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Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition Chronograph SBGC017 Watch Hands-On

Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition Chronograph SBGC017 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

At Baselworld 2016, we got to play with one of the most esoterically “Japanese” new limited edition Seiko watches to come out in a while. It’s amazing, easy to joke about, and yet another reason we love Japan’s finest horology. This is the (utterly ambiguously named) Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition reference SBGC017. I’d like to immediately suggest a few different names for this timepiece, actually, since this isn’t even the only limited edition black ceramic watch released by the brand this year!

Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition Chronograph SBGC017 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

If you look closely at the dial of the SBGC017 you’ll notice a pattern of small repeating trees. Weird, right? The black ceramic case is matched with a green tree dial, so I’d like to propose calling this watch the Grand Seiko “Green Tree Chronograph.” Alternatively you could call this the Grand Seiko “Onbashira Limited Edition,” because that is the name of the festival in Nagano, Japan, that the design is meant to honor.

Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition Chronograph SBGC017 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition Chronograph SBGC017 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Onbashira is another one of those amazingly strange (to non-locals) Japanese events which involves teams of men riding cut logs down a hillside. It has been called “the most dangerous event” in Japan, and reportedly has been going on (uninterrupted) for 1,200 years. Most of the time, it seems that at least a small number of people die in the event (which may be people actually riding the logs or the people who are standing too close to the logs themselves). Onbashira (official Japanese site) takes place each six years in the Lake Suwa region of Nagano, which also happens to be where one of Seiko’s most prestigious watchmaking facilities is located. Hence why there is now a limited edition Grand Seiko chronograph to celebrate this interesting and amusing facet of Japanese culture.

Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition Chronograph SBGC017 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

(Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)

If Onbashira sounds merely quirky and tame, then you need to view some of the videos. This is everything a Japanese tradition should be, mixing hyper masculinity with costumes, singing, and lots of people running around waving funny banners. It’s total madness, and I wish I could see it in person some day. If only they did cool stuff like this at places like renaissance festivals in the USA… think of all the safety violations!

Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition Chronograph SBGC017 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

In quiet appreciation of this time-honored Lake Suwa festival, the Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition SBGC017 doesn’t even go so far as to mention Onbashira anywhere on the watch. I and the people reading this article know of the connection, but think into the future. I always point this out, but few people in the watch industry seem to be listening to me. If you make a limited edition watch in honor of something, please mention that (even in a minor way) on the watch itself. Imagine someone in the future who picks up this watch and has no idea what to make of it. If it weren’t for articles such as this one on aBlogtoWatch, how on earth would they have any idea Seiko was inspired by a Japanese log-riding festival in the creation of a watch?


Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition Chronograph SBGC017 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

If you aren’t keen on the green tree dial, then you can opt for the similar Grand Seiko SBGC015, which has a more simple black dial to match the black ceramic case, and the same Spring Drive chronograph movement. Oddly enough, both are limited edition models, but the more simple SBGC015 is limited to 500 pieces while this arguably more niche-appeal SBGC017 is limited to 600 pieces. Both are really nice when it comes down to it.

Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition Chronograph SBGC017 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition Chronograph SBGC015

Now that you know about the green tree dial and what it means, let’s talk about the rest of the Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition watch as it combines some existing things with some new things. Of course, the major “innovation” here is that this is the first time Grand Seiko has come out with a ceramic case. In fact, for 2016, Seiko has produced four limited edition Black Ceramic watches which include the GMT SBGE037 and SBGE039 models, as well as these Chronograph SBGC015 and SBGC017 watches.

Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition Chronograph SBGC017 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition Chronograph SBGC017 Watch Hands-On Hands-On

Ceramic cases aren’t per se new, but when Seiko decides to do something, they tend to do it very well – especially for these top-tier Grand Seiko collection models. The case reminds me of the cool but no-longer-produced Seiko Ananta collection, and it consists of five pieces. The all-polished surfaces are nicely done, and of course ceramic benefits from being very (very) scratch-resistant. Seiko did something a bit interesting, which is to make the outer case ceramic, while the inner case is titanium. Among other benefits, Seiko claims that this design decision helped make the watch 25% lighter.



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  • ILOW

    In some of the macro shots, the hands and movement finishing actually looks quite poor. It can’t be!? Also I have to strongly disagree with the author about the need to plaster onto the watch the occasion being celebrated by the LE. I think the green trees motif is a strong enough hint. Any more and you’ll feel like a walking advert for said event. Good play Seiko.

    • Ariel Adams

      Don’t forget, this is a pre-production prototype.

      • mtnsicl

        I think he made that clear. Skimming again?

      • Nick Chang

        Ariel, the non-chrono version of this piece, SBGE039, really caught my attention when I was browsing Seiko’s website the other day and I wasn’t aware there’s a chrono version, so thanks for writing about this series. I’m not sure I’d pay the list price for it but it is definitely a GS I’d want. I think this watch has swag in spades and its something I can picture James Bond wearing in a Brioni tux.

    • Ulysses31

      On the image 6/10, the boundary between the finishes on the hour hand looks messy. The overall roughness on the image 8/10 is due to poor quality resampling in some editing application, by the looks of it. Prototype it may be, but it makes me wonder why they don’t take extra care to make the item that will sell their design to the world, of better quality. You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, after all. Seiko are not alone in doing this but I find it strange.

  • PleaseSpellRoman4AsIV

    I wish I could get used to the typeface that Seiko are using for their date, but it’s just too strange for me. Especially in these photos showing “6” for the date right next to the completely different typeface of the “6” for the GMT on the bezel.

  • Marius

    In my humble but important opinion, this is a very attractive watch. It features a legible dial, a high quality case, and a horologically intersting and well-finished movement.

    However, it has two problems. Firstly, I would always opt for a steel case because it showcases the great finishing and polishing applied by Grand Seiko. The ceramic case doesn`t really give me the same impression. Furthermore, it`s simply too big and too thick, especially if you look at the side profile.

    Secondly, the price is absurd. It might have a ceramic case, but nowadays that`s not exactly amazing since even much cheaper watches feature such cases. Moreover, for a similar price you could easily buy a watch equipped with the new Glashutte Original in-house flyback chrono movement, or the new Blancpain F385 5Hz flyback chrono caliber. If I was at the AD with these watches in front of me, I doubt that I would pick the Grand Seiko at this pricepoint.

    • Timestandsstill

      “However it has two problems.” Firstly I would always opt for a steel case. Secondly, it’s simply too big and too thick. Secondly, the price is absurd. And secondly, …. 😉 Sorry, couldn’t help myself, we love ya Marius

    • Jack Daniels

      The $6k Spring Drive Ananta was not good enough to choose over the Swiss offerings at that price point, and this $13k GS isn’t twice as good as that one.

    • Nick Chang

      I agree 90% with your sentiments on this piece but I couldn’t render a final judgement until I actually see and feel it in person. One thing I’ve experienced over the years with many fine timepiece is mere photos and specs still can’t do total justice until you behold one up close, because the true value of a watch ultimately rests with how it looks and feels to me. Patek, AP, and Panerai are best examples. I use to think why and how on earth are they priced the way they are until I see and feel one up close and this often shifts my feelings up several notches.

      The non-chronograph version of this piece, SBGE039, first caught my attention on Seiko’s website and I also thought its a very handsome and swag piece.

  • laup nomis

    I just love Seiko. They always do really well made and stylish designs, but at a price that calls out the Swiss.
    I’m not a great fan of uber technical watches, but (in pre/prototype condition) this is still a highly desirable piece.
    But the price is another sign that Seiko are starting to place themselves in direct competition with the swiss haute brands. The quality and style is absolutely there. But if the Grand Seiko’s become expensive, I don’t want to also start paying Tissot, Victorinox money for Seiko 5’s, sarb, srp, skx, etc automatics.
    I hope I’m wrong in this, (most likely), because you can’t beat a Seiko beater (sic).

  • SuperStrapper

    Love the tree motif dial. I could take or leave the rest.

  • Eugeny Buslaev

    Beautiful watch. I want these !!!

  • cluedog12

    Interesting. Hoping Seiko extends the modern designs to modestly-sized watches. This one is yuuuuge!

  • DanW94

    The watch is good looking. The dial elements look slightly unbalanced, but the textured tree design is cool. And that log event looks absolutely bonkers! Kind of a “Running of the Logs”. Don’t know what would be worse, completely wiped out by a giant log or trampled by an angry bull….

  • Apart from the big size those are absolutely gorgeous watches. And the finish is a combination of anal retentive and psychotic…

    • Beefalope

      That’s really my only problem with these watches. I would love to own a GS chrono, but they’re simply too big. I hope Seiko comes out with something smaller at some point.

  • That dial layout is a mess. What’s the purpose of the power reserve indicator? Isn’t this an automatic watch with a 72 hour power reserve? If you’re wearing it, it’s wound. If you’re not, then it isn’t. Do you really need a subdial for that?

  • Is there a reason why they don’t put lumed hands on their sporty GS models? This is as far away from dress watch as it gets for GS.

  • funNactive

    & I thought Bull Riding was stupid: hop on a 2000 pound animal that wants to kill you) — Let’s ride a log down a hill & expect a few deaths!

  • mtnsicl

    They call them Grand Seiko because it’ll cost you many grand to own one. Do they realize the grand amount of Swiss choices out there if someone wants to spend 13 grand for a watch or watches? I would think with their manufacturing ability, they could cut the cost way down. Because no one pays that much just to have the Seiko name on their wrist.

    • Hydra

      yeah..ignorant people who dont know jack shit about watches or horology would never buy one…they who know better do buy Grand Seikos…..

      • mtnsicl

        Believe me, I know plenty about them. And, to me, they look like glorified Casios. And, not in a good way.

        • Hydra

          And a Patek calatrava looks like a 50$ mall watch…..designs can not be argued as everyone has their own taste but saying that people dont but Grand Seikos is ignorant and imho shows lack of knowledge and respect…. As the watches are on par with everything the swiss make in the sama price category…..

          • Beefalope

            Hydra, I would only disagree with your assessment that Grand Seikos are “on par” with what the Swiss make. I would argue that, for comparable prices, Grand Seikos are much better than what the Swiss make. When you consider the fact that GS is putting out true 100% in-house movements, finishing them well, making them highly reliable, putting them in exceptional cases, and then having dial finishing that is superior to watches that are tens of thousands of dollars more, the value of a GS is remarkable.

          • Hydra

            Yeah I do know that (even a 300€ Seiko’s case was as good as, if not better, than a Carreras)….and acctually…I dont even know why I just wrote “on par” as should have wrtitten “on par and even better”


        • Beefalope

          Just wondering — which Casio does this particular watch look like?

          • Nick Chang

            LOL…’glorified Casios’? What is that fool smoking? 😀

    • Beefalope

      Yeah, “no one pays that much just to have the Seiko name on their wrist.”

      In fact, you’re right — I didn’t buy my Grand Seikos to have a name on the wrist. I bought them because they’re terrific watches that are better than similarly priced Swiss watches.

      If you’re buying a watch to have a brand on your wrist in tiny lettering, you’re truly pitiful.

  • otaking241

    I’m a big GS fan but I think they lose to Omega here–there’s too much going on on the dial and the case doesn’t look as refined as the DSOTM or other watches in the GS line-up. I think this would have been a better entry in the Ananta series that Ariel mentions in the piece, since that line had chunkier, more avant-garde designs.

    The trees on the dial are kind of neat but it messes up the printing on the left sub-dial in a very un-GS manner. I will say I like the black/green color scheme, especially on the strap.

    • Shinytoys

      +1 for the use of trees…never heard that used as a hand description. I needed that laugh.

  • Juan-Antonio Garcia

    I try to like them, but at the end there is something missing that does not click with me. Also, if you knew there are thousands of low end Rolls Royces in the road for $10k USD, I bet they could hardly pull $50k for their high end car. Is the same here, no matter how much “craftsmanship” is put in the watch, at the end still a Seiko, sorry Grand Seiko. Reality bites, I know.

    • Beefalope

      Such an inane post.

      Are you buying a watch or are you buying a brand?

      • Juan-Antonio Garcia

        Both, if I were buying just a watch I would get a $20 Timex, and done.
        If I want to spend good money on a watch, I, like most people, we take into consideration the brand. Maybe is just me.

        • Beefalope

          Nobody cares — and in most cases, unless we’re talking about a Rolex, nobody knows — anything about the brand of watch you’re wearing. That’s why the most sensible thing to do is simply to buy the watch for yourself and be happy with it.

          • Juan-Antonio Garcia

            Agree 100%.
            That is why in my comments I include the following: For me….
            Be well.

    • Hydra

      “still a Seiko”….oh well..go to a store that sells GS and see for your self the quality. Or are just too insecure to wear a Seiko or Grand Seiko?

      • Juan-Antonio Garcia

        First, let me understand this, wearing a Seiko is some kind of insecurity test of sorts? That is deep.
        To stay in the same field, someone wrote, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Here, it applies perfectly, to me sometimes a Grand Seiko is just a Seiko.
        Second, I don’t get the personal insinuation. If you read, I stated that for ME…. etc. Do not justify your tastes, embrace them.

        • Hydra

          Well we are quite many on this planet and there might be people who ain’t that confident with what they’ve bought and are afraid of what people might say about them no matter what the item might be (because the brand is wrong)..and thats because we have lot of ignorant people and snobs, people who don’t understand or are know…snobs…and frankly when you say something like “no matter how much “craftsmanship” is put in the watch, at the end still a Seiko, sorry Grand Seiko. Reality bites, I know.” you sound like a total snob..sorry….

          • Juan-Antonio Garcia

            Wow, psychoanalysis on the cheap. I bet you know a lot of people that do understand, that must be sad.
            Relax, enjoy your Seiko, and move on.

          • Hydra

            Naaaah…hardly any psychoanalysis..well I do know a few open minded people…which is nice.
            been doing that for quite some time now..

  • Shinytoys

    I love it…silly me…

    • Nick Chang

      Silly us. This is a one badass piece

      • Shinytoys


  • Love the movement, don’t care for the rest. The dial is cluttered and the dauphine hands look out of place on this sporty looking watch. Plus no lume on them. And the sub-dial/register hands don’t match. Too many cooks in the design of this watch perhaps? I’d rather have a DSTOM Speedy at this price point (even though I’m a big fan of Spring Drive). This GS is a miss for me.

    • Boogur T. Wang

      Agree. Looks like a “Committee” designed item.

      • Nick Chang

        Hmm, that may be so…but it’s still one of the most unique GS I’ve seen. This bad boy is the Batman of watches.

    • Nick Chang

      Mark my pal, I have also subtracted points for the lack of lume on this piece but I love everything else about it and I think it has way more swag than the DSTOM, sorry to say. I first took notice of the non-chrono version (SBGE039) on Seiko’s website just recently and thought its an exceptional GS offering because it just has that oil slick, Fonzie coolness about it, like a black De Tomaso Pantera V8. Now seeing the chrono, its absolutely sublime. This is a watch I’d wear if I’m James Bond wearing a black Brioni tux.

  • Kuroji

    This is the size of a Planet Ocean. And is $13k on a strap. Sigh.

  • Howie Boyd

    I love Seikos and would like to own a Grand Seiko. But this is another ugly design, to me. The dial layout is all out of balance and the stepped seconds ring looks like an afterthought. Plus, why is this even referred to as a ceramic case? It’s more like tacked on ceramic side covers, isn’t it?

  • iamcalledryan

    Cool watch; a ballsy step away from the usual GS aesthetic. The complications, the spring drive, the layout of the chrono – all very good. The only things that I don’t dig are the chrono hands, which look punched, and the relegation of the running seconds to a subdial removes some of the POW of the spring drive movement.

  • laup nomis

    I’ve just watched a couple of the log riding videos. They’re TERRIFYING! And hilarious, if you ignore the multiple serious injuries and deaths! Coopers-hill cheese rolling, and its yearly single broken leg, has nothing on this.

    • Nick Chang

      Now that’s what I call LIVING, friend 🙂


    nothing like grown man riding a tree trunk down a mountain. just goes to show little things in life go a long way. now talking little things, this thing is anything but that. yes it is sweet looking and rather space age for GS on the looks department but man it is way too porky. anyhow make it 42mm at a reasonable price then I am all yours

  • Yojimbo

    it is nice enough but is it 13k nice enough? I mean we know from Rado watches that the case isn’t making it that expensive, the movement is not new, like I dunno it’s limited edition but it’s more like they’re saying “we’re making a small batch of a watch from our parts bin”

    • Nick Chang

      This ceramic piece has way more swag than a Rado

  • Drake Hunter

    I would suggest the nickname of “shorin,” as that is Japanese for “small forest.”

  • IG

    I’d rather spend that $13k on booze and hookers than on a Seiko.

    • Nick Chang

      Well, I’m sure you can have a very good time for one night in Vegas for such, but it can also buy you a very nice world-class timepiece that may last a lifetime.

    • weedy454

      worth every penny

  • Matt Brown

    Fantastic watch. $13k is way too steep for me for this, but still a sexy watch. The biggest detractor for me is the font on the GS / Grand Seiko branding at 6:00. The Gothic font is totally out of sync with the rest of the watch aesthetic.

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