The new Grand Seiko SBGX353 Skyflake is 34mm. Even mentioning this vintage-pure diameter to your WIS friends five or six years ago would have raised eyebrows to new heights. I can imagine the comments, Red Bar members dropping their Big Pilots on the GTG pub table in shock. A new watch not aimed at ladies measuring 34mm? Surely, the world is coming to an end. But this is 2022, and the large-cased beauty of Seiko and its Grand big brother is shrinking. Yes, my friends, this is a good thing.

But even if the picture is different, this is not an odd size for a men’s watch. Vintage Rolex has been cool for decades, and while prices are ever-rising, the old Air-Kings and Oysterdates were delectably sized at 34mm. But this took a while to reach new watches, even if 36–38mm cases are already popular (I have a particular fondness for 38s). Seiko took its time to get down from big-feeling 40-41mm Presage models, and the same goes for the Grand-er alternatives. But this year saw Kurono release four colorful 34mm references, so this is a thing. And the new Grand Seiko SBGX353 Skyflake is a charmer. Are the slender case and exact quartz caliber too good to be true, or is consolidation the ticket you need to downsize?

Grand Seiko SBGX353 Skyflake

Grand Seiko SBGX353 Skyflake — First impressions

This Elegance Collection case has a perfect Calatrava shape. It is round without the normal Grand Seiko muscle, and it merely carries the dial where the magic happens. At 10.7mm thick with long, curved lugs, it sits close to perfect on my medium-sized wrist. The 41.45mm length and the big-dial-to-case ratio make 34mm a truly elegant sweet spot. I know many of you might be shaking your heads thinking 36mm is the absolute smallest you’ll go, but try it on. You might be surprised unless you have Arnold-sized tree-trunk wrists.

The Skyflake dial brings more than just a catchy name

The Skyflake dial makes for a big impression on the wrist, even in low light. But when the sun or a spotlight catches it? Inspired by the blueish tones of freshly fallen snow around the Shinshu Watch Studio, it sparkles. I certainly feel the vibe. It might have something to do with me living right below the Arctic Circle in Norway, but the cool tones give me inner peace. The dial symmetry with a sole logo at 12 and no date or power reserve is minimalist joy.

Do I even care that the caliber is quartz? Not anymore, my friend, and especially not with the Seiko 9F61, because I’m an accuracy addict. There is a vast amount of craftsmanship within a Grand Seiko quartz movement, and with the 9F61, the average deviation is a magical ±10 seconds per year.

Grand Seiko SBGX353 Skyflake

Is 34mm the perfect dressy size for everyone?

Look, I’ve been there before and got out for the wrong reasons. I had a vintage Rolex ref. 6694, the perfect starter of a Rolex collection, and swapped it for a too-big 41mm Black Bay. I wish I never did, and the SBGX353 Skyflake is a very pleasant reminder of my mistake. But the 6694 felt smaller, its chubby body and thick crystal actually shrinking it, while the SBGX353 does the opposite. With a slender profile and nearly the entire diameter covered by the dial and slim bezel, it visually feels like a 36–37mm watch. In another regretful sale, my 37mm SBGR053 had a black dial and a case design with muscular shoulders. While that made it look tough, it makes this dial-centric SBGX353 feel about the same size.

Grand Seiko SBGX353 Skyflake

A big soul within a svelte case

In the SBGX353, the bright color and open dial design combined with a slim bezel falling away at a polished angle make it grow. The soft-spoken case design is also nicely offset by the pleasantly large crown with the gothic GS initials. This is vintage-sized but contemporary in its ergonomics. I didn’t expect a 34mm watch to have such a strong wrist presence, and it doesn’t take more than a hint of light to make the dial and Zaratsu details pop. While Grand Seiko’s dauphine hands are the best in the business and rather ubiquitous on Shinshu-produced watches, they don’t bore me. In fact, they can’t put a foot wrong.

Played out like a well-directed movie

On a lacquered dial, the Zaratsu-finished hands and indices create a battle of reflections on the glossy surface. Here, however, they create a sharp contrast to the blue tapestry behind them. Either of these situations could create cracks in the bigger picture, but no. Like two Hollywood stars sharing top billing in a movie, the dial surface and the elements floating above it play off of each other’s strengths. This is what makes Grand Seiko great and confounds the critics. As a quietly spoken, classic design with an intricate heart and a wow-factor dial, the SBGX353 Skyflake made a strong impression on me. And it will last.

Grand Seiko SBGX353 Skyflake

Now it’s time for the big questions, Fratelli. If 36 or 38mm makes you nervous, what about 34mm? Is this a step too far, or do you love your vintage watches and feel that finally, you can have the same vibe with that Grand Seiko peace of mind? Let me know in the comments.

The Grand Seiko SBGX353 will retail for €3,900 and be available from December 2022. For more information, please visit the Grand Seiko website.

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