The Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 is one of the first modern Grand Seiko watches I learned about, and it feels like already a decade or so since it was first released. I seem to feel that it was among the first Spring Drive-based watches from Grand Seiko. In the mid 2000s when Spring Drive was being introduced at Seiko, the brand had a dedicated collection for the innovative movements. Later Spring Drive was anointed as a “Grand Seiko only” piece of technology. That means Grand Seiko watches are available with quartz, purely mechanical, and also Spring Drive movements.
If you don’t know what Seiko Spring Drive is then I’ll leave it to other articles I wrote in the past like this Seiko Spring Drive watch review to explain it. In short, Spring Drive is a hybrid between a traditional mechanical movement and a quartz movement. The system replaces a traditional balance wheel and escapement regulator with a quartz regulation system. Otherwise, the movement is mechanical and powered by a mainspring with three days of power reserve. The benefit? All the “perpetual” beauty of an automatic mechanical movement with the accuracy (mostly) of a quartz movement. The particular movement inside of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 is Seiko’s in-house-made caliber 9R66.
It is difficult to pinpoint the precise accuracy of Spring Drive since Seiko actually tends to under-promise. They claim accuracy to within a second a day, but I’ve heard real world reports of closer to a second per week. Spring Drive movements also benefit from having a perfectly smooth “gliding” seconds hand. This is a perfectly linear movement which is so much more graceful than the “sweeping” seconds hand on mechanical watches (which isn’t exactly inelegant to begin with).
People tend to frame the Grand Seiko SBGE001 as Seiko’s answer to the Rolex GMT-Master II. In a sense, that is/was true, even though the two watches have very distinct appeal. Around the same time the Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 was released, Seiko also released the Grand Seiko SBGA029 Spring Drive Diver, which can be viewed as the Grand Seiko answer to the Rolex Submariner. Rarely does a Seiko compete with a Rolex when it comes to which watch to buy, but increasingly that is the case with Grand Seiko. It isn’t that Seiko watches are routinely beating Rolex, but rather that when looking at bang for your buck, obsessively detailing, and a true tool watch spirit, there just isn’t that much around that can actually reach the bar set by Rolex, but Grand Seiko can do that.
With that noted, when it comes to GMT watches, there is really no limit on the competition out there. However, given the unique technology of Spring Drive, and the welcome attention to detail and construction in Grand Seiko, there are few competitors to products like this. Infiniti’s biggest competition aside from Lexus or Land Rover is probably itself. The current generation QX80 is based on the Nissan Patrol. Previously the QX80 (known as the QX56 prior to 2014) was based on the Nissan Armada, but more recently it has “matured” into a serious luxury true SUV.
The Infiniti QX80 is easily more luxurious than that Patrol, but there is a lot of overlap between the two products, and the Patrol’s external styling will probably appeal to people who aren’t fan’s of Infiniti’s sometimes polarizing design choices. The answer to this problem is that in most markets the Nissan Patrol and Infiniti QX80 aren’t both available to choose. In Dubai and much of the Middle East, you can get either the Nissan or the Infiniti, in North America you have just the Infiniti QX80 as your option.
Contrary to the opinions of some people I know, I feel like I “get” Infiniti’s design language, and I’m a fan of what they were going for in the look of the QX80. It’s curvy, and it’s a bit awkward at some angles, but it is a graceful form with interesting lines throughout. In my opinion, Infiniti should be applauded for an instantly recognizable design, and being able to mix a muscular, masculine look with something that doesn’t look like it is running on 10% testosterone. I really feel as though the Infiniti QX80 feels comfortable in its own skin, and that is more than I think can be said for many other cars on the market.
With the wrong type of driver (or the wrong type of passenger), some people may be subject to motion sickness while the Infiniti QX80 sails across the concrete rivers ahead of it. The electronics and stability control systems in the car are impressive, but at the end of the day it is still heavy and tall. Steering and braking have a detached feeling, which a lot of driving enthusiasts dislike. That means it takes a bit of getting use to to drive the Infiniti QX80 comfortably, and you can’t simply port over instincts you developed driving a sporty sedan. It is easy to call the handling of something like the Infiniti QX80 “numb” before you realize that its trying to filter out things that would make the ride harsh or uncomfortable. With 400 horsepower, the truck has a lot of pickup and passing power – but, yeah, don’t take it into a turn like a 911. Three rows of seats and cavernous space don’t lend themselves well to agility, but the Infiniti QX80 does quite well with the situation it was given.
It is interesting how the Infiniti QX80 truck and Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 watch handle technology in vastly different ways. For the driver, tech is served up all over the place. I like the adaptive cruise control system which brakes for you. The latter part of the system can be turned on at will and uses radar to identify a car slowing in front of you and applies the brakes accordingly if you aren’t paying attention. The adaptive xenon headlights and five-camera system making maneuvering the Infiniti QX80 about as easy as you could hope for. It is a serious help to have these visibility systems in a car this size. I can barely fathom how parking was accomplished before we had these toys. What I feel Infiniti should really focus on next is a heads up display (HUD) system that offers handy information on the windshield without the driver having to remove their eyes from the road.