In 2020, celebrating 60 years of Grand Seiko, the brand made some pathbreaking announcements such as new Spring Drive and Hi-Beat (with a new escapement, no less) calibers as well as a tourbillon. Outside of these headliners were a set of 3 Spring Drive GMT watches (SBGE253, SBGE255 and SBGE257 in black, blue and green, respectively) that are, in some ways, among the most important Grand Seiko releases in recent times.
To put it simply, Grand Seiko up until now, had limited options for what we typically refer to as an everyday-watch. With casual tones increasingly dominating the way we dress, a sporty watch that can go from workplace to a holiday has become the most popular genre today, at large.
Objectively, Grand Seiko had watches which fit this bill but were sized at a substantial 44mm, so the big news with the SBGE series Spring Drive GMTs is that the case size is a significantly more comfortable and wearable 40.5mm. This signals a major statement of intent from the brand.
We’ve got the green variant SBGE257 with us for this hands-on look, so let’s get into it.
In a nutshell
The spec sheet of the SBGE257 gives away its intention. We’re talking about a 40.5mm steel watch with GMT function, ceramic bezel and 200m of water resistance. With wearability, robustness and most use-cases covered, you’ve also got the Spring Drive movement to supplement its horological quotient.
While it is decidedly sporty in its aspiration, the finesse and detailing in the execution is unmistakably GS. In person, exceptional finish is on full display from the case to the hands and indexes, signalling a kind of richness in design that allows the SBGE257 to stay within the realm of an evidently high-end wristwatch notwithstanding its tough construction and character. Which is to say that while it’s more than capable of being called a ‘tool watch’, it chooses instead to sport its tastefully overt luxuriousness.
It’s well-known by now that Grand Seiko pay special attention to their cases, with Zaratsu becoming a kind of household term as far as watch enthusiasts go. The SBGE257 is no different, using a mix of satin and mirror (or distortion-free Zaratsu) finishes on its various sections. This is not a simple case by any stretch, with enough lines, curves and levels to keep you visually engaged.
Grand Seiko didn’t opt for the angular and fully-polished 44GS case for this line of Spring Drive GMTs. If you’ve seen one of these 44GS cases in person, you know their awe-inducing glimmer will make you not want to put the watch through any rough treatment whatsoever. So the presence of satin-finished sections on the SBGE257 enhance its daily-wearing appeal. The sides of the case, chamfers as well as inner sides of the lugs, however, are Zaratsu polished, adding contrast and definition.
Total thickness of the case is 14.7mm and that number might raise some eyebrows, even though Grand Seiko watches tend to be thicker than average. Thankfully – and this can be said for many of their timepieces – the way the case is constructed significantly reduces the impact of this number. This complexity in construction is evident when viewed from the side. The angled lugs slope downward, a chamfer connects the polished side to the brushed top and the ceramic bezel slants down too. Each of these elements contribute to the watch wearing far more comfortably than expected, given its stated thickness.
The forest green dial of the SBGE257 has two notable subtleties to it. One, it’s bright green only in some light, veering mostly towards a very dark bottle green or even black. This helps keep it relatively under the radar for a dial of such colour. Two, while the finish is sunburst, it’s not so in an overly dramatic way. Overall, this makes for a very subdued and pleasing look.
The watch’s lumed hands have blunt ends and are faceted in a manner that reflect light brilliantly. Expectedly, finish on hands and indexes is breathtakingly flawless. The top surface of the indexes, in fact, has vertical lines if you look closely. This isn’t the kind of embellishment you attempt unless you know the outcomes will be irreproachable. After all, this kind of exactness is Grand Seiko’s stock-in-trade.
The bronze-toned GMT hand complements the green of the watch really well. On the dial, the GMT text is also in the same shade to harmoniously tie together contrasting colours. In addition to the fixed ceramic bezel to track a second time zone, there is a day-night ring on the rehaut in silver and green as well. Each of these elements add layers of depth to the overall watch, but is there too much going on with the dial?
In person, no. This aspect has actually been taken care of by the brilliant finishing on hands and markers. To explain this further, while there are undoubtedly many elements on the SBGE257’s dial, my eyes were mostly drawn to the parts reflecting most light (i.e. the hands and markers) resulting in the visual effect being significantly less heavy than I expected. The date window, power reserve indicator and day-night ring do their own thing in both form and function without taking centerstage.
With that said, given that the date window has been placed asymmetrically at the 4 o clock position and is not framed as they tend to be on most Grand Seiko watches, it may be a point of contention for some.
On the wrist
When you put the SBGE257 on the wrist is when it all comes together. It wears quite elegantly thanks to its construction and finish, and has an assured presence to it. The 40.5mm case size allows the watch to sit comfortably on a variety of different wrist sizes, helped further by downward sloping lugs. At no point did the SBGE257 feel particularly bulky, even with the 14mm+ thickness.
The bracelet, with a 3 section construction and polished outer edges, has 2 half-links while the clasp has 4 micro-adjust holes to ensure you can dial in your exact fit. This is helpful because weight distribution of the watch is concentrated more around the case compared to the bracelet, so a snug fit would prove to be more comfortable. Finish on the bracelet has the same quality and uniformity as on the rest of watch.
I found the SBGE257 exuding an appealing kind of confidence, owed perhaps in some part to how visually distinctive it is from other Swiss offerings in its segment. There is definitely something non-conformist about it.
The SBGE257 is powered by the 9R66 Spring Drive automatic movement with 72 hours of power reserve and accuracy of within 1 second per day. The watch has a solid case back, so while you do not get a view of the movement, the presence of the Spring Drive is reflected in the serene, effortlessly fluid and silent sweep of the seconds hand.
It’s quite fitting that a watch like the SBGE257 (along with its other Spring Drive GMT siblings) was announced in Grand Seiko’s 60th anniversary year, because it charts an interesting new direction for the brand in a fresh, modern and offbeat way. They have presented a seriously compelling everyday offering and I’m reasonably sure they will iterate on this framework further. Because we’ve seen quite clearly that Grand Seiko is listening to feedback and what people are looking for.
Even though this watch retains so many qualitative attributes we’ve come to expect of the brand, it is starkly different from icons like the Snowflake. For the sake of diversity, experimentation and choice for consumers, I feel that’s a great thing.
To execute a sporty watch with such finesse is endearingly characteristic of Grand Seiko. Them keeping beauty as non-negotiable no matter the timepiece is like an actor who remains in character even when the lights go out. It’s an admirable dedication to keep doing things their own way.
Whom is it for: Someone getting into Grand Seiko as a brand and looking for an exceptionally high-quality everyday watch
Talking point: Have you seen a seconds hand move like that on a wristwatch before?
Best thing about it: Astonishing level of finish in a solid, daily-driver
Winning combination: Case size + rich shade of green + robustness (ceramic bezel, sapphire crystal, 200m WR)
One thing I’d change: Placement of the date window
Details and specifications
Case: 40.5mm wide, 14.7mm thick, 48.4mm lug-to-lug stainless steel case with ceramic bezel
Crystal: Double-domed sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on the inside
Strap: 3-link stainless steel bracelet with tri-fold, push-button clasp and micro-adjustment
Movement: 9R66 Spring Drive automatic with 72 hour power reserve
Functions: Time, date, power reserve indicator, second time zone with independently-setting hour hand
Water resistance: 200m (with a screw down crown)
Pricing: ₹4,65,000 or $6,200.
All watches in the SBGE25x Spring Drive GMT collection are available at the Grand Seiko India online boutique.