When we think about jewelry watches, those watches bedazzled with gems and offered at extravagant prices, Grand Seiko is not one of the brands that usually comes to mind. More likely, we conjure images of Christiano Ronaldo’s emerald Jacob & Co., the diamond-encrusted Reina de Naples from Breguet, or any number of sparkling watches from Van Cleef & Arpels. When we think of Grand Seiko, on the other hand, it’s usually to wonder when it will run out of natural landmarks to inspire its dials or whether or not the Spring Drive can be counted as a mechanical movement. But in 2020 and 2021, Grand Seiko debuted two watches with dazzling gem-set dials (the diamond and sapphire SBGD205 and the diamond and emerald SBGD207., respectively). And then, in 2022, it uncaged the SBGD209 “White Lion,” a watch set with hundreds of diamonds and black spinel. Now, for Watches & Wonders 2023, the brand is updating that third jewelry watch model with two cosmetic changes, presenting the Grand Seiko Masterpiece Collection 8-Day Jewelry Watch SBGD213.

Grand Seiko released the SBGD209 “White Lion” in 2022.

The case of the SBGD213 is identical to that of the SBGD209, and both take their form from a set of 20th Anniversary watches from 2019. To hear the brand tell it, the design is inspired by the “power of a lion,” with strong, angular (drilled) lugs. The SBGD213 case is made of fully polished 950 platinum (as is the deployant clasp on the attached blue crocodile strap), measuring 44.5mm across and 14.4mm-thick; certainly, these aren’t the dimensions we’d expect on watches that are explicitly marketed as jewelry watches, but the case design is borrowed from a sports watch. Further, the movement also appears to beget larger cases, not having appeared in any under 43mm. In place of the brushed facets found on the case of those anniversary watches, though, the SBGD213 features 112 pavé diamonds, while the fixed bezel is set with 60 baguette diamonds and the crown features a sapphire cap. Note that the underside of the lugbox, as it were, appears to continue beyond the end of the strap, which means you could feasibly swap for a variety of other options if that tickled your fancy. And not that you’d need it, but the case does provide 100m of water resistance.

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The dial appears no less a marvel, and to me, is even more impressive than the platinum case. Around the periphery, a combination of 48 diamonds and 12 sapphires marks out the minutes, while the hour track features the same balance of stones cut in tapered baguettes, with a triple sapphire setting at 12 o’clock. The two tracks are separated by a thin 18k white gold band, another of which also separates the hour track from the central blue mother-of-pearl dial. The use of blue sapphires and mother-of-pearl connect the watch directly to Grand Seiko: Much like the lion has served as the brand’s logo for 63 years, so too is blue well established as the brand’s signature color. It also appears to be more legible than the White Lion model. The hands certainly stand out but aren’t what you’d expect on a time-only dress watch covered in sparkly rocks. That’s because they were taken from the 20th-anniversary sports watches and are styled accordingly, just like the case that they match. Those original hands were lumed, though, which wouldn’t fit here; Grand Seiko has made solid the minute hand and cut out the lume plot on the hour. I would’ve preferred both hands be solid—or for there to be a sapphire in there! What is great, though, is that the hour hand can be independently set, perfect for when you choose this $260,000 watch to wear while traveling.

The SBGD213 is only the sixth model to feature 9R01 Spring Drive caliber. The hand-wound, time-only caliber features a full plate, making the jewels (just a few of the 56 jewels are visible) and blued screws look like constellations against the brushed surface. The caliber features a triple-barrel setup that provides eight days of power reserve, with an indicator integrated into the plate instead of on the dial (thank goodness). For those who don’t know, Spring Drive movements have a traditional mainspring and geartrain, but instead of an escapement, use a glide wheel and what the brand calls a Tri-Synchro Regulator. This regulator uses kinetic, electric, and magnetic power, with the mainspring driving the gear train ending in the glide wheel, an integrated circuit constantly checking the glide wheel’s rate against the frequency of a quartz oscillator, and an electromagnet applying a “brake” to the glide wheel when any deviation in frequency is detected. The result is a movement that has the durability and (nearly) endless power of a mechanical movement and the accuracy of a quartz movement. For the 9R01, that means -/+10 seconds per month.

This is a jewelry piece as only Grand Seiko could do it. Take an objectively sporty case, pavé it, then cover the dial with diamonds and mother-of-pearl and keep the sporty hands to match the case. And yet, it’s still a stunning watch, with handset gems and finishing that seems to rival the very best. Given the ultra-limited nature of these watches and the release schedule, I think it’s safe to say that while Grand Seiko isn’t going to make a brand shift to haute joaillerie, we can certainly expect it to continue releasing exceptional jewelry watches.  The Grand Seiko Masterpiece Collection 8-Day Jewelry Watch SBGD213 is priced at $260,000 USD and limited to just eight pieces. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.

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