Grand Seiko SBGE249 Limited Edition – Silver Blizzard
If there’s one thing that Grand Seiko absolutely masters, it is the art of dial making. This collaboration piece between Texas-based dealer Timeless and Grand Seiko is the perfect example of that.
Grand Seiko needs no introduction here on Fratello, we covered them a lot in the last few years, and with good reason. It took us a while to get acquainted with the high-end watches from Seiko (and since 2017, Grand Seiko is operating as a separate legal entity). Still, once this bug has bitten you, it becomes tough not to compare them to high-end Swiss watch brands. Based on their extreme efforts in finishing dials, hour markers, hands, and basically all other parts, Grand Seiko is an exciting brand for enthusiasts who really appreciate watchmaking rather than buying a brand name on the dial.
But, I am sure you are already aware of Grand Seiko’s increased popularity in the last few years based on the coverage here and elsewhere. I’ve also been informed by Grand Seiko and a number of its retailers that the sales numbers have been nothing less but impressive. Without further ado, let’s have a look at the Grand Seiko SBGE249 limited edition that has been done in close collaboration with Timeless, an official Grand Seiko dealer in Texas, USA.
Grand Seiko SBGE249 Silver Blizzard
This Grand Seiko SBGE249 might look familiar, but it is definitely a new watch in the Grand Seiko collection. It has been heavily influenced by existing Grand Seiko models, such as the famous Snowflake (SBGA211, that we reviewed here) and the SBGA125 (based on a 62GS case with a blizzard dial). What I didn’t like about the Snowflake SBGA211 is the titanium case and bracelet, which has been fixed with this Grand Seiko SBGE249. It has the same 41mm case and bracelet as the SBGA211 but in stainless steel. I don’t mind the material as such, but I just don’t like the light-weight on the wrist so much. I want a watch to be noticeable on the wrist when wearing it, and with titanium, it is so light, that I feel the urge to (obsessively) check if it is still there.
The silver blizzard dial is not new, as mentioned above, but stunning. Grand Seiko (and Seiko) like to take the surroundings of their workshops and manufactures as inspiration for their dials, such as the Mt. Iwate, snowy mountains, and a snow blizzard. The blizzard dial is silvery-white, and from a distance, it might remind you of the platinum dial of a Rolex Yacht-Master, but up close, you will see how much detail and depth has been created on this dial.
Even though the typical Spring Drive layout (with a power reserve indicator located at 7.30) has been used, the dial also reminds me very much of the GMT Hi-Beat models, such as my own SBGJ201 “Mt. Iwate”. This, of course, has a lot to do with the blued GMT hand on this dial and the 24-hour scale on the rehaut. The razor-sharp hands and beautifully polished hour markers give a beautiful contrast with the Blizzard dial of this Grand Seiko SBGE249. There’s no use of luminescent material on the dial, such as Lumibrite, but from my own experience, I can tell you that the dial is very readable, also in low-light conditions. This has to do with the high polish finish on the edges of the hour markers and hands. Even the tiniest amount of light is being reflected on those little surfaces. Five hands on this dial sound like a lot, but it is well done and not disturbing at all. The beautiful sharp hour and minute hands have a silver color, while the other three hands are blued, giving even more contrast to the silver blizzard dial.
I think that Timeless made some excellent decisions on selecting the dial and hands. They perfectly combine on the Grand Seiko SBGE249. The layout of the dial is, of course, also depending on the type of movement that is being used, and as you can see, it is a Spring Drive (because of the power reserve indicator) with a GMT complication.
Caliber 96R66 Spring Drive
A lot has been said and written about the smooth running Spring Drive movement, which combines traditional watchmaking with an electric speed control mechanism (Tri-Synchro regulator) and a quartz crystal to provide accurate timekeeping (+/- a second per day deviation on average, with a maximum of 15 seconds per month). A traditional mainspring powers the caliber 9R66 (so it doesn’t use a battery despite the quartz crystal), only the mechanical escapement has been replaced with the Spring Drive one, which generates electricity that powers the IC. This IC steers the electromagnetic braking that controls the speed of the wheel train. Hence the very fast turning glide wheel that can be observed through the sapphire crystal display back and the smooth running seconds hand on the dial. Spring Drive is not only used for Grand Seiko, but you will also find it in the Seiko Prospex series, for example, or in the high-end Credor sub-brand of Seiko.
As you can see below, the oscillating weight is nicely decorated and engraved with the Grand Seiko name. It is also only here that you can see that the Grand Seiko SBGE249 is a limited edition of 250 pieces only. On the crystal, you will find the ‘Limited Edition’ wording (and the Grand Seiko lion), and the unique number of the watch has been engraved on the steel bezel of the caseback.
A Real GMT
The caliber 9R66, but also their high beat caliber 9R86, is considered to be a real GMT by enthusiasts (and us). What does that mean? Well, it means that the GMT hand will advance corresponding the regular hour and minutes hands. So if you correct time, the GMT hand will just follow along. However, these types of GMT movements also have a crown setting where you can only advance or reverse the local hour hand, without moving any of the other hands. An independent hour hand. This means that if you are in a different timezone, you only want to change the local hour hand so you can read the time of the location where you are. The blue GMT hand then shows your home time and indicates whether it is day or night over there. It is how a GMT watch should function according to many, and how I like it personally as well to work. The other variation that’s out there are watches (or movements) where you can independently set the GMT hand, but not the normal hour hand that displays local time. Setting those type of GMT watches feel a bit unlogical in their setting and operation.
This 41mm watch is an incredibly versatile watch and a perfect companion for those who travel extensively to places with a different timezone than their own. It can be worn with a business attire but is undoubtedly also very wearable with more casual outfits. The famous Zaratsu (mirror blade) polishing might see a scratch or ding when you wear a watch like this daily, but it will add some character to it as well, of course. I find myself often confused when I encounter someone with a watch he or she had for years, but without a single sign of wear. If scratches bother you, it is good to know that Grand Seiko is also training its local watchmakers and service centers to perform Zaratsu polishing. So it doesn’t need to go back to Japan for service for that.
With the Grand Seiko SBGE249, Timeless created a very lovely variation based on existing elements, such as the blizzard dial. Where the Snowflake is the most popular Grand Seiko model at the moment, this Blizzard version is for those who don’t want to have a titanium watch (like me) and like to have a GMT complication. The quality is fantastic for the retail price of $5900.- USD. I don’t think there’s anything out there that can top this at the moment. The finish on the hands and hour markers, for example, are on the level of some of the haute horlogerie brands from Switzerland and Germany.
And in some cases, even better than those brands. The case and bracelet are beautifully finished (by hand) and are hailed by many. Not sure if I am a fan of the Speedmaster style bracelet, but that’s only regarding the design and has nothing to do with the finishing or quality. The clasp works flawlessly and features the GS logo. The Grand Seiko SBGE249 is water-resistant to 100 meters, also thanks to the screw-down crown.
The Grand Seiko SBGE249 was already introduced last May, and it is limited to 250 pieces only. Although delivery started in September, Timeless lets us know that there are still a few available. More specifications can be found in the chart below.