- Diameter: 39mm
- Height: 12mm
- Movement: 9S63 (manually wound)
- Price: $6,900
The SBGK007, from Grand Seiko’s ‘Elegance’ collection, looks a little different from the usual watches we have come to expect from Grand Seiko. It and its dial-variant brothers, the black SBGK009 and the textured blue SBGK005, have quite different cases from other contemporary Grand Seiko models. The Grand Seiko house style of late has been the post-Tanaka, Grammar of designed influenced, ‘slabby’ sports watch, however the new SBGK models offer something altogether smoother.
The Case For Elegance
The new ‘Elegance’ case style was previewed at Baselworld in 2019 and this is the first time I have been able to see the new style in person and more importantly wear the watch. I will attempt to describe the case in two ways, first for those familiar with vintage Seiko case shapes and secondly for the rest of us. For any aficionado of late 60s/early 70s King Seiko, the SBGK case is a 1969 562x-7000, slightly flattened and slightly curved around the wrist. Imagine, if you will, your 562x-7000 King Seiko squashed (just a bit) with a banana-shaped anvil.
For the rest of us, the SBGK case is wide and flat with a long graceful sweep from one lug to the other. The case is polished to a mirror finish on top and brushed at the sides. The transition from one to the other is crisp as we have come to expect from Grand Seiko. Viewed from the side, the case forms a gradual arc from one side of the wrist to another, with a delightful polished undercut (just like the 562x-7000 – sorry, there I go again, spouting vintage model numbers). The side view is just so refined I am prone to take the watch off and lay it on the table while I work just so I can admire that aspect of the design. On the inner edge of the lugs you will final the tiniest hint of a polished bevel and around the crown, a cutout that I’ve seen somewhere before… Yes, two more nods to you know what… that 1969 King Seiko. The bezel has high polish, low profile, and maximum impact while simultaneously emphasizing the sleek profile. If the intention was to create a case that would slip fluidly under the cuff after looking stunning on the wrist, Grand Seiko have definitely met the brief.
The watch looks larger than its 39mm width, so much so that I measured it three times just to make sure. The large dial/minimal bezel look that makes so many 36mm vintage dress watches look contemporarily-sized is in full effect here, making SBGK’s 39mm look more like 42mm. As a vintage enthusiast that has moved progressively from 44 down through 40 to 38 and now regularly wears a 35mm dress watch, it looks a touch too big to me. However, I think the size will be judged as damned-near perfect by most people. A quick straw poll around the BTD office (not the we are in the office) confirmed most though it well-sized.
Since we are talking about personal niggles, while it is thankfully less tall that many other Grand Seiko models, at a measured 12mm, I feel it is still two millimeters too tall for a dress watch. The domed crystal may shoulder some of the blame for this but I could never advocate its removal since the vintage-style crystal lends so much character and elegance. Neither can I really fault Grand Seiko for choosing a manually wound movement since that has surely saved some height as well. The choice of 9S63 movement with it’s subdial seconds and on-dial power indicator over the existing 9S64 has however added an extra half a millimeter to the watch.
The 9S63 movement is derived from the manually-wound 9S64 with a central seconds hand introduced in 2011. The 9S63 moves the second hand to a small seconds sub-dial at 9 o’clock and adds a power reserve gauge at the 3 o’clock position. The power reserve and beat rate are unchanged from the 9S64 at 72 hours and 28800 vph respectively.
The movement is visible through the sapphire caseback and boasts some extremely reflective Geneva stripes on the amply-sized train bridge that covers two thirds of the movement. There is not a whole lot to see other than the bridge. The polished top of the barrel and barrel click are visible, as is the balance wheel, the lever escapement underneath and next to both the very edge of the fourth wheel is visible driving the small seconds hand. Catch the light just right, and the Grand Seiko lion can be seen in the case back glass.
In terms of accuracy, Seiko claims +5 to -3 static and +10 to -1 when worn. My example performed better than that on test: on the timegrapher it read close to 0 s/d rate error in multiple positions when static and ran about +3 s/d on the wrist. The movement is regulated to 6 positions at the factory before casing and the movement contains 33 jewels.
A Dial Fit for a Dress Watch
I am getting a little tired of describing Grand Seiko dials as stunning but it is simply true – I find all of them stunning. You have read it before, but it is still true here: the quality of the index markers, the hands, the polishing of the planes and the grinding of the facets are all superlative.
What is perhaps a little more reserved than usual for Grand Seiko is the dial surface. There is no real texture to speak of, just the most subtle of subtle sunburst finishes. For me, this is absolutely in keeping with the elegant dress watch design brief. This is a dial that does not shout ‘look at me’ through color or texture. Rather it slips past, almost unnoticed lest your eyes linger long enough to appreciate the Glashütte-style silvered dial and the impeccable hands and markers. For those that would prefer more colour, there is the limited edition blue-dialed SBGK005.
Overall, the dial layout has balance. The sub-dial on the left is effectively balanced by the power reserve indicator on the right. Look closely and you will see that the dimensions of both are not equal but have been chosen to give a harmonious view dial when viewed from further away. Both are printed on the dial with black and white ink with the power gauge having a pseudo-3D effect to it. As power meters go, I think this one has been well-designed. Overall, the dial reminds me of a LeCoultre Futurematic with its horizontal arrangement of a small seconds dial and power gauge.
There is no date complication which is understandable given that this is, in its essence, a dress watch. However, I could imagine a small, round date window at 6 looking quite attractive on this dial. The minute and hour hands are impeccably polished swords while the index markers are cut and polished to catch the light at all angles. I find highly polished hands like these often appear dark when you look at the watch so having a silvered dial that contrasts is a bonus here. I found the watch easy to read in almost all light levels except a completely dark room. In all cases, the hands are well-finished with all rivets capped and hidden.
I’m personally happy to see the new case shape in a Grand Seiko lineup that I have found in the past to have a few too many slab-sided, dare I say bulky, dressy-sports watches. To have a thinner, elegant dress watch in the line-up is good. To have one this thoughtfully designed and well-executed is truly great.
There is however one complaint. One elephant in the room. One aspect that I have deliberately not mentioned because I did not want it to influence my appreciation of the rest of the watch. The clasp. Why, oh why, when the aim of this watch was to produce something sublime, smooth and elegant, would Grand Seiko put on a push-button deployant clasp that sits 12mm high off the wrist. That’s right, a buckle that is the exact same height as the watch is sitting on the inside of your wrist. Except, that buckle is not thoughtfully designed to unobtrusively allow a cuff to rise and flow over itself. No, the clasp is hard-edged and while nicely-signed, invariably snagged my shirt cuff on the underside. Thankfully, it is an issue easily resolved: either the strap can be changed to one with a simple buckle or the deployant mechanism can be removed from the existing crocodile strap, leaving just the signed clasp.
This was not a watch I put on and appreciated everything equally immediately. As I wrote, my initial feelings were that it looks a little too big and feels a little too high. Over time it grew on me more and more. After a week on the wrist, the design of the case and the execution of the dial easily outweighed my reticence over the dimensions and I even started to ignore that clasp.
If you are looking for a high quality contemporary dress watch that emphases design and execution over complications and precious metals, then definitely check out the SBGK range from Grand Seiko. You may just fall for their beguiling good looks.