Blindsided by brilliance: three Grand Seiko watches from 2020 that we never saw comingZach Blass
Grand Seiko and their meticulous artistry never cease to amaze me. Each watch has a rich back story with every dial tone, texture, case form and finish carefully selected in order to best convey the brand’s grammar of design. Their relationship with Japanese culture and the nature that surrounds their workshops really shines through in each reference – nothing they produce is ever random. Due to this thoughtful curation of design, the catalogue of Grand Seiko watches announced each year are anything but stale and continue to elevate and evolve the brand’s standing worldwide. Here are three of the most surprising Grand Seiko releases of 2020.
1. The 9SA5 debuting in steel with the Grand Seiko SLGH003 Limited Edition
The SLGH003 was an incredibly welcome surprise back in October. The 9SA5 caliber is a new and revolutionary movement designed by Grand Seiko, introducing a full balance bridge, over-coiled hairspring, and most notably: a dual-impulse escapement and free-sprung balance. With the sixth and final chapter of the Grand Seiko 60th Anniversary Limited Editions, I do not think anyone expected yet another limited edition with a gorgeous blue dial – but boy were we all happy when we found out.
Previously the 9SA5 caliber was only used in the yellow gold SLGH002 it debuted in. The SLGH002 was announced in March 2020 and was priced at $43,000 USD – not the most approachable price for your average watch collector. The SLGH003 and its stainless-steel case, meant that, just seven months after the 9SA5 was unveiled, prospective buyers could actually obtain a watch powered by that same new caliber for under $10,000 USD.
2. The Spring Drive GMT Sport scaling down to 40.5mm and the SBGE263 introducing the GS9 Club to the United States
The Spring Drive GMT Sport collection has attracted buyers due to the colourful sapphire-crystal bezels and highly robust and accurate builds. But although the original size of the Spring Drive GMT Sport watches wear more compact than the original 44mm diameter suggests, some were still intimidated by the specification and felt the watch was too large. This year Grand Seiko finally heeded these collectors and created a new Spring Drive GMT Sport collection with cases 40.5mm in diameter – much more approachable for smaller wrists. These watches, for the most part, shared the same design elements, with one of the key differences being a ceramic bezel instead of a sapphire one.
Last month, the SBGE263 was announced alongside the arrival of the GS9 Club to the United States. The SBGE263 is a US market exclusive, only available in boutiques and the GS9 Shop. At first glance, you may question the correlation between the design and the US market it was intended for – but look deeper and it all begins to make sense. Grand Seiko watches are typically inspired by Japanese philosophy and nature, but in this instance the brand incorporates the eagle into its design. The bald eagle has great symbolism here in America as the national bird, and Grand Seiko has captured the brown of the feathers on its body and the yellow beige colour of its beak. All up, it’s yet another incredibly thoughtful design.
3. The SBGD205 and its tasteful and artistic use of diamonds and sapphires
Grand Seiko watches are known for their stunning dials and incredible Zaratsu finishes. It is very rare they incorporate precious gemstones or diamonds into their creations. But the SBGD205 is proof that Grand Seiko artisans and designers are not immune to a bit of bling. A limited edition of 10 pieces, the SBGD205 takes its inspiration from the winter mornings in Shinshu, the area where this and every Grand Seiko Spring Drive watch is made.
The dial evokes the tiny ice crystals that shimmer on a cold, clear morning in the Shinshu region, with a “diamond dust” texture that creates a subtle sparkle and unique beauty. While iced out with diamonds and blue sapphires, Grand Seiko retains their grammar of design principles – maintaining the connection between its aesthetic/build and Japanese culture/nature. Outside of celebrity culture, diamond watches don’t get always get a lot of attention from men these days – but this watch certainly caught my eye.