Living the jet set lifestyle for a day with the Grand Seiko SBGE285 Spring Drive GMT Living the jet set lifestyle for a day with the Grand Seiko SBGE285 Spring Drive GMT

Living the jet set lifestyle for a day with the Grand Seiko SBGE285 Spring Drive GMT

Jamie Weiss

Immortalised by Federico Fellini in his iconic film La Dolce Vita, the lifestyle of the jet set – flying from country to country on a whim, driving fast cars, wearing the finest clothes and eating the most sumptuous foods – is incredibly glamorous. I think I’d fit right in with them… Except I’m just a poor writer with an expensive hobby for watches.

Thankfully, I recently had the chance to join Grand Seiko for their first Australian GS9 Club event, a luxurious driving experience titled the ‘Spring Drive’, which saw GS9 Club members get behind the wheel of four top supercars on a spirited rally through Sydney, followed with a decadent lunch on the Hawkesbury River and topped off with a yacht party on Sydney Harbour. It was a taste of the jet set lifestyle – some people get to live like that every day, but it was a bit of cosplay for me.

fwd spring drive ferrari

During the day, I was given a Grand Seiko SBGE285 Spring Drive GMT to wear, which was a treat in itself. Maybe a chronograph might have been a more obvious choice for a day of high-octane thrills – but actually, this refined yet sporty world-traveller’s watch is exactly the sort of thing I’d imagine a globetrotting millionaire with exceptional taste would choose as their daily wearer.

A high-performance GMT

grand seiko evolution 9 gmt spring drive sbge295 ferrari engine cover

A bit of backgrounding. The SBGE285 is the second example of Grand Seiko’s new Evolution 9 design language to be released, with the first being the now-iconic SLGH005 ‘White Birch’, and the first to be imagined in high-intensity titanium. Essentially a homage to the design principles laid down by the legendary 44GS from 1967, Evolution 9 watches are so named because they follow 9 clear design standards, including curved side profiles, flat dials and multi-faceted cases with flat upper surfaces and contrasting finishing.

grand seiko evolution 9 gmt spring drive sbge295 side

The SBGE285 perhaps demonstrates Evolution 9 design better than any other Grand Seiko. The top of the watch is extremely flat, with a flat crystal and fixed titanium GMT bezel, which contrasts against the shapely curve of its 41mm case, which hugs the wrist and helps the watch have a low centre of gravity – another Evolution 9 calling card. Factor in its lightweight titanium construction, a dial-side power reserve indicator and a generous amount of lume across its indices and hands, and it’s not hard to see why the SBGE285 is one of the sportiest GMT watch Grand Seiko has ever produced. In my opinion, at least.

grand seiko evolution 9 gmt spring drive sbge295 mclaren wheel

At 41mm, it’s not exactly small (although I have big wrists), yet it wears smaller than its dimensions suggest and it’s so, so light. It’s one of the most effortless watches I’ve ever worn, it’s so well-balanced. I barely even noticed it while whipping around corners in Ferraris, Lamborghinis and McLarens at high speed. Boys and their toys… Its light weight also makes it the perfect travel watch, as does its GMT complication. You need something breezy to wear during the 13-hour flight between Tokyo and New York, dahling.

Sporty yet refined

grand seiko evolution 9 gmt spring drive sbge295 profile

Indeed, balance is kind of the thesis of the SBGE285, which is as dapper as it is easy to wear. For example, take its dial, which Grand Seiko says is inspired by the winter morning mist that envelops the mountains of Nagano (the home of Seiko’s Shinshu Spring Drive manufacture). Subtle yet complex, it’s similar to the texture of the legendary SBGA211 ‘Snowflake’, which has led many fans to dub the SBGE285 the ‘Snowflake GMT’. In any case, it’s an extremely dapper look. Its Zaratsu-polished case surfaces, bezel lip, hands and indices also give it a precious appearance.

grand seiko evolution 9 gmt spring drive sbge295 movement

Another part of the watch that’s exceptionally refined is its 9R66 Spring Drive movement, which can be admired through a transparent caseback – and admired is the operative word here. Some GS fans reckon the brand’s mechanical movements from their Shizukuishi manufacture are much prettier than its Spring Drive movements, which might be true, but the 9R66 in the SBGE285 is still a beautiful movement, with brilliant Geneva stripes (well, Grand Seiko doesn’t like that term – maybe these are ‘Shinshu stripes’?) adorning its bridge and rather large rotor.

The 9R66 doesn’t just look pretty, either: accurate to ±1 second per day / ±15 seconds per month on average, it’s also extremely precise – and of course, it gives the SBGE285 a butter-smooth sweeping seconds hand.

Closing thoughts

grand seiko evolution 9 gmt spring drive sbge295 lamborghini engine cover

As our former contributor Ricardo aptly put it, the SBGE285 Spring Drive GMT represents a multitude of Grand Seiko hallmarks: a beautifully textured dial, a high-intensity titanium case with Zaratsu polishing, a Spring Drive movement, and of course, Evolution 9 design. It epitomises everything that makes modern Grand Seiko so great.

I’m a sucker for GMT watches with fixed bezels: it’s why I own a Tudor Black Bay Pro and have always aspired to a Rolex Explorer II ‘Polar’. However, the SBGE285 gives the Explorer II more than a run for its money. It’s like the Polar, but from the future. Customers will be cross-shopping the two and I don’t know why you’d get the Rolex when the Grand Seiko is so much better in every way, especially if you actually plan on wearing your watch instead of squirreling it away as an investment or trophy piece.

grand seiko evolution 9 gmt spring drive sbge295 crown

The jet set has never been about “quiet luxury” – far from it. There’s nothing quiet about a Learjet or partying on the French Riviera. But I’d still like to think that an old money bon vivant with exceptional taste, the kind I’d aspire to be, would wear a Grand Seiko SBGE285 Spring Drive GMT. Maybe this is all just a flight of fancy sparked by a rare day of decadence thanks to a Japanese luxury watch brand… But what I do know is that the SBGE285 is a stand-out GMT watch and arguably the most complete watch in Grand Seiko’s current range.

Grand Seiko SBGE285 Spring Drive GMT pricing and availability

The Grand Seiko SBGE285 Spring Drive GMT is available now from all Grand Seiko boutiques and points of sale. Price: A$12,500. 

Brand Grand Seiko
Model Evolution 9 Spring Drive GMT
Reference Number SBGE285
Case Dimensions 41mm (D) x 13.9mm (T) x 48.3mm (LTL)
Case Material High-intensity titanium
Water Resistance 100 metres, screw-down crown
Crystal(s) Sapphire
Dial White, winter morning mist texture, Zaratsu-polished and lume-topped indices
Lug Width 22mm
Strap Titanium bracelet with folding clasp
Movement Grand Seiko 9R66, Spring Drive, automatic
Power Reserve 72 hours (3 days)
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, date, GMT, power reserve indicator
Availability Available now
Price A$12,500