HANDS-ON: The Grand Seiko SBGC240 140th Anniversary Limited Edition with newly developed polygonal bezelZach Blass
The 140th Anniversary celebrations for Seiko are continuing, hot on the heels of the news that – and this is remarkable – both brands actually experienced growth in key markets in 2020. This was revealed last night in a global summit, along with several new models, including this one. A key reason for the upward trajectory is the fact their products are genuinely unique and distinct in nature. Another aspect that sets Grand Seiko apart from other manufacturers is their proprietary Spring Drive technology that leverages a predominantly mechanical movement with a regulated quartz escapement. The new stainless steel and yellow gold Grand Seiko SBGC240 140th Anniversary Limited Edition chronograph uses this Spring Drive tech in a vertical clutch column wheel chronograph GMT caliber and newly developed 12 sided polygonal bezel.
The Grand Seiko SBGC240 140th Anniversary Limited Edition marks the first time the brand has featured a combination of 18k yellow gold and black ceramics. The majority of the case and watch is fashioned in stainless steel, but the 43.8mm x 16.1mm case introduces hints of gold in the framing of the polygonal bezel and the crown and pushers on the 100 meter water-resistant case. In terms of its finish, it’s similar to what you find on an SBGA211 with satin brushed lug hoods, with distortion free finishes applied to their bevelling as well as to the case flanks.
The newly developed polygonal yellow gold bezel has a 12 square shape that matches the total number of hour indexes, ensuring visibility from various angles while producing a variety of light expressions – a design aspect Grand Seiko has become renowned for. The Zirconia ceramic provides excellent scratch resistance, ensuring the original beauty of the watch is maintained for many years to come.
Considering it is a foundational principle of Grand Seiko’s grammar of design, it is no surprise that the black dial of the Grand Seiko SBGC240 is highly legible. The contrasting gold tones of the hours/minutes hands, hour indices, chronograph subdial rings, and even the dedicated tachymeter scale track displayed stepped within the inner bezel are very easy for the eye to discern.
The steel central seconds hand and elapsed time register hands are very visible as well. A little insight into the finishing decisions for Grand Seiko watches; the reason the golden hours and minutes hands are satin brushed on their top facet is because brushed surfaces typically brighten when hit with light straight on whereas a distortion free mirror finish goes black when straight under a light source (think black polish). Think of the SLGH003 versus the SLGH005. The satin brushed hands brighten up against the rich blue dial of the SLGH003 and the mirror finished hands darken against the bright white birch dial of the SLGH005. If the hands were to darken, instead of brighten, they would be harder to read on the gloss black dial. With a lot of information on the dial, it is crucial that you can quickly read all of its indications and the tonal switch up across indicators is helpful to separate and frame the various functionalities.
At 9 you have the running seconds register, between 1 and 2 the elapsed minutes register (30 minute scale), and between 4 and 5 the elapsed hours register (12 hour scale). Adjacent to the 7 index is the power reserve indicator and in place of a 3 hour index is the white on black date window framed in a polished golden square. Between the hashed outer minutes track and hour indexes is a radial 24 hour scale that corresponds to the central GMT hand.
The stainless steel bracelet with three fold push button clasp takes on the familiar format of having five components to each link, with the three broader components satin brushed and the narrower two mirror finished. The outer shoulder flanks of each link have a hairline mirror polish for added elegance. And speaking of elegance, the bracelet has a nice taper as you moved from the case integrating link down to the clasp. Being a stainless steel bracelet, each of the removable links are secured by screws found within the mirror polished sides of the links – making the watch relatively easy to size on your own so long as you have the appropriate screwdriver and a steady hand.
Whenever a column wheel chronograph is mentioned, the first thought that comes to mind is butter smooth start and stop actuation. Many brands utilize column wheel architecture movements in their top-tier chronographs, but none are like the caliber 9R86 produced in-house by Grand Seiko. The chronograph GMT caliber pairs the smooth start/stop pusher sensation of a vertical clutch column wheel movement with the timing and hand fluidity only Spring Drive can provide. The 9r86 boasts a power reserve indicator, dual time functionality with 24-hour hand, quick correction function of time difference adjusting to a calendar, and of course the stopwatch functionality of a chronograph. Another neat feature is its 72 hours of power reserve, which is unaffected by chronograph usage.
Grand Seiko SBGC240 140th Anniversary Limited Edition pricing and availability:
The Grand Seiko SBC240 140th Anniversary Limited Edition is a limited edition of 500 pieces, and will be available via the Grand Seiko Online boutique beginning June 10th and in Grand Seiko Salons and Boutiques July 2021. Price: $27,750 AUD