June 4, 2019
by Zach Pina
“What’s your favorite season?” seemed to be the refrain most commonly echoed throughout the Couture Time tradeshow held this past weekend at the Wynn Casino in Las Vegas. Of course attendees weren’t debating the merits of a specific time of year, but rather the quartet of season-themed watches introduced by Grand Seiko at the show – four brand new dial executions built around Hi-Beat and Spring Drive movements that are not formally limited in production, but will only be available to the brand’s retail network in North America.
With opinions firmly established by a sneak peek at early press materials, we went into our meeting with the Grand Seiko team fully expecting the vibrant emerald green-dialed ’Summer’ edition (ref. SBGH271) to be the favorite, but after a bit of wrist time with each, the consensus shifted subtly to the gorgeous SBGA413 ’Spring’ edition, delivered in a super-soft shade of pink, inspired by the delicate cherry blossoms that fill the Japanese landscape between April and May every year. Just like the blossoms themselves, the dial looks soft white under indirect light, then in direct sunlight subtly takes on color to yield an entirely new hue, though never going full-on flamingo pink. Like many of Grand Seiko’s most popular dials, it’s an ultra-versatile chameleon that needn’t be limited to formal contexts. It’s probably a bit too early to suggest that ‘pink is the new black,’ but if there ever were a contender, it would absolutely be this.
Not to be totally outdone, the richly colored SBGH271 edition really captures the energy and vibrance of nature at the height of the summer season. With green dials being somewhat en vogue right now, it’s great to see Grand Seiko playing a strong card in this field with a dial option that the brand has historically reserved for its JDM (Japan Domestic Market) exclusives. Then as we move into fall, the hues on SBGH273 shift to a moody shade of blue, evoking the crisp fall air on a moonlit night. Naturally, the fourth watch in the series is ‘Winter,’ but Grand Seiko couldn’t repeat the pure white dial of its super-popular ’Snowflake’ (ref. SBGA211). Instead, we have something a little moodier – SBGA415 is characterized by its richly textured silver dial inspired not by a single snowflake, but by grey skies, deep snow, and the general subdued tones of winter in Japan.
All four watches genuinely bring something entirely different to the wrist: Spring and Winter both exhibit the broad swathes of dial texture that jumps to life at just the right angles. If it’s sheer everyday versatility that you’re after, Winter is probably going to be the best option. Summer and Fall hide their subtle dial textures under a markedly dynamic visage, and are easily the most eye-catching, but if you’re after something truly special that’s simply never been done before, Spring is the one to get.
Each watch in the collection is built using Grand Seiko’s 40mm by 12mm thick 62GS case, which bears the sculpted caseband, angular lugs, and broad box crystal exhibited in Grand Seiko’s original self-winding watch. Compared to the more modern 44GS case used in many of Grand Seiko’s most popular models, the 62GS is a more classic execution that still bears Grand Seiko’s undeniable modern design grammar and sporty 100-meter water resistance. Longtime Grand Seiko fans might notice that these new ‘Seasons’ watches echo the sold-out and highly sought-after SBGA125 Heritage limited edition from 2017, re-cast in a series of dynamic new dials. At a glance, the 62GS differs from Grand Seiko’s bolder 44GS case, the latter of which is best characterized by a bolder visual profile, thanks to the addition of a bezel and some heavier lines throughout. This is the case used on the Snowflake, as well as on last year’s US-exclusive ‘Kira-Zuri’ models unveiled at Couture.
It’s worth noting that two different movements, and two different case materials are spread through the four watches, but each is priced at $6,300. The Spring and Winter watches are built using Spring Drive movements (denoted by the power reserve indicator at 8:00) and titanium cases, while Summer and Fall use the more expensive Hi-Beat movements, but a less expensive case material: stainless steel. For Grand Seiko to keep the price point consistent across all four pieces while asking simply “which do you like best?” rather than forcing its fans to buy the whole set in order to obtain their favorite dial, certainly earns it plenty of street cred amongst the community.
What ultimately emerges as the actual favorite in the United States should also prove to be an interesting and inherently valuable set of findings for future territory exclusives. That being said, if there’s enough interest in the series, the Grand Seiko did hint at the possibility of introducing a special box set for those with particularly deep completionist tendencies. As we wait for these to hit retailers by the end of the summer, in the meantime, seriously: which season’s your favorite? grand-seiko.com