HANDS ON: The Grand Seiko GMT Seasons Collection – Japanese dial mastery inspired by nature HANDS ON: The Grand Seiko GMT Seasons Collection – Japanese dial mastery inspired by nature

HANDS ON: The Grand Seiko GMT Seasons Collection – Japanese dial mastery inspired by nature

Thor Svaboe

As you might know, I am a bit of a dial fetishist, so when faced with a new limited collection from Grand Seiko, the risk is always there – that fear of repeating myself or getting so carried away that I overreach and baffle you with new adjectives that I’ve accidentally made up in an effort to express the magnificence on display. So consider this a warning. Because with the The Grand Seiko GMT Seasons Collection, the proof is once again in the dials.

The Cases

Let’s just be honest, last year we were jealous. The 2020 Four Seasons collection, including Zach’s pink Shunbun delight here, was not made available outside the US, a mark of Grand Seiko’s rapid rise to establish itself as one of the top five luxury watch brands in the US of A. So for most of us that release was bittersweet joy, but this time we have the globally released GMT Seasons collection. They are all set within Grand Seiko’s still sharp, but more pronounced circular case, a fitting frame to the nature-inspired dials. The Zaratsu-polished and lightly brushed cases com in two sizes, at a near perfect 39.5 and 40.2mm. The Spring Drive movements take up a bit more space, but that might just be worth it.

For a quite dressy 40mm watch, we do expect Grand Seiko to be a bit on the chunky side, the reason being a built-for-toughness credo you might find at odds with the delicate Zaratsu-finish. What this means, however, is that they are Built To Last. At 14mm, the case seems less than slim on paper, but the magic of a well-rounded, polished case side will have you feeling a much more slender shape on your wrist.

With a reserved dome on the sapphire crystal, and a polished sloping bezel, balance and ergonomics are on point, sharp to the smallest detail with smooth sweeping downturned lugs. The cases on the GMT’s are among the roundest and less angular of Grand Seiko’s offerings. What better way to perfectly frame what we came here for, the dials..

SBGJ251 Shunbun


The SBGJ251 invites us on a virtual tour of Japanese nature, its Shunbun dial bringing the deep green textured surface of Spring, with its pink gold tone GMT arrow a symbol of the first cherry blossom making itself known through the foliage. The razor-sharp sword hands are instantly recognisable Grand Seiko calling cards, with an inner 24-hour scale making this an eminently readable travel companion for the trip to see the cherry blossoming season in Tokyo. In a year of green dial focus, Grand Seiko does it effortlessly, with a sense of timeless elegance far removed from any mere dial fashion.

SBGJ249 Shōsho

Just like the SBGJ251, here we have a hi-beat 9S86-powered reference, the SBGJ249 has an instantly recognisable smooth seconds hand only possible with a 36,000vph movement, an easy and quickly adjustable GMT function, and that dial! The Shōsho has an icy cool river-like structure, like ripples in the water by the warm winds of high summer. With its blue-tinged wave structure accentuated by pops of delicate blue, I imagine this would go oh-so perfectly with a dark blue suit. You might imagine it looking great on perhaps a brown Horween leather strap, but with the soft bracelet comfort of the Speedy-ish three-link steel, you’ll have a job trying to convince yourself to take it off. The hi-beat accuracy of +5/-3 sec in the 9S86 calibre will make sure you’re on time, even with those lost minutes peering down at the dial..

SBGE271 Kanro

On the dial of the SBGE271 Kanro there’s a tell-tale sign of a power reserve crescent at 8 and the fluid sweep of the seconds on the slightly larger dial, signalling a Spring Drive mechanical heart in the caliber 9R66. This offers unparalleled accuracy for a mechanical watch, running within +/- 15 seconds per month or +/- 1 second per day – and that’s even quite a conservative estimate of the hybrid magic imbued by Spring Drive. The Kanro has a subtle texture in its dark charcoal almost black dial, evoking the dark autumn night sky, gold-toned GMT hand and accents creating an elegant twist and a perfect sparring partner to the shimmering dark dial surface. 

SBGE269 Tōji 

The Tōji is like the Kanro also powered by the 9R66 Spring Drive movement, and the dial on these two is also slightly different from their Hi Beat cousins, in a longer, more delicate GMT hand, pointing to a 24 hour scale within the outer minute track. This creates a calmer dial scene, Grand Seiko’s hand-finished indices making sure any sliver of light gets translated to pure legibility, each wink of reflection reminding us of of the almost poetic craftsmanship.

The Toji is easily recognized as inspired by the Winter Soltstice, its grained silver-white texture a crisp vision of purity in what might be my favourite in this GMT collection. The case is still the perfect blend of dynamic sweeping lugs and Zaratsu-infused curvaceous mid case, the quite large crown dialling up a more sporty aesthetic. The lack of contrast in the dial and case in the Toji creates a graphic monochrome vision, perfectly balanced with the discreet polished pop of a pink gold slender GMT arrow, and what better choice for the first intercontinental flight of 2021, perhaps to the Tokyo Olympics?

The Grand Seiko GMT Seasons Collection pricing and availability:

The Grand Seiko GMT Seasons Collection are available from Grand Seiko.

The Grand Seiko SBGJ251 and SBGJ249 are priced at $6,800 USD

The Grand Seiko SBGE271 and SBGE269 are priced at $6,000 USD

Made in partnership with Grand Seiko. However, the opinions expressed in this article are our own in accordance with our Editorial Policy.