Grand Seiko’s latest trio of online exclusives are worth skipping the boutique experience for

Grand Seiko’s latest trio of online exclusives are worth skipping the boutique experience for

Jamie Weiss

For most watch enthusiasts, nothing quite matches the experience of visiting a watch boutique when shopping for the next addition to the collection. Whether it’s the simple act of seeing watches in the metal and trying them on yourself after lusting after them for ages – or the celebratory flute of champagne you sometimes get upon purchase – the glamour of a bricks-and-mortar shopping experience is pretty special. But not all of us live near a watch boutique, meaning that if you want a nice timepiece, then you’re going to have to shop online. Perhaps more persuasively, more and more watch brands are offering pretty hot online exclusives, which give you a reason to stay inside and shop online.

Enter Grand Seiko, the kings of limited editions, who’ve recently added three stylish new watches to their range that are, you guessed it, online exclusives. Each of the three are twists on cult-favourite Grand Seiko models and feature dark, dapper and exceptionally versatile dials. Let’s go through each of them one by one.

Grand Seiko SBGA469

Grand Seiko SBGA469 on wrist

First up, we have the SBGA469 from the Heritage Collection, a classic Spring Drive design with an intense blue textured dial. Grand Seiko says the colour of the dial is meant to evoke Katsuiro indigo, one of the deepest shades of indigo, which has been used for hundreds of years in Japan to dye samurai armour. Not only was indigo believed to bring good fortune in battle, but it’s also antibacterial and makes fabrics more durable, making it perfect for wearing under armour.

Grand Seiko SBGA469 dial

This dark Katsuiro indigo colour is combined with a multi-faceted dial texture that resembles shale-like rock. It’s a similar dial texture to the one used for the popular SBGA413 ‘Shunbun’, but rather than resembling cherry blossom leaves, the SBGA469’s dial looks more like inky, rippling water, or precious blue stones.

Grand Seiko Calibre 9R65 caseback closeup

The SBGA469 is powered by the 9R65 Spring Drive calibre, which boasts a 72-hour power reserve, exceptional precision of plus or minus 15 seconds a month on average, and a butter-smooth sweeping seconds hand, which glides above its mysterious dark indigo dial.

Brand Grand Seiko
Model Heritage Collection Katsuiro Indigo
Reference Number SBGA469
Case Dimensions 41mm (D) x 12.5mm (T) x 49mm (LTL)
Case Material Stainless steel
Water Resistance 100 metres, screw-down crown
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Dial Indigo blue with rock pattern
Lug Width 20mm
Strap Steel bracelet with folding clasp
Movement 9R65, in-house, automatic, Spring Drive
Power Reserve 72 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, date, power reserve indicator
Availability Online exclusive
Price A$7,495

Grand Seiko SLGH011

Grand Seiko SLGH011 on wrist

Next up, we have the SLGH011 from the Evolution 9 Collection, which is a green take on the award-winning and well-known SLGH005 ‘White Birch’ – so I guess we can call it the ‘Green Birch’! The White Birch’s dial was modelled after the white birch tree forests near Grand Seiko’s Studio Shizukuishi, the manufacture where all Grand Seiko mechanical watches are crafted – but instead of the stark, wintery feel of the White Birch, the Green Birch seems to express these same birch trees coming to live in spring and summer.

Grand Seiko SLGH011 dial

It’s impressive how a different colour can change the aesthetic of a watch so dramatically. The Green Birch’s darkly verdant look and chiselled, organic-looking dial contrast beautifully against the large Zaratsu-polished surfaces of its case. Depending on the light, the dial can appear almost black, but under sunlight, the green really pops. Actually, I think this dark green suits Grand Seiko’s birch texture more than the black SLGH017 ‘Black Birch’ – and in some ways, the Green Birch is more faithful to the White Birch than the Black Birch, as it’s made from stainless steel and not titanium.

Grand Seiko Calibre 9SA5 caseback closeup

Under the hood of the SLGH011 Green Birch beats the automatic mechanical Calibre 9SA5, which beats at 5 Hertz and offers a power reserve of 80 hours thanks to an efficient twin-barrel and dual-pulse escapement design, which provides enhanced energy efficiency while maintaining an impressive accuracy of +5 to -3 seconds per day.

Brand Grand Seiko
Model Evolution 9 Collection Green Birch
Reference Number SLGH011
Case Dimensions 40mm (D) x 11.7mm (T) x 47mm (LTL)
Case Material Stainless steel
Water Resistance 100 metres, screw-down crown
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Dial Dark green with birch bark pattern
Lug Width 22mm
Strap Steel bracelet with folding clasp
Movement 9SA5, in-house, automatic, 36,000 vph
Power Reserve 80 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Availability Online exclusive
Price A$13,600

Grand Seiko SLGH019

Grand Seiko SLGH019 on wrist

Finally, we’ve got the SLGH019, which is also from the Evolution 9 Collection and is also powered by the 9SA5, but unlike the other two watches I’ve just covered, features a high-intensity titanium case rather than a stainless steel one. Grand Seiko has become rightly famous for working with titanium, which is lighter and more scratch-resistant than steel yet harder to work with. However, like the SLGH011, the SLGH019’s case features an appealing combination of Zaratsu-polished distortion-free mirror finishes and delicate hairline finishes.

Grand Seiko SLGH019 dial

The SLGH019 features a blue Mt. Iwate dial, one of the Studio Shizukuishi’s signature dial textures that pays homage to the mountain of the same name that overlooks the studio. Grand Seiko says the SLGH019 was inspired by the deep blue of the night sky over this majestic peak, with the subtle twinkling of stars expressed by its Zaratsu-polished indices and hands. This dapper hue combined with the sportiness of its titanium case is an intriguing look.

Grand Seiko SLGH019

The SLGH019 features Grand Seiko’s familiar faux-five-link bracelet in titanium, with a push-button folding clasp. The SBGA469 and SLGH011 feature similar bracelets, however, theirs are made out of stainless steel. These bracelets are comfortable and pleasantly finished, although the pressed-metal clasp is a little average. This is hardly news to Grand Seiko fans.

Brand Grand Seiko
Model Evolution 9 Collection Mt Iwate In Winter
Reference Number SLGH019
Case Dimensions 40mm (D) x 11.7mm (T) x 47mm (LTL)
Case Material High-intensity titanium
Water Resistance 100 metres, screw-down crown
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Dial Blue with Mt Iwate pattern
Lug Width 22mm
Strap Titanium bracelet with folding clasp
Movement 9SA5, in-house, automatic, 36,000 vph
Power Reserve 80 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Availability Online exclusive
Price A$15,500

The verdict

Grand Seiko SLGH011

For years, high-end watchmakers stubbornly resisted offering online sales (some brands, like Rolex, still are), but the COVID-19 pandemic changed that. It also used to be that brands would reserve some models as boutique exclusives – but now the pendulum has swung, and online exclusives are becoming more and more common.

However, not all online exclusives are made equal. The Grand Seiko SBGA469, SLGH011, and SLGH019 are a cut above the rest: these are three watches that are worth skipping the boutique experience for. At the end of the day, luxury is exclusivity, and what’s more exclusive than an interesting take on a Grand Seiko classic?

Grand Seiko SBGA469, SLGH011, and SLGH019 pricing & availability

The Grand Seiko SBGA469, SLGH011, and SLGH019 are available now and exclusively from Grand Seiko’s online boutique. Price: A$7,495 (SBGA469), A$13,600 (SLGH011), A$15,500 (SLGH019).