The Grand Seiko Tentagraph SLGC001 is the brand’s first-ever mechanical chronograph, and we would not have missed going hands-on with it at Watches & Wonders 2023. Built around the cutting-edge 9SA5 base caliber, it is a true Grand Seiko on the inside, while on the outside, it marks a distinct departure with rather toned-down styling.
For some 20 minutes of intense Grand Seiko immersion, listen to the one and only Joe Kirk of Grand Seiko USA reveal all the inner secrets of the SLGC001 in the video above while we focus on the essentials and, of course, our hands-on impressions.
Sometimes, what the world wants is a more normal and, in ways, worse version of something that’s already been available. It’s a phenomenon applicable to cars, cameras, and certainly watches. You see, the Spring Drive Chronograph SBGC001 from 2007 is a better watch in every way save for the metal — that was steel and this is in titanium, which in itself would have been an easy fix. The SBGC001 was so good that I reviewed it twice — first here, and then a long-term review here and have praised its Spring Drive technology in what was the first comprehensive look at Spring Drive history and technology here.
The Grand Seiko chronograph of 2007 was a free-roaming exercise, the expression of just about everything that is so special about Grand Seiko. Alas, the watch attracted more than its fair share of criticism directed mainly at its large screw-down chronograph pushers and odd dial layout. How widely the benefits and genuinely unrivaled technological advancement of Spring Drive had been understood is more difficult to assess, but it has likely confused more than it has impressed.
The new-for-2023 Grand Seiko Tentagraph SLGC001 should be evaluated in the context of the Grand Seiko chronograph watches that came before it, as this is the best way to understand the hows and the whys of its execution. As such, the SLGC001 looks decidedly more generic with a traditional 3-6-9 dial layout with the date at 04:30, surrounded by trapezoid hour markers and a ceramic bezel. Look a bit further and you’ll find that the chronograph pushers are mushroom-style, probably to add a bit of playfulness into the mix, and are set into a beautifully arched case profile.
On the wrist, the Grand Seiko Tentagraph SLGC001 wears like many other bulky chronographs do. The SLGC001 is 43.2mm-wide and 15.3mm-thick and its lugs, although gracefully curved and proportional to the rest, are not exactly short, either. Despite the relatively low weight of titanium — “high-intensity titanium,” as Grand Seiko calls it — you won’t be forgetting about having the Tentagraph in a hurry. This isn’t to say it is uncomfortable, because it isn’t that, but it will get caught up on sleeves, that much is for certain. More importantly, glance down at your wrist and you’ll find a regular chronograph in Grand Seiko flavor — which is apparently what so many have been asking for and, at long last, Grand Seiko has come to answer their request.
Part of the reason for the delay was that Grand Seiko chose to develop a new movement with a traditional dial layout — again, to answer the many pleas it has received for one. Built around the 9SA5 base movement, the Tentagraph is powered by the Grand Seiko Caliber 9SC5, the brand’s first-ever self-winding mechanical chronograph. It runs at 5Hz and has a power reserve of 72 hours, which is the longest by a considerable margin of all other 5Hz chronograph watches currently on the market. This is thanks, in no small part, to the super-efficient new dual-impulse escapement of the 9SA5 — you can learn more about that here.
Flip the Tentagraph around and gaze through the sapphire crystal caseback to discover that the 9SC5 is a stunning-looking movement with an overwhelming feeling of quality and refinement. We’ll say this very quietly — it looks rather more Swiss in its styling and does so in the best possible way. You can let us know in the comments below whether you agree or disagree with that assessment. Anyhow, no Tentagraph owner will feel shortchanged in the movement department, as the polished screw heads, bevels, and even countersinks help create a jewel-like impression for the 9SC5.
The collection of neat and precious details doesn’t end with the movement; they extend onto the exterior, too. The aforementioned chronograph pushers have neat little beveled edges, the crown features the GS logo in relief against a frosted backdrop, and the titanium case is as pretty as any in this price segment — and a whole lot more impressive than what Rolex has managed to achieve with the almost identically priced, yet comparably under-equipped, Yacht-Master in RLX Titanium (hands-on here). Equally impressive in the metal — and unassuming in images — are the beveled and polished subdial surrounds. These frames are among the most prominent and expensive-looking features of the dial, and not the barely visible Mt. Iwate-pattern inspired by the ridged contours of the mountain visible through the windows of the Grand Seiko Studio Shizukuishi.
In summary, the Grand Seiko Tentagraph SLGC001 is only odd in its name, but not in its styling and presentation. The Tentagraph is a beautifully made, lightweight, high-tech chronograph that is crafted to higher specifications using more modern materials than what you will find in a steel Daytona and yet manages to cost less than that benchmark. Still, for some of us, the Tentagraph will be overshadowed by its quirky predecessor, the Spring Drive Chronograph, a unique watch that, albeit before sky-high inflation, retailed for just about half as much. The Grand Seiko Tentagraph SLGC001 is priced at $13,700 and will be available from June 2023. You can learn more at the brand’s website.