Hands-on Review: Angus Davies gets hands-on with the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph GMT SBGC221.
The Japanese have a rich history of artisanal crafts dating back hundreds of years. Samurai swords and silk kimonos are just two examples of this nation’s prowess for craftsmanship. The new Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph GMT SBGC221 also harnesses much artisanal skill.
Last year, Grand Seiko unveiled both GMT and Chronograph GMT models, delivered in high-intensity titanium and zirconia ceramic. This year the Japanese brand has unveiled three new Chronograph GMT models, all of which feature ‘hybrid titanium-ceramic bracelet construction’.
Black dial – SBGC223
While Grand Seiko offer three versions of the Spring Drive Chronograph GMT, my favourite version is delivered with a pure white, chaste dial.
Unusually for Grand Seiko, the hour and minute hands are lined with luminescent treatment, reinforcing the sporty character of the timepiece. The edges of the hands are razor sharp, capturing light on each facet and augmenting legibility.
The applied indexes are faceted, dancing with light and heightening readability. The dial epidermis features small pyramid-like structures which add interest, toying with the light.
The topography of the dial shares much in common with the Black Ceramic Limited Edition SBGC017 I reviewed last year. However, the white hue of the dial makes it appear fresher. Adjacent the crown there are two subdials, a 30-minute chronograph register and a 12-hour chronograph register, arranged on arranged on a north-south axis.
At 7 o’clock is a power reserve indicator, displaying the state of wind using an arc-like scale.
Positioned at 9 o’clock is a small seconds dial, featuring a twin-tipped hand and a double-scale display, while at 3 o’clock is a date aperture.
A lovely idiosyncratic detail is the off-centre logo which affords space for the subdials. The applied logo collaborates with the dial canvas to accord a wonderful three dimensionality to proceedings.
A red-tipped GMT hand is prominent and is suitably different from the other hands and indications to aid read-off.
The case represents a splendid marriage of high-intensity titanium and ceramic. The ceramic bezel is adorned with a 24-hour scale which, in conjunction with the GMT hand, allows the wearer to discern whether the time at home is day or night.
Grand Seiko has cleverly blended titanium and ceramic on the bracelet with the ceramic links sitting higher than the neighbouring titanium links. By adopting this approach, only the scratch resistant ceramic parts are subject to any potential contact, leaving the vulnerable titanium links shielded from scratches.
Grand Seiko polish metals using zaratsu polishing, a blade polishing technique. The resultant outcome is a supremely smooth surface and precise edges. In this instance, not only are the titanium components impressive on the Spring Drive Chronograph GMT SBGC221, but the ceramic parts exhibit a mirror-like gleam as well. Moreover, the surfaces have a noteworthy sharpness to them with clearly defined edges.
The case-back is titanium. This lightweight metal is hypo-allergenic, hence it is unlikely to adversely affect the skin. The rest of the case is shrouded in ceramic, shrugging off potential scratches with disdain.
An exhibition case-back affords sight of the self-winding movement within.
The Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph GMT SBGC221 is fitted with the 9R86 movement. This delivers mind-blowing accuracy with only +/- 15 seconds deviation per month. This degree of accuracy is seldom found with any conventional mechanical movement. Furthermore, this level of accuracy is only surpassed by the 9R96 movement found in the limited edition Spring Drive Chronograph GMT SBGC219 which is accurate to +/- 10 seconds deviation per month.
Only Seiko offer ‘Spring Drive’ and its performance is incredibly impressive. The central seconds hand glides in a seamless, rotating action. Further details of Spring Drive technology can be found in my review of the Grand Seiko SBGA011.
The movement is exquisitely finished. The oscillating mass and bridges are adorned with a motif similar to Côtes de Genève motif, but with broader stripes. Each bridge bevel gleams beautifully. Everything is the epitome of refinement.
The 9R86 features a column-wheel chronograph which yields a fantastic push-piece-feel when actuating the chronograph. Moreover, resetting the chronograph results in the central chronograph seconds hands returning to zero with a notable wobble-free motion.
The Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph GMT SBGC221 is a characterful timepiece which delivers peerless readability. The case is silky smooth with amazing, defined edges seldom found on ceramic cases.
Spring Drive delivers a degree of accuracy not usually seen with conventional mechanical movements. Moreover, the gliding motion of the seconds hand proves beguiling to observe.
The execution of the movement finishing is sublime and the action of the column-wheel chronograph confers a silky-smooth experience.
Quality is omnipresent with the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph GMT SBGC221. It not only harnesses much modern-day know-how, but it draws on the experience of artisans who have been synonymous with Japanese culture for hundreds of years.
• Model: Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph GMT SBGC221
• Case: High-intensity titanium and ceramic case; diameter 46.4mm; height 16.2mm; water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
• Functions: Hours; minutes; small seconds; date; GMT; chronograph.
• Movement: 9R86; self-winding; 50 jewels; power reserve 72 hours.
• Strap: High-intensity titanium and ceramic bracelet with folding clasp
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.