Since it was codified in the mid-‘60s, the “Grammar of Design” stylistic philosophy has been a recurring theme in Grand Seiko design. This angular, faceted, highly polished aesthetic has come to define the look of the Japanese brand in contrast to some of its Swiss rivals, and even today this uniquely Japanese visual language helps to shape the look of Grand Seiko’s newest offerings. The brand’s latest releases are no exception, with ceramic bezels, a new sharply faceted case, and detailed finishing that recontextualizes the 9F86 quartz GMT watch series. Where previous generations of the 9F86 married sporty cues with an overall profile not too far removed from the brand’s dressy offerings, the new Grand Seiko 9F86 GMT models, including the Grand Seiko SBGN019, the Grand Seiko SBGN021, and the Grand Seiko SBGN023 140th Anniversary Limited Edition, present a more deliberately sporting look without sacrificing refinement.
Measuring in at 40mm in diameter and 13.1mm thick, the stainless steel cases of these new Grand Seiko 9F86 GMT models deftly balance athletic design with compact dimensions. The overall case design is faceted, bold, and more than a little reminiscent of Seiko and Grand Seiko’s ‘70s designs, and acts as a fine showcase for the brand’s signature Zaratsu polishing in initial images. Rather than flowing out of the main case or being attached, the short angular lugs feel as though they were cut like gemstones from the block of the main case. This faceted approach should give a multitude of angles for light to play off the polished surfaces, while the tapering chamfer running the length of the case from lug to lug gives a sense of curvature to an otherwise harshly geometric form. The Zaratsu polished surfaces of the lugs and case chamfer are complemented by smooth brushing along the top and flanks of the case. The 4 o’clock signed crown is semi-recessed into the side of the case, eliminating the need for disruptive crown guards while still offering protection to this vital element. Grand Seiko tops the case with a narrow ceramic 24 hour bezel, with the SBGN019 and SBGN023 finishing this element in matte black, whereas the SBGN021 instead opts for a dial-matching midnight blue. For the limited edition SBGN023, Grand Seiko also adds a serial number and the brand’s traditional 18K gold lion medallion to the solid caseback. All three of the new 9F86 GMT models muster a robust 200 meters of water resistance.
Grand Seiko has earned widespread enthusiast acclaim for its dial finishing in the past several years, and its newest crop of 9F86 GMT models looks to continue its streak of superbly finished dials. The base dial texture is a fanning ridged sunburst pattern, not unlike a more refined and detailed version of the classic Seiko Presage “Cocktail Time” dial texture. This refined touch elevates the rest of the bold, aggressive design with a touch of class, keeping Grand Seiko’s premium feel intact more successfully than some of its other sports models. The blunted dauphine hands and wide faceted rectangular indices are a showcase for Grand Seikos’ polishing and brushing work, as well as a heftier counterpoint to the sharpened elements on the brand’s more dress oriented designs. Grand Seiko also adds some stealthy low-light utility into the mix, with the LumiBrite lume on the arrow GMT hand filled with a contrasting blue to stand out from the rest of the dial’s green lume. The date window at 4 o’clock sits in line with the crown and slots into the place of one of the applied indices, but the use of a white date wheel does disrupt the visual flow of the dial somewhat. With a clean and elemental dial layout, the use of color becomes transformative, and each of the three new 9F86 GMT models interprets this formula in a distinctive direction. The Grand Seiko SBGN023 140th Anniversary Limited Edition is clearly intended as the flagship of this series, and the brand reinforces this with gold accents on the two tone inner day/night bezel, gold dial text, an applied gold GS emblem, and a brushed gold GMT hand. The dial subtly harmonizes with this warm, luxurious tone with a deep brown dial finish that appears nearly black in initial images. For the SBGN019, the brand instead goes for a more straightforward sporting look with splashes of vibrant red on the inner bezel and the GMT hand. Lastly, the SBGN023 adds depth to the design with a dark oceanic blue sunburst dial finish and a lighter cyan tone for the inner bezel and GMT hand.
All three models in this new Grand Seiko 9F86 GMT collection are naturally powered by the brand’s in-house 9F86 quartz GMT movement. This is far from the average quartz powerplant, boasting the line’s signature backlash auto-adjust system to prevent any shuddering in the movement of the seconds hand, along with a high torque step motor for the hands. Grand Seiko claims an accuracy within -10/+10 seconds per year as well, making this exceedingly accurate even by quartz standards. The 9F86 also offers coveted “true GMT” functionality, with an independent local hour hand setting as opposed to the more common GMT hand setting function. All three models in the new Grand Seiko 9F86 GMT collection are paired with the brand’s three link oyster style bracelet in stainless steel.
With a deliberately sportier take on the classic “Grammar of Design” and a new ceramic 24 hour bezel, the new Grand Seiko 9F86 GMT series looks to have built a far more defined niche for itself in the brand’s stable. All three models, including the Grand Seiko SBGN019, the Grand Seiko SBGN021, and the Grand Seiko SBGN023 140th Anniversary Limited Edition, will be available through Grand Seiko boutiques and selected authorized dealers in June 2021. Only 2,021 examples of the Grand Seiko SBGN023 140th Anniversary Limited Edition will be made. Both the Grand Seiko SBGN019 and the Grand Seiko SBGN021 will carry an MSRP of €4,450 and the Grand Seiko SBGN023 140th Anniversary Limited Edition will be priced at €5,350. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.