Hands On: New Grand Seiko Watches from Watches & Wonders Geneva 2024

Hands On: New Grand Seiko Watches from Watches & Wonders Geneva 2024

For the third year in a row, Japan’s Grand Seiko has joined the cavalcade of Swiss (and a few notable German) luxury watchmakers as an exhibiting maison at Watches & Wonders in Geneva, and as in previous years, the brand has unveiled a plethora of new timepieces that range from sporty to elegant, as well as an entirely new in-house movement. Here is a rundown of Grand Seiko’s 2024 highlights.

Evolution 9 Refs. SLGW002 and SLGW003

Two new gents’ dress watches from the Evolution 9 collection, Refs. SLGW002 and SLGW003, feature both the debut of the in-house Caliber 9SA4 and the popular “White Birch” textured dial of previous models. The first hand-wound, high-frequency caliber to join Grand Seiko’s lineup in 50 years, Caliber 9SA4 is also the third movement from Grand Seiko’s Caliber 9S platform, a family established in 2020 with the launch of the automatic Caliber 9SA5, and continued with last year’s Tentagraph movement.

It offers a frequency of 10 beats per second, thanks to a highly efficient dual-impulse escapement, and carries a power reserve of 80 hours in two barrels. A rearrangement of the gear train and other parts enables the movement to amass this lengthy power reserve with 15 percent fewer turns of the crown than are required to manually power up its automatic predecessor, Caliber 9SA5. Giving the caliber its distinctive visual charm is the manually winding click mechanism, formed in the shape of a wagtail, a bird native to the area around the Japanese city of Morioka, near Grand Seiko’s Studio Shizukuishui, where the watch is made. Through the sapphire caseback, the wearer can watch the bird-like pecking motion of the click as the movement is wound. Like all Grand Seiko mechanical movements, this one features an elite level of finishing, with a wave pattern on the plates and bridges inspired by Japan’s Shizukuishi River, and a power-reserve indicator incorporated into one of the bridges.

The case that houses the new movement is an understated 38.6mm in diameter and 9.95mm thick, with multifaceted lugs that are narrower than those of previous Evolution 9 watches. In the unlimited edition of the watch (Ref. SLGW003), this case is made of Grand Seiko’s Brilliant Hard Titanium with the brand’s hallmark Zaratsu polishing. Debuting alongside the titanium version (both in August 2024) is a limited edition in a rose-gold case (SLGW002). The crowd-pleasing “white birch” dial on both versions has an elegantly textured surface pattern that takes its inspiration from the bark of white birch trees that grow in northern Japan. The watch in both its iterations comes on a crocodile leather strap with a triple-folding clasp made of the same material as the case. The titanium version of the watch will retail for $10,700, while the rose-gold model, limited to 80 pieces, will be priced at $45,000.

SBG275 Spring Drive Chronograph GMT

While the mechanical, manually wound Caliber 9SA4 becomes the newbie in Grand Seiko’s extensive portfolio of in-house movements, the 9R series of Spring Drive calibers is marking its 20th birthday in 2024, with several special editions in Grand Seiko’s Sport collection with robust, angular cases inspired by the brand’s lion emblem. The SBG275 Spring Drive Chronograph GMT, a limited edition of 700 pieces, features a sunrise-inspired dial with brilliant shades of reds and oranges, achieved by a special patented process called “Optical Multilayer Coating.” The process involves a PVD treatment with several layers of nanoscale film, resulting in a multidimensional effect in which the dial’s hues change depending on the angle of view. The inspiration for the dial, Grand Seiko says, was the colors of sunrise over the Hotaka mountain range in central Japan’s Shinshu province. One of the most complicated Spring Drive movements from the 9R family, Caliber 9R96, does its duty inside the 44.5mm “high intensity” titanium case, powering the watch’s super-accurate 1/10-second chronograph and GMT function. The lion emblem, a longtime symbol of Grand Seiko, finds expression in the case’s claw-like angled lugs that hug the wrist and also decorates the rotor of the Spring Drive caliber, which is on display behind a sapphire caseback. The watch will be available in July 2024, priced at $13,400. 

SBGC275 Spring Drive GMT

Also in the lion-inspired, 44.5mm high-intensity titanium case is the SBGC275 Spring Drive GMT, which joins the core Sport collection, priced at $10,700. Another Spring Drive movement, Caliber 9R66, animates the watch’s time and date display, dual-time function, and power-reserve indicator, all arranged on a textured white dial that plays on the case’s leonine theme: its wavy, cottony surface is designed to evoke the mane of a lion in bright sunlight. The reddish brown of the GMT hand that sweeps over the dial offers an elegant contrasting element, and joins the hallmark razor-shaped hour and minutes hands typical of Grand Seiko. The bracelet, with its H-shaped links, is made of the same titanium alloy as the case, which is 30 percent lighter than standard titanium. 

SBGJ277 Hi-Beat GMT “Snowy Valley”

The other new GMT timepiece from Grand Seiko in 2024 is equipped with the automatic, “Hi-Beat” Caliber 9S86 and features a classical bicolor execution for the 24-hour rotating bezel, with a ring made of sapphire. Nighttime hours are delineated in a forest-green sector, while the daylight hours are in a contrasting white. The bezel’s colors coordinate with the white and off-white shades of the finely molded dial to create a visual effect that Grand Seiko has termed “snowy valley” — referring to the juxtaposition of snow and greenery that is found at high mountain elevations during Japan’s summer months. Caliber 9S86 beats at 36,000 vph, or 10 beats per second, for a high level of precision and also boasts magnetic resistance to 4,800 A/m. The sporty stainless steel case is 44.2mm in diameter, 14.8mm thick, and water resistant to 200 meters. The combination of the rotating GMT bezel and central GMT hand enables the wearer to read the time in up to three different time zones. The watch sells in the U.S. for $6,800. 

SBGW314 Re-Creation of First Grand Seiko

For the latest modern re-creation of the very first Grand Seiko wristwatch (that would be from 1960), Grand Seiko marries an understated, 38mm round case made of 18K rose gold with a deep blue “Starry Night” dial. Limited to just 50 pieces and priced at $26,500, the elegant timepiece contains another Seiko in-house movement, the mechanical, manually wound Caliber 9S64, which stores a 72-hour power reserve and offers an accuracy between +5/-3 seconds per day. The “stars” in the dial’s celestial-inspired dial are the simple, faceted baton indexes and razor hands, all constructed from the same rose gold as the case. 

SLGH021 Evolution 9 “Genbi Valley”

Another manufacture movement from the automatic “Hi-Beat” 9S family animates the SLGH021 “Genbi Valley” edition, limited to 1,000 pieces and featuring the first instance of the previously described Evolution 9 case executed in the company’s “Ever Brilliant Steel,” said to be the most corrosion-resistant alloy of stainless steel in the world. The Genbi Valley that inspires the watch’s bright blue-green dial is a gorge formed by the erosion of large stones by the Iwai River in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture; it is renowned for the natural beauty of its ravines and waterfalls and is designated as a Place of Scenic Beauty and National Monument of Japan. The 40mm case houses the Caliber 9SA5, with a 36,000-vph frequency and a lengthy 80-hour power reserve. The watch, delivered on an Ever Brilliant Steel” bracelet, retails for $10,400.

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