If Japanese pen makers can create whole collections of delightful inks inspired by the colors of seasons and scenery in Japan, it is no surprise that Grand Seiko should produce limited editions of watches with special dials that evoke the memory and character of its beautiful home country.
This is no accident. When the Swiss and Germans also make great watches, the point of distinction could finally boil down to the uniqueness of one’s roots. Nations matter, and from its birth, Grand Seiko had seen itself as the Japanese challenge to a globally dominant watchmaking force. Its history attests to its success: Grand Seiko is simply the very best quality world-class watch for everyday wear, made in Japan.
Much of this rests on Japan, where the quality of being insular and outward-looking at paradoxical but not contradictory levels has been an integral quality of the Japanese psyche for centuries. From assimilating Chinese craft and culture in medieval times to riding on the coattails of modern European thought into the industrial age, Japan has stayed resolutely Japanese, while relentlessly pursuing edge-of-the-envelope perfection.
Earlier Grand Seiko models have dials which evoke fresh fallen snow, the evening light on Mt Iwate which forms part of the window view from the Shizukuishi Watch Studio where all mechanical Grand Seiko movements are manufactured and assembled.
In the case of the SBGR319, the dial is supposedly inspired by the wind-swept snowscape on textured Japanese paper. Were it a darker grey, the diagonal striations would not be so different from meteoroid dials that are swinging back into favour.
But snow and Japanese craft paper it is, from the pure shades of white. The rest of the watch follows this clean aesthetic, from the faceted hour markers to the sharp dauphine hands mirror-polished on its bevels, with nary a speck of lume in sight.
This is correct: the SBGR319 is not a field watch, and the polish is such that the littlest light allows time-telling by glint of bare metal. Lettering in black and the central seconds in blued steel introduce just enough colour to lift the dial from ice-cold.
Inside, to fit the larger 42mm steel case, beats the 9S68 movement. Everything about the 9S68 is optimised and created in-house, down to the proprietary-recipe alloy of the manufacture hairspring, with high quality of finish plainly shown through the display caseback. It has also been regulated to better than COSC standard, the 4Hz movement keeping beat error within -3 and +5 seconds per day.
The SBGR319 is a simple watch, superbly made, while Grand Seiko’s anchoring of its design in the colors and scenes of Japan nudges it towards something even more emotive and exquisite. Created in a limited run of 350 pieces, the watch will be exclusively available at Seiko Boutiques and authorized retailers’ stores, at a retail price of S$7,437 (USD 5,473).