A Note On The Non-Seiko Grand Seiko Version
This is a truly subjective thing so if you find you disagree with me entirely, that’s all cool too – just stay cool about it. Seiko has recently subjected this piece – whose dial design and quirky but established balance I enjoy so much – to the non-Seiko-ization-treatment by removing the standalone Seiko logo from 12 o’clock and moving the Grand Seiko logo from 6 o’clock to its place (actually to the 11 o’clock position). This of course created some empty space at 6 o’clock and so they put GMT in red to its place. I think this new “design” is a total disaster, with the rounded balance of the original piece destroyed. I love the fact that the SBGC001 has SEIKO on it and Grand Seiko below for it is as though the parent company Seiko – with all its might and achievements – was looking down over the smaller Grand Seiko brand within it. In more simple terms, Grand Seiko is part of Seiko and removing the latter is frankly a condescension at best (insult at worst) to the measly affordable Seiko actually everybody who wants a GS loves and owns. Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if Mercedes-Benz removed the Mercedes-Benz logo and name from its AMG products, because it wasn’t exclusive enough for the high-end in-house skunkworks of AMG? Good thing is that I am sure there are some BNIB (brand new in box) SBGC001s still out there.
Removing the Seiko branding and jacking prices is Seiko taking two of the worst offenses from the Swiss luxury watch brand handbook: self-aggrandizement and greedy pricing. The Japanese (at a corporate level) act slowly (or usually don’t act at all) when it comes to PR and branding… and I presume it took them a good 10-15 years to process what the Swiss had been doing since the dawn of the new millennium and now they figured OK, “it worked for them so we’ll want in too!” The problem is that it had already stopped working for the Swiss years ago, just apparently not long enough for the Japanese to process this change. This is my theory, based on what I’ve been seeing and hearing from Grand Seiko product launches and official press releases in recent years.
Here’s the crucially important bit. I think the SBGC001’s looks suffered from this rebranding because it was done as part of a process the Japanese rarely ever allow themselves to do: the process was dedicated not to making the product better but to push it through a branding/communications decision. They screwed it up because they have no experience in doing this – and that’s precisely why I like them so much. The SBGC001 was launched over a decade ago after decades of work on the Spring Drive movement and it is a culmination of exceptional design and engineering, being one of the rare instances where the launch product is already impeccable for it is a display of all the effort that was dedicated to its creation. In closing of this rant, I’ll say that I wouldn’t have gotten this new version (the SBGC201G) even if it was the first and only model, simply because it looks weird an unbalanced to me. It isn’t as good as it could be.
The key take-away message from all this I think should be that buying a watch for its qualities will give you greater long-term enjoyment than buying one for the branding, the condescension, the history, or the story attached to it. Most racing-themed watches won’t put you in your in mind into a racing car when you’re riding the subway in the same way how buying a watch with useless, over-engineered features won’t turn you into a combat diver or famed astronomer in the supermarket queue either. These are self-explanatory. What isn’t so blatantly obvious though, unless you’ve experienced the comparison first-handedly, is the difference between a well-made watch and an exceptionally made watch. The more neat, high-quality details there are, the more solidly built the case and bracelet are, the better the legibility, the fewer useless and the more convenient features a watch has, the more you’ll reach for it years down the road – and the later you’ll feel the need to let go of it.
I’ll finish with what I said at the beginning of my original review: “The Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph SBGC001, in its entirety, as it is out of the box, is exactly the package of design, movement, functionality, technology, accuracy, and value that one or more major Swiss brands should at least be trying to offer.” After 18 months of ownership and regular wear, I very much maintain this opinion – with my only addition to it being my concern with the Grand Seiko of today with its increasingly ambitious pricing and frankly idiotic non-Seiko-Grand-Seiko rebranding. grand-seiko.com