Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph GMT 60th Anniversary SBGC238
The Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph GMT 60th Anniversary SBGC238 is inspired by Japanese armour, references ‘Katsu-iro’ dye, incorporates Zaratsu polishing and includes the brand’s unique Spring Drive movement. Once again, the Japanese marque has produced a watch that feels very different from its German and Swiss competition.
Grand Seiko has been very prolific of late, releasing numerous new models as it celebrates its 60th anniversary.
Throughout its history, Grand Seiko has often sought inspiration from nature, local crafts and Japanese culture. Recently, the luxury watch brand unveiled a new watch inspired by traditional Japanese armour as worn by samurai soldiers during the Sengoku period. This was a period fraught with civil unrest and social upheaval during the late 15th to early 17th century. The sentiment behind the new Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph GMT 60th Anniversary SBGC238 is that the brand shows the ‘unwavering spirit of the samurai’ and continuously strives for watchmaking perfection.
This latest creation is dressed in a distinctive blue hue, a dye termed ‘Katsu-iro’, favoured and used by the Samurai for their armour and said to symbolise bravery.
The model is housed in a 18-carat rose gold case, measuring 44.5mm, and is paired with a blue crocodile leather strap featuring applied rose gold. The case is enriched with zaratsu polishing, delivering a distortion-free, smooth finish. It also sports beautifully defined edges.
A few years ago, the Japanese company offered the Spring Drive Chronograph SBGC001, a timepiece equipped with distinctive cylindrical pushpieces. The design of these pushpieces was markedly different from those fitted to Swiss or German watches and divided opinion at the time. Personally, I loved them.
In recent times, the pushpieces have exhibited a capstan-like profile, befitting western tastes. It is this design which has been employed on the SBGC238. The pushers are generously proportioned, forming an ergonomic union with the forefinger and yet their size befits the overall dimensions of the watch.
The dial shuns the usual bicompax or tricompax topography of western watches, encompassing two chronograph registers, a date display, a small seconds indication, a GMT function and a power-reserve indicator. It is this original design that distinguishes Grand Seiko from its Swiss and German rivals. It’s not necessarily better or worse, but it is unquestionably different.
The pièce de résistance is the Spring Drive movement. The Calibre 9R86 is visible via an exhibition case back. Effectively, it is a hybrid, sharing aspects of both mechanical and quartz movements. The motion of the wearer’s wrist causes the oscillating mass to rotate, energising the mainspring. The energy from the mainspring is sent to the gears, however, a small rotor connected to the gears generates an electrical charge, powering an electronic circuit board and quartz oscillator. Unlike a conventional mechanical movement equipped with a balance wheel, the Spring Drive movement is fitted with a unidirectional glide wheel which is controlled by an electromagnetic brake and governed by the aforementioned electronic circuit board.
A key benefit of a Spring Drive movement is the level of precision it offers, surpassing regular mechanical movements. Moreover, the central chronograph seconds hand glides serenely. Historically, Grand Seiko’s Spring Drive chronographs have been equipped with the Calibre 9R86, however, the SBGC238 is fitted with the Calibre 9R96, conferring superior precision of ± 10 seconds per month. This enhanced precision can be attributed to a superior quartz crystal oscillator. The oscillating weight features an 18-carat gold insert denoting it delivers enhanced accuracy courtesy of its specially adjusted movement.
Once again, Grand Seiko has created a watch that is notably different from its western counterparts, referencing its Japanese origins and delivering an impressive array of qualities. This has been the story for the last 60 years and I suspect this unique approach to watchmaking will continue for many years to come.