Grand Seiko SBGA105

Angus Davies provides an in-depth review of the Grand Seiko SBGA105, a watch with a stunning blue dial, harnessing the remarkable horological expertise of this high-end Japanese watch company.

This detailed review of the Grand Seiko SBGA105 includes live images, specification details and pricing.

Grand Seiko SBGA105 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The prospect of a blind date sounds abhorrent to me. I cannot imagine anything worse than arriving at a pre-arranged venue to meet a total stranger on the pretext that a romance may potentially ensue. I like certainty.

Watches which carry the “GS” moniker on their dials, epitomise all that is wonderful about high-end watchmaking. The quality is beyond reproach. This is a certainty of which I have no doubt. The finishing is fantastic and the technical excellence of the Japanese watches is truly breathtaking.

Recently, I was chatting to a fellow watch collector and mentioned my admiration for Grand Seiko models. He is knowledgeable about watches, but quickly dismissed GS, proffering no reason, other than saying he did not like them. I asked if he had ever seen a Grand Seiko up close or indeed handled one of the models, he replied in the negative. His opinion seemed to be based on watch snobbery, formed purely on the notion that only German and Swiss watches are capable of being defined as “luxury”. Clearly, his opinion is at odds with my own, but sadly he is not alone.

My reference to a “date” is nothing new for Grand Seiko. In 1964, Grand Seiko offered a watch with a date display and maximum water resistance of 50 metres. This model was known as the “Self-dater” and has become much loved by legions of Grand Seiko fans. This year, Grand Seiko launched three Hi-beat GMT models, three Spring Drive watches and two quartz references, all featuring a date display. The Spring Drive with a blue dial is one of my favourites from this year’s collection and is the focal point of this in-depth watch review.

The dial

Grand Seiko often takes inspiration from an aspect of nature. For example, the snowflake dial of the SBGA011 and the green dial of the recently launched SBGJ005, both capture scenes observed from the windows of the Shizuku-ishi Watch Studio. As I look at the dial of the new Grand Seiko SBGA105 , I ponder whether the sea, sky or some other natural phenomenon has provided the idea for this model.

Grand Seiko SBGA105 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

Irrespective of the origin of the deep blue dial canvas, the result is truly beautiful to behold. The colour has profound appeal, changing shade depending on the angle of interaction with the sun.

The hands and hour markers are subject to skilled polishing which provides a brilliant sheen in restricted light. Close examination of the applied hour markers reveals they are multi-faceted. There is not even the merest hint of production expedience. This dial has taken much time and skill to realise.

Grand Seiko SBGA105 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

The date, framed with highly polished metal, consists of black text on a white disc. Legibility is a key aspect of the Grand Seiko paradigm. Examine each numeral depicted and you will notice the text size varies. Ease of read-off is assured. The idiom, “the devil is in the detail” seems perfectly apt when analysing each element of the dial composition.

Adjacent 8 o’clock, a power reserve indicator employing an arc-like scale depicts the status of the mainspring housed within the spring barrel.

The “dual curve” sapphire crystal, similar to a glass box design, grants a high definition view of the dial. It is enhanced with superb anti-reflective treatment, applied to the inner surface of the sapphire crystal. Other brands apply anti-reflective treatment to sapphire crystals, but few surpass the excellence of the lens gracing this timepiece. A sister company of Grand Seiko is Seiko Optical, a company which makes spectacles lenses. The synergies are obvious. The competence of the Seiko Corporation, a vertically integrated company, is mind-boggling.

The case

The case has a diameter of 39.9mm and a height of 13.2mm. This is a very wearable size, albeit, I normally prefer larger watches owing to my own greater than average physique. However, the size of this watch still looks acceptable for me, partly because the dual curve sapphire crystal fools the eye into thinking the watch is larger than it really is.

I am conscious that I have waxed-lyrical about the zaratsu polished cases of other Grand Seiko models in recent months and I am fearful of repeating myself. Nevertheless, there is no escaping the fact that the polishing of the stainless steel case is perfect. I have never encountered any other stainless steel watch case which confers such silky smooth tactile delight.

Zaratsu was initially used on the second Grand Seiko model, released in the 1960s and it has never been bettered. Zaratsu polishing is an artistic method of polishing steel which cannot be replicated by a machine and is practised by only a small number of artisans, imbuing the case with delightful curves and clearly defined lines.

Seiko has released a platinum cased sibling of this model, the SBGA107, delivered on a strap. But, surprisingly, despite my usual predilection for noble metals, I remain especially drawn to the steel cased model with its blue dial. Part of this model’s appeal is the steel bracelet. It blends polished and satin brushed surfaces in an exquisite ensemble of excellence. Quite simply, everything contrasts in seemly splendour. Moreover, the bracelet not only looks magnificent, it grants a tender touch I thought only a mother could grant. Each concave link of the bracelet cossets the wrist. There is an absence of friction or chafing. Indeed, with the Grand Seiko SBGA105, wearer comfort is a given.

Grand Seiko SBGA105 - in-depth watch review by ESCAPEMENT

An exhibition caseback grants a view of the Spring Drive movement.

The movement

Often, after I have published a watch review and made reference to it on social media channels, I subsequently read the comments left by readers. Grand Seiko editorial elicits much praise from those readers who are familiar with the company’s products. Invariably, those who choose to criticise do so from the standpoint of only ever seeing images or, worse still, merely reading the name and wrongly categorising the timepiece as a low-priced, mass produced quartz watch.

Whilst Seiko make some very accessible quartz watches which deliver much for little, they are not to be confused with Grand Seiko. Indeed, Grand Seiko is for the cognoscenti, the obsessive watch collector who seeks no-compromise horology. In this regard the GS brand delivers in full.

Spring Drive is a mechanical movement, where the usual Swiss lever escapement is replaced with a quartz regulator, powered by the mainspring. In reality, Spring Drive delivers much of the charm of a mechanical watch but with high levels of accuracy not usually seen with a watch featuring a conventional Swiss lever escapement. The Spring Drive movement within the Grand Seiko SBGA105 is accurate to +/- 0.5 seconds per day.

Further information regarding the Spring Drive movement can be found in my recent review of the SBGA011.

When writing about Grand Seiko, polishing is a topic which often comes to the fore. The adroit skill of the artisans involved in bringing these high-end Japanese watches into the world is amazing. Hands, hour markers and cases have already been discussed at length. In this instance, I direct words of praise in favour of the incredible polishing of the bridges and oscillating mass. The excellence of the finish is palpable and I admit to spending much time with loupe in hand aghast at the matchless finish presented. The degree of finishing would readily equal many Swiss or German watches costing substantially more.

Closing remarks

Maybe a blind date, where a suitable beau is paired with a Grand Seiko, unfamiliar with its identity beforehand, may well prove to be a suitable method of introduction. I suspect, a few brief moments of intimacy with this latest reference from GS, the SBGA105, with its comely blue face, would lead to offers of marriage and necessitate the acquisition of a suitable hat for the occasion.

I lost my heart to this horological filly in Baselworld 2014 earlier this year. No fancy restaurant or exciting location was needed, I was instantly smitten with the Grand Seiko SBGA105.

Those readers who are warming to the notion of Grand Seiko ownership should not wait for a matchmaker to arrange a liaison, take the initiative and make a date to try on one of the brand’s models. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Technical Specification

  • Model: Grand Seiko SBGA105
  • Case: Stainless steel; diameter 39.9 mm; height 13.20 mm; water resistant to 10 bar (100 metres); sapphire crystal to front and caseback.
  • Functions: Hours; minutes; central sweep seconds; date; power-reserve indicator.
  • Movement: Calibre 9R15, self-winding movement; Spring Drive; 30 jewels; power reserve 72 hours.
  • Bracelet: Stainless steel with three-fold clasp with push button release
  • Limited Edition: 500 pieces
  • Price: £5500.00 (as at 17.6.2014)

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