The Grand Seiko SBGZ007 is a masterpiece that evokes the starry skies of JapanZach Blass
Masterpiece is a strong label. It’s not something to be taken lightly. Many of us in the watch journalism game get rightly chastised for throwing around terms such as ‘iconic’ willy-nilly. But with Grand Seiko, and their Masterpiece Collection, I can type with full confidence that their creations live up to the classification. These watches are not your everyday Grand Seiko timepieces – and even those more standard production models set quite a high bar. The Nature of Time manufacturer has once again looked to their surroundings in Japan to create something truly special: the 140th Anniversary Limited Edition Grand Seiko SBGZ007. The watch represents the full expression of Grand Seiko’s artistry, and the highly detailed and artisanal work of the Micro Artist Studio. Last week, I had the good fortune of being able to have a press preview of the Grand Seiko SBGZ007 (as well as other Masterpiece Collection references) at the new SoHo Boutique in downtown New York City – and I was genuinely floored by its craftsmanship.
Before we dig into the obvious craftsmanship of the case, let’s talk dimensions. The Grand Seiko SBGZ007 has a platinum case 38.5mm in diameter and 9.8mm thick, situating it somewhere between classic and modern in sizing – but regardless of where it lands on that spectrum it is irrefutably elegant. Personally I would say it does have classic and compact proportions considering the slender nature of the case and it’s easy to wear lug-to-lug measurement of 43.7mm.
In regard to its finish, the Grand Seiko SBGZ007 does not have the familiar brushed or distortion-free finishes we are accustomed to. Instead it actually manages to take things up a notch through hand-engraved surfaces, throughout the majority of the case, by the artisans of the Micro Artist Studio. At first glance you might assume it has the same case as the previously hand-engraved limited edition SBGZ001, but this is not the case (sorry, had to do it). The SBGZ001 aesthetic was centered around the beloved Snowflake design, leveraging a Snowflake patterned dial extended to the case through hand engraving. The SBGZ007, however, does not have a Snowflake engraved pattern. Instead it takes inspiration from motifs of the Edo period, but to my eye it has a floral vibe that almost appears like bursts of fireworks framing the starry dial, celebrating the 140th Anniversary of the brand.
Let’s make one thing absolutely clear, this is not an aventurine dial. The Grand Seiko SBGZ007 dial is painstakingly created through a unique manufacturing and finishing technique combining stamping, plating, and painting. All this effort is aimed towards creating a picturesque image of the coveted night sky in Aichi, a village in the Shinsu region of Japan known for being a star-gazer’s delight. Thanks to its high elevation, Grand Seiko explains that visitors feel that much closer to the stars – as if they were within arm’s reach. Through the Grand Seiko SBGZ007 the brand attempts to bring the beauty of nature that much closer by having a finely crafted watch in its honour strapped to your wrist.
This is a special dial, literally. The eight-pointed star beneath the Spring Drive text signals its classification as a “Special Dial” within the catalogue – which effectively translates to the incorporation of precious metal on the dial. The razor-sharp and faceted hours and minutes hands are fashioned from 14K white gold, along with the fluid central seconds hand and hour indices. The indices are grooved on their top facet to increase legibility, their engagement with light tailored to make them as easy to discern as possible. If you look closely, you will also notice the GS of the Grand Seiko branding is the inverse of applied. The letters are actually carved into the dial, revealing the metal beneath the depth of the starry blue dial.
Having seen it in person, in an area of the store where sunlight can directly hit it as if you’re outside, the dial is very dynamic – ranging from a rich dark blue to brighter tones. As you can see from my own photo above, the purplish hue of the blue brightens when under intense light.
As an elegant 30 metre water-resistant watch, it is fitting the Grand Seiko SBGZ007 comes on a dark navy crocodile strap with a case-matching, platinum three-fold clasp with push-button release. This ensures that buyers not only receive a secure fit, but also get their money’s worth considering some manufactures utilise less expensive white-gold clasps.
The in-house manually wound Spring Drive caliber 9R02 is Grand Seiko’s version of the caliber 7R14 found in the Eichi II watches. But it takes things up a notch by upping the power reserve to 84 hours, thanks to its two mainsprings set in parallel within a single bell flower embellished barrel and a Torque Return System to maximize efficiency. A power reserve indicator can be found in the top right corner of the caliber, ensuring buyers receive the welcome complication without complicating the purity of the dial.
In my personal opinion it also has an even more appealing finish. The chamfers of the bridges are a bit more rounded, and remind me that much more of the cloud-like finishes and flourishes performed by Philippe Dufour on his Simplicity watches. That being said, both calibers are drop-dead gorgeous and each have incredible interior angles that are extraordinarily difficult to achieve. Very few calibers in the world are finished to this standard, placing Grand Seiko, Credor, and the Micro Artist Studio that creates both of them, among some of the best movement decorators in the world. A solid gold plaque in the bottom left corner of the movement ensures viewers know the movement is the work of the Micro Artist Studio.
In my own photograph above, I wanted to really showcase just how much the chamfers light up at an angle – even in a darker section of the store. There is a reason the master of movement finishing Philippe Dufour has given his seal of approval to the artistry performed by the artisans of the Micro Artist Studio. In fact it is well known that Dufour visited the facility and that there was an exchange of techniques and methods, the artisans of the Micro Artist Studio absorbing his teachings and re-interpreting them in a manner benefiting of their grammar of design and Japanese influence.
Grand Seiko SBGZ007 140th Anniversary Limited Edition pricing & availability:
The Grand Seiko SBGZ007 is a limited edition of 50 pieces, sold exclusively through Grand Seiko Boutiques beginning in August 2021. Price: $79,000 USD