HANDS-ON: The Grand Seiko SBGP005 is a blue/black abyss for the wristFergus Nash
For some, the idea of ‘luxury quartz’ is a complete contradiction. Since the decimation of the mechanical watch industry upon its widespread release, quartz movement technology has never shaken off that stigma that draws dirty looks from watch enthusiasts around the world. The truth is not as simple as a hero and villain, however. Once you start to view any innovation as valid innovation, a whole new world of appreciation opens up, and nobody innovates like Grand Seiko. The Grand Seiko SBGP005 is just more proof, and the sceptics are running out of excuses.
The ever-popular 44GS case has returned, with its modern-yet-modest 40mm diameter, 11.1mm thickness, and 46.2mm lug-to-lug creating a welcome set of dimensions for fitting almost any wrist, small or large. The melding of large sweeping curves and sharply angled facets give the watch all of its vintage charm, without looking too much like something from 60 years ago. It also hits the sweet spot in weight, coming in at 142g, which is heavier and thus more reassuring than you might expect from a thin quartz timepiece. The three-link bracelet utilises polished edges on the middle links to give some added visual complexity, without appearing as overly blingy and jangly as a true five-link, though the drilled lugs make changing it out for a leather strap a trivial task.
The dial, as with most Grand Seiko releases, is practically perfection. The untextured dial lives somewhere between matte and gloss, with an abyssal and complex tone of navy blue that shifts with the light as though it were a sunburst finish. You can see from the two photos above just how mercurial that blue is. The photographer in this case, was unable to catch it in the light conditions he had.
The applied hour markers are crisp and clean, with their bevelled edges perfectly meeting the tip of the hour hand, and the minute hand reaching up to the tip of the printed minute track. It’s absolutely one of the most legible dials you can find without luminous paint, and the Grand Seiko logo in gothic script carries a simple and unpretentious pride.
But it’s difficult to truly separate the case from the dial and analyse them individually. The package as a whole is somewhat ethereal and ghostly, with the deep blue hues of the dial bringing out the white notes of the stainless steel’s lustre, and no unnecessary lines of text to clutter it. The highly polished lugs and bezel are flawless, providing the perfect contrast to the brushed facets on the sides of the case and the edges before the bracelet; each element subtly framing its surroundings so that your eye doesn’t feel like it’s latching on to any one distraction in particular. The line is blurred between so many genres, as the steel case and blue dial could put this into the realm of a sports watch, however nobody would disagree that it could look fantastic in a dinner suit, or even on a trip to the beach.
If you are one of those mechanical purists, you may want to look away now. One of the biggest talking points about the SBGP005 is its use of the new 9F85 quartz movement, keeping the same breathtaking +/-10 seconds per year accuracy as the older 9F82, plus one new handy feature. The user has the ability to change the hour hand in increments without initialising the seconds hacking, meaning that you can adjust for time zones or daylight saving on the fly and not have to wait for the clock to catch up. It may not seem like the biggest breakthrough, but this transforms what was essentially a time-and-date only movement into something with GMT capabilities, opening up a whole new avenue of interest for Grand Seiko’s quartz lineup. Grand Seiko are at the forefront of proving that quartz movements are no less innovative or impressive than automatics or hand-wounds, and the lower cost of these watches creates a wonderfully low barrier to entry for a luxury item of this quality.
Whether or not the SBGP005 is for you is mainly down to one thing — the ability to love the single tick of a quartz movement. Considering the attention to detail, quality of the execution, and the history of the prestigious brand, there is still no reason to doubt the value that these high-end watches present, despite the creeping prices in recent times. It’s not just a lovely watch, but also an exciting omen for what will define luxury quartz in years to come.
Grand Seiko SBGP005 price and availability:
The Grand Seiko SBGP005 is AUD$4800 and is currently available.