In recent years, Grand Seiko has increasingly introduced artistic watches with techniques, materials, and storytelling to compete in the territory previously exclusive mostly to high-end Swiss watch brands. The new Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGD202 8 Day Power Reserve watch in 18k rose gold is a good example of that and a similarly priced but different aesthetic take on the platinum-cased Grand Seiko SBGD001 from 2016 that we saw hands-on here. Of course, Grand Seiko offers a few things that European brands can’t, not least of which is a Spring Drive movement with eight days of power reserve – and strong dose of Japanese “inspiration.”
As the SBGD001 matched a white dial to its platinum case, the Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGD202 has a brown dial to go with its rose gold case, making for an overall monotone and cohesive look. Actually, the brand says the dial is black, but what appear to be gold speckles make it look brown to me. Seiko simply calls them “stars” and doesn’t actually tell us what exactly causes the effect, only that it is created by a “special process that combines both plating and painting.” I suppose it is appropriately luxurious-looking and consistent with the platinum SBGD001 watch’s dial that had a twinkling layer of diamond dust. As most Grand Seiko watches, legibility promises to be very good with faceted hands and markers with “zaratsu” polishing.
When Grand Seiko released the SBGD001, we noted that it was very much an attempt to take the emulation of European values and concepts of luxury, and marketing thereof, to the next level. Seiko has made more of an effort recently to create an aura of mystique around certain production facilities, “master craftsmen,” and “traditional techniques” – and to be fair, a lot of the country really is charming and mysterious, and is a place that values craftsmanship and refinement. First, the brand tells us how the watch was created at its Micro Artist Studio, in Shiojiri, in Nagano prefecture. This is where the more artisanal and low-production projects take place, such as Credor’s Spring Drive minute repeater, sonnerie, and Eichi watches, and Seiko would like you to picture it surrounded by serene mountains and natural scenery.
That is where the dial comes in, as it is supposed to be inspired by the night sky as seen from the Nagano mountains. We’ve seen other watches based on such Japanese nature themes, like Mt. Iwate at sunrise on the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat 36000 GMT SBGJ021, pine trees on the dial of the Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Chronograph SBGC017, and of course, the platinum Spring Drive SBGD001 whose diamond-dusted dial was supposed to look like snow. I don’t find that Seiko goes overboard with the marketing language, but we want to stay focused on the watch itself.
The 9R01 Spring Drive movement is visible from the sapphire crystal case back where the power reserve indicator is also displayed. I like for complications to be displayed on the case back sometimes. The power reserve indicator doesn’t need to be referenced all the time, but turning the watch around to check it while appreciating the movement view is a nice way to interact with a watch. Of course, a power reserve indicator is always appreciated on a manually wound movement like this one. The inner workings of the 9R01 movement are not very visible as you will primarily see a single solid bridge with some of the 56 jewels and some screws exposed, but a single bridge like this is said to be more robust in the event of shocks – even if it is less visually engaging than one that is more “openworked.”
The bridge’s cutaway at the top of the caseback view, Seiko tells us, reflects the shape of Mt. Fuji… The 9R01 movement uses three barrels and offers, as you already know, eight days (192 hours) of power reserve. That’s pretty great, and doesn’t come with compromised accuracy, as we are promised +/- 0.5 second per day, which is +/- 10 seconds per month. How many Swiss watches in this price range even make an accuracy claim? We know, of course, that Seiko Spring Drive movements are far more accurate than traditional mechanical watches because the escapement has been replaced with a quartz oscillator that operates at a very high frequency – while its power still comes from a mainspring just as in most mechanical watches. See our article here for an in-depth look at how Spring Drive works and its background.
Now in rose gold, the case of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGD202 has the same measurements of its platinum predecessor at 43mm wide by 13.2mm thick (water-resistant to 100m) with an anti-reflective-coated, box-shaped sapphire crystal over the dial. Those dimensions will make this sober, simple, and conservatively designed watch a bit bolder on the wrist than images might suggest. Grand Seiko fans will be able appreciate just about everything about the new Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGD202 watch, but just as the SBGD001, its price is a departure from the value territory where the brand has always been strongest and a deep inroad into serious luxury. At a price of €52,800 (in Europe), the Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGD202 8 Day Power Reserve watch in rose gold will be available from September 2017. grand-seiko.com