In late February 2021, Seiko Corporation hosted its annual presentation of new models, of course in a digital way, with watches under the Seiko and Grand Seiko collections. Ranging from elegant watches with the Seasons collection, to a high-end model in platinum, there was a lot to discover during this event – adding to that a watch that is probably the highlight of the year for GS, the White Birch. This year also, the entire Seiko Corporation, founded in 1881 by Kintaro Hattori, celebrates its 140th anniversary. And its means that several commemorative models have been introduced, including the watch that we’ll be exploring today. Bold, powerful, luxurious and mechanically complex, it stands out compared to the rest of the recently launched models. Let’s have a closer look at this Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph GMT Limited Edition SBGC240.
When you think about Grand Seiko, you might often have in mind impressive and complex textured dial or casual watches with a sharp look – or both reunited in a single piece. Names such as Snowflake, White Birch or Skyflake (just like with Seiko, most successful GS watches have their own nickname…) are often heard. But Grand Seiko is also very good at creating sports watches, with bold designs and robustness. The brand has, for instance, a highly capable and greatly executed dive watch, the SLGA001 – which, for the record, featured a brand new Spring Drive movement, the Calibre 9RA5. And Grand Seiko also has a complex Spring Drive chronograph movement, packed with complications, and the watches to host this calibre.
The SBGC240 is a watch built around existing models, both visually and mechanically, however largely altered in order to bring enough exclusivity for a limited edition commemorating the 140th anniversary of the brand. As such, it shares some elements with the reference SBGC203 – the classic chronograph of Grand Seiko – but also comes with its own distinctive elements, as well as a non-neglectable dosage of boldness and luxury.
The case of the Spring Drive Chronograph GMT SBGC240 is, at least its base, close to the aforementioned model, with a 43.80mm and a shape that is undeniably GS. It means robust lugs, angular shapes all around and sharp demarcation lines between the brushed surfaces and the Zaratsu (distortion-free) polished accents, found for instance on the sides of the lugs, as well as on their inner side, with a small bevel that animates the junction with the bracelet. The watch is large, there’s no doubt about that. It has a strong presence on the wrist, but it’s not so much the diameter or the length of the case that might be problematic than its height, being 16.1mm in thickness. Be aware, the SBGC240 is a watch that can’t go unnoticed and that will need to be tested first.
There are certain unique features to this limited edition. First, it comes in a combination of stainless steel and 18k yellow gold, used for the bezel, the crown and the pushers. Combined with the black dial, this results in a watch with contrast and visual audacity. Second, Grand Seiko has here adopted a dodecahedron shape for the bezel, meaning that it has a 12-sided profile, coinciding with the hour markers. On top of it is also a new black polished ceramic insert, with an engraved tachymeter scale – a classic for chronograph watches – to measure average speeds.
For the rest, the brand has also updated the pushers, which are still oversized but also simpler in design. The SBGC240 is also a capable sports watch, with its screwed crown and caseback, resulting in a 100m water-resistance. On the wrist, as combined with a metallic bracelet, the watch has a certain weight – 190 grams to be precise – but remains comfortable (at least, it was for our model with a 19cm wrist). It is worn on a 3-link steel bracelet with a folding clasp, the latter being decorated with an 18k gold medallion. Not photographed here, the watch is also delivered with an additional crocodile strap with gold-coloured stitches, which comes with its own folding clasp.
Moving to the dial, there’s a lot going on with the display of this SBGC240. As with most GS Spring Drive chronographs, it is indeed not only packed with functions but also features a relatively unusual layout. Let’s start with the obvious; the central hands display the hours and minutes. Another gold-coloured hand displays the running seconds in an unframed sub-dial at 9 o’clock. Finally, a date window sits at 3 o’clock, and classically framed by a metallic element. The chronograph indications are relying on silver-coloured hands, and are positioned on the right side of the dial. In addition to the central seconds, the elapsed times are read on two gold-framed sub-counters, one with 30-minute track, one with 12-hour track. Finally, a power reserve indicator is placed at 7 o’clock and balanced by the GS logo at 11 o’clock.
But wait, there is more to come… Not only the Grand Seiko SBGC240 is a chronograph, but it also has a GMT function, with a central 24-hour hand. Being a Grand Seiko watch, the crown adjusts the local time hand (the main, gold-coloured hour hand) independently by one-hour increments, making it a proper traveller’s model. Finally, the watch features a dual inner flange, with its black portion used for a precision 1/5th of a second reading, while the gold-coloured area is linked to the tachymeter scale.
Design-wise, the dial of the SBGC240 is typical of GS’ production, with a glossy black base and gold-coloured hands and applied indexes, all faceted and beautifully executed with polished chamfered and brushed or stripped flat surfaces. All in all, there’s no denying the complexity of this display, however, the impressive amount of indication and their unusual position is also part of the charm of this watch. And as always, the execution is above suspicion.
If the SBGC240 is a surprising mix between luxury and sportiness on the outside, what’s inside is equally surprising. Indeed, a quick glance through the sapphire caseback reveals a movement that would appear entirely mechanical. In addition to the classic automatic rotor, this chronograph has a top-tier integrated architecture, with column-wheel and vertical clutch. But… It is not entirely mechanical either, being part of the range of “hybrid” Spring Drive models of the brand. This means that the watch doesn’t rely on a classic balance, hairspring and escapement module, but instead is regulated by a quartz regulator. However, like in a mechanical watch, energy is stored in a mainspring, powered by the motion of a rotor, and delivered to the regulating organ by the means of a gear train. In short, Grand Seiko wants to have the best of both worlds; the charm of mechanical and the precision of quartz.
The Calibre 9R86 is a pretty complex engine, composed of no fewer than 400 parts. As explained it is packed with functions and, besides having a modern regulation, the architecture is highly traditional. It also comes with a comfortable power reserve of 72 hours, and because of the Spring Drive technology, the motion of the seconds hand is extremely smooth – meaning that it can measure elapsed time not to the nearest fraction of a second but exactly, thanks to the fact that the glide motion hands stop at the very instant that the button is pressed. Finally, the main advantage of this hybrid technology is the accuracy of the watch, rated for ±1 second per day or ±15 seconds per month (far exceeding chronometric standards).
Availability & price
The Grand Seiko Spring Drive Chronograph GMT Seiko 140th Anniversary Limited Edition SBGC240 is a limited edition of 500 pieces. It will be available at Grand Seiko Boutiques and selected Grand Seiko retailers worldwide in July 2021. As for the price, seeing the complexity of the movement, the limitation, the presence of an additional strap and of yellow gold elements, it is as expected relatively expensive, at EUR 19,200 (incl. taxes) or USD 18,600 (excl. taxes).
For more details, please visit grand-seiko.com.