As Baselworld 2018 approaches, one of the highlights of the upcoming watch trade show "mission" is to determine what new products our friends in Japan have been working on. At Grand Seiko one of the new timepieces will be a limited edition homage to the brand's past (again) with this Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Special Edition reference SBGH263. Limited to only 453 pieces, the SBGH263 is specifically designed for people who admire Grand Seiko's ability to render very functional designs in extremely well-crafted packages. The exciting elements here aren't in a new design or flashy presentation. Rather, the value here is in Grand Seiko's excellent dial and case construction, mixed with an uncommon use of applied Arabic hour numerals on the dial.
In steel, the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Special Edition watch is 39.5mm wide with a thickness of 13.1mm (and water-resistant to 30m). This is a good looking case, but the more I see watches like this, the more I want Grand Seiko to innovate a bit more in regard to making thin movements. When Seiko puts their minds to it, they can pretty much produce whatever movement innovations they like. Seiko has demonstrated to the world that they can make a better automatic watch, a better chronograph watch, a better minute repeater watch, etc... With that said, given the elegance stance of many Grand Seiko timepieces, I find it interesting that an "ultra- thin" automatic movement isn't something they have released yet. Give it time? Probably.
Produced at the prestigious Seiko Shizuku-ishi studio in Japan, inside the SBGH263 is the in-house Seiko caliber 9S85 automatic with 55 hours of power reserve. This is a "Hi-Beat" automatic, which means it runs at 5Hz (36,000bph). Seiko claims accuracy ranging from +5 to -3 seconds per day, but in our experience real-world performance is actually higher. The movement offers the time with central seconds, and a date window. Seiko points out the dial color which is intended to resemble traditional Japanese silk with a hue they call "Shironeri." The off-white color matches well with the yellow gold tone of the applied Arabic hour numerals and wonderfully-made Grand Seiko-style dauphine hands.
Those with more modern or avant-garde tastes will point out that the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Special Edition SBGH263 looks like someone's idea of a very refined school wall clock. Indeed the focus here is clean, effective legibility without a decorative or expressive angle. This is Grand Seiko fully focusing on practicality, as only they can render it. With that said, just a clean, legible look can be pleasing to wear. More important is the fact that Grand Seiko has been doing rather well selling such limited edition homages to their own past (and will continue to do so until collectors want something else).
While this is not my personal top-choice for the next Grand Seiko timepiece on my list, I think the SBGH263 is very attractive and I am rather partial to Arabic numeral dials, which Grand Seiko rarely does these days. Attached to the steel case is a dark brown crocodile strap with a folding buckle deployant. Over the dial is a box-style AR-coated sapphire crystal, which will lend itself well to the retro look Grand Seiko is going for in this 2018 product. Once again, the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 Special Edition SBGH263 watch is limited to 453 pieces and the retail price is $6,200 USD. grand-seiko.com