Dan at Timeless Watch Exchange was kind enough to let me look at some of his new models when I stopped by to pick up my new GS the other day and I wanted to give my impressions of some of the interesting models there, starting with the Seikos that surprised me the most, the new versions of the mechanical GMT, the SBGM031. There are actually two versions of this watch, the second being the more "aggressive" and sportier version on a bracelet, the SBGM029. A lot of people confuse these on a glance, so here's a little comparison between Seiko's stock photos so you know what to ask for when you order one. We'll be looking at both.
This is the SBGM029
And here's the 31.
Here's a tip for those that are still getting to know Grand Seiko. When you see letters SBGM, you know you're dealing with a mechanical GMT model. That's got an intuitive appeal due to the "GM."
Anyway, while these two models are superficially similar, due to the color scheme, they really have little in common. The 29 has a much sportier bezel, but a cleaner dial and a much longer GMT hand. So make sure you've got the right one when you order it.
Alright, so now for some real photos of the 31:
Edit: There are some sort of technical problems with the original high def photos, so I've added low-res duplicates copied over in a different way until I can get the high-res ones sorted out, so if you see duplicates, I apologize, I'll try to get it working tomorrow when my internet is much faster.
The thing that really struck me is that in all the stock photos I'd seen, the hands and GMT numbers were "painted" orange or yellow. That's just because Seiko, like most watch companies, oddly, take terrible stock photos. In real life, the GMT hand and GMT numbers look like they're yellow gold. It actually looks great.
This image shows off the gold "metallic" look of the hands and numerals. As I've complained about before, and although Dan is great at taking photos, GSes just don't photograph well. In real life, these details leave an impression, where in photos, you're struggling to see what I'm talking about.
Another interesting thing about these models is that they use brushed hands as opposed to the standard mirror polished ones. It actually does look nice, although I think I'm going to stick with my ordinary polished ones. This may be due to the fact that the blue dial is actually pretty shiny in direct light (to increase contrast).
This is probably the part that's going to generate the most conversation and controversy. These two GSes use a really unique rotor. In actual appearance, it has a sort of "fiber" look, as in, it kind of looks like blue carbon fiber. I'm not sure why that's the case, since apparently the blue disk is titanium and the actual rotor (you can see where it's mounted by the little ball bearing-looking things on the bottom of the rotor) is made from tungsten.
This photo shows the "fiber" look a little better. The rotor actually is pretty cool in real life, although I wish it covered less of the movement. It's interesting to see the rotor stay basically perfectly still as you rotate the watch around in your hand, I suppose as a byproduct of the ultra-heavy rotor. It is more impressive than, say, my 8500 rotor because to see the half-rotor on an ordinary watch stay at the bottom makes visual sense. When the entire "disk" of this watch stays still, it's a bit more mystifying, like watching the RR in a Rolls Royce wheel maintain its position.
This shows the watch's cool thick, domed, double-curved and AR coated sapphire.
A word on the movements of both of these models. They use the 9S66 movement, which, other than the custom rotor, is more or less the same thing as the ordinary 9S66 (the GMT version of the 9S65). Thus, it shares the excellent stats of the ordinary 9S6X models, like a 72 hour power reserve, 35 jewels, and 28,800 BPH. Interestingly, and for no particular reason I know of, Seiko actually is rating these two watches with a better than GS chronometer spec range. According to Seiko, these are certified to an amazing +5/-2 (!), which is one second tighter than even my 9S85's +5/-3. Thus, these are the second most accurate mechanical Seikos sold today, and among the most accurate mechanical watches ever made. That stat is from Seiko's official webpage, so I take it as true. I have also read, via forums, that this new rotor design may be to somehow increase shock resistance, but I haven't seen it in official Seiko literature yet, so take it with a grain of salt.
Here are some photos of the sportier model, the 029, although in terms of movement (and cool blue rotor) they are identical so far as I'm aware:
In photos, this looks like a much larger watch than the 031. But it's actually almost the exact same size in real life, nearly 40mm.
Here you can see the big non-rotating GMT bezel, which allows them to clean up the dial a little by removing those GMT numbers. As another side-effect of this choice, they've greater increased the length of the GMT hand to point to the bezel. So you get a busier case and a cleaner dial overall.
In a sense, I see this, and the other models like it, as a direct competitor to the Rolex Explorer 2. I actually really like the Explorer 2, but I have always found its bezel unimpressive. The extremely low grit polishing on the Explorer 2 looks amateurish to me. Seiko's finer polish looks nicer. I also prefer the gold GMT hand to the Explorer 2's orange (although I did like the old red one quite a bit). As per the milk white dial versus the shiny blue one, I could go either way. Both great watches for GMT fans. Of course, only one of them has a Grand Seiko movement.
Personally, I'm not a big fan of crown guards, but this one fits the case quite well.
It's really difficult to photograph, like all GS dials, but the dial is actually a really polished, shiny blue. It kind of reminds me of the Planet Ocean Liquid Metal.
This photo shows the dial a bit better (notice that those aren't just shadows of the hands; they're reflections) but I like it to show the dual curved sapphire. On less nice watches with curved sapphire, at extreme angles, there's substantial distortion because they are only curved on one side and thus the thickness of the crystal increases dramatically at sharp angles. On a GS, dual curved sapphire crystal is used that eliminates this distortion--you can look through the crystal at virtually any angle and see straight through as if the crystal were invisible. Also note that this model does not use the super domed sapphire of the 031.
So there you have it: Two really impressive GSes from Timeless Watch Exchange. If these do it for you, I'd call him soon because these look to me like a big collector's item. For those who complain that GS doesn't take enough chances, here's your watch. Shiny blue dial with gold GMT accents and that crazy rotor. Particularly the 29 is impressive as an aggressive, sporty watch, but it's not over the top. As you can see, outside of direct light, the dial is a very dark blue and is subdued. But it just lights up in sunlight.
So give Dan a call at Timeless Watch Exchange and order a GS.
And you can leave with this: