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Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005

Angus Davies provides an in-depth review of the new Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005, a watch presented with a gorgeous green dial and featuring, for the first time, Seiko’s hi-beat GMT.

This detailed review of the Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005 includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Japan is often thought of as an industrial powerhouse, but residential and industrial areas are said to only account for less than 10% of the land mass. In fact, over two thirds of the country is occupied by mountains, hills and forests. Indeed, Japan is blessed with breathtaking natural beauty and it’s people are known for their acute awareness of the seasons.

For example, residents of rural communities are reputed to know if the dragonflies, that appear in late spring, are a few days early. Additionally, they would notice whether the rainy season, or “tsuyu”, has lasted a couple days longer than the norm.

Part of the stereotypical recognition and sensitivity to the changing seasons is linked with Shinto, Japan’s native belief system. Moreover, the Japanese people will often recognise the changing seasons with many festivals and rituals through the year.

Ancient Japanese art frequently depicts nature evolving through the seasons, perhaps showing the transition of blossoming trees in spring, to trees in winter absent of leaves and draped in snow.

Bamboo is ubiquitous in Japan, with over 1000 species in existence. It has been used to make a plethora of items including walls, fences and even homes. Wherever you look there are frequent examples of the Japanese population at one with nature.

Based on this national predilection, it should come as no surprise that the designers at Grand Seiko often seek inspiration from the scenes observed through the windows of the Shizukuishi Watch Studio. Recently, I reviewed the Grand Seiko SBGA011 with its delightful white dial, inspired by the freshly fallen snow decorating the wintry ground adjacent the Studio.

At Baselworld 2014, Grand Seiko launched a further watch which, once again, drew on inspiration from a scene observed through the glass of the aforementioned studio. In this instance, the ridged contours of Mt. Iwate, has inspired the creation of a spell-bindingly beautiful green watch dial.This verdant dial provides the focal point for a new creation by the high-end Japanese watch brand, the Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005.

Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The watch is limited to only 600 pieces and as I type this detailed review, I suspect that many of the timepieces will have already been secured by fellow admirers of GS. Nevertheless, failing to report on this most handsome of watches would be a glaring omission on my part.

The dial

Grand Seiko make some of the finest dials in existence. Regrettably, no image can ever truly convey their profuse charm. It is only with close examination that the palpable quality can be truly appreciated.

Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The surface of the dial has a series of lines subtly emanating from centre. Consequently, the dial interacts charmingly with light, creating sophisticated shades which intrigue and delight in equal measure.

Hour and minutes are conveyed with Grand-Seiko’s glorious sword-shaped hands. They wonderfully show the brand’s mastery at polishing. The faceted hands, with blemish free brilliance, once again exploit ambient light. The resultant outcome is sublime legibility and copious quantities of style.

Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The central sweep seconds hand is slim, quiet and understated. It stretches to the minute ring, collaborating with the simple strokes depicted to convey time in a simple to interpret form.

Arguably, the most ebullient and noticeable hand, is the yellow GMT hand with its triangular tip kissing the Arabic numerals adorning the inner flange. These numerals, in conjunction with yellow triangles in between, impart the hour in a second time zone, proving ideal for the globetrotter.

The applied hour markers feature numerous facets, all uniform, flawless and exquisitely presented. Grand Seiko repeatedly plays to its strengths, using peerless polishing and bevelled flanks to converse with light, marvellously exhibiting lustrous eloquence.

A steel date aperture features at 3 o’clock, linking back to the aforementioned hands and hour markers to confer a harmonious ensemble. The date is presented in black text on a white disc, granting ease of read-off.

The case

The case measures 40mm in diameter and is based on the 44 GS design.

Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Trying the watch upon my wrist at Baselworld, I was amazed at the feel of the polished steel case which feels almost like glass, such is its incrediblly smooth finish. I spent much time, admiring the case with probing digits and could not find anything other than velvety polished metal.

The reverse of each bracelet link is scalloped, with each concaved surface cosseting the arm. Indeed, it grants a wrist-feel akin to a second dermis, such is the profound comfort it confers.

Adorning the rear of the watch is an exhibition caseback.

The movement

Grand Seiko launched its hi-beat calibre 9S85 back in 2009. This particular self-winding movement has an usually high frequency of 36,000 vph (5Hz) and the Japanese watch company has used it as the basis for its new calibre, the 9S86, the first ever high-beat GMT from Grand Seiko.

Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Accuracy is a key attribute of all Grand Seiko movements and the 9S86 maintains this enviable reputation with a daily variation specified as -3 to +5 seconds per day.

One reason I have become wholeheartedly bewitched by Grand Seiko is the engineering excellence and flawless finishing of its movements. The 9S86 proves to be no exception.

Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

An uniquely shaped titanium oscillating mass is presented centre-stage. It exhibits an unusual hue, employing anodic oxidation to impart a comely gold tone. The rotor features several apertures which reveal some of the details beneath.

However, I must confess I prefer the oscillating mass used in the non-limited versions of the Hi-beat 36,000 GMT. This is not due to any aversion to the gold tincture of the rotor within the limited edition model, but simply because the oscillating mass within the standard model reveals more of the beautiful bridges beneath and other fabulously refined micro-components.

Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The Calibre 9S86 fitted in non-limited edition models SBGJ001 & SBGJ003

The bridges are decorated with broad, straight stripes, similar in concept to Côtes de Genève or Glashütte Ribbing, but with a individual appearance all of there own.

Closing remarks

There are many worthy aspects to the specification of the Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005, including its impressive magnetic resistance of 4,800 A/m and the excellent accuracy of the calibre 9S86.

However, where the Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005 is truly exceptional is in three key areas. Firstly, there is the excellent craftsmanship employed in the creation of this watch, demonstrated with the movement, the perfectly polished case and the sumptuous dial construction. Secondly, there is the exceptional legibility with judicious use of colour, polishing and the excellent sapphire crystal featuring superb anti-reflective coating. The presentation of the time is superb. Finally, there is the touch of the case and how the watch nestles on the arm, barely making its presence felt, such is the tenderness of its velvety-smooth case and bracelet.

As stated earlier, the limited edition watch may well have already sold out and those wanting to acquire this beautiful model should not hesitate in making enquiries before inevitable disappointment ensues. Alternatively, there are the two non-limited models available with black and white dials. Indeed, these share many of the virtues of the Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005, but feature a different hue to their landscapes.

Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Grand Seiko SBGJ001

 Grand Seiko Hi-beat 36,000 GMT Limited Edition SBGJ005 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Grand Seiko SBGJ003

Technical Specification

  • Model: Grand Seiko SBGJ005
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 40.0 mm; height 14.00 mm; water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; central sweep seconds; date.
  • Movement: Calibre 9S86, self-winding movement; frequency 36,000 vph (5Hz); 37 jewels; power reserve 50 hours.
  • Bracelet: Stainless steel with three-fold clasp with push button release
  • Limited Edition: 600 pieces
  • Price: £6600.00 (as at 30.4.2014)

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