In a continued show of extravagance and elegance, Grand Seiko is adding to its ever-growing arsenal of gem-set jewelry watches, and with each new model, the collection grows more ornate.  Early examples of Grand Seiko’s unexpected foray into jewelry watches, which started in 2020, featured just two rows of gemstones surrounding the dial and were inspired by nature.  It was a safe bet for the brand as it entered a market of ornate, iced-out watches in what appeared to be a bid to keep up with current trends. Then, the brand upped the ante with the White Lion decorated with pavé diamond lugs and a diamond bezel. For 2024, we have yet another iteration of the series with a few decorative changes to the case, the Grand Seiko Masterpiece Collection 8-Day Jewelry Watch SBGD215.

The new Grand Seiko SBGD215 is the newest edition of the “White Lion,” a high-jewelry watch modeled after the Grand Seiko lion symbol. It keeps many of the same aspects of the watches that came before it, including pavé lugs, a gem-set bezel, two rows of baguette and brilliant-cut stones for the hour and minute markers, and a sharply angled case.  However, the new model is decorated with a dynamic, textured finish instead of smooth, polished surfaces where there aren’t any stones. I would think that a watch decked out in glittering gems would be hard to read, but Grand Seiko seems to have already anticipated that by placing contrasting blue sapphires at each hour marker for increased legibility. The result is a dial the brand describes as a combination of “beauty and practicality.”

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Grand Seiko swapped the blue Mother-of-Pearl dial from the Grand Seiko SBGD213 “White Lion” for silver with a striking lion’s mane texture. It made up for the absence of blue by adding a graduation of blue sapphire stones to the bezel and pavé lugs.  The silvery dial and mixture of diamonds with sapphires throughout the watch, in a way, incorporate design elements from both White Lion models that preceded it, which I appreciate. For those who haven’t seen the previous models, ref. SBGD209 has the same silver textured dial but is decorated with diamonds and black spinels.  Ref. SBGD213 features the blue MOP dial and is adorned mostly in diamonds, with blue sapphires at each hour marker. The one design element that I feel is lacking is the hands, which were inherited from the sportier 20th-anniversary models released in 2019, and blend in with the rest of the dial from what I can see from images released by Grand Seiko.  It isn’t likely I’ll ever examine this watch in the metal, but perhaps my opinion on that would change if I ever got the chance.

The lion theme is infused into other aspects of the watch, not just the dial.  Angled lugs curve downward like claws, and sharp lines along the side of the case embody the power and intensity of a lion, a silhouette we’ve seen from Grand Seiko sports watches before. While the Grand Seiko SBGD215 is positioned as a high-horology jewelry watch, the sporty case is right at home in the eponymous collection with its lion-inspired shape. The case is also quite robust, featuring 950 platinum and measuring 44.5mm across and 14.4mm thick.

The caliber 9R01 Spring Drive movement is visible through a sapphire crystal caseback. If you’re familiar with this caliber, the shape of the one-piece bridge might be my favorite part because it resembles Mt. Fuji and is decorated with a lovely scattering of jewels and screws that remind me of blooming flowers. The Spring Drive movement technology provides the almost infinite power supply of a hand-wound mechanical movement and the renowned accuracy of a quartz movement, up to -/+5 seconds per day or -/+10 seconds per month. The movement also houses three barrels instead of one to provide a much longer 8-day power reserve, which is displayed on the right side of the bridge to save precious real estate on the dial, which I’m sure anyone willing to pay $300,000 for a platinum gem-set watch will appreciate.

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Years ago, we never would have thought that Grand Seiko would occupy a space in the extravagant, gem-set watch realm, but here we are.  While unexpected, the White Lion aligns with the brand’s passion for artistry in all aspects of watchmaking, and it pays tribute to its enduring emblem in a way that only Grand Seiko could achieve.  As you might have guessed, the newest Grand Seiko high-jewelry masterpiece is incredibly exclusive, limited to eight watches, and priced at a cool $300,000 USD a price I would expect from a watch adorned with 293 gemstones in today’s market. For more information, please visit the Grand Seiko website 

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