The Japanese think of changing seasons differently than many in the west. In Japanese culture, each of the four seasons can be broken down into shorter, distinct phases, or sekki. These shorter, micro seasons have served as inspiration for Grand Seiko watches in the past, and allow their design team to get really specific. It’s the difference between a dial inspired by an all out blizzard, for example, and a softly snow swept field. Both are certainly “winter,” but inhabit different aspects of the same season. It’s a somewhat tough concept to grasp if you grew up not really thinking too much about major shifts within a single season (or in a part of the world where these seasonal changes aren’t as obvious), but luckily the watches that Grand Seiko creates from contemplating these phases are easily enjoyed for their simple beauty. Their new collection of GMTs are an expansion of previous collections to use the changing seasons as inspiration, and it’s striking how vastly different these watches look compared to others already in the collection that reference (roughly) the same time on the calendar.
Like the previous seasons collection that we introduced here, two of these watches make use of a high frequency mechanical caliber, and two run on Spring Drive movements. The obvious difference in the newer collection is that a GMT complication has been added, and all four of these watches are made in stainless steel (the earlier collection’s Spring Drive watches were cast in titanium). The sekki that are represented are Shunbun (Spring) , Shōsho (Summer), Kanro (Autumn) and Tōji (Winter). The spring and summer watches are built around Hi-beat GMT caliber 9S86, while fall and winter run on caliber 9R66, which is a similarly equipped Spring Drive movement.
The spring watch (reference SBGJ251) features a bright green dial with rose gold accents, which is meant to represent the verdant promise of the Spring Equinox. Summer’s reference SBGJ249 is inspired by the height of summer, and the end of the rainy season in Japan. The blue dial with a prominent wave motif calls to mind the gently rippling water on a Japanese lake.
For the fall dial (SBGE271), Grand Seiko has gone with a pattern that will look familiar to anyone who has experienced the Spring and Winter dials of the previous collection, but here it’s in black. The smooth gliding seconds on this Spring Drive powered watch recalls the moon against a pitch dark autumn sky. Finally, the winter dial (SBGE269) takes inspiration from the short days that surround the winter solstice. The grained texture combined with the gold tone GMT hand evokes a barren winter landscape as the sun sets in the late afternoon.
These watches all fall within Grand Seiko’s Elegance Collection, which means they veer more towards the classic and formal. The case shapes are traditional and sit somewhat outside the more distinctive “Grammar of Design” case styles that the brand is known for. Still, they feature Zaratsu polishing on the case flanks and have the meticulously crisp transitions between polished and brushed surfaces that Grand Seiko does so incredibly well. The Hi-Beat watches are just a touch smaller than the Spring Drive, measuring at 39.5mm versus 40.2mm. Both are somewhat on the thick side, at 14mm and 14.1mm for the Hi-Beat and Spring Drive, respectively.
Grand Seiko does GMT complications exceptionally well, so it’s nice to see their sekki inspired watches get a new complication in a series that’s not limited or exclusive to a single region. It’s something of a parlor game on watch forums and Instagram to play “Which one would I choose,” when it comes to Grand Seiko’s patterned and textured dials, and these new releases certainly complicate matters if you were looking at any of their previous releases along these same lines. All are distinctive in their own way, and evocative of the seasons they represent in a way that Grand Seiko consistently seems to get right.
The Hi-Beat SBGJ249 and SBGJ251 will retail for $6,800 and are available beginning in May. The Spring Drive SBGE269 and SBGE271 are $6,000 and due to hit stores in September. Grand Seiko