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Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE248 Hands-On

Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE248 Hands-On Hands-On

When the Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE248 was announced a month ago, I was cautiously enthusiastic about it but reserved final judgment for when I could see it in the metal. That vibrant blue and gold two-tone layout looked great in the press shots, but as we all know, sometimes renderings don’t always translate to the delivered product. Well, I got to spend some time with the SBGE248 last week and, as those of you who follow aBlogtoWatch on Instagram found, it absolutely delivered. Restricting the two-tone scheme to the case and leaving the bracelet in steel is something I want to see more of in the future, and not just from Grand Seiko. It’s the right amount of flair without the old-fashioned feeling a lot of us imagine when we hear “two-tone” watch. One significant thing that I would put on my wish list for a future iteration of the SBGE248? A new bracelet. As much as I like the aesthetic of a two-tone case on an all-steel bracelet, having one identical to those of past models leaves me craving that extra bit of refinement and quality that we get on the dial.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE248 Hands-On Hands-On

In an article in the New York Times from 2010, Japanese watch collector and former GPHG jury member Dr. Bernard Cheong spoke glowingly of the brand but did long for more design variety. He said, “I think the company will sooner or later begin to make other shapes and designs as foreign customers begin to embrace Grand Seiko,” and this was perfectly accurate. Since Grand Seiko’s emancipation in becoming an autonomous brand in 2017, it has gained ground, especially here in the United States.

The SBGE248 is a perfect realization of this evolution as a relatively mainstream luxury GMT watch that, intentionally or not, seeks to directly capture more of the Western market that has traditionally been dominated by Rolex. That’s neither new nor surprising, but the fact that the SBGE248 attempts to do so without the incentive of a substantially lower price is a bold move by Grand Seiko.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE248 Hands-On Hands-On

In terms of execution, landing on the perfect shade of blue is probably the single “make or break” design point. The end result is vibrant when in a bright or well-lit environment, but I also found myself almost appreciating it more in a darker setting, where it almost appears to cool down. Ssee the image above to get an idea of what I’m referring to.) I think it’s hard not to look at this watch and think of the Rolex Submariner 116613LB with the two-tone blue and gold case. Personally, this is one of my favorite Rolex models, though I’ve always wished it played with the light in the way the SBGE248 does. In the right lighting and at the right angle (as in the photo above), you can see fleeting zephyrs of subtle royal purple on the SBGE248. The important difference is that this hint of purple isn’t always there, revealing a more sophisticated execution of the color in the Grand Seiko. Not that it’s a comparison — anyone would be lucky to own either of these watches.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE248 Hands-On Hands-On

Almost every luxury (and quasi-luxury) watch brand, at this point, has implemented ceramic bezels on their watches. The Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE248, however, has remained that rare piece that has a sapphire crystal insert over a rotating bezel. The sapphire crystal on the bezel allows so much more variation in dark and light shades of blue than the ceramic which stays relatively uniform. This is why the black-bezel version can appear to take on different colors, like a grayish light blue here.

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Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE248 Hands-On Hands-On

You wouldn’t expect a watch with gold indices and hands to be this legible and glare-proof, but it is. The hands are brushed so as to not be reflective, and this is where Grand Seiko stands out. The gold on blue is stunning, and the interplay between the two here should be an example for other brands. The hour, minute, and GMT hands have lume, as do the hour indices at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock. There’s enough waxing poetic in this article, so I’m going to let my photos do the heavy lifting here.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE248 Hands-On Hands-On

One thing that is a shame is that this wasn’t a working model, so I didn’t get to see that smooth seconds in motion of the 9R66 Spring Drive movement. You can read all about the Spring Drive here, and the caliber 9R66 GMT has a three-day power reserve. Also unchanged is the steel caseback with the Grand Seiko lion engraving, a necessary move considering the 200M water resistance.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE248 Hands-On Hands-On

At 44mm-wide and 14.7mm-thick, the SBGE248 is one of the bigger offerings by Grand Seiko, but the curved, short lugs result in a very wearable 50mm lug-to-lug distance. My wrist measures exactly 7.5 inches in circumference, for reference. The use of gold throughout the case is pretty balanced, in my opinion, and it’s not subtle. Though, to clarify, a result of being too “subtle” would be a fail for a vibrant blue and gold watch. I think you’ll have no shortage of opportunities to tell strangers about Grand Seiko, as you’ll get a ton of comments.

I’m sure Grand Seiko knew what it was doing when it designed a watch that’s inherently going to spread word of the brand to markets like Los Angeles, just due to the sheer number of enthusiasts and casual fans who will inquire about it.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE248 Hands-On Hands-On

Yes, it’s $11,500. While Grand Seiko still produces models that are incredible values when compared to Swiss counterparts, not all of their watches offer this — nor should they when you consider the products offered. The dial work, hand-finishing, Zaratsu case polishing, and artisans that are unusually specific in their specialty are Grand Seiko’s “pitch” for being a luxury watch brand on par with the usual suspects from Switzerland. Whether they make that sale to the Western market is yet to be decided, but I know that sales in the States are gaining pretty rapidly.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE248 Hands-On Hands-On

Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE248 Hands-On Hands-On

t’s hard for me to avoid an eye-roll when it comes to the theory that Japanese luxury products need to undercut European competitors. Come on. Seriously. It’s 2019, and fashion brands/designers like Issey Miyake, visvim, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons, Junya Watanabe, LVMH-owned Kenzo — and I could go on and on — are as close to household names as high-end fashion gets, and not one of them is going to cost you any less than a European designer’s brand. Japanese whisk(e)y like Suntory’s Yamakazi and Hibiki lines have been well regarded worldwide (thanks, in large part, to Lost in Translation), but some of the substantially pricier brown stuff from distilleries like Ichiro Akuto is world-class. Michelin three-star restaurants like Masa and The Araki sit as natural peers of Eleven Madison Park, Le Bernardin, and The French Laundry. I could go on.

So, mini-rant aside, the Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE248 is going to be available sometime in September. Again, it’s priced at $11,500. You can learn more at grand-seiko.com.

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  • Great watch, no doubt.
    But the question is always the same: would you spend 11500$ for a Seiko?
    Or: having a 11500$ budget, which watch would you buy, a Grand Seiko?

    • Sheez Gagoo

      Yes and Yes. I love this Brand.

      • I love it too, especially without ‘Grand’, but I expect a lower price range…

    • Independent_George

      If I had a $11,500 budget, I would not buy any one watch. I’d buy two for about $6,000 each, and if both said Grand Seiko on the dial, I’d be fine with that.

      If I had a $20,000 budget, sure, I’d spend $11,500 for a Grand Seiko. Personally, I’d buy the SBGE245 instead of this watch and save $5,400, but if there were a GS for $11,500 that really spoke to me and if I had the funds on hand, I’d wouldn’t not buy it.

    • Mikita

      Yes, why not? GS are great watches, and with much more handcraft involved compared to Rolex & Omega who command same prices, or even higher for their GMT watches.

    • Gokart Mozart

      It’s the whole Japanese, European car thing all over again.

      20 to 25 years ago it was would you buy a Toyota (Lexus) for the same price as a Mercedes.

      The issue then, and is still there to an extent was they either copied the Europeans stylistically, or they looked boring or overly fussy. And although more reliable they did not have the quality feel or looks in the interior.

      Same problems in watches except generally finishing of case etc is on par with the Europeans.

      I would not consider 12k on this but would consider 35k on an Credor Eichi (early one) if they did a fully mechanical one.

  • Sheez Gagoo

    How to make a decent watch look Ali Express.

    • Mikita

      The book written by Richard Mille?

      • Sheez Gagoo

        Lol

  • This REALLY needs some gold on the bracelet…it’s just so unbalanced as it is.

    And at some point they need to start offering smaller sizes on their GMT/GS DIVERS. With this size+styling combo, it’s competing more with Omega/Breitling than Rolex.

  • Swiss_Cheese

    Whoever chose the position and colour for that date window deserves to be promoted to unemployed.

    Also, am I the only one that finds it unusual that a $10k+ watch has spring bar holes drilled all the way through the lugs? Especially since they have intentionally recessed the bracelet for a spring bar tool.

  • Steve_Macklevore

    Far too blingy for me. And the price is far too high for something that still says Seiko on the dial.

    None the less – I admire the less blingy Grand Seikos very much.

  • IanE

    Truly hideous colour scheme. No, no, NO!

  • bc_from_aus

    GMT with PR is one of my favourite combinations. Love the blue. Hate the gold. Would also prefer exhibition caseback.

  • Agnar Sidhu

    Does dial colors just look so vivid and stunning!

  • Adi Susanto

    I wonder if those two tone gold is made of real gold or just plated? One thing for sure Rolex two tone is real gold even their indices. Personally I think they should have open case back rather than closed. Grand Seiko movement is better decorated than Rolex movement, so it should be shown to be better appreciated. Price wise I think it is about there for Grand Seiko… Unlike their silly prospex line with just plain Seiko name and charging over 7k? More insane. Its like imagining Corrolla slapping lexus price tag with same engine.

  • SuperStrapper

    While I would honestly like to shake someone’s hand for not feeling it necessary to add a bright red clash to the power reserve indicator, 2 tone watches are just never going to be my thing.

  • Raymond Wilkie

    There’s that word again….grand, like they have to write it right on the dial so you know.
    The colour scheme of this piece is just awful.
    Stop it Seiko. You’re making a fool of yourselves.

    • Mikita

      Grand Raymond 🙂

  • Mikita

    Not sure. Some part of me is attracted by blue + gold. But the other part shouts – wtf

    • Gokart Mozart

      Mostly WTF.

      In the darker moodier pictures it looks quite a good colour combo, but then steel clashes and ruins the effect.

      In bright light it tends mostly to look pretty hideous.

      • Mikita

        True. We may call it bi-color done wrong. While I don’t like the look of fully golden watches, especially on fully golden bracelets, here they missed some aspect of making bi-color look harmonious. May take a couple of lessons from Tudor. Anyway, I think that this GS would look much better on a strap – less SS, less distraction.

  • BNABOD

    This shouldn’t be a discussion about why one would ever pay 11.5 k for this one but why one would pay an extra 5k on top of the exact same watch minus the gold accents and a blue dial…… seems a tad nutso to me.

    Now the bracelet is the same but the clasp isn’t so tell us more about the new clasp please….

  • lesjames57

    Some people ares such snobs. I won’t be spending this sort of money on something that says SEIKO on the dial. Grow up.

    • Spangles

      So, a Credor?

  • Matthew Rowe

    The nice thing about Grand Seiko is that it’s actually possible to land a steel watch, unlike Rolex.
    So as sales increase, we’ll see if they keep up.
    Even though it’s really big, at least you can buy this.

  • RJ

    not a fan of the gold logo on the clasp or the gold(I assume coated) crown

  • Independent_George

    After seeing the live pictures on Bilal’s wrist, I don’t dislike this watch as much as I did after seeing just the press photos, but I still don’t like this two-tone color combo. Keep the blue, ditch the gold, sell if for a price similar to the SBGE245, and I’d put this watch on a wishlist.

  • H.S.M.

    I want a Grand Seiko, but not this one.

  • Pete Yo

    Can someone pleases tell me what the accuracy of a spring drive movement is?

    • Bilal Khan

      The 9R66 is accurate to ±1 second per day / ±15 seconds per month

      • Pete Yo

        thank you

    • Mikita

      It’s crazy accurate.

    • Timestandsstill

      Mine is frequently within 4-8 seconds over one to two months on a winder

      • Pete Yo

        thanks

  • Pete L

    Would have too see in the metal but this looks too shouty and fake Rolexy for me. Colour scheme is really quite abrupt. Lose the gold and would be nice but the speedmaster style bracelet could do with a change too.

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