Big news from Japan today: the new Grand Seiko Elegance collection brings a new ultra-thin case, some very special dials, and most importantly, the new Grand Seiko Calibre 9S63 hand-wound mechanical movement. (However, Grand Seiko’s recent pricing anomaly appears to persist.) More on all of this below.
It’s really been a breath of fresh air to see Grand Seiko’s new collection – apparently, they couldn’t keep up their excitement ahead of BaselWorld either. Currently, the Grand Seiko Elegance collection includes four models: two in 18-karat rose gold (ref. SBGK002; red. SBGK004), one in 18-karat gold (ref. SBGK006) and one in stainless steel (ref. SBGK006). SBGK005 — Yay! ).
Eight years after the last hand-wound mechanical movement at Grand Seiko, all four Elegance Collection watches feature the same new 9S63 calibre, running at 4 Hz and offering a 72-hour power reserve. This appears to be the new baseline feature for all previous-generation movements introduced recently, which is a good thing. On the dial side, the movement displays the central hours and minutes, the seconds hand at 9 o’clock and the power reserve indicator at 3 o’clock. Gone are the offset power reserves we see on Spring Drive Grand Seikos, like my beloved SBGC001 Spring Drive Chronograph, review it here.
Grand Seiko says the 9S63’s accuracy is between -3 and +5 seconds per day, and if there’s anything to be commended about all the major Japanese brands, it’s their honest and down-to-earth accuracy claims – unlike the Swiss (or even A more optimistic statement often heard by some German) manufacturers. Although Grand Seiko sometimes tends to distinguish between gold and steel models of movement, in this case (pun intended) all four models will feature the Grand Seiko 9S63 movement with hot blue screws – apparently, this is Grand Seiko’s first. Very cute, if you ask me.
If tempered screws are sweet, the dials are stunning: both 18ct rose gold versions (references SBGK002 and SBGK004) feature Urushi dials. These traditional Japanese lacquered dials are produced in the Shizukuishi Watch Studio, where all mechanical watches are made, using sap from trees that grow around the small town north of the studio. The translucent brown and dark black Urushi dial complements the taka-maki-e tiered markers and “GS” lettering. Maki-e literally means “sprinkled picture”, while taka-maki-e is a “raised” or layered variant.
This technique was developed during the Muromachi period (1336-1573) and meant that the desired pattern was made of countless layers of material built on the base lacquered dial. For the Grand Seiko Elegance Collection Urushi dial, multiple layers of pure gold or platinum powder are sprinkled on the dial one layer at a time (guess what?) this is a “time consuming process”. It reminds me of the PVD-coated platinum numerals in the ceramic bezels of select Rolex watches – while Rolex’s solution is cutting-edge high-tech, Grand Seiko’s approach is heart-warmingly traditional.
The hands – if you’ve never had a chance to hold a Grand Seiko before – eat your warm heart – are beautiful, at least in the official pictures, and look beautiful with every dial variation. As cool as the Urushi dial might be, I’m still curiously drawn to the 18ct yellow gold version and the plain Jane white dial – a nod to the unmistakable and unmistakable Japanese design of the Elegance Collection, which seems to me, at least to me, in this gold The most prominent of the variants.
In this regard, I’m very grateful for how Grand Seiko has incorporated elements of its much-loved case design into this new 39mm wide and 11.6mm thick “Mechanical Skirt Collection” watch – because yes, this is the Grand Seiko is referring to this new timepiece collection. The sturdy, curved lugs feature wide upper surfaces, but are cut short to keep the case away from the upper and lower edges of the wrist—a must for any decent dress fake watch. The lugs seem to be fairly narrow in width, but I think they pull it off somehow, which is just right quirky and doesn’t look weird or petite. I’d take the risk of eyeing it at 18mm; the GS doesn’t currently offer such a spec, but the lug width does look narrow, and we’ll have to see these in action to better determine how the Elegance Collection will actually fit.
Closed – or open, depending on how you want to look at it – this new Elegance collection of four watches is a stainless steel variant (reference SBGK005) with the exact same case shape and size as the gold version, but with a blue textured dial. Texture GS is called “Mt. Iwate” pattern; the watch studio is located in Morioka city in northeastern Iwate prefecture. Exactly how this crease texture ties into Iwate I’m not sure, but it’s a recurring theme in select Grand Seiko models.
The pricing structure of the Grand Seiko Elegance Collection turned things upside down. As one might expect, the two rose gold variants with Urushi dials will command a premium over the gold versions with regular lacquered dials and no taka-maki-e indexes and GS designation. Fans of Seiko and Grand Seiko may remember the Presage Automatic we covered here, where €2,500 buys you a multi-coloured Urushi dial and a whole watch with case, movement, strap, and more.
To me at least, the gold one in rose gold very incomprehensible – another nail in the coffin of the late Grand Seiko’s sensible pricing strategy. Rose gold may have some premium over gold, but four times the cost of an entire copy watch with a similar dial makes no sense. I’ll admit, other than Grand Seiko’s greedy random price generator software working hard again, I’ve yet to understand how this crazy premium is justified.