INTRODUCING: The new Grand Seiko SBGC238 Limited Edition Spring Drive Chronograph is futuristic, aggressive, brilliantThor Svaboe
I am beginning to run out of synonyms for the scope of Grand Seiko for 2020, with yet another impressive reference being pulled out of what seems to be a very deep hat. This time we are looking at the Grand Seiko SBGC238, a limited edition of the largest most angular case possibly ever from the brand. It is a shape that echoes strength in a futuristic form that, in spite of its angular weapons-grade appearance, sits very comfortable on the wrist, once again setting the bar for large-case ergonomics.
Yes, we are looking at a large chunk of 18k rose gold, bringing a subtle twist to the toughness of this particular shape that entered the fray in 2019, which, with its tough-looking body, is inspired by the Grand Seiko lion. This is especially visible in the sharp, angled corner of the cushion-shaped case, symbolising the razor-sharp ferocity of the lion’s claw. The delicate juxtaposition of the Zaratsu polish on the case end and sides plays brilliantly against the brushed angles, made even clearer with the rose gold.
This particular case shape is unlike the more rounded or 44GS-inspired shapes we are used to from Grand Seiko, creating a spectacle of reflections, with the case corners having as many as six different facets, and pitch-perfect brushwork. This is no small watch, but comfortable nonetheless, aided greatly by an impeccable eye for the balance of comfort with sharp, contemporary design language visible in this GMT Chronograph. The case sides have the usual magic of appearing more svelte than the thickness would suggest, with what is a large but wrist-hugging shape. The rear of the case is polished with the classical Seiko bevels on the side, and a view through to the 9R86 Spring Drive movement, the inspirational Grand Seiko Lion appearing in an 18k medallion on the hand-finished striped rotor.
This is where the traditional indigo colour of Katsu-iro comes to play, a dark piercing blue found in traditional Samurai armour, symbolising strength in battle.
The pairing of this with the rose gold brings a spectacular theatre to this GMT chronograph, emphasising the rich lustre of the gold, almost lending a regal air to the proceedings — even more visually arresting when you consider the rich history behind it.
The pairing of this with the rose gold brings a spectacular theatre to this GMT chronograph, emphasising the rich lustre of the gold, almost lending a regal air to the proceedings — even more visually arresting when you consider the rich history behind it. We can see clearly from the pictures how this dark blue turns the ceramic 24-hour bezel into an intriguing play between blue and black, depending on the light. That is, if you manage to tear your gaze away from the dial, which is infused with the same rich blue, with a background pattern to the dial surface unlike any other. We have seen it earlier this year in a golden brown tone, but with the dark indigo it turns a more secretive nocturnal shade, with delicate touches of blue reflecting the smallest ray of light.
This is a chronograph, so while we are enamoured by the rich background, the emphasis is still on legibility and function through the classic radial brushing of the registers, and the hypnotising glide of the running seconds at 9 by virtue of the Spring Drive heart of this GMT. To aid legibility, the chronograph registers have polished gold hands, while the running seconds and power reserve are denoted by delicate polished needle-shaped hands. The golden chronograph seconds hand is the third part of the trio for the chronograph function, while the large hour and minute hands are like weapons.
The sharp brushed sword marking the minutes have the Grand Seiko signature Zaratsu-polished bevels reflecting the light, and the hour hand is a large swathe of brushed steel weaponry. Both are generously applied with LumiBrite, making them, along with the chunky applied indices, parts of one of the most legible of Grand Seiko chronographs, with an insouciant air of indestructibility. The dark two-toned GMT hand has a design of its own making, adding to the catalogue of legibility.
The 9R86 is the latest iteration of Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive movement in GMT form, setting the bar for mechanical movements, with its +/- 0.5 seconds a day, and the beguiling glide of the seconds hand. Every movement is hand finished with Grand Seiko’s take on striping, bevelling and the small details that matter, while in-house testing exceeds the COSC standards we are used to, made clear by the telling +/- 0.5 secs a day and +/-15 a month. I would go as far as saying that Spring Drive is setting the bar for European movements, none of which have developed a similar hybrid, something that says a lot about this powerhouse of a 50-jewel movement. The golden medallion on the rotor is a symbol of perfection, yet solidity; the lion being a very natural analogy.
This is the part where you are once again made aware of the rich samurai inspiration behind this limited edition, as the dark blue Katsu-iro coloured crocodile strap has rose gold colour applied in the actual grooves of the leather, marking the typical crocodile segmented skin, creating a delightful effect I’ve never seen in leatherwork before, tying together the details of the case and dial as only the Japanese know how to.
The 100 pieces of this limited edition will not rest long in the Grand Seiko showrooms, imbued as it is with the enviable qualities of a tough, functional tool watch with a full 200m water resistance, the brilliance of the Spring Drive movement and the graces of a samurai in golden armour.
Grand Seiko SBGC238 price and availability:
The Grand Seiko SBGC238 is 5,060,000 Japanese yen (AUD$65,500 approx), and is limited to 100 pieces worldwide.