I recently had an e-mail exchange with Dave Bruno, who used to have a website dedicated to the Sinn 142 model (with Lemania 5100 movement), and he wrote “now I’m on a Seiko kick (recently purchased the SBGE001….my grail !)”. The SBGE001 is a GMT watch of the Grand Seiko range. The top of the bill watch line of Seiko. Until recently, the Grand Seiko was something you wouldn’t see outside of Asia. When Seiko introduced their spring drive technology, they start to market it world wide. The SBGE001 is a 44mm diameter watch and has a 14.7mm thick case. It weighs 177 grams, wow!

Photo by Dave Bruno

Photo by Dave Bruno
Both pictures by Dave Bruno

What does it offer for almost 3500 euro (approx 5350 USD)? Dual timezone, 72 hour power reserve and 20 atm water resistant. Maybe even more important, a very well built quality watch. I wonder if watch collectors are ready to spend 3500 euro on a Japanese watch. Looking at the pictures that various people have put on the internet and reading the reviews written by Seiko enthusiasts, I am starting to think that the avid watch collectors may add a Seiko Spring Drive to their collection sooner as I thought. I have handled the first Spring Drive Seikos at an authorized dealer when they got introduced here in The Netherlands, and I was quite impressed. Only the price set me back from thinking that collectors would be jumping into the Spring Drive.

More pictures can be found here: http://www.ittc.ku.edu/~jgauch/watch/spring/SBGE001.html and http://jimmyfu.com/sbge001.html

Dave wrote me that he compared it to the Rolex GMT-Master II, and that it was no comparison in favor of the Grand Seiko SBGE001. That makes me curious about this watch. And curious about its movement, caliber 9R66. I haven’t seen pictures of the Seiko Spring Drive movement that’s inside this watch.

What do you think? Would you add a 3500 Euro Grand Seiko to your collection if the same money would buy you a nice Swiss watch with the same functionality? Even if the Seiko would be better crafted (bracelet, case etc)?

  • RJ-
    The beauty of the spring drive movement (which took over 20 years to develop!) is that it has done away with the weak spot on every ‘mechanical’ watch; the escapement. Therefore, there’s no need for temperature or positional regulation as the ‘balance’ spins at exactly 8 times a second and is electronically braked or accelerated (via a magnet I think) to ensure near perfect time keeping (most Spring Drive owners I read about talk about deviations of only a few seconds per month.) The debate about whether or not the Spring Drive is a mechanical movement will be never end, however the fact that this advanced movement is powered by a mainspring means to me at least, that the Spring Drive has the ‘soul’ of a traditional mechanical watch. Honestly, all mechanical watches are simply more advanced variations (better alloys, machining, tolerances, etc) of the pocketwatch movements from the early 1800’s. This may sound like an extreme statement …and it is ! I firmly believe the SD movement represents a major advance in horology which is well worth the price (especially on the secondary market)

  • Andy

    Great looking watch, wow! I just wish they had a different design on the bracelet. Looks just like a Speedmaster.

  • Martijn

    Apart from being a very well constructed watch with a great movement I personally have two reasons why NOT to buy this GS GMT.

    1) Design
    As innovative as Seiko is with its movement design, so conservative they are with their case, dial and bracelet design. They are highly influenced by their Swiss counterparts and that is a pity. I can understand that they want to go for safe but at least give the watch a unique appearance, since that can be a selling point itself.

    2) The name
    Call me a snob but when I spend several thousands of euro’s on a watch I don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t want to call it Seiko. I know you buy a watch for yourself, but with this amount of money emotion fills in a lot of the equation, and knowing that most Seiko’s sell for (well) under 500 euro’s makes this GS GMT hard to chew for me.

    All together the GS GMT reminds me a lot to the Volkswagen Phaeton; superior in almost everyway but never a hot seller, unlike its counterpart the Audi A8. I hope that the Grand Seiko-range has a different destiny, but even a very interesting movement and great finish is not enough for me to spend this kind of money.

  • Dave Bruno

    At least you’re honest Martijn ! I’d assume that the majority of Caucasian watch consumers feel the same way; Seiko makes a great product but will never consider it high-end, or worth X dollars. I find it interesting how polarizing the watch market is. I spend alot of time on the various Panerai forums where people pay ‘luxury’ prices for a modified $100 UT6497 movement, and to them it’s worth every penny !

  • Martijn


    You hit the nail on the head! Watches are (almost) nothing but marketing, especially Swiss watches. Of course craftsmanship, complicated designs etc. also have their price, but rarely make up the most of the watch. Like you already pointed out, a lot of expensive watches have relatively humble movements.

    Let’s be honest; if you want a mechanical watch, why not buy a $100,- Seiko 5 that will serve you very well for the rest of your life? Besides, you can still pass it on to your kids, James Bond wore a Seiko too and I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢m sure that there are many fighter pilot?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s, professional divers and even astronauts that depend on the brand to tell time. However, after the quartz-crisis the Swiss watch evolved from a device to tell time into art. And then all the rules that previously applied, don?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t count anymore, since art is emotion rather then rational thinking. A benefit for the majority of the Swiss brands, a challenge for brands like Seiko.

  • Hi RJ – I’ve been a fan of the GS line for quite some time, they have tremendous build quality, and their specs are actually slightly more stringent that the COSC certification. But their quality is (to me) coming from a more Japanese focus … highly machined and engineered (even though Rolex is also manufactured versus hand made!), and much more conservative and subtle (even traditional) looks.

    In Japan a GS watch is more highly prized than Swiss brands like Rolex, but it is still a different culture – here in North American we’re still swayed by the Swiss marketing machine. And to be honest, as a rule we tend to like less conservative looks in higher end watches.

    GS has a fairly extensive and impressive history, and vintage models still command a good price, however they are still a real discount compared to other chronometer-grade watches of that era.

    The particular example you show is actually not one of my favorite GS models, I prefer the SBGM003, which although a non-Spring Drive GS is a much more dressy watch with a creamy off-white dial. In the Spring Drive line, I’d pick one of their desk divers , the SBGA031 or SBGA029 (stainless and titanium respectively.

    GS tend to appeal to a small sub-segment of the luxury market over here … those who appreciate very high quality but with conservative design. You’ll never see a Grand Seiko flashed around the same way you do some people’s Rolex .

    Thanks as always for the great posts.
    Cheers from Canada