The Grand Seiko SBGV238 Shows Chutzpah
Not particularly a fan of quartz, but I don’t hate it either. Especially when it is done right, in a special way or with specific functionality (think Breitling ExoSpace or Omega’s X-33 for example). The Grand Seiko does not provide digital or ‘specific’ functionality, but the quartz movement surely is special. In fact, I prefer a Grand Seiko 9F quartz movement over some of the (non-Grand Seiko) mechanical movements out there. So before you click away, because it is about quartz, you might want to keep reading.
Some times, quartz can be done in an interesting way, even without digital functions. Like Rolex did with their Oysterquartz movements, it was in production for roughly 25 years (starting in 1977) and had beautiful finished bridges and plates and a pallet fork and pallet wheel that reminded much of a traditional mechanical escapement. And, of course, how Grand Seiko developed and produces their manufacture 9F quartz movements. They even grow their own quartz crystals, the crystals that are of the best quality (think clarity for example, just like they do with diamonds) are being used in their caliber 9F movements, the other crystals are used for the regular quartz movements.
Grand Seiko SBGV238
Almost two years ago we already showed you the Grand Seiko SBGV019G, a limited edition model that showed Grand Seiko’s chutzpah. Their transparent case back shows the inner workings of a quartz watch. But not your average plastic cased quartz movement, but a beautifully decorated and finished high-end quartz movement. All Grand Seiko 9F calibers are this way, not only the ones that are being shown through display backs.
Now, for the 25th anniversary of their Grand Seiko caliber 9F movements, introduced in 1993, they pull it off once more, with this limited edition Grand Seiko SBGV238 model. Limited to 600 pieces only.
The design of the Grand Seiko SBGV238 is according to the Grand Seiko design-code, and a re-interpretation of the famous 1967 44GS reference. To me, this is the design for a Grand Seiko. It also is for Grand Seiko, as it is referred to by them as Taro Tanaka’s Grammar of Design. In the Seiko Museum in Tokyo they have this huge poster on the wall, giving explanation about this specific Grand Seiko grammar of design. As you can see below, this design shows the tangential line/shape of the case band, the Zaratsu polished bezel and case and recessed crown.
I have written it before and will do once more, but this 44GS design only comes to justice on a leather strap in my opinion. As you can see, the Grand Seiko SBGV238 comes with a stainless steel bracelet. It shows resemblance with Omega’s Speedmaster-style bracelet, and it isn’t super elegant for a watch like the Grand Seiko SBGV238 to be honest. I’d wear any Grand Seiko according to the ‘Grammar of Design’ on a leather strap, or perhaps even on NATO, anything but this bracelet. I have to add though, that there’s little wrong with the quality of the bracelet, it feels very solid and is nicely finished. No sharp edges anywhere. However, the contrast with the watch is just too little. The bracelet distracts a bit too much from the beautiful case and dial design of the Grand Seiko.
For this 25th anniversary model, Grand Seiko added a 18 carat gold bezel on the watch case. Perfectly matching with the gold applied hour markers, star (see below), GS logo, hands and date frame. I would not have mind if Grand Seiko put a gold crown on this watch as well. That would make perfect sense.
Interesting is the design of the dial. Grand Seiko used their traditional symbol for quartz movement as a special pattern. Beautiful gold hour markers have been applied, two at 12 o’clock (also according to the Grammar of Design rules), with beautiful facets. As I’ve witnessed in the Grand Seiko manufacture, these are all polished and checked by hand before they are being hand-applied. To set a dial with all hour markers and applied logos, the skilled people in the Shiojiri manufacture need about a minute. We explained it to you in more detail in this article. At 6 o’clock, we find a little applied gold star. This star represents the accuracy of the watch (or its movement).
Grand Seiko Caliber 9F82 Movement
The movement inside this Grand Seiko SBGV238, or any other 9F quartz movement, performs within +/- 5 seconds of deviation per year. The 9F82 movement is of course also thermo-compensated.
A nice feature of these Grand Seiko watches with 9F calibers is that the second hand pauses exactly on the markers on the dial. The caliber 9F uses a regulatory wheel that adjusts the blacklash between gears to prevent vibration of the hand. That ‘mechanical’ part is being used in this quartz movement to make sure the precise motion of the second hand.
Seiko’s 9F quartz movement is also a temperature sensitive movement. It will detect variation in temperatures up to 540 times a day and automatically compensates for this change to maintain its high accuracy.
As you can see on the picture above, there is a small switch that shows (-) and (+) and a few markers in between. You might have guessed it already, it is there for adjusting the pace of the movement. Like mechanical movements and their regulation, this quartz movement also has a switch for fine regulation.
Pricing and Availability
With a production of only 600 pieces, chances are fairly small that we will receive one for review. A pity, as I would have loved to give this one a try on the wrist. Not in the least place because I think Grand Seiko gave this model a nice two-tone look, and I am all for that.
Is it perfect? No, I am of the opinion a few things would have make the Grand Seiko SBGV238 more attractive for me. Aside from the fact whether you like the quartz movement or not, I would rather see this watch with a gold crown and a strap instead of a bracelet. What struck me a bit as strange, is that we are basically looking at a two-tone watch here, with a 18 carat gold bezel, gold indexes and hands on the dial, but not a single touch of gold on the bracelet. It puts the bracelet even a bit more out of place than I already find them to be. But again, this is all personal and a strap is easy to attach to this watch.
The 40mm case (and 10mm thick) is a good size, and quite an increase from the 37mm 9F quartz models that I had before for review. The Grand Seiko SBGV238 has a water resistance of 100 meters and is anti-magnetic up to 4800 A/m (~ 60 gauss).
Although this watch is limited to 600 pieces only, I also believe that the market is rather small for this watch. With a retail of €5000 for a quartz powered watch, it isn’t cheap and only a small number of people will be interested in adding this watch to their collection. With an annual production of about 35.000 Grand Seiko watches, it is still a significant number of course.
This watch will be available in May 2018. One month earlier, Grand Seiko will release their SBGT241 watch. Another limited edition 9F quartz model (limited to 1500 pieces, retail €3400), a re-interpretation of the first 9F Grand Seiko watch from 1993. This model will not feature a display back though and has a different case design.