HANDS-ON: The Grand Seiko SBGY023 GS9 Club USA Limited Edition is yet another GS we wish was standard production HANDS-ON: The Grand Seiko SBGY023 GS9 Club USA Limited Edition is yet another GS we wish was standard production

HANDS-ON: The Grand Seiko SBGY023 GS9 Club USA Limited Edition is yet another GS we wish was standard production

Zach Blass

I know many of us jest at the frequency with which Grand Seiko releases limited editions. To be fair, plenty of other brands are guilty of repeated limited-edition novelty debuts. But, on the other side of the coin, how can we fault them? We often see people go crazy for limited editions, especially Grand Seiko regional editions that have buyers wondering if they should buy a plane ticket or call a buddy in the country to go secure one. Well, the recently unveiled Grand Seiko SBGY023 GS9 Club USA Limited Edition is yet another reference many will wish was standard production. But, it is actually one of their most restricted models to purchase, with the 299 pieces only available to GS9 Club USA members for purchase. Even with the limited scope of buyers able to purchase the watch, it did sell out rather quickly. But, I still want give you a hands-on rundown on the watch because it has the potential, due to its scarcity and beauty, to become one of the most highly sought-after Grand Seiko watches on the secondary market – assuming there are owners out there silly and opportunistic enough to part ways with theirs.

Grand Seiko SBGY023

The case

Grand Seiko SBGY023

The case form of the Grand Seiko SBGY023, which clocks in at 38.5mm in diameter, 10.2mm thick, and a super compact lug-to-lug of 43.7mm, is seemingly simple in appearance. But it is actually one of the hardest cases for Grand Seiko to perform their zaratsu finishes on. Zaratsu polishing is all about creating a distortion-free mirrored surface, and with a case front that is entirely rounded it is much more difficult to achieve. The more faceted cases like the 62GS and 44GS have flat surface facets within their geometries. This case form, which focuses more on elegance and slenderness with a 30m depth rating, has curvaceous sloped lugs and a sloped conical bezel – no straight lines. And, its entirely mirror-polished on its front side. Only the thin case sides are hairline brushed.

The dial

Grand Seiko SBGY023

Of course, the Grand Seiko SBGY023 GS9 Club USA Limited Edition has a backstory and muse for its captivating dial. But instead of capturing a natural landscape, the dial actually encapsulates a piece of historic architecture in the Shinshu region where Grand Seiko manufactures their Spring Drive watches.  Grand Seiko explains: “In Showa 9 (The ninth year of the Showa era, approximately 1934), a woodblock print, done in the style known as ukiyo-e, was created depicting the famed Matsumoto Castle of Shinshu. This castle is a National Treasure of Japan, built upon stonework, and its exterior was originally black, though it has faded to grey over the years.”

As a subtle tribute to the first USA exclusives, the dial utilizes the Kira-zuri “sparkling painting” texture paired with a warm brownish grey tone that simulates the appearance of Matsumoto Castle under dusk Autumn light. The texture and tone breaks as you hit the outer minutes track, which is rendered in an ever so slightly contrasting tone to add further depth and legibility. With the power reserve indication hosted on the full-bridge of the 9R31 Spring Drive movement inside, and the lack of a calendar complication, the dial is super clean with no strong interruptions to its dial aesthetic. Razor-sharp hours and minutes hands are expectedly found at the centre of the dial, with a hand-blued gliding central seconds hand that is hand-bent at its tip to follow the curvature of the case and the curvature of the sapphire crystal covering the dial.

The strap

Grand Seiko aptly pairs the Grand Seiko SBGY023 with a sort of dark washed gray crocodile leather strap that suits the warmth of the dial really well. It is secured to the wrist by a new twin-triggered three-fold clasp form that utilizes a largely brushed finish with a “GS” engraving.

The movement

Grand Seiko SBGY023

The visible 9R31 Spring Drive calibre inside allows the watch to remain on the thinner side due to being a manually wound movement. The full-bridge largely obscures the gears beneath, but is still very worthy of exhibition when you consider the power reserve indication and the beautiful decoration of the full-bridge with a rich hairline brush finish and celestial constellation cut-out placement for jewels and sneak-peaks beneath. With 72 hours of power reserve, you only have to wind it every three days and it runs incredibly accurate within a second per day (typically better) so there is a lot to love there.

The verdict

If the only bad thing I can say about the watch is that it is so limited most people will not be able to enjoy it on their wrist, then I think it is fair to say that this is a very strong release from the brand. The Shinshu Matsumoto Castle is a wonderful tie-in, and its dynamic warm grey hue and kira-zuri texture and sparkle makes it one of the most compelling Grand Seiko dials of the year in my opinion. Again, the only shame is that you cannot buy it.

Grand Seiko SBGY023 pricing and availability:

The Grand Seiko SBGY023 GS9 Club USA Limited Edition is now sold out.

For more information on the GS9 Club, and requirements for membership, you can click here.

Brand Grand Seiko
Model SBGY023 GS9 Club USA Limited Edition
Case Diameter 38.5mm (D) x 10.2mm (T) x 43.7mm (L2L)
Case Material Stainless Steel
Water Resistance 30m
Dial Brown/Grey kira-zuri
Crystal Dual curve sapphire crystal and sapphire caseback
Strap Crocodile leather with three-fold clasp
Lug Width 19mm
Movement In-house manually-wound Spring Drive calibre 9R31
Power Reserve 72 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, power reserve
Availability Exclusive to GS9 Club USA Members, limited to 299 pcs. (sold out)
Price US$8,500