HANDS-ON: The Grand Seiko SBGH279 with brushed granite-grey dial is a total smokeshowFergus Nash
Grand Seiko’s growing reputation over the last few years has been because of three main factors — outstanding quality, mind-boggling value for money, and the most refreshingly expressive dials. As such, it’s not often one of these uniquely dialled watches flies under the radar upon release, but that’s exactly what the SBGH279 aims to do. With equal parts smoky handsomeness and restraint, Grand Seiko’s Heritage collection has received a new subtle standout.
Instant amazement may not be your initial response to the SBGH279. Its dial hasn’t pioneered any new technologies, nor has it recontextualised time-honoured techniques, or reflected any natural elements. What is does have, simply, is a vertically brushed granite-grey dial, shifting in different lights to have hints of steel blue and even light mocha. The point of the watch is not to bombard you with flair, but to offer a small amount of texture and life, which sets it apart from its black or sunburst-dialled counterparts. While still being able to blend with a wide variety of attires, especially if strap-swapping is your thing, the SBGH279 manages to offer some intrigue when checking the time. Grand Seiko’s chisel-like baton indices and dauphine hands continue the theme of refined character, clinging onto subtlety.
As with many of the Heritage models, the SBGH279 uses the legendary 44GS case shape. Measuring 40mm in diameter and 46.2mm lug-to-lug, the low sloping profile seems to drape across the wrist with its wide, flowing lugs aggressively bevelled for a balance of refined beauty and sharp character. It’s certainly not without vintage charm, but the larger sizing and Grand Seiko’s modern logo taking dominance of the dial means that it doesn’t lack modern presence and, as such, transcends any single time period. Alternating brushed and polished surfaces on the handsome three-link steel bracelet give it the impression of being a five-link, without the added risk of hair-tugging.
Behind a display caseback, with a ghostly Grand Seiko lion etched into the crystal, beats away the high-beat automatic calibre 9S85. Myriad modern technologies, such as Spron alloys for hairsprings and mainsprings, and MEMS manufactured escapement components, allow for these movements to beat 10 times per second while still remaining accurate, durable, and toting a practical 55-hour power reserve. Stated daily accuracies between +5 to -3 seconds keep these watches well within chronometer standards, and remind the wearer of Grand Seiko’s commitment to excellence.
The SBGH279 retails at exactly $9000AUD and is available only through Grand Seiko boutiques, though it is not a limited edition, so it shouldn’t be too tricky to track down. If you’re looking for a watch that will get compliments on the street, you probably won’t find that here. Its lack of luminous paint may make this more of an office piece, rather than a do-it-all tool watch, and the unmatched black date wheel sticks out a bit too much to be considered a pure dress watch. The SBGH279 straddles a fine line between being inoffensive and an acquired taste, meaning that the more ubiquitous black-dial SBGH205 for $50AUD less will be a more popular choice. However, if you’re looking to break the mould even slightly, the SBGH279 will certainly give you that sense of satisfaction whenever you glance at your wrist.