Watch Alert: Grand Seiko SBGP017G – “Sea of clouds”

Grand Seiko’s latest watch continues its celebration of the 55th anniversary of the Grand Seiko Style, the design philosophy that was first established with the 44GS model in 1967. This time it houses a movement that has yet to be used for this celebratory occasion, its high vaunted quartz movement. While a lot of collectors and watch enthusiasts turn their nose up when they hear quartz, this is different. Grand Seiko quartz watches are special. Grand Seiko dials typically steal the limelight, but perhaps the brilliance of the brand’s High Accuracy Quartz deserves first mention this time round.

Movement

Caliber 9F85, -/+ 5 seconds a year

Grand Seiko is one of the few manufacturers that produces everything in house, from the oils they use to lubricate the movements to the quartz crystal they grow themselves for their quartz watches. They leave nothing to chance. A quartz crystal emits electricity when squeezed and reverting this, vibrates, when electricity is applied to it. The challenge is to find a quartz crystal that vibrates exactly 32,768 times per second, so that can be halved 11 times to eventually have a single second impulse that would trigger the gear train to advance the hands by 1 second. The slightest deviation in the vibration frequency and the watch loses precision.

To ensure that its exacting standards are met, Grand Seiko grows their own quartz crystals, ages them for 3 months and subjects them to stabilizing voltages. Only the best, make it into their watches. Inside the watch the temperature is measured 540 times a day, and a few vibrations are added or subtracted to the natural vibrations of the crystal to compensate for the effect of the temperature. It’s basically modern day wizardry. This 9F85 movement has an independent hour hand so you won’t stop the incredibly precise timekeeping to adjust the hour when travelling or when changing between Daylight Saving times.

Martins of Glasgow Watch Servicing and Repair

Their quartz movements are constructed with the same care that goes into their mechanical brethren. The movement gets the same decoration wherever possible and the movement and watch is put together by a single watchmaker. It’s simply a work of exceptional artisanship. And then there is the accuracy of the watch. A “normal” Grand Seiko quartz watch, when worn for 8 hours a day at least) will have a deviation of about 10 seconds. And no – this is not per day, per week or per month, but per year. Having such an intrinsic precision requires every component of the movement to be of the highest quality and it has to be assembled exceptionally well.

But sometimes, even that is not enough – models with the little “star” at the 6 o’clock position actually *doubles* the accuracy to incredible +/- 5 seconds per year. The watch movement is thermos compensated, because the vibrations of the crystal are influenced by the temperature of the environment. The watch we have today is one of these rare models with a star.

Watch Specifications & Design

Sky blue dial with cloud like texture, Steel, 44GS case, 40mm x 46.2mm x 11.1mm (TBC), 100m water resistant, Sapphire Case Back, 19mm lug width, bracelet with three-fold clasp

As mentioned above, this release celebrates the 55th anniversary of the 44GS case, and we have it here in all its glory. The lines are sharp and crisp, the polishing is exquisite as all Zaratsu polishing done by German made Sallaz machines holding the surfaces to a spinning tin plate. It takes years to feel and master the angle, pressure, and time to achieve the mirror like polishing.

The first 44GS cased watch from 1967

The standout as always, is the dial. As with all Grand Seiko dials, this one is also inspired by nature. For a very short time, and only when all the conditions are right, a natural phenomenon occurs early in the morning, in Shinshu, where the Quartz Grand Seiko timepieces are made. It can be observed from the top of the mountain only. That phenomenon is a Sea of Clouds that seem to wave underneath the observer. It’s called “雲海=Unkai”.

To call this dial beautiful is an understatement. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The light blue colour and the little cloud like waves are offset by the navy blue GS logo and second hand looks simply phenomenal. Surrounded by the impeccable polished hour markers and a polished and framed date window, the hands show their Katana style elegance. Simple but executed to perfection.

On the six o’clock position the golden star reminds us again that this is a special quartz movement watch with superior precision. Commendably, this watch also includes a display case back (which is rare for a quartz watch), which allows the enjoyment of the finishing that the brand put into its movement.

Price

£3,200, Limited Edition 2,000 pieces (what’s new?)

 At £3,200, the watch is quite in line with the rest of the high accuracy quartz releases that the brand has put out, though you would have to decide for yourself if its reasonable.

Concluding Thoughts

If it is not evident by now, I am deeply in love with this watch, so much so that I will be ordering one myself as soon as I can. The breathtaking dial, and the level of watchmaking that has gone into the movement does me in. I cannot wait to see serenity of the Sea of Clouds every time I look at my wrist.