This is clearly the year of the GMT, though unlike the vintage re-issue craze and the two-tone and bronze material fads, this is one trend that I am all too happy to support. As a genuinely useful complication for both travel, and international collaboration alike, a good GMT is one of the last few watch complications that quickly relay crucial information to their wearer (like a second time zone) quicker than one could either open the clock app on their phone, or utter the words “Hey Siri…” The latest GMT to join the fray comes from Grand Seiko, but unlike many of the travel-savvy watches we’ve seen this year, this new trio of high-end, but markedly affordable sports watches are equipped with a brand new 9F quartz movement, designed and built entirely in-house by Grand Seiko.
The new trio is comprised of SBGN003, SBGN005, and the 25th Anniversary SBGN001 Limited Edition, which continues Grand Seiko’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of the creation of the 9F movement in 1993. Not only is the colorful SBGN001 much more limited (delineated by the textured repeating ‘9F 25’ motif and star on the dial), it also exhibits a higher degree of adjustment to yield accuracy to within an astonishing 5 seconds a year. The other two permanent additions to the Sports Collection are still no slouch on the timekeeping front, maintaining the 9F’s signature thermo-compesated accuracy of 10 seconds per year, and instant date change. Of course, new to the 9F is a 24-hour GMT hand, and an independently adjustable hour hand.
Speaking of that hour hand adjustability, this newly built 9F86 caliber mimics the functionality and behavior of Grand Seiko’s other two GMT calibers: the 9R66 Spring Drive, and the 9S86 Hi-Beat Automatic. All three movements are are “true” traveler GMT movements, where the hour hand can be adjusted independently without stopping the movement. This is particularly handy for frequent fliers, enabling the wearer to quickly and easily adjust the hour hand forwards or backwards upon landing in a new time zone, without having to stop the movement and disrupt the watch’s timekeeping.
This type of GMT could be considered the minority, as most dual time watches (especially those reliant on the most commonly utilized ETA 2893) would be considered more “desk” GMT watches, where only the 24-hour hand is independently adjustable, and any adjustment of the hour hand is done via traditional means – stopping the watch and adjusting accordingly. This is more useful for keeping tabs on a second (or third) time zone whilst staying put. Though neither movement is technically better per se, they each offer the wearer a distinct utility, and it’s up to the buyer to choose which version will yield the greatest benefit in their lifestyle. Ultimately, it’s great to see more manufacturers outside of Rolex and Omega offering and marketing this functionality (Tudor, with the Black Bay GMT being the latest), At the end of the day, a greater spectrum of design and price variety is a win for watch fans, travelers and international collaborators alike.
Design-wise, the new watches look a lot like the now-discontinued SBGM227 – a watch which, on its own seemed to vaguely riff on a 16570 Rolex Explorer II. Be that as it may, these new watches might borrow a bit of shared design language in the fixed 24-hour bezel, but everything else feels original enough to stand on its own – particularly the bold stripe of yellow indicating daylight on the limited edition SBGN001 variant. Everything else is very distinctly ‘Grand Seiko’ here – from the razor-sharp diamond cut handset, to the applied rectangular hour markers which have been mirror polished to a point that they barely need luminous applicant for easy legibility in nearly any lighting. Case dimensions are also markedly conservative (no thanks in part to the quartz movement), measuring 39mm by 12mm thick. Like other entrants in Grand Seiko’s Sports Collection, all three watches are water resistant to 100 meters, and carry magnetic resistance to 4,800 A/m.
Limited to only 800 pieces and priced at €3,600 (around $4,200 USD at the time of this writing), the SBGN001 25th Anniversary Limited Edition is expected to land at select dealers in October, while the other two standard editions – SBGN003 and SBGN005, priced at €3,200 (approximately $3,700 USD) each, won’t be officially joining the Grand Seiko collection until January of 2019. grand-seiko.com