Looking at these two Grand Seiko GMTs, it’s easy to see how the world has changed from the time when the complication was invented. What began as an essential tool for pilots crossing the skies with a priority on legibility and simplicity has evolved into a different artform altogether. This centres around the creative, and aesthetically pleasing combination of two colours on the bezel. Grand Seiko has furthered this trope with specific attention to the way this code plays out on the bezel when both the sun and moon are in the sky.
The colour scheme chosen by Grand Seiko in these models are not the boldly contrasted primary colours we’ve become accustomed to on modern dual-time zone watches. These hues take on a dark but slightly pastel shade, evoking the sense of some sun-drenched fading and giving the watch just the right amount of vintage flair. While the crisp icy-white highlights and bezel section add to the summer zing of the watches, they also serve a function. Anything white on the sapphire-covered bezel is actually Seiko’s legendary LumiBrite, making it easy to read the GMT time in low light conditions. Plus, who doesn’t love showing huge globs of lume off as a party trick? Another odd feature of the bezel is the asymmetric colour split, avoiding having the 18 and 6 split down the centre to pare the bezel into neat halves. This is a simple solution to a problem I didn’t even know I had with GMT bezels, and from now on I can tell split numbers will annoy me on other watches.
Aside from the 4 o’clock date window, neatly framed with bevelled stainless steel to prevent it looking like an afterthought, the style of the dial is classic Grand Seiko. Big, bold, applied indices with stocky, angular hands place the watch in a firmly sporty category — a sentiment echoed by the 200m water resistance and ability to cope with large shocks. On the SBGJ237 the alternating brushed and polished surfaces of the bracelet complement the case well, meaning that the overall look of the watch is quite complicated but not unbalanced. For the SBGJ239, a brown alligator strap allows the hazy green to not appear too cold, and makes the red GMT hand and text burst off the dial.
The 9S86 Hi-Beat movement ticks away smoothly at 36,000 vph, although sadly it is hidden away behind Grand Seiko’s lion emblem. Its 55 hours of power reserve is impressive for a high-rate movement, and the stated accuracy of -5 to +3 seconds per day is as spot on as anyone can hope for in this price bracket. The quick-set GMT function allows for the display of three separate time zones between the regular hands, the 24h chapter ring, and the GMT bezel.
The 4 o’clock crown is both a great Seiko hallmark, as well as a way of slimming the diameter of the 44.2mm case. Usually the case for big Seikos is that their lug-to-lug measurement is relatively small, however these look to be a more standard proportion, meaning that you’ll need slightly chunkier wrists to pull it off. The oversize look isn’t out of place, though, as the bombastic and tool-oriented design is supposed to easily catch the eye.
Both of these Hi-Beat GMTs run close to the $10,000AUD mark with the green-dialled SBGJ239 available as a boutique exclusive at $9750AUD, and the blue-on-bracelet SBGJ237 a few hundred more, but won’t be available until August. At this price range they compete extraordinarily well with other high-end GMTs, especially with the level of finishing you get from a Grand Seiko. It’s clear that the Japanese giant’s takeover of the watch world isn’t slowing down in 2020.
Check out the Grand Seiko SBGJ239 at the Grand Seiko online boutique right here.