INTRODUCING: Grand Seiko kicks off 2022 with icy blue dials, one of which is kira-zuri!

INTRODUCING: Grand Seiko kicks off 2022 with icy blue dials, one of which is kira-zuri!

Zach Blass

Back in 2020, Grand Seiko dropped two US Special Edition watches, marking the birth of the Sōkō Collection that takes its inspiration from the end of Autumn and the first frosts that usher in the Winter season. Both the debuting duo of Sōkō watches had vertically brushed dials that embodied how light passes through the bamboo stalks of the Arashiyama bamboo forest in Kyoto. Of course, where there is light there is also shadow, which also happen to be two key elements of all Grand Seiko designs – the SBGA427 expressing light with its bright silver dial and the SBGA429 conveying shadow with its shadowy grey dial. While the debuting duo from 2020 focused on showcasing the enlivened green tone of the bamboo, today Grand Seiko expands upon the Sōkō Collection and explores the theme of frost more directly. Through two new US Special Editions, the Grand Seiko SBGH295 in stainless steel and SBGA471 in high-intensity titanium, we see a clearer depiction of frost with their on-trend icy blue dials.

Left: the 2020 Sōkō Collection (SBGA429 & SBGA427). Right: the 2022 Sōkō Frosts (SBGH295 & SBGA471)

 

Grand Seiko SBGH295

Grand Seiko SBGH295

The Grand Seiko SBGH295 has a very striking icy blue dial, but it will especially capture the gaze of Grand Seiko enthusiasts worldwide. Why? Well look closer, your eyes do not deceive you. That is in fact a kira-zuri dial you are looking at.

But let’s rewind for a quick second to ensure everyone is up to speed. Kira-zuri, a Japanese painting technique, translates to “sparkling painting”. One of the first US exclusive limited editions introduced by Grand Seiko was a kira-zuri inspired watch released back in 2018: the SBGA387. This proved a tremendous hit with consumers worldwide. As the market began to realise what they had missed out on, secondary market prices gradually began to rise for the limited-edition run of 558 pieces. They always traded above the retail price of $6,800 USD, but today interest has remained so strong that vendors are currently asking for around twice its original retail price.

The fact the SBGH295 features an “ice blue” kira-zuri dial without the polarising detail of the power-reserve indicator, truly gives buyers who missed out on the SBGA387 an incredible opportunity to secure the coveted toned and textured dial at retail once again.

Grand Seiko SBGH295

A quick rundown on the details and specs: the screw-down crown secured, 100 metre water-resistant, stainless-steel 62GS case is 40mm in diameter, 12.8mm thick, and a highly approachable 47mm lug-to-lug. As a stainless-steel model, the top facets of the case flanks are distortion-free Zaratsu mirror-polished instead of hairline-brushed (as you would see on titanium models such as the SBGA413).

Grand Seiko renders can be a bit vague in relaying the true tone of the dial, but it appears the razor-sharp hours and minutes hands beneath the boxed sapphire crystal are hairline brushed on their top front facing facet. Typically speaking, Grand Seiko utilises brushed surfaces to convey “light” and polished surfaces to convey “shadow”. As brushed surfaces remain brighter under direct light, the use of a brushed surface suggest the icy blue is rich and clear. To maintain legibility, Grand Seiko designers endeavour to make the hands remain brighter against darker or stronger backdrops. Inside, beneath an exhibition caseback, you have the in-house hi-beat caliber 9S85. Meeting the Grand Seiko standard, the automatic caliber is regulated to +5/-3 seconds per day and offers 55 hours of power reserve off the wrist.

Grand Seiko SBGA471

Grand Seiko, of course, could not introduce another icy blue kira-zuri dial with a 44GS case. It would step on the toes of SBGA387 owners. So, instead, the Spring Drive-powered SBGA471 features the familiar vertical texture seen on the previous 2020 Sōkō editions. This time around, however, Grand Seiko has leaned into the frost theme, giving it an equally striking, yet distinguished, Sōkō Frost icy blue treatment as well. The resulting aesthetic is gorgeous in my opinion, and its colour and texture would pair incredibly well with a sky-blue Oxford shirt.

Its high-intensity titanium 44GS case is a tad more slender and compact than the 62GS case of the SBGH295, clocking in at 40mm in diameter, 12.5mm thick, and 46.2mm lug-to-lug. The SBGA471 is equally water-resistant, also rated to a depth of 100 metres and with the peace of mind of a screw-down crown. In the image above, you don’t spot clear brushed lines on the razor-sharp hands as you do with the SBGH295. Because the hands in this instance have been Zaratsu mirror-polished, this leads me to believe the icy blue dial of the SBGA471 will be either brighter, or a bit more subtle in hue, than the kira-zuri dial of the SBGH295. In fact, it almost appears like the colour tone of the dial-side power reserve indicator is closer to the hue we can expect from the SBGH295.

Inside you have, from a functional perspective, my favourite caliber in my own personal collection. The automatic in-house 9R65 Spring Drive caliber is scarily accurate, regulated within half a second per day – and in my own experience performing even better. It is also “weekend-proof” with 72 hours, or three days, of power reserve.

Grand Seiko SBGH295 & SBGA471 “Sōkō Frost” US Special Editions pricing and availability:

Both the Grand Seiko SBGH295 and SBGA471 are offered with dial complementing bundled crocodile leather straps that feature Grand Seiko three-fold and twin-trigger deployant clasps. They are both US Special Edition Mastershop Models, sold exclusively in the region. Price: $6,900 USD (SBGH295), $6,000 USD (SBGA471)