Grand Seiko Buyer's Guide 2015
Baselworld 2015 introduced a number of new Grand Seikos, but interestingly, it also failed to introduce a number more--that's right, about half of Grand Seiko's 2015 lineup actually went unmentioned and their fans basically left in the dark. We're here to correct that oversight and discuss every single new model, and yes, new movement, released in 2015.
The biggest news from Grand Seiko this year was the 62GS, and while the spring drive collection got two models, it was Grand Seiko's mechanical line that really won out with a whopping 6 models, 4 regular automatics and 2 Hi-Beats, paying homage to the classic automatic.
Interestingly, it was the regular automatic line that appeared most favored by Grand Seiko with regard to the 62GS, not the Hi-Beat. This kind of makes sense when you consider that the original 62GS wasn't a Hi-Beat either.
These four 9S65 powered models closely resemble the original with its famous off-centered crown. Since the 62GS was the first automatic Grand Seiko, a recessed and off-centered crown was used as a symbolic way of showing fans that you won't be using the crown to wind it very often. These are definitely the dressiest watches GS released this year thanks to their understated looks and relatively classic size of 37.6mm. The four versions released are the SBGR095 (steel), SBGR091 (white gold), SBGR092 (yellow gold) and SBGR094 (rose gold).
Grand Seiko continues with their 62GS homage in the Hi-Beat collection, releasing the SBGH037 and SBGH039. These are much more contemporary iterations of the original with only subtle nods to its predecessor and sport a much more modern case size of 40mm. Perhaps most interesting is the brown dialed SBGH039, a relatively rare addition in GS' lineup.
Grand Seiko finally gave us two new models that utilize last year's 9S86 Hi-Beat GMT movement, the SBGJ011 and SBGJ013. These two watches look terrific and offer a good alternative to those who skipped last year's SBGJ001 and SBGJ003. Perhaps most compelling aspect of these watches is their teak dial, reminiscent of the famous Omega Aqua Terra 8500.
While the SBGJ011 retains the SBGJ001's blued GMT hand, the SBGJ013 skips the red GMT hand from last year's model and instead takes the gold hand from the limited edition SBGJ005 and it looks terrific as a result. Another major change is the use of Seiko's proprietary high-intensity titanium although the 40mm size remains the same.
My favorite new Grand Seiko, however, is one of the unannounced models--the SBGR099 and its brethren, the blue dialed SBGR097 and black dialed SBGR101. We must start with the new movement--a new one based on the popular 9S65, the 9S61. It's basically identical except it loses the date complication which gives it a dressier look and more of that impressive GS dial work. Also, in losing the date mechanism, two jewels are rendered redundant and therefore the jewel count is now 33 instead of 35. The power reserve remains at 72 hours.
I think that these new watches just look stunning with their symmetrical dials and excellent legibility. The black and white dialed variants closely resemble the far more expensive and very popular SBGH001 and SBGH005 but are distinct enough to perhaps warrant even owning both.
Interestingly, although these seem to be aimed at dress watch aficionados, the size has been increased to 42mm, making them fairly substantial. Also note that the SBGR097's photo is pre-production and the watch will change a bit as Grand Seiko releases its official shots. The SBGR097 is also the only limited edition of the trio which just 500 pieces being made.
Grand Seiko also utilized the 9S61 in powering their two new ladies watches, the elegant STGR001 and STGR003. Currently, these are the only mechanical watches available from GS for ladies in America, the rest being quartz, but it's nice to see that they got a new mechanical movement.
The size is also quite good for a ladies automatic at 34.8mm. The STGR001, on bracelet, receives 37 diamonds on the dial and both receive a gorgeous guilloche white dial.
The Spring Drives
The spring drive line of watches wasn't totally left out of the 62GS party offering the stunning SBGA125 and SBGA127. Both of these watches feature the venerable 9R65 spring drive with the same extreme accuracy and 72 hour power reserve you know and love, but the SBGA125 features what we call the blizzard dial, a new take on the legendary Snowflake's more gentle snow drifts. Looking at the textured dial is reminiscent of a snow flurry.
The blue dialed SBGA127, conversely, features a beautiful blue sunburst and is basically an edgier version of last year's successful SBGA105 limited edition. Both are in Seiko's high-intensity titanium and are 40mm.
Grand Seiko also released (but failed to announce) a sporty new GMT watch, the SBGE033. This watch reminds me a bit of a very high-end Seiko Alpinist with its similar green sunburst dial. The watch is unique in that it features not only that green dial, but a white GMT chapter ring and red accents, as well as luminous hands and indices. This makes it the second sportiest model released from GS this year. It's powered by the 9R66, the GMT version of the 9R65 that powers watches like the Snowflake, and features better-than 15 second per month accuracy. The watch is a limited edition and the photo shown is a pre-production photo, so there will be some slight changes as the official photos are released.
Perhaps the most surprising entrant is another unannounced watch, the SBGC013. This is a new version of the SBGC001 and 003 chronograph and one of its big difference is obvious--it has an amazingly blue sunburst dial and gold accents. But more important differences are a little subtler. The stainless steel bezel, for instance, has been replaced by a ceramic tachymeter, a first for Grand Seiko. That will help increase scratch resistance quite significantly. Even more important is what's inside--the first 9R96 spring drive. This is basically the 9R86, the most complex movement in Grand Seiko's history, but turned up a notch by the master watchmakers to achieve better-than 10 second per month accuracy. It also receives a unique rotor with a special gold Grand Seiko medallion, as well as a gold medallion on the clasp. Elsewhere the watch is made from high-intensity titanium. Unfortunately this watch is very limited with only 300 pieces being made. Like most of the other limited editions here, this is a pre-production photo and minor changes might be made on the way to an official one.
It might surprise you to learn that no new quartz models were released this year--not a single one. It surprised us too, but then, like the spring drive (which received no full production models for 2015), it had a really big 2014, so I think Grand Seiko really wanted the attention to be on its mechanical line this year.
All in all, another great year for Grand Seiko. Of course it's hard, almost impossible even, to beat their award-winning 2014, and I suspect they're really building up to an epic 2016 and were also a bit distracted by the 50th anniversary of Seiko's first dive watch which directed the company's attention towards their Prospex line. But they did make some significant changes that will be felt for years to come, most important being the 9S61 movement which has created an all-new subset of both men's and women's Grand Seikos. It's also encouraging to see the 9R96 update which will hopefully be rolled into future special editions.