Grand Seiko SBGJ237 — Better Than A Pepsi?
Instead of the planned trip to Tokyo earlier this year to see the new Grand Seiko watches, we received two boxes (or more like suitcases) with Grand Seiko and Seiko watches. Most of it under embargo, of course…
Despite Covid19 messing up our travel plans for 2020, the advantage is that we had a lot of time with these (and other) watches that made the trip to our office. One of the watches that grabbed immediate attention was this Grand Seiko SBGJ237. A smart looking GMT watch as you can see from the pictures.
Grand Seiko SBGJ237
Even though the green one (SBGJ239) was speaking to me a bit more at first, as I wrote in a previous article (click here) on Fratello, the blue and white version is definitely a grower. While it seems a little staid in comparison to its green brother (which leaps off the wrist thanks to the flame-red seconds hand), there is a professionalism and class to this model that the more vibrant alternative lacks. Besides the color scheme, the main difference is, of course, the fact it is paired with a stainless steel bracelet.
King of Specs
When my colleague Mike Stockton had a closer look at the new Grand Seiko SBGJ237 the other week, in the Seiko Boutique in Frankfurt (great folks!), he shot me a WhatsApp. “I am in trouble,” he wrote, “this is a better watch than the Pepsi…”
Central to his argument were the specs. The SBGJ237 is a beast on paper. But had that been all it was, Mike wouldn’t have found himself in such a bind. You see, “good” watches aren’t enough. We’re searching for those special tickers that really force you to feel something. Those are the models worth traipsing across the globe to find. Surprisingly, the SBGJ237 had a lot more character in real life than even our hands-on photos can do justice to.
Strangely, Mike concluded that this watch also looks more expensive than a Rolex GMT Master II. And I must say I agree. Although I like the Pepsi and have owned a few in the past (but not the new one), the Grand Seiko SBGJ237 oozes quality when you see it in the flesh, and put it on your wrist. The finishing is simply impeccable, as we have come to expect from Grand Seiko.
Hi-Beat Caliber 9S86
And inside, we find a Hi-Beat movement that ticks at 36,000vph, resulting in a super-smooth running seconds hand. Not as smooth as a Spring Drive movement, but still noticeably different from watches ticking at 28,800vph. This movement can also be found in a plethora of other Grand Seiko models, including my own Mt.Iwate SBGJ201 (click here for my review on it). The movement is covered by a steel case back, but it is the same as the one shown below, should you ever have cause to remove said case back and gaze upon it. Accuracy is between -5 and +3 seconds per day on average, according to Grand Seiko.
As you can see, the movement has a nice level of finishing. Even though you can’t observe it with the closed case back, it is reassuring to know that Grand Seiko is taking care of its movements as a matter of course. As I’ve written before, it has been possible to have your Grand Seiko watch serviced in places other than Japan for quite a few years now.
Here in The Netherlands, for example, there are a number of watchmakers who are certified by Grand Seiko to work on these movements. However, if your watch does need to go to Japan, it should take around 5 weeks to get back to you. In my opinion, that’s a very acceptable timeframe.
People tend to call a GMT like this Grand Seiko SBGJ237 a “real GMT”. This is because of the hour hand that can be set independently from the minutes. While traveling, you can just unscrew the crown and set the local timezone by increasing the hour hand; the minute hand won’t move. The GMT hand will indicate the home time. With the bezel, you can either read a third timezone or use it as a day/night indicator. Interestingly enough, Grand Seiko decided to make the day start at 6:30 and end at 17:30 on the sapphire bezel. As you can see in the picture above, the LumiBrite does its job very nicely in low-light conditions.
On the wrist
On my 19cm wrist, the Grand Seiko SBGJ237 GMT fits like a glove. With a 44.2mm diameter, the watch is by no means small, but due to the shape and 14.4mm thickness, it is simply very comfortable. The crown at 4 o’clock also helps with that, as it doesn’t stick into the top of your hand like some 3 o’clock crowns do. The stainless steel bracelet also plays a role in the comfort of the Grand Seiko SBGJ237.
I have been very critical towards Grand Seiko in the past when it comes to bracelets, especially for the diving watch (click here). This Grand Seiko SBGJ237 GMT however, has a good bracelet. The design is not my taste, due to the polished small links, but the finish is undeniably very good. Also, it has a proper clasp with a pleasing micro-adjustment.
Price and Availability
In the end, I am looking at a wonderfully designed GMT watch. For me, it is one of the highlights of the 2020 Grand Seiko collection. The Grand Seiko SBGJ237 doesn’t come cheap at €7,000 but it does offer a lot of value for that amount. Specs-wise, this Grand Seiko is very hard to beat with its level of finish on exterior and interior. Whether it is a better watch than the Pepsi is something I will leave up to you. In the end, you should buy what you like, of course.
More information via the official Grand Seiko website. More Grand Seiko coverage on Fratello can be found here.