A journalists’ darling, it seems. I am talking about Grand Seiko. Whether it is here, or on any of the other on-line watch magazines and blogs, when there’s a mention of Grand Seiko you hear violins playing in the background. To such an extent, that it becomes implausible perhaps. However, a few months back we took some of our readers with us to Japan to visit their manufactures and at the end of the day, they were all bitten by the Grand Seiko bug.
Although it might come across as such, we are not paid by Grand Seiko to tell you these things or write these reviews. And make no mistake, there are also a couple of things we would like to see different from Grand Seiko. Their pricing and distribution for example. It makes me sad that the prices here in Europe are much higher than the retail prices in Japan and Asia in general. The watch I have here today has a price tag of €6900, including sales taxes. Is that too expensive for this watch? Not if you compare it to its peers from Swiss and German brands, but the premium that needs to be paid outside of Japan and other Asian countries make little sense to me.
Now that this is of my chest, let’s have a closer look at the Grand Seiko SBGH263.
Boutique Special – Grand Seiko SBGH263
Now, it looks like I am complaining before I even started, but that’s perhaps 1) because it is one of the few things to criticize about Grand Seiko 2) their awkward pricing strategy makes these watches (just) out of reach for people who really love them. There is little correspondence from Grand Seiko about this particular reference, the Grand Seiko SBGH263, or SBGH263G officially. This watch is namely only made for the (Grand) Seiko Boutiques. So it is a boutique-only special. Its production is limited, but not numbered or capped at a specific number of watches. At least not communicated by Grand Seiko.
A 39.5mm case, no crown-guards, gives the watch a classic appearance, perhaps a bit influenced even by the first Grand Seiko models from 1960. There’s no sign of the later specific Grand Seiko design code, which might not be to everyone’s taste anyway. What really sets this watch apart is the dial in combination with the gold hands and Arabic numerals. The contrast, especially from certain angles or light sources, is simply stunning. Difficult to capture on images, but perhaps you can imagine the look when the polished numerals and hands are touched by (Sun) light.
This all happens on the dial that is referred to as the ‘Shironeri’ dial. The Shironeri color is best described as white glossed silk. It is considered a traditional color in Japan, that derives from making the yellow-ish raw silk into pure white. A sacred color even, according to Japanese tale.
At 3 o’clock you will find the date aperture. Neatly done with a gold frame that matches the Arabic numerals and gold hands. In all honesty I think the watch would have even looked better without the date aperture, especially because of the stunning Shironeri color. But hey, you can’t have it all. Probably 50% of the buyers out there wants to have a date on their watches.
As you know, Grand Seiko is now treated as a separate entity from the Seiko Watch Corp in Japan. This means that ‘Seiko’ also disappeared from the dial since this year. This watch is no different, only Grand Seiko in writing and the applied GS logo at 12 o’clock. Between the center pinion and the 6 o’clock hour marker you will find the wording ‘Automatic’ and ‘Hi-beat 36000’. 36000 referring to the vibrations per hour of the movement, a method that (Grand) Seiko has been using for a long time, like Zenith for example.
The automatic movement is the Grand Seiko caliber 9S85. A high-beat movement that can be admired via the sapphire display back of the watch. The weight mass has been engraved and gold-filled with the Grand Seiko wording features a stripe finish and so do the bridges. The movement performs well within chronometer standards, even though Grand Seiko has their own, more strict, guide lines of -3 to +5 instead of -4 and +6 seconds per day deviation on average. The Grand Seiko SBGH263 has a power reserve of approximately 55 hours.
I noticed that in October, the Wako department store (owned by Seiko) had a special edition for their 75th anniversary, that looked very similar to this Grand Seiko SBGH263. Same case and movement, except for a different dial (a mesmerizing blue tone with different Arabic numerals). Only 30 of these were produced and sold solely via the Wako department store in Tokyo.
So for people who missed out on that one, and who loved the case design and Arabic numerals, this might be a great alternative. Or if you haven’t seen the Wako model, this could be a nice Grand Seiko in any case. It is a very classic looking watch, but due to the size of 39.5mm very wearable as a daily piece as well in my opinion.
The Grand Seiko SBGH263 is delivered on a beautiful black strap that comes with a stainless steel folding buckle. As you can see on the pictures, the strap appears to be alligator but one of the images clearly shows ‘calf’ on the lining of the strap. My guess is that this has to do with the Cites stuff that brands need to go through when exporting watches. As this was a sample piece, they might have put it on an alligator grain strap instead of a genuine alligator strap. I am convinced that Grand Seiko delivers this watch on a genuine alligator strap, also considering the price tag on this watch. As there is no press information available on this piece, make sure to enquire about it in the boutique.
Does this watch live up to its expectations? The Grand Seiko SBGH263 is a wonderful piece and the level of finish is what you can expect from a watch in this price range. I said enough already about the pricing strategy, but Grand Seiko sets the bar high and I would easily rank this watch next to a Jaeger-LeCoultre Master. A watch from a Richemont brand that is positioned in the same price range. Perhaps that’s a bold statement, but we are dealing with a watch here that is only frowned upon by some because it doesn’t have the Swiss Made or German Made writing on the dial. [tip] If you’re not put off by this, and want to have a lot of bang for the buck, go and search for a pre-owned Grand Seiko that also still bears the name ‘Seiko’ on the dial. You will be surprised. [/end of tip]
Go to Grand Seiko on-line for more information on the collection (this Grand Seiko SBGH263 is not on there).