Exploring The Seasons With The Grand Seiko SBGJ249 And 251 GMT Watches
In February of this year, Grand Seiko announced four new GMT watches as new additions to their Elegance collection. Two of the four models are the Spring Drive powered SBGE269 and SBGE 271. The other two are the mechanical Hi-Beat SBGJ249 and SBGJ251. Together these four models form the special Seasons series of watches. This series focuses on the changing of seasons that inspired the dials for these watches. I had a chance to go hands-on with the mechanically powered SBGJ249 and SBGJ251. With the world opening up again, could these be your next travel companion?
When it comes to GMT watches, there is no better brand than Grand Seiko. The brand offers a variety of different models that feature a GMT complication. I love the GMT complication for several reasons. First of all, it’s a very practical complication if you’re traveling. The magic of reading the time is in two different timezones gives you the convenience of checking the time where you are and where you are from in the blink of an eye. With the travel restrictions slowly being lifted, my guess is many watch enthusiasts that own a GMT watch will be happy to actually use it for what it was intended for. It’s a great reminder of the return of one of our most special privileges; traveling the world.
Grand Seiko GMT watches
Another aesthetical aspect I love about GMT watches is that they often offer a design twist or at least a sparkle of color I often greatly enjoy. Whether it’s a two-colored bezel with its 24-hour scale or the simple addition of the GMT hand and lettering on the dial in a contrasting color, these are often very welcome hints of color that create just the right amount of sparkle a design. Grand Seiko offers a great variety of GMT watches executed in different ways. In all three of the brand’s main collections, you will be able to find multiple GMT watches fitting the overall style of the collection.
One model that has always stood out for me is the spectacular SBGJ021 with its deep red dial and colorful oscillating weight released in 2016. Secondly, a more recent model is the sportier SBGJ237 that was released last year. It is actually one of my favorite watches of 2020. It’s hard to beat in terms of presence, technical brilliance, and impeccable finishing. Those are just two of the many Grand Seiko models with a GMT function. But Grand Seiko decided there was room for more and expanded their GMT offerings with four new watches.
Grand Seiko Seasons selection
In 2019, Grand Seiko released four models based on the iconic 62GS design inspired by the ever-changing seasons. The four watches were strictly available at retailers in the United States. As we have come to know from Grand Seiko, the seasons were brought to life through four completely different but equally stunning dials. For the second Seasons series, the brand decided to use the same concept for four timepieces of their Elegance collection. On top of that, Grand Seiko makes the models available worldwide.
The simplest way to describe the four seasons is obviously through Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter. However, as most of you know, traditional Japanese culture is often very refined, so there is more to the story. The traditional Japanese concept of sekki, or seasonal phases, consists of 24 different phases of the Japanese natural year. Every one of the four seasons has six distinct phases. For this Seasons selection, Grand Seiko selected the sekki Shunbun (Spring), Shōsho (Summer), Kanro (Autumn), and Tōji (Winter). The two Hi-Beat versions in this review are the Shunbun and Shōsho versions, so Spring and Summer. The Spring Drive models that will be available in September of this year make up the Kanro and Tōji or Autumn and Winter versions.
The Elegance collection
Let’s start with some specs. For the Seasons models, Grand Seiko chose two models of their Elegance collection. It’s the brand’s collection of more classically styled watches. As a result of their more classical looks, it is also not the collection that gets the most attention. It makes sense with the Heritage collection telling the brand’s iconic story and the Sport collection offering many of today’s popular sports models. But the Elegance collection holds some amazing pieces if you are in the market for a classy and stylish watch that works perfectly in formal and informal situations. The SBGJ249 and SBGJ251 are the perfect examples.
Both watches take after the SBGJ217 and SBGJ219 that are already part of the collection. They feature the same stainless steel case that is 39.5mm in diameter and 14.1mm thick. It’s a size that works perfectly on a great variation of wrist sizes. Where the “standard” models come with a leather strap, the two new introductions come with a stainless steel bracelet. It gives the watches a more modern presence that I absolutely love. Additionally, the design of the dial and GMT hand is also different. They look a bit more lively than the regular models. Putting these new models on the wrist gives you the immediate feeling of wearing a classically inspired modern watch. Perfectly for everyday wear and traveling in style.
Grand Seiko SBGJ251 — Shunbun
The first of the two models is the SBGJ251 that depicts Shunbun or Spring. Therefore it features a gorgeous dark green dial with rose gold accents. The colors are inspired by the famous cherry trees and their sakura blossoms. The combination of colors looks stunning. And as you would expect from Grand Seiko, it’s not just a plain green dial. The dark green color features a very fine structure and changes in different light conditions, making it a joy to watch.
The rose gold GMT dial indicates the time in the second time zone on the 24-hour scale placed on the inside of the regular hour markers. The even hours are indicated by numerals and the uneven hours by an arrow tip-shaped marker. The date aperture is placed at 3 o’clock and stands out with its black printed date number on a white dial disc. As always with Grand Seiko, the hands and indices are little works of art. The finishing is truly spectacular. I especially love the mix of polished and brushed finishes on the hour and minute hand combined with the brushed finish of the GMT hand. Overall the look of the watch is best described as sophisticated with a classy touch of color.
Grand Seiko SBGJ249 — Shōsho
The second model is the SBGJ249 that depicts Shōsho or Summer. This version features a much more lively dial that features a pattern the reminds me of the recently introduced SLGH005 White Birch. But where the White Birch has a vertical pattern, this SBGJ249 features a horizontal pattern executed in light blue. The inspiration for the dial comes from the warm summer wind that creates delicate ripples on the many lakes and ponds in Japan during the Summer. Seeing the dial in real life makes you realize the incredible level of detail that went into creating the incredible wave pattern.
Because the dial is a lot more vibrant, Grand Seiko chose to make the GMT hand and the 24-hour scale a darker blue color. As a result, the dial pattern takes center stage while maintaining great readability. It is great to see the dark blue 24-hour track as it almost floats on the wave pattern. Overall the feeling of the dial is very vibrant and…well, summery. So Grand Seiko did a great job bringing the concept to life.
The Caliber 9S86
Inside the immaculately finished cases with box sapphire crystals, Grand Seiko equipped both watches with their Caliber 9S86. This Hi-Beat movement operates at 36,000vph, has 37 jewels, and a power reserve of 55 hours. It offers an accuracy between -3 and +5 seconds per day on average. It’s a better performance than what the Swiss chronometer standard offers. The hour hand can be set independently; thus, this watch operates as a “real” GMT.
The movement can be seen through the sapphire display case back that is fixated with 6 screws. The watch is water-resistant to 30 meters or splash resistant, as Grand Seiko calls it. But I guess you’d rather take these watches up in the air than for a dive in the deep anyway. So 30 meters is more than enough for people looking for a stylish travel watch. Both watches come on a familiar 5-link steel bracelet wears very comfortable and comes with a three-fold clasp with a push-button release.
Wearing the SBGJ249 and SBGJ251
As soon as you put the watches on your wrist, you immediately see the difference in “seasons.” The watch I put first on my wrist was the SBGJ251 with its dark green colored dial. Dark dials are generally what I gravitate towards, so it was an instinctive choice. Initially, I was smitten by the green dial SBGJ251. But after shortly being outside to look at the depth of the dial, I walked back into the office and saw Fratello editor Lex wear the blue dial SBGJ249, and it looked amazing. It has a really nice light blue color from a distance, but as you get closer, the incredible level of detail starts to unveil itself.
Another thing that stood out was the size of both watches. I was surprised about the visual impact of the size. While the watches are just 0.5mm smaller than most of the Heritage models like the White Birch, they feel smaller. It’s in large part a result of the classical case shape, of course. But I got used to their size quickly, and as it turned out, they look amazing on the wrist, and soon after, I realized how great these watches wear. Especially the addition of the bracelets in favor of the leather straps that the regular models come with works really well. It gives both watches more wrist presence which is a big plus for me as a tall guy.
When we received the four Grand Seiko Seasons models for review, I was immediately impressed by the dials. But in all honesty, I wasn’t too sure about the smaller size and the classical shape of both watches. My focus is generally on the watches in the Heritage and Sport collections. But after having worn both the watches for some time, I have to say I was really impressed by both their wrist presence as well as their size. These two watches are really a joy to wear and could perfectly be my stylish travel watch. After wearing both watches for some time, both expressed a great deal of charm.
But where I thought the green dial SBGJ251 would be my favorite, quickly, I found myself wearing the blue dial SBGJ249 more. The great thing is that the additional two Spring Drive models have stunning dials as well. They complete a series that I was impressed by after seeing them and wearing them. Both the SBGJ249 and the SBGJ251 are available now and retail for €7,600. Compared to the comparable regular models that retail for €6,800, that’s an 800 euro price difference. For that price difference, you get a really comfortable bracelet and the choice of two dials that look amazing and unique in their design. I would gladly pay the premium for these two Seasons editions. Preferably the blue SBGJ249 that depicts Summer in all the right ways. Let the summer begin!
If you want to find out more, visit the official Grand Seiko website.