With Grand Seiko releasing next generation versions of both their Spring Drive and high beat rate movements over the past year, a lot of fans have been wondering if the brand would do something special with their quartz calibers. Quartz is special for Grand Seiko, and a logical entry point for many into the brand given the lower price point and super convenient nature of these watches. While we don’t have a fully re-made quartz caliber from Grand Seiko to discuss here today, we do have what might be their most exciting quartz release in years, the SBGP017. Released as part of the brand’s ongoing celebration of the 55th anniversary of the 44GS case design, the SBGP017 features a specially tuned quartz movement and a beautiful blue dial with a texture that is making its debut in a quartz powered watch.
Drawing inspiration from the clouds that form in the mountainous Shinshu region of Japan, Grand Seiko has applied the same texture found in SBGA413 “Shunbun” from a few years ago, but in a soft white-blue color that really does evoke a cloudy sky. According to Grand Seiko, the humid air in the Shinsho region causes clouds to overlap one another and stretch as far as the eye can see. This is hardly the first watch dial meant to evoke a sky scene (it’s not even the first for Grand Seiko with this dial texture), but even someone like me who is at times leery of connecting these designs too closely with natural phenomenon has to admit that they nailed it here.
The cloud dial will certainly get eyeballs on this watch, but the real draw in my opinion is the movement. The SBGP017 is powered by a 9F85 movement that has been calibrated by Grand Seiko watchmakers for accuracy that is said to be within +/-5 seconds per year. Yes, per year. That’s twice as accurate as a standard 9F85, which is still pretty damn good (that’s the technical term) at just 10 seconds per year in either direction. For those not familiar with what makes Grand Seiko’s quartz watches special, the easiest way to explain it is that the brand takes the same level of care and attention to making the best possible quartz movement as they do with every mechanical movement they make. While most quartz movements are disposable, Grand Seiko’s is built to last a lifetime with regular service, and on this limited edition they’re even showing off its finishing through a display caseback. It’s a special caliber that’s unlike any other quartz movement, featuring complex mechanisms to prevent backlash when the second hand ticks, the ability to make adjustments for temperature, and more (be sure to check out this piece from a few years ago for much more on Grand Seiko’s quartz movements).
All of this is housed in the iconic stainless steel 44GS case that Grand Seiko has been celebrating all year. It’s 40mm across and just 10.7mm thick, and features the angular structure and wide Zaratsu polished bevels that Grand Seiko is known for, and that this case showcases better than perhaps any other Grand Seiko design. It’s muscular enough to be worn like a sports watch (and it has 100 meters of water resistance with a robust quartz movement inside) but its sculptural quality and the liberal Zaratsu polishing make it feel almost ornamental – this is a watch that can be dressed up as well.
The SBGP017 is a limited edition of 2,000 pieces and has a retail price of $3,800. It will be available in July at Grand Seiko boutiques and authorized dealers. Grand Seiko