Grand Seiko’s first release of the year is a (sort of) seasonally appropriate pair of US exclusive special editions, one powered by the 9R65 Spring Drive movement, and the other running on the Hi-Beat 9S85. We’ve seen these kinds of paired and grouped releases before from the brand, and Grand Seiko fans will not be surprised to learn that these new references take their design inspiration from the changing of the seasons, a theme they’ve returned to frequently in the last few years, particularly with regional limited and special edition watches. Let’s take a closer look at the all new SBGA471 and the SBGH295.
Both of Grand Seiko’s new watches feature pale blue dials with what appear to be very subtle texture effects. The shade of blue is inspired by sōkō, the Japanese micro-season that occurs at the end of autumn, when a winter frost first begins to take hold. As you might recall, this isn’t the first time Grand Seiko has used sōkō as an inspiration for a new watch, but these new pieces read like the flipside of the coin when it comes to that transition from one season to another. The earlier release in 2020 was meant to elicit thoughts of the crunch of fallen leaves and an impending chill, whereas the new sōkō pieces reflect a landscape that has already been covered by a thin sheet of ice. As many who live at some of the higher latitudes know, that change can seemingly happen overnight.
The SBGA471 is the Spring Drive powered reference, and is built on the classic 44GS case profile. This highly angular design has been a Grand Seiko staple for decades, and is a proven showcase for their intricate Zaratsu finishing, characterized by mirror polished surfaces on wide bevels with impossibly crisp transitions. The titanium case measures 40mm and is mounted to a matching titanium bracelet. The texture on this dial is an extremely fine vertical brushing that Grand Seiko tells us is meant to recall the frozen trunks of bamboo trees in the Arashiyama forest.
The SBGH295 uses Grand Seiko’s 62GS case design (this time in stainless steel), which was originally introduced in 1967 and launched Grand Seiko’s first automatic watch. This case has a wide stance but is somewhat curvier than the 44GS case, although it has the same 40mm diameter. This case has a bezel free construction that highlights a wide dial opening, and places an emphasis on the dial design, which is a highlight of the SBGH295. Here we have a light blue tone similar to the SBGA471, but with a dial borrowed from the SBGA387, the kirazuri “ice blue” U.S. exclusive limited edition from 2018, a watch that has become one of the most sought after and collectible Grand Seikos on the secondary market. The soft blue is accented with just a hint of texture inspired by a cloudless sky over the Sea of Japan. While owners of the SBGA387 might be a bit miffed at the re-emergence of a once exclusive dial design, the new SBGH295 represents a great opportunity for anyone who missed out or is waiting in vain for a WatchRecon alert.
Retail pricing on the SBGA471 is set at $6,000, while the SBGH295 is $6,900. Grand Seiko’s distinctions between limited, special, and regional releases can get a little confusing, so it’s worth reiterating that both of these releases are considered special editions, and are not limited numbered editions. Both are also exclusive to the U.S. market. Grand Seiko