2019 may be the year of Grand Seiko, having already launched its gorgeous new SBGK hand-wound models prior to Basel. Putting out an entire new collection of watches, featuring a new movement, even before Baselworld was a very gutsy move, one that implied that Seiko had even more big releases waiting for the big show.
Which, of course, they did.
As you may already know, 2019 marks the 20th Anniversary of the spring drive, an event that neither GS fans nor Grand Seiko itself could forget. Unsurprisingly, spring drives take center stage for 2019. While all are beautiful, it's this, the truly all-new SBGZ001, that warrants our attention most.
The SBGZ001, seen above, represents one of the finest dress watches to ever come out of Japan, or perhaps the world. The SBGZ001, is, in essence, the Snowflake of Snowflakes, the iconic snow-inspired dial encapsulated, for the first, and perhaps only, time in a hand-crafted platinum case. But it's more than just a pretty face.
Because inside you'll find the brand-new 9R02, arguably the most sophisticated movement Grand Seiko has ever produced. If you'll permit me a brief aside, this is one of the things I've always admired about Grand Seiko. No one was seriously asking for a better spring drive--they might want the power reserve on the back (and, indeed, they're getting it), but the various currently available spring drives are both incredibly reliable and extremely accurate. That GS would take the time to over-engineer an all-new version of the spring drive is irrational, and wonderful.
I'll get into the movement more deeply in a future article, but we can at least take a look at what GS has updated from the 9R01, primarily its Torque Return System (TRS). For the first 48 hours after the watch has been fully wound, the TRS takes the excess power from the mainspring and uses it to rewind the watch. As a result, the power reserve on the 9R02 is an impressive 84 hours.
The SBGZ001 is a 38.5mm platinum watch, just 9.8mm thick (quite thin for a spring drive), and is a limited edition of 30. The price is $76,000.
The next watch we'll examine is the SBGZ003, a very similar model, but without the snowflake texture on either the dial or case. This is quite a bit more discreet than the SBGZ001, but keeps its amazing 9R02 movement and platinum 38.5mm case.
It's a relative bargain, too, at just $57,000 USD.
Next we look at a new high-end Snowflake, the SBGY002. Like the others, it's in a 38.5mm case, but this time in yellow gold.
However, unlike the watches above, the SBGY002 doesn't have the 9R02, but yet another new spring drive, the 9R31. Everyone will be delighted to know the power reserve indicator is once again on the back, signaling that yes, GS is listening to its fans.
I don't know too much about the 9R31 just yet, except that it's also hand wound and that it lacks the TRS of the 9R02. It has the "normal" 72 hour power reserve found on other GS spring drives as well. Perhaps owing to the movement, the SBGY002 is considerably more affordable at $25,000.
And finally we arrive at the SBGY003, also powered by the 9R31. I haven't been able to see this one yet, so it remains somewhat mysterious, but it is, believe it or not, the most exciting of the new models, and that's because, despite having a new hand-wound spring drive movement with power reserve in the back, it's just $7,600. Yes, Grand Seiko doesn't exclusively make Patek-competitors these days. That is, of course, due to its stainless steel case, but regardless, it'll probably be gone quite quickly since only 700 will be made. Click here to reserve yours.
But Grand Seiko isn't out of surprises just yet. 2019 marks the entrance of an all-new case for the Sport line, featured in three new models, and no doubt many to come down the road.
As you can see, the new sport case is much more angular than current-generation GS cases. Grand Seiko claims it was inspired by the claws of a lion , but if I had to guess, it may be inspire by the obscure 4520-7000, although it's much narrower (and more attractive) than that watch. I like it.
It's got a nice curvature to it as well, which makes me think it'll sit quite comfortably, and the chronograph pushers are both concave and textured so that your finger doesn't slip off. Details count with GS.
The first of the three new Sport watches we'll look at is the SBGC230.
The SBGC230 is the flagship of the three, owing to its rose gold case. It also features a special 9R96 movement, like the only other chronograph in this case, accurate to just 0.5 seconds per day. Only 100 will be made, and they're $42,000 a piece.
The next model, the SBC231, is considerably more affordable thanks to its titanium case, but it still has the high-end 9R96 chronograph movement. I also prefer its dial, which is said to be inspired by a lion's mane. These are $12,900 a piece, and 500 will be made. Click here to pre-order yours.
My favorite of the three is, as usual, the most affordable at $10,600. Like the chronograph above, it has a 44.5mm titanium case, but it uses the 9R15 instead of the 9R96, allowing for a simpler dial and a case without pushers. But mostly, I just prefer the cool green dial. They'll make 500 of the SBGA403, and you can pre-order yours here.
When Grand Seiko came out with an all-new movement just for women, it was a safe bet they weren't going to use it for a single model. Grand Seiko is making a new commitment to women's watches, revealing 5 new models for 2019.