night sky full of stars. While it has the same case diameter as the SBGW264, the Saxonia Thin is only about half as thick. This makes the watch a dressier (and some would say feminine due to the dial) option than the Grand Seiko. The Saxonia Thin also boasts a movement that objectively bests the Calibre 9S64 in finissage, as Lange watches tend to do. If one prefers the more demure design of the Saxonia Thin with copper blue dial, then at ‘only’ EUR22,300, it offers better value for money than the SBGW264.

The Saxonia Thin is simple in design, just as a dress watch should be.

Another recent timepiece that bears mentioning is the Jaeger-LeCoultre Master Ultra Thin Moon Enamel. The watch is adorned with a guilloched blue enamel dial that is iridescent like the SBGW264’s green dial. It also has a new polished moon for its moon phase display, as well as an engraved date counter. Unsurprisingly, the Master Ultra Thin Moon Enamel drew critical acclaim upon its introduction. Priced at USD34,700, it is the priciest piece of the lot but given that it comes with plenty of adornment as well as two complications, we’d say the watch offers good value.

The Master Ultra Thin Moon is part of a series of timepieces with the same aesthetic treatment: blue guilloched enamel dial and engraved counters.

Final Thoughts

The Grand Seiko 60th Anniversary Limited Edition SBGW264 is unmistakable with its green engraved dial, signature hands and markers, and attractively finished calibre. It provides a more accessible alternative to the SBGW263 – in terms of pricing and availability – ensuring that more clients get to join in on the celebration of Grand Seiko’s 60th birthday. Overall, the watch is a fine specimen that showcases the amazing capabilities of Grand Seiko and its studio in Shizukuishi, albeit one that is slightly dear in pricing.

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3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Review: Tranquility on a Dial – The Grand Seiko 60th Anniversary Limited Edition SBGW264 | Wristwatch News

  2. Thank you for the enjoyable review, Frank.

    I particularly like the intricate green dial, and the simplicity of the case, but I cannot get over the price. When a Lange can be described as comparative good value, you kind of know that there’s a value proposition issue here…

    • Thank you, Daryll. To be fair, Lange does offer a lot for the money you pay – more so in the past but still true today. That said, I also agree with you that Grand Seiko could’ve done better with the pricing of the SBGW264.