As we should all know by now, 2020 is the 60th anniversary of the launch of Grand Seiko, and while they have released a number of watches linked to this special birthday, this collection of Grand Seiko “firsts” might be the most significant yet. Based on the first-ever Grand Seiko to be born in the Suwa Seikosha factory and powered by the famed 3180 caliber, this latest collection features three references in platinum (SBGW257), yellow gold (SBGW258) and the firm’s proprietary Brilliant Hard Titanium (SBGW259). The three different references in three different metals all offer a totally different experience of this simple but beautifully designed template for a dress watch par excellence. Each blends the vintage design cues of the case and dial with the thoroughly contemporary Grand Seiko caliber 9S64.
In typical Grand Seiko style, they are not reinventing the wheel, but slowly improving the fundamentals of their watchmaking until even the most basic elements are approaching the best in the world. This quiet mission is something we see expressed in these on-the-surface simple wristwatches. You might recognise them from a series of limited edition pieces released in 2017 (which we looked at here and here) that also used the first Grand Seiko references as inspiration. But they were released to commemorate Grand Seiko being established as an independent brand, and were not regular production models, as the 2020 references are. Fortunately, for anyone who missed out on those limited editions three years ago, all three of the 2020 references are not limited in their production numbers.
These new references have tastefully modern case sizes at 38mm in diameter, and would easily slip under the cuff at 10.9mm tall. If you wanted an almost perfectly sized dress watch, those dimension would be pretty close to the money. One difference in these new references, both from the previous limited editions in 2017 and the original inspirations from 1960, is that they feature exhibition casebacks, a modern touch to show off the finely finished manual-wind movement housed within. The Grand Seiko caliber 9S64 in question features 72 hours of power reserve, oscillates at 28,800 vph and is rated to be accurate to within +5/-3 seconds per day.
Taking stock of the different case materials, the platinum SBGW257 is the most luxurious, while also being the most subtle with a radially brushed silver dial. The dial is finely brushed, and complements the platinum case well. The dial is solid gold, and features an engraved logo at the 12 o’clock position. By contrast, the solid gold dial of the SBGW258 in yellow gold features a logo that is raised slightly. The differences in these logo application techniques can also be seen in the dials of early first Grand Seiko watches at the beginning of the 1960s, with carved, applied and printed techniques all being used. The yellow gold SBGW258 is more evidently a precious metal dress watch, and has a more classic appearance as a result, paired with a brown leather strap that both contrasts and complements the warmth of the metal.
Finally, the most affordable and most unusual of the trio is the SBGW259 cased in Brilliant Hard Titanium. We’d agree that titanium is a strange choice of metal for a conservative dress watch, and is more commonly seen in tool watches that take advantage of its material properties, however the pursuit of function alongside form has not been forgotten just because it is a vintage-inspired watch. Brilliant Hard Titanium is an alloy we first saw in the Grand Seiko SBGR305 (which was a modern interpretation of the Grand Seiko first, and was also released in 2017), and has been chosen as it is harder than steel, making it more scratch resistant, and can be polished to a more brilliant finish than typical watchmaking steel. The blue dial of this reference is also the first time we have seen the hue in this vintage-inspired case, perhaps leaning into the clear market demand for blue dials on everyday watches.
As a trio, these latest expressions of the first Grand Seiko are a distilled lesson in what the brand has done so well over the last 60 years. Accurate, robust movements and material innovation cased in classic watchmaking design. If this is the recipe for the next 60 years, we won’t have much to complain about.
Australian Pricing and availability of the Grand Seiko first trio:
The Grand Seiko SBGW257 in platinum has an Australian RRP of $57,000. The Grand Seiko SBGW258 in yellow gold has an Australian RRP of $38,950. The Grand Seiko SBGW259 in Brilliant Hard Titanium has an Australian RRP of $11,950. None of the references are limited in production numbers.
Made in partnership with Grand Seiko. However, the opinions expressed in this article are our own in accordance with our Editorial Policy.