“You know what they say, ‘Old is gold’…”
And it would seem that Grand Seiko has taken that saying a bit too literally with one of their 2020 releases. As part of its ongoing 60th anniversary celebrations, the brand has released two limited edition timepieces for the Malaysian market, the SLGA001G and SBGW264G. Firstly, let’s take a moment to process just how much this brand has grown over the decades. If ever there was an example for flipping that “Okay, Boomer” saying on its head to “You’re okay, Boomer…”, Grand Seiko has mastered it.
Now, on to our first attraction…
Grand Seiko SBGW264G
I’ll be the first to go on record and say this, “It’s close to impossible to beat Grand Seiko at its dial game.” Yes, they’re not exactly affordable to begin with but find me more intricately-designed dials from other brands at this price point. There’s no denying that the level of mastery and talent required to make a dial stand out from every angle is in abundance at Grand Seiko. I reckon it’s something in the water they drink…
So, what exactly do you get for RM105,000? No, it’s not a typo. The price for the SBGW264G does consist of 6 figures. At least you’ll be one of 120 people worldwide to have it on your wrist. Obscenely expensive even by GS standards, it offers up a traditional, time-only display and is packs an old-school manual winding movement. However, as we all know with Grand Seikos, the devil is in the detail.
For starters, the 18k rose gold case has a universally-accepted 39 mm diameter and a thickness of 11.6 mm. Not the thinnest dress watch in the world, mind you. Beneath that gorgeous dial and AR-coated, domed sapphire crystal lies the Caliber 9S64. The 24-jeweled, hand-wound movement beats at a steady 4 Hz and provides 72 hours of power reserve. Accuracy, another hallmark of Grand Seiko, is touted at +5/-3 secs per day. Water resistance is rated at-“Are you crazy getting a dress watch like this wet?!”
30 m, guys. If you really have to know…
The watch comes on a 19 mm dark brown crocodile leather strap. The highlight, however, is that dial. Grand Seiko claims that the machine-engraved, forest green dial is inspired by “the forest of white birch trees near the studio where the watch is made” in Shizukuishi. Formal speak for drop dead gorgeous.
“Next up, the Grand Seiko SLGA001G.”
Looks like they’re really aiming for two opposite ends of the spectrum with their Malaysian release, eh? From a three-handed dress watch, we now arrive at an absolute chonk of a diver in the form of the SLGA001G. Not only are they premiering a new watch, Grand Seiko is effectively parading their all-new Spring Drive 9RA5 calibre here. I’ll get to that in a bit but first, the watch. Although it measures in at 46.9 mm and is 16 mm thick, the whole thing weighs less than three sheets of A4 paper. You might’ve already guessed it and yes, the whole timepiece including its bracelet is fashioned out of “high-intensity” titanium.
Elsewhere, the unidirectional, lumed bezel features a ceramic insert and a screw-down crown comes as standard. Water resistance is rated at 600 m which means it’s cleared for saturation diving. Turning it over, the screw-down caseback reveals its limited run of just 700 units worldwide. The retail price is RM47,500. So, while all this is pretty impressive, the real talking point of the SLGA001G is not even visible.
The Spring Drive Caliber 9RA5
One of the many highlights of this new movement includes a whopping 5-day power reserve thanks to its twin-barrel setup. The 38-jeweled movement also boasts an accuracy rating of +/-10 secs per month thanks to an updated IC (integrated circuit) package – an improvement over the 9R6-series’ rating of +/-15 secs per month. While the numbers shoot up, one set drops – the thickness.
The new calibre is exactly 5 mm thick compared to its predecessor’s 5.8 mm. With that said, there’s improved rigidity and shock resistance over the old movement. Rightly so when the 9RA5 is making its debut on a high-performance dive watch, right? The main reason behind the improvement is the redesigned layout of the gear train and a new one-piece center bridge. So resistant to shock is the new movement that GS claims that it “meets the ISO standard for diver’s watches.”
“So, where does Grand Seiko even go from here?”
It’s hard to tell but one thing’s for sure – they’re not resting on their laurels. Already making strides within the horological community, Grand Seiko is once again showing the Swiss its vast engineering capabilities with the 9RA5 and the 9SA5. The latter is a massive leap forward for purely mechanical watchmaking as it debuts an entirely new escapement. Dubbed the Dual Impulse escapement, it features a new free-sprung overcoil balance. Without getting too technical, developing a new escapement is an extremely difficult (and expensive) process and most definitely does not happen often. For most watches in existence, a Swiss lever escapement is the most common feature.
Another known variant is the Co-Axial escapement made popular by Omega, invented by George Daniels. Arguably, these two versions are the only ones deemed suitable for mass production thanks to a combination of different pros. Well, thanks to Grand Seiko, we may be looking at a third addition to this list in the very, very near future. Curious to know more? Hodinkee has quite a detailed breakdown on the difference between the 9SA5 and its Dual Impulse escapement against the Co-Axial variant.