The Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36,000 GMT watches from a few years ago were a hit, and particularly the limited edition SBGJ005 with a green dial and orange GMT hand. The winning style and popularity of that particular model were too strong for Grand Seiko to ignore, so it’s back with the same colors for the same underlying watch model, but with a different treatment and texture for the dial. The Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ227 for 2017 features a radial pattern that kind of looks like a wicker weave, but that the brand says is meant to reference a peacock’s tail. Perhaps most notably, however, is that it is slightly more accessible than its predecessor in terms of both price and availability.
Another big difference between the new Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 GMT SBGJ227 and the 2014 model is that, following Grand Seiko’s supposed secession from Seiko this year (in reality, a subtle rebranding), the GS Grand Seiko logo alone now marks the top spot on the dial of all Grand Seiko watches. Here, also, the “GS” is in a matching orange along with the “GMT” text – and the 24-hour numerals are now in white (instead of orange as on the SBGJ005). Small changes, but the basic model and style are essentially consistent with the previous model.
Let’s review the basics of the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 GMT SBGJ watches. Based on the 9S85 automatic movement that powers three-hand movements with the date, the 9S86 adds a GMT function to display a second time zone in 24-hour format. This is Grand Seiko’s “Hi-Beat” movement family, meaning it operates at 5Hz or 36,000bph – hence the watches’ name. The Zenith El Primero chronograph movement, of course, is certainly the most famous 5Hz movement, but it is still very uncommon in modern watches and one way that Grand Seiko is able to distinguish itself and offer something a bit different.
A higher frequency is said to be beneficial for the movement’s accuracy, and the sweep of its seconds hand will be even smoother than that of the much more common 4Hz movements – of course, Grand Seiko’s own Spring Drive movements easily beat the Hi-Beat movements in both accuracy and smoothness of sweep. Grand Seiko promises +5 to -3 seconds per day accuracy for the watch (when static), and Seiko has been known to be very careful not to overstate accuracy claims. A higher frequency often has to be balanced against its relatively higher power demands, but the 9S86 offers a quite respectable 55 hours of power reserve.
No caseback images available for now, but we can expect the view of the movement through a sapphire crystal window to be similar if not the same as the SBGJ005 from 2014. As a way to further distinguish the model’s limited-edition nature, apart from being more colorful than its black and white dialed siblings, the SBGJ005 had an unusual titanium rotor with an “anodic oxidized finish” that kind of looks like tarnished brass. Subsequent limited edition versions, such as the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 GMT SBGJ021, also had an interesting treatment for the skeletonized rotor.
Unchanged from 2014, the 100m water-resistant steel case is 40mm wide, and Seiko says it is based on the 44GS design from 1967 as a “contemporary re-interpretation.” A thickness of 14.4mm should help give this otherwise pretty moderately sized watch a little more presence on the wrist. The brand promises that its “zaratsu” technique means distortion-free surfaces for the polished parts of the case and those strong- and sharp-looking hands. The sapphire crystal is curved on both sides, as this also minimizes distortions, with anti-reflective coating – Seiko even calls its crystal “high definition.”
If a green dial watch is seen as too niche and simply must be a limited edition, I hope Seiko keeps making more iterations of the SBGJ005 like this SBGJ227… until I can one day afford to spring for it. The new Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ227 is a step towards that with a lower price and higher production. Being slightly less “exclusive” might make owners of the SBGJ005 feel better about having paid more. Retail price in the US is $6,500 and the watch is limited to 700 pieces – whereas the SBGJ005 from 2014 had a price of $7,250 and was limited to 600 pieces. grand-seiko.com