1960 was a foundational year for Grand Seiko. It was, of course, when the first Grand Seiko timepiece made its way into the world. That inaugural watch, powered by caliber 3180, was a major technical and aesthetic milestone, laying down a framework that would be the driving force for Grand Seiko in the many decades to come.
Caliber 3180, built on the impressive caliber 560 introduced in 1959, came equipped with a number of important innovations. It featured the latest Diashock system, hacking seconds, a fine-adjustment regulator, and a 45-hour power reserve. All of this spoke to a desire to produce a watch that would be both low-maintenance and highly accurate. To that end, the first Grand Seiko was also Chronometer-certified, compliant to the standards of the Bureaux Officiels de Contrôle de la Marche des Montres in Geneva.
Aesthetically, this first watch introduced several Grand Seiko pillars, among them the logo rendered in a Gothic font, highly legible diamond-cut indexes and hands, and the Grand Seiko lion emblem. Be sure to visit the Archives here on GS9 to learn more about the variations of the first Grand Seiko.
The purity of this initial design underlies its enduring success, influencing numerous Grand Seiko watches that would be released in the six decades that followed. Unsurprisingly, this first design remains highly desirable amongst enthusiast, and in the years since Grand Seiko has released a number of modern interpretations to entice modern collectors. In 2001, there was reference SBGW004 made exclusively for Japan. There were limited editions in 2013 and 2017, and references SBGW260 and SBGZ005 most recently in 2020. Also in 2020, Grand Seiko unveiled a trio of regular production timepieces inspired by the first Grand Seiko, one in platinum (SBGW257), one in yellow gold (SBGW258), and one in Brilliant Hard Titanium (SBGW259). We’ll be looking at SBGW259 today.
Fans of Grand Seiko may be familiar with High Intensity Titanium, the name of a proprietary alloy Grand Seiko uses on the vast majority of their titanium-cased watches, among them reference SBGA211 “Snowflake.” Brilliant Hard Titanium, however, was used only once before by Grand Seiko in reference SBGR305, one of the first watches launched by an independent Grand Seiko back in 2017. So what is Brilliant Hard Titanium?
Brilliant Hard Titanium is a proprietary alloy that is lighter than stainless steel and more corrosion resistant, too, but most impressively it is harder than the aforementioned High Intensity Titanium and twice as hard as stainless steel, making it supremely durable. It can also be finished to an incredibly high standard, specifically via Grand Seiko’s Zaratsu method, giving it a look that appears even more brilliant (hence the name) than what can be achieved with watchmaking stainless steel. There is a surcharge for Brilliant Hard Titanium, but the tradeoff is a case that shines like precious metal while offering greater resistance against daily wear-and-tear.
The biggest departure from the original is the dial. Fundamentally, all the critical components are present, but the dial is rendered in a vibrant blue, which has no historical precedent. Nevertheless, the result is nothing short of beautiful.
Contrasting against the base of the dial are eye-catching indexes and hands, which are highly faithful to the original. One small detail worth noting, and this is indicative of the attention to detail that Grand Seiko is known for, is that the top surface of the hour and minute hands feature hairline finishing. On top of being beautiful, there is a practical reason for this as well. Polished hands can get lost against a dark dial, affecting visibility, whereas hands with a hairline finish pop better against a darker dial. With legibility being a key tenet for Grand Seiko, this is a way to stay true to the brand’s design philosophy without sacrificing readability.
The case of SBGW259 measures 38mm across and just 10.9mm thick, upping the case size by a few millimeters over the 1960 original but still keeping intact the proportions that made it so elegant. Some of that height comes from the dual-curved sapphire crystal, a nod to the shape of the original, which was made of plastic. Other than the ever-so-slightly increased size and use of titanium, the other biggest point of departure from the original is the open case back, which showcases the 9S64 caliber.
Like all Grand Seiko movements, caliber 9S64 is completely developed and manufactured in-house. It features a proprietary mainspring to offer a power reserve of 72 hours in a single barrel design. The movement is also tested to comply to the Grand Seiko Standard of -3 to +5 seconds mean daily rate, and testing is done in six positions over 17 days, which exceeds the chronometer standard.
MEMS manufacturing is used to create the pallet fork and escape wheel, two critical components of the escapement. By using MEMS, Grand Seiko’s engineers are able to reduce the weight of these components, which in turn improves the overall efficiency of the movement. This also allows for a specially designed shape for the teeth of the escape wheel, creating a step that retains lubricant for a greater period of time.
SBGW259 comes on a finely finished crocodile strap with a deployant clasp.
SBGW259 is available at Grand Seiko Boutiques and the price is $8,000.