Hands-On Grand Seiko SBGJ017 GMT Hi-Beat Review
Last year, I reviewed the Grand Seiko SBGM021, a similar looking model of what we have here today. However, the Grand Seiko SBGJ017 GMT has a hi-beat movement and a less casual appearance. Let’s have a look.
Grand Seiko SBGJ017
The ivory dial of the aforementioned SBGM021 is something I really love about that watch. It gives a great contrast with the hands and a playful appearance. This Grand Seiko SBGJ017 GMT has a silver dial and looks a bit more elegant than the SBGM021. But enough with the comparison, this new Grand Seiko SBGJ017 (introduced in September last year) landed on our desk and was introduced at the same time as its black dial SBGJ019 counterpart. It features Grand Seiko’s caliber 9S86, which is a hi-beat (36,000vph) self-winding movement.
Every time I see a Grand Seiko, I find myself being impressed by the impeccable finish of the dial and hands. During my trip to the Grand Seiko manufactories in Japan I witnessed the painstakingly process of polishing and the continuous checking of the results. The applied hour markers and the razor sharp hands are very pleasing for the eyes.
The awkward thing with the dial remains the use of several fonts to indicate that you’re looking at a Seiko Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 GMT. It doesn’t bother me that much, but some people commented on it here last time, and I have to say they do have a valid point. For me it would not be a deal-breaker, but it would have been more balanced when Seiko would use the same typography.
The case of the Grand Seiko SBGJ017 measures 39.5mm in diameter and has a thickness of 13.9mm. It is a very elegant case, despite its thickness. The boxed sapphire crystal also takes up some space (thickness) of course, but looks stunning. The caseback also has a sapphire crystal, so you can admire the hi-beat calibre 9S86 movement. The crown has been signed with the GS logo. Operation of all functions is done via the crown.
To be honest it is one of those can’t-do-wrong type of cases, they will suit about everyone. The case of the Grand Seiko SBGJ021 for example, is much more outspoken and you really have to dig those sharp lines.
That said, it is a very comfortable watch on the wrist. The size of 39.5mm will be perfect for many (including ladies). The lug-width is 19mm, which limits you a bit when searching for third party straps but is not that uncommon. This Grand Seiko comes with a rather nice crocodile strap anyway.
Another aspect that sets Grand Seiko apart from other Seiko watches is of course the movement. In this Grand Seiko SBGJ017 we find the 9S86 calibre. It is one of their high beat (“hi-beat”) movements that features a GMT function. The same movement is also being used in the limited edition Grand Seiko SBGJ021 (“Mt. Iwate”) we also reviewed a while ago.
This movement ticks at 36,000vph, which means it has a rate of 10 beats per second. A high ticking number like this results in a very smooth sweep of the second hand. Another brand that uses this high beat rate is Zenith for example, since their 1969 El Primero caliber movement. However, this also isn’t exactly new to (Grand) Seiko as well. Already in 1967 Seiko used these hi-beat calibers. A higher beat rate also means an improved accuracy, but there are some downsides as well. Wear and tear of the parts (due to the higher beat rate) might result in a higher frequency of servicing. This Grand Seiko is guaranteed to have an accuracy between -3 and +5 seconds per day on average, which is well within COSC standards (it is not a chronometer though, as Grand Seiko uses their own standards). Brands like Rolex (-2/+2 seconds) and Omega (0/+5 seconds) are recently also using more strict standards than COSC rates them to.
The power reserve of the 9S86 is 55 hours and the movement uses 37 jewels.
The finish of the movement is very pleasing for the eyes. Beautiful decoration on the bridges and oscillating weight.
On the Wrist
The Grand Seiko SBGJ017 GMT is a great everyday wearer, like many other Grand Seiko watches. It is, of course, not your average sports watch so if you’re into that, there are some other alternatives from the Grand Seiko collection. I’ve found this SBGJ017 to be very comfortable on the wrist, also due to the soft croco strap. This Grand Seiko comes with a nice looking deployant clasp with a signed buckle.
Although I have fairly large wrists, 39.5mm is a great size. I have more watches that measure 39mm and 40mm I happen to find them very comfortable. When it gets smaller, like my 38mm Chronoswiss, 37mm King Seiko, 36mm Datejust or various 34 & 35mm vintage pieces, it gets a bit too small for me. Although I like and love those watches, they don’t get much wear due to the smaller sizes. Therefore, 39.5mm is just great.
Again, some people don’t get the Grand Seiko brand and think (and say) it is just your average Seiko (which is fine as well). You have to have a bit of a thick skin if you are vulnerable for those comments, but frankly, I don’t care. You buy this watch for yourself and because you are confident and convinced by the quality of the craftsmanship from (Grand) Seiko.
Price and Availability
This Grand Seiko SBGJ017 retails for 7200 Euro in The Netherlands. That is by no means cheap, but the quality of the watch is without a doubt on par with many of the Swiss brands that qualify themselves as haute horlogerie. The watch comes in the famous blue Grand Seiko leather box with some warranty papers and manual. To be honest, there is something to win here for them. A nicer / richer box would have been nice and would fit the high quality standards of the watch (and the price).
More information via Grand Seiko on-line.