INTRODUCING: Honouring the “First” with maki-e magic – the new Grand Seiko SBGW295 Limited Edition INTRODUCING: Honouring the “First” with maki-e magic – the new Grand Seiko SBGW295 Limited Edition

INTRODUCING: Honouring the “First” with maki-e magic – the new Grand Seiko SBGW295 Limited Edition

Zach Blass
  • Grand Seiko celebrates the 110th anniversary of Japan’s first wristwatch.
  • The SBGW295 is inspired by Grand Seiko’s first watch from 1960 known as the “First”.
  • Its black urushi lacquer dial and maki-e (sparkling picture) 24K powdered gold indices are crafted by master Isshu Tamura.

Grand Seiko SBGW295

I know it may seem like deja vu, after all, we did just cover a recent release from Grand Seiko within the last 24 hours. But, Grand Seiko marches to the beat of their own drum. Typically we have to dissect the latest source of natural inspiration with Grand Seiko for each release. This novelty, however, is purely focused on Japanese watchmaking. Grand Seiko, this year, is celebrating the 110th anniversary of the first Japanese wristwatch, created by Seiko founder Kintaro Hattori. So to celebrate this occasion, Grand Seiko has reinterpreted their first watch from 1960 with a new limited-edition black urushi lacquer and maki-e dialled take on the”First”: the new Grand Seiko SBGW295.

With their Brilliant Hard Titanium, Grand Seiko has remained true to the original form of the Grand Seiko “First” case in ever so slightly larger dimensions to speak to the modern marketplace. At 38mm in diameter, and 10.9mm thick, rather than the 35mm x 10.5mm dimensions of the original “First”, the 30 metre water-resistant case has modern-dressy proportions. On the crown of this classic yet faceted case, you will notice a faithful nod and Easter egg to the “First” with its recreated ‘S’ for Seiko emblem just like the original. While the case is, as expected, beautifully finished, the real star of the show for this release is the specially hand-crafted black urushi lacquer dial with maki-e indices – which is the understandable culprit behind the SBGW295’s higher US$13,800 price point.

Grand Seiko SBGW295

Grand Seiko explains: “The maki-e hour markers were brought to life by urushi master Isshu Tamura in his studio in the city of Kanazawa, which means ‘marsh of gold,’ located on the West Coast of Japan. The markers and Grand Seiko name are built up, layer upon layer, through the application of lacquer, endowing them with their trademark three-dimensional profile. Next comes the 24k gold powder – maki-e means ‘sprinkled picture’ – which is applied and polished fastidiously with the special tools of the artisan. The process requires tremendous dexterity and precision to the micron level. Producing markers of uniform depth and width on a curved surface such as this watch dial is a challenge that requires a master’s touch.”

You can see in these macro-renders just how beautiful the result of Tamura’s work is. The black is a deep jet-black thanks to Grand Seiko’s addition of iron, and through their own proprietary means the lacquer is specially enhanced so its colour will not change over time. The sparkle of the maki-e indices is sure to be a marvel “in the metal”, with the intangible quality of being done by hand yet somehow also inhumanly perfect in execution. Rightfully so, and faithful to the original layout, there are no complications to disturb the beautiful gilt simplicity of the dial. You have three hands, all of which are hand-rolled at their tip to follow the counter of the case and dial, with two brushed and razor-bevelled central hours and minutes hand and a polished central seconds hand. The “Diashock 24 jewels” text, and minute hashes are printed onto the dial. But the gothic Grand Seiko branding is executed by the maki-e technique just like the hour indices.

Grand Seiko SBGW295

While a dressier case style, the first of the two straps bundled into the offering has a more casual vibe. Through a traditional Japanese weaving technique called “yoroiori” that was once used for making samurai armour, Grand Seiko’s skilled artisans have taken thin strips of calf leather and interlaced them. Apparently this enhances the watch strap’s durability. The second strap is fashioned strictly in black leather with a pebbled texture to its upper layer, affording owners a more dressy strap option should they like to more fully formalise the aesthetic.

Inside is Grand Seiko’s manually wound in-house entry calibre 9S64, a 28,800 vph movement with a ‘Tokyo striped’ 3/4 bridgeplate and balance cock and a weekend-proof 72 hours of power reserve. While I totally understand the intricacies of its production, I would love to see Grand Seiko mix this style of offering in more to break up their, albeit typically wonderful, onslaught of nature-inspired releases. Ultimately this is a higher price point than most Grand Seiko fans are accustomed to, but considering the time dedicated by master Isshu Tamura to personally decorate and finish the dials of these 500 watches to perfection I can understand why. And, I imagine many Grand Seiko fans will be chasing one of the 500 pieces down.

Grand Seiko SBGW295 Limited Edition pricing and availability:

Grand Seiko SBGW295

The Grand Seiko SBGW295 Limited Edition will be available as a limited edition of 500 pcs. at Grand Seiko Boutiques and select retail partners worldwide in February 2023. Price: US$13,800

Brand Grand Seiko
Model SBGW295
Case Dimensions 38mm (D) x 10.9mm (T)
Case Material Brilliant Hard Titanium
Water Resistance 30m
Dial Black urushi lacquer with maki-e indices
Crystal Sapphire crystal and exhibition caseback
Strap Leather strap with three-fold Brilliant Hard Titanium clasp with push button release
Movement In-house automatic 9S64
Power Reserve 72 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds
Availability February 2023, limited edition of 500 pcs.
Price US$13,800