Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition SBGE039

Into The Wild Blue Yonder

The Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition SBGE039, with its impressive level of accuracy, is presented in a five part case formed of zirconia ceramic and high-intensity titanium, with an eye-catching blue dial.

Image of Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition SBGE039

Sometimes in life we feel an overwhelming desire to escape from the tedium of the daily commute and yearn for adventure. Indeed, we may have the sudden desire to flee to the wild blue yonder, never to return.

The dial of the Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition SBGE039 is presented in the deepest shade of blue and implores the wearer to dream of another world, far removed from their own. The blue vista of this watch proves beguiling and, together with the ceramic case, proffers a unique aesthetic unlike no other.

Several of the Black Ceramic Limited Edition models have previously been reviewed on ESCAPEMENT, but this limited edition timepiece is, in my opinion, the most attractive version to date. While some models feature both a GMT and a column-wheel chronograph, this particular Grand Seiko eschews the stopwatch complication.

The dial

The dial of the Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition SBGE039 possesses an amazing fathomless quality. It implores the wearer to move close and examine its surface, admiring its unusual, captivating hue.

Image of Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition SBGE039

The hour and minute hands feature polished, faceted edges, while the upper surfaces are brushed. The edges of the hands shine, whereas the upper surfaces exhibit a muted character, providing an agreeable contrast. 

Each hour is denoted with a gleaming faceted baton, augmenting ease of read off. The central sweep seconds hand features a rhomboid-shaped counterweight and interacts with crisp markings positioned in between each hour marker.

At 3 o’clock, the date is presented in black text on a white date disc. The size and font of each date value has been optimised to ensure peerless legibility. Located between 7 and 8 o’clock is a power reserve indicator.

The GMT hand features a yellow tip and contrasts superbly with the blue dial canvas. The other Black Ceramic Limited Edition models feature red or silver tips on their GMT hands, but the yellow tip on this version is without doubt the most visible and, to my eyes, the most attractive.

The ceramic bezel is marked with a 24-hour scale, used in conjunction with the GMT, and is ideal for displaying the ‘home time’ should you elect to run away to the wild blue yonder.

Few dials are totally illegible, however, few dials can compare with this offering from Grand Seiko which is incredibly simple to read and wonderfully attractive at the same time. I adore this dial.

The case

The case is formed of five parts. The most prominent surfaces are made of zirconia ceramic, a material which is seven times harder than stainless steel and highly resistant to scratching. The ceramic parts include the lugs and bezel.

Image of Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition SBGE039

The zirconia ceramic shrouds an inner ‘high intensity’ titanium case which is 25% lighter than stainless steel and hypoallergenic. The crown, crown surround and case-back are formed of titanium and sit wonderfully against the gleaming ceramic, proffering a subtle and tasteful contrast.

Image of Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition SBGE039

Grand Seiko is masterful at polishing metals, however, in this instance the Japanese watchmaker shows its prowess with the hand polishing of zirconia ceramic. Unlike many ceramic cases, the edges of this case are sharp, but not in a potentially injurious way I may add, rather in that they are beautifully defined. Examining the surface of the ceramic there are no distortions, everything is blemish free.

Unlike many of its forebears, this Grand Seiko is large, with a case diameter of 46.4mm and a height of 15.0mm. However, owing to the extremely neat lugs, the case size is partially tempered and the SBGE039 should suit a broad section of wearers.

The case is equipped with an exhibition case-back.

The movement

I have discussed Spring Drive movements on many occasions and waxed lyrical about the incredible accuracy they proffer. The 9R16 Spring Drive GMT movement takes the notion of accuracy to another level. The movement has an accuracy of +/- 10 seconds per month, a degree of accuracy unrivalled by a conventional Swiss lever escapement.

Image of Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition SBGE039

Beyond the accuracy of the movement is a high degree of aesthetic beauty, with glorious finishing to rival some of Switzerland’s most prestigious watch brands. The bridges and oscillating mass are adorned with gleaming stripes, similar in concept to Côtes de Genève motif. The jewel sinks are polished, reaffirming the quality of the movement.

The oscillating mass is partially open-worked and features an 18-carat gold medal, an adornment attesting to the accuracy of the movement.

Closing remarks

Grand Seiko enjoys its own niche following for its sublime watchmaking. However, it is also a brand of watch which is sadly dismissed by hordes of watch lovers who fail to understand the intricacies and nuances of what makes the the company’s timepieces special. Personally, I am a huge fan of Grand Seiko and forever marvel at the highly legible dials, beautifully smooth cases and the elevated accuracy of the mechanical movements the company makes.

When Grand Seiko unveiled the Black Ceramic Limited Edition models at Baselworld 2016, they shocked many onlookers with the bold, unprecedented design language. Historically, Grand Seiko’s models have been a tad conservative, but nobody could ever allege this with these ceramic timepieces.

Since Baselworld 2016, my colleagues and I have waxed lyrical about these limited edition models, however, it is this highly legible, blue dial which appeals to my western sensibilities the most, it is beautiful. Indeed, this is a dial which implores you to dream of escaping to warm shores and deep blue oceans while always knowing you can view the prevailing time at home. A truly wonderful creation.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Grand Seiko Black Ceramic Limited Edition Spring Drive GMT Calibre 9R16
  • Reference: SBGC039
  • Case: Zirconia ceramic and ‘high-intensity titanium’; diameter 46.4 mm; height 15 mm; water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; power-reserve indicator; GMT.
  • Movement: Calibre 9R16, self-winding movement; Spring Drive; 30 jewels; power reserve 72 hours.
  • Strap: Crocodile leather strap with push button release
  • Price: £8,500.00 (as at 23.2.2017)
  • Limited Edition: 500 pieces

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Angus Davies

Angus is a self-confessed watch addict and is frequently asked to contribute to various printed magazines and websites around the globe. He also writes for individual watch companies on matters of horology and has appeared on television and radio as an industry expert.