RJ Goes Hands-On With The Grand Seiko SBGJ239 GMT Watch
Unfortunately, there was no Grand Seiko event this year. Normally, these annual get-togethers provide the perfect backdrop for new releases to first see the light of day. Instead, the Grand Seiko watches came to us. There is plenty to come over the course of the year (some of the novelties are still embargoed, of course). What I can say, however, having had the benefit of seeing what remains behind the curtain, is that the Grand Seiko SBGJ239 watch is absolutely one of my personal favorite 2020 releases.
A green dialed GMT on a leather strap? Color me interested. It sounds amazing on paper, but it sounds even more unusual when we consider this watch’s context. This watch sits within the Grand Seiko sport collection. Very few references in the Sport Collection come on a leather strap. The SBGJ237 — on which we will report later on — has a metal bracelet, but no green dial. That’s the difference. Let’s have a closer look at this green Grand Seiko SBGJ239 GMT watch.
Grand Seiko SBGJ239
What immediately pops is the stunning sapphire bezel of this SBGJ239 watch. The black and white sections separate day hours from night hours. Interestingly, with this release, the bezel is not divided evenly between day and night hours. This is quite a nice touch as it means the bezel numbers that naturally sit on the watch’s horizontal axis (6 and 18 on a GMT bezel) are not cut-through by an awkward color change. Instead, the color break occurs at 06:30 and then shifts back to black at 17:30.
There’s the local time (the central hour and minute hands), home time (GMT hand in vibrant red), and the rotatable bezel. As you probably know, by adding a 24-hour scale rotatable bezel on a GMT watch, you have the option of a third time-zone or a very quick-set second time-zone. The red GMT hand is identified by the color-coded “GMT” text on the dial. The red and green colors mesh well. The SBGJ237 has a blue dial and a blue and white bezel, but I have a slight preference for this green dialed SBGJ239 watch.
Grand Seiko and lume
On less sporty Grand Seikos — such as the Snowflake and the Mt. Iwate models, for example — there’s no lume. It is often the main criticism of these models. Well, eat your heart out, because the Grand Seiko SBGJ239 takes care of that problem. The hands and some of the hour markers are very bright in low-light conditions.
But all the attention goes out to the sapphire bezel, where the lower half (or white part) is fully lumed. It gives the watch a great “new” look during the evening or in low light conditions. It is actually that moment you realize you are dealing with a serious sports watch. During the day, when the lume isn’t visible, the Grand Seiko GMT SBGJ239 could also — almost — work as a dress watch. The alligator strap and elegant case shape take care of that. With a grain of salt of course, as you need to realize this is not a small watch. The diameter is 44.2mm and it has a thickness of 14.4mm.
Sporty case of the SBGJ239
The Grand Seiko SBGJ239 lacks a bracelet — although I am sure the bracelet of the SBGJ237 will fit — but due to the size and shape of the case, it still looks like a sports watch. The finishing on the case is what you can (and should) expect from Grand Seiko. It is all perfectly done. And worry not — the famous polishing technique that shall not be named has been applied, of course. The winding crown is signed “GS” and is located at 4 o’clock. That is a typical characteristic of (Grand) Seiko divers watches, which shouldn’t surprise us. And speaking of which, the Grand Seiko SBGJ239 is water-resistant to 20 bar (200 meters). Swap the leather strap for a NATO, bracelet or rubber strap and you are good to go.
Hi-beat 36,000 9S86 movement
Caliber 9S86 isn’t new, but an amazing accurate performer — I know as I have one myself — and the smooth seconds hand sweep is a joy to look at. Using this particular movement also means it is a proper GMT watch, meaning you set the hour hand independently for local time. The GMT hand indicates the home time and can’t be set separately. Caliber 9S86 has a power reserve of 55 hours and ticks at 36,000vph, hence the hi-beat reference. The accuracy of the watch is within -5 and +3 seconds per day on average, which is stricter than the chronometer (COSC) standards from Switzerland.
Strap or bracelet
As you can see in the picture above, the Grand Seiko GMT comes in two variations. The SBGJ239 we have here, with an alligator strap and green dial, and the SBGJ237, with blue dial and a stainless steel bracelet. This is a very tough choice. I like the versatility of having a bracelet (which you can always swap for a strap) but also like the elegant look of the alligator strap. In our pictures, you will see it is a calf strap with a crocodile grain. The watch was fitted to this strap so it could be shipped to us in accordance with CITES regulations. If you purchase this watch in a boutique, it will have an actual alligator strap. In the end, the most important question will be whether you are after a green or blue dial.
In all honesty, I am more attracted to the green dial SBGJ239 version. I understand it is just a personal preference and has nothing to do with the watch, but it just stands out to me. The combination of the green dial and brown alligator strap gives the watch bit of a vintage look and feel. Perhaps also a bit more “nature” like, as opposed to the sporty blue and white version. The big fat hour markers are applied and hand-finished. The hands are filled with lume and have a brushed finish on top and polished sides. Lume is almost unnecessary with the blade-like mirror finishing.
SBGJ239 Price and Availability
For those who travel the world and love watches, wearing a GMT watch is almost a necessity. Once I am settled in my seat on a plane heading for another time zone, the first thing that I do is adjust my watch. The SBGJ239 is an attractive travel companion, but also when you’re at home it will do perfectly. Although I can’t deny it is big (44.2mm), it does wear comfortably on this leather strap (with folding buckle). This green dial GMT will certainly be a conversation starter wherever you are!
The Grand Seiko SBGJ239 has a retail price of €6,800 and will be available in July in the Grand Seiko boutiques. More information via Grand Seiko online.