Limiting releases to one region is nothing new from Grand Seiko. In fact, some of their best pieces unfortunately or fortunately, depending on where you are literally standing, are released in this manner. The U.S. has benefited quite well from this arrangement, a great example of this is the Four Seasons Collection and the Japan Seasons Special Edition 2020. From their Elegance collection, we are now presented with the SBGK015 “Ryūsendō” U.S. Limited Edition and SBGK017 U.S. Special Edition. Joining these are the Hi-Beat 36000 GMT SBGJ261, and Green Bamboo SBGJ259. A striking group of watches due to their diverse dial finishes.
Watch Specifications & Design
SBGK015 & SBGK017: 39mm x 11.6mm x 44mm, stainless steel, double domed sapphire crystal, sapphire caseback, push-pull crown, 30m water-resistant, caliber 9S63, hand-wound, 33 jewels, 28,800 vph, 72h power reserve, – +5 to -3 seconds per day, magnetic resistance rating of 4,800 A/m (60 Gauss), light blue with dark blue crocodile strap and grey dial with steel bracelet. Both models utilize Grand Seiko’s Thin Dress Series case design whose round design and thinness create a piece that can easily slip under the cuff. Additionally, the underside of the case is concave, which allows the watch to sit closer to the wrist. This design also possesses an organic structure that’s the opposite of the sharp lines of the famous 44GS. Impressively, the cases feature ample Zaratsu polishing, which creates beautiful distortion-free surfaces, even on curved areas but since Zaratsu polishing is traditionally done on flat areas, a special technique was developed by the artisans at GS to achieve a high-quality finish. This is complemented by fine brushing on the laterals. A double domed sapphire crystal leads into a curved dial whose time-telling functions are left to hands that are shaped by a craftsperson so that they follow the dials’ dome. The indexes go through the same process and are also polished (SBGK015) or brushed (SBGK017), and beveled. While the SBGK017 keeps a monochrome look the SBGK015 experiments with having a gold power reserve indicator and dark blue in the minute track. The SBGK015 takes its vibrant light blue dial and dynamic guilloche pattern from the lakes of the Ryūsendō Cave that’s known for its extensive subterranean galleries arching over deep sunless lakes of clear blue water. Something that this dial captures beautifully. Moving from taking inspiration from nature, another trait that we find in Japanese watchmaking is the honoring of the metalwork culture that goes back for centuries. The SBGK017 pays tribute to Nanbu tekki ironware, a form of traditional metal work produced in the city of Morioka, an art that dates to Japan’s Edo period. Nanbu tekki ironware features a distinctive texture called arare, which is done on this dial in a uniform pattern.
SBGJ261 & SBGJ259: 40mm x 14mm x 46.2mm, stainless steel, double domed sapphire crystal, sapphire caseback, screw-down crown, 100m water-resistant, caliber 9S86, 37 jewels, 36,000 vph (5Hz), 55h power reserve, – +5 to -3 seconds per day, 24h indication, jumping local time function, 19mm wide 3-link stainless steel bracelet, blue and green dial. Moving from the Elegance to the Heritage collection the pair of Hi-beat GMTs have the sporty 44GS case, presented in 1967 (2022 marks the 55th year of this design by Nobuhiro Kosugi), whose sharp profile, accentuated by the many surfaces that have been Zaratsu polished, has become so synonymous to Grand Seiko that it is known as Grand Seiko Style. Continuing with the sports watch look, both models come paired with a three-link bracelet that has brushed outer links and laterally polished mid links. Staring with the SBGJ261, this model is the successor to the very popular SBGJ227 “Peacock” introduced in 2017 with a green dial that was also the first Grand Seiko with a pattern inspired by the peacock’s feathers. A pattern achieved through an intricate press patterning process. Now in purple blue, this effect, radiating from the dial’s center, is certainly eye-catching. Lastly, we have the SBGJ259. This dial is my second favorite of these U.S. exclusives, with the first being the SBGK015. Inspired by the bamboo garden at the Nezu Museum and Garden, it’s gradient tone from yellow to dark green, depending on the light, and vertical striated pattern give the appearance of od looking straight at a bamboo forest. These watch’s functionality is aided by Each dial has a color matched 24-hour ring on the perimeter of the dial. These dials also feature a date at 6 o’clock, faceted hour markers and hands, plus the GMT hand on the Peacock dial is gold colored while the bamboo dial has a neon green hand.Movement
The impressive characteristics of these movements are listed above but I’d like to highlight a characteristic of each that I really enjoy. The Elegance models are powered by the caliber 9S63, a manual caliber allowing for their slim profile though it has nearly 20% more components than its base 9S64 movement. This is to allow the dial layout with a small second’s register and a power reserve indicator at opposite sides of the dial, which ends up being perfect in terms of balancing out the look. Something that not all Grand Seiko’s can claim. In the heritage models, you’ll notice the even smoother action of the second’s hand thanks to the 36,000 bph of the 9S86. Plus this GMT movement allows for the hour hand to be adjusted independently, my favorite GMT configuration.Availability
All these watches will be available in September 2022 at Grand Seiko Boutiques and selected retail partners in the United States. RRP: SBGK015 – $7,500; SBGK017 – $8,900; SBGJ227 – $6,800; SBGJ259 – $6,800.