Grand Seiko is known for attention to detail, exquisite finishing, and excellent dial work. Most of the brand’s timepieces are time-and-date watches, bereft of superfluous details and meant for everyday wear. However, now and then, Grand Seiko pulls out all of the stops, crafting a piece that illustrates its horological chops. The new version of the Spring Drive Chronograph GMT highlights everything that makes Grand Seiko the brand that it is.

The lion is the king of the jungle, or so the saying goes. The lion has been the symbol of Grand Seiko since the line debuted back in 1960. With the aim to make the best watches possible in terms of accuracy, durability, and beauty, the lion is a worthy aspiration for Grand Seiko. The angled case, Zaratsu polishing, and golden dial of the SBGC253 evoke the apex predator as well. While this isn’t the first Spring Drive chronograph to lean into this imagery, this might be the best execution of it to date.

More is more

What makes this watch so impressive is the feature set. The Spring Drive movement ensures accuracy. The chronograph tracks elapsed minutes and up to 12 hours and features pump pushers, whereas other previous models had screw-down pushers. This makes operating the chronograph significantly more convenient. The power reserve is three days, and for good measure, there is a GMT complication too. Green-glowing Lumibrite coats the hour and minute hands as well as the hour markers, while blue-glowing Lumibrite adorns the GMT hand and the 24-hour scale on the bezel. These separate functions are split accordingly.

The Grand Seiko SBGC253 Spring Drive Chronograph GMT “Lion’s Mane”

While the lion may be the king of the jungle, it is the second largest (naturally occurring) cat in the world. This is also fitting for the SBGC253 since Grand Seiko does make a few dive watches that have grander measurements. However, the difference between a 46mm dive watch and a 44.5mm chronograph might only be the tip of a claw; the overall case design is a statement piece that elevates the overall package.

Grand Seiko is known for working magic on watch dimensions. We all know that to really understand how these watches wear, you must try them on. This watch is no different. The 44.5mm case diameter and 16.8mm thickness are necessitated by a feature-rich movement. The curvature of the lugs, low center of gravity, and titanium construction will allow this watch to fit on smaller wrists than its dimensions would have us think. The tapered H-link bracelet and toolless micro-adjust clasp (from the diver’s collection) will also aid in getting a proper fit.

This design is not for everyone. The large, angular case is bold. The chronograph and running seconds sub-dials have a satin finish, contrasting with the “lion’s mane” pattern in the rest of the dial. There is a date window, which is offensive to some by its existence alone. The power-reserve indicator is at 7 o’clock, and the Grand Seiko logo is almost halfway between 11 and 12. All of these things are incongruent, but together, the chaos is organized, making one congruent design.

Technical specimen

The caliber 9R86 is a tour de force. Featuring a 72-hour power reserve and accuracy of ±15 seconds per month, it highlights the precision we have come to know from Spring Drive. The 50-jewel movement features the chronograph and GMT complication with jumping local-hour hand. Magnetism resistance to 4,800 A/m is a necessity for a world that is increasingly magnetic (just take a look at your phone case). The sapphire crystals on the front and transparent case back are antireflective, and the latter allows the movement its close-up.

All of these functions are packed into a high-intensity titanium case that is 30% lighter than stainless steel. The water-resistance rating of 200 meters is more than typically offered by chronographs or GMT watches, let alone a combination of the two. The H-link bracelet with its trifold clasp features a secure-lock extender, Grand Seiko’s version of a toolless micro adjustment. Sitting in the sport line, this timepiece is meant to endure, or at least be capable of enduring.

Final thoughts

While the Grand Seiko SBGC253 Lion’s Mane chronograph may not be a sapphire-cased tourbillon, its position at the top of the Grand Seiko sport line is fitting. You don’t often see chronograph and GMT complications blended together. The angular case, stunning dial, and combination of complications make for a distinguished statement piece. That said, it will set you back a jungle king’s ransom with a price tag of €13,400. For more information, check out the Grand Seiko website.

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Watch specifications

Spring Drive Chronograph GMT "Lion's Mane"
Champagne “Lion’s Mane” pattern
Case Material
High-intensity titanium
Case Dimensions
44.5mm × 50mm × 16.8mm
Dual-curved sapphire with antireflective coating
Case Back
Screw-down with sapphire display window
Grand Seiko Spring Drive 9R86 — 50 jewels, 72-hour power reserve,
Water Resistance
200 meters / 20 bar
H-link bracelet with push-button release, secure lock, and extender
Time, date, 12-hour chronograph, GMT