When most watch collectors hear the word quartz they think cheap, mass-produced and soulless. If a watch isn’t mechanical, it isn’t worth talking about, thinking about, and definitely not buying, which are sentiments I broadly agree with. As I wrote here, mechanical watches have a combination of nostalgic charm and independent reliability that I love alongside thousands of watch enthusiasts around the world. So why then did I buy a quartz watch that costs the same as some mechanical Swiss watches? Let me explain why I bought the Grand Seiko SBGN007, and how I feel about the purchase six months later.
I’ll start by explaining that when I started collecting watches, I collected vintage Seiko. This is a great way to get started in the hobby, as you don’t have to spend a lot of money to experience a bunch of different watches. For someone starting their collection, this is the perfect scenario.
I think starting out this way also stops you from getting any notions that the only good watches are made in a landlocked country in Europe and cost $10,000. It makes you appreciate watches that aren’t necessarily luxury, and how different brands approach watchmaking in a way that isn’t divided down the “expensive mechanical”/“cheap quartz” dichotomy.
From the perspective of many brands outside of Switzerland, the quartz crisis was just another technological step forward in watchmaking. As is the case with all progress, however, some players are more prepared than others, and watch brands that were vertically integrated in the 1970s suffered a lot less than those that weren’t. Considered in this context, quartz is one of the biggest steps forward in the horological history, allowing millions of people around the world access to an accurate wristwatch that doesn’t cost several months’ wage.
As I kept collecting, I started to feel something I think a lot of collectors experience, and I wanted an everyday watch. Even if I still owned a number of watches, I wanted a watch that I could wear every day without thinking about it. I wanted something that didn’t look like an avant-garde car accident of gears and springs, but also didn’t look like something my grandfather would have worn. Classic, but contemporary.
I was also motivated by the idea of getting the best possible watch for the money. With the modest budget I had, I was in the mechanical watch territory of a few Swiss and German brands, but I was also in the territory of quartz Grand Seiko. If I was going to consider a quartz watch, Grand Seiko appealed to me because of the relationship between Japanese watchmaking and quartz technology, as well as that in a collection of vintage Seiko, a modern Grand Seiko made perfect sense.
The more I read about the production of quartz watches at Grand Seiko, the bigger the divide became between them and a mechanical Swiss watch at the same price. I could get a fairly accurate, machine-finished watch with a popular name on the dial, or I could get a watch that was literally one of the most accurate on the planet, finished by hand and with a name on the dial I already had a lot of respect for. It was a no-brainer.
The two deal sweeteners for the SBGN007 were the VFA rating that meant it was tested to a maximum of +/-5 seconds per year, and that it had a GMT complication, one of the more practical complications on a wristwatch.
Over the last six months, I have worn this in rotation with my Seiko SRP777 almost every day. The two together make a strong case for a two-watch collection, with one perfect for spending most of your week at a desk, and the other basically bulletproof for every other situation you might come across. At 40mm in diameter, the SBGN007 is absolutely in the goldilocks zone, with a definite presence on your wrist, but slim enough at 12.2mm that it is also discreet.
I know that everyone who has ever spent any time with a Grand Seiko can’t shut up about HoW gOoD tHe FiNiSiNg Is, but I’m going to do the same. It is simply brilliant. There is not a single surface on the dial that has not been considered, and optimised to look as good as possible. The hour markers and hands are manually polished to the point they are literally a distraction. If I have the watch on my desk next to me as I work (I don’t wear a watch while I sit at a desk), I will get distracted by the second hand catching the light as it moves over the dial. The finishing is so good, I have to keep it in my pocket. The actual surface of the dial features a motif of the original Grand Seiko quartz symbol, and is a deep green that is subdued indoors but pops nicely under sunlight.
While the finishing is sensational, it is a double-edged sword. I’m sure you’ve read comments on Instagram of people lamenting how their highly polished steel bracelets are a magnet for scratches, and the same is true for the SBGN007. My heart almost stopped when I saw a scratch in the immaculately polished bezel — something that would have been much harder to see on a case that was finished differently. But as someone who intends to keep the watch for life, I’m a lot less stressed about resale value than those who buy watches for their investment value.
I know at this point you must think I have well and truly drunk the #seikobois Kool-Aid, and maybe I have. There are as many different ways to go about watch collecting as there are watch collectors, and I would never want to see someone buy a watch they didn’t absolutely love. But for me personally, considering the collecting journey I’ve had so far, getting the SBGN007 is something I haven’t had a moment of regret over.
So if you’re like me, and you want a watch that you can wear every day, is one of the absolute best in its class, and won’t require you to second-mortgage your house, you could do a lot worse than a quartz Grand Seiko.