Grand Seiko SBGE001 Review
The SBGE001 was one of the earlier examples of aggressive design from Grand Seiko, a brand much more closely associated with understated watches. In part due to its sporty looks and in part due to its 9R66 spring drive movement, it has remained one of GS' most popular watches.
Today Grand Seiko offers a fairly wide variety of sporty watches, even going so far as to release black ceramic models this year. But that wasn't always the case, and in some ways, we can thank the SBGE001 for the variety of sporty GSes we now enjoy.
As one of Grand Seiko's most successful watches, I was somewhat amazed that I hadn't already reviewed it. When I decided to write on it, I actually had to go back and double check I hadn't done it before. I'm an old school GS fan, so I've always leaned towards their dressier pieces, but the SBGE001 has always been an interesting model to me. I think it's probably that super cool sapphire bezel, which is rare even today.
The matte black dial is pretty busy, hosting a whopping three complications: the power reserve, date and GMT hand. Even without looking at the bezel or case, you can tell you're looking at a different kind of Grand Seiko.
Up close, we start to realize that this is, at its core, a tool watch. Note the brushed hands, which increase legibility against the dark dial compared to polished ones. The GMT hand is luminescent and bright red so it's going to be very easy to see day or night. The SBGE001, like all GMT Grand Seikos (including the mechanical/automatic ones), has a "true GMT" complication, which means the hour hand is independent. This is also how the date is changed.
The power reserve is very unique. Like most modern Seikos, it's "upside down" with full being the white portion. What makes it interesting, however, is that there are four tiny applied indices separating the three subtle colored sections.
Another big change from your average Grand Seiko is the use of lume. Lots and lots of lume. I suppose Grand Seiko had avoided using luminescent paint in so many watches that they just had tons of the stuff stockpiled so they said, what the heck, go ahead and make the bezel luminescent too. The SBGA029 may shine brighter, but this is the cooler looking watch at night.
Speaking of the bezel, it is, as I mentioned, sapphire. This makes the front of the watch extremely tough as it's almost completely impervious to scratches, the exception being a polished steel ring between the crystal and bezel.
That bezel is intended to be used in conjunction with the GMT complication and is bidirectional. While it's not technically a dive watch, the crown can be screwed in and the watch is water resistant to 200 meters. The 4:00 crown position might be another area you suspect the SBGE001 is breaking ground on, but that's actually from the 62GS, far predating it.
The case, in fitting with its overall macho theme, is quite large for a Grand Seiko at 44mm. At 14.6mm thick, it's pretty in line with other watches you might be looking at in this segment, like the recent Tudor Black Bay 2.0 I reviewed. The lug to lug distance is 50mm.
In keeping with the tool watch motif, it has a solid back. Beneath the case back rests the 9R66, a current-generation spring drive GMT movement which combines the best elements of mechanical and quartz technology. Because we can't see the movement on this watch, I recommend you check out my SBGA059 review which goes into some detail with the very similar 9R15 movement if you'd like to learn more about these fascinating horological marvels.
So that's the SBGE001, one of the most aggressive Grand Seikos ever made and well deserving of its popularity. Today, Grand Seiko fans are lucky to have a wide variety of Grand Seikos to pick, from old school pieces like my SBGH001 to new ceramic/steel hybrid models like the SBGE037. The SBGE001 has uniquely stood the test of time and is, without a doubt, one of the coolest watches the brand has ever made.