Grand Seiko’s New Gold Statement Piece is Modeled After Samurai Armor

It goes without saying that we’re all pretty big Grand Seiko fans around here, and we love covering the more consumer focused releases from the brand, which we think represents one of the best value propositions in watchmaking today. But every once in a while, Grand Seiko releases something at the higher end of the spectrum that we just can’t resist sharing with our readers, and the SBGC238 falls squarely into that category. 

Faithful readers will remember our coverage of the SBGC229 in April of last year, a sporty tribute to the 20th anniversary of Spring Drive and a salute to the Nissan GT-R. The SBGC238 is built on the same platform and shares the same 9R96 Spring Drive caliber, but leaves a vastly different impression. If the Nissan collab was fast and sporty, the solid gold SBGC238 is almost hysterically opulent, a statement piece if there ever was one. 

As a refresher, what we have here in terms of feature set is a Spring Drive GMT chronograph, which makes this watch among the most complicated in the Grand Seiko arsenal. The movement has a 72 hour power reserve, and is accurate to just half a second per day, or 10 seconds per month, which is bananas (the technical term) for a movement with a mechanical gear train.

The new watch is part of the ongoing 60th anniversary celebration for the Grand Seiko brand, and the design of the watch is said to take inspiration from armor worn by samurai warlords of the Sengoku period. The deep blue seen on the textured dial is a nod to the traditional “Katsu-iro” color that was favored by samurai in 15th – 17th century Japan, and the rose gold filled grooves of the crocodile strap represent the armor worn by these samurai. It’s all very whimsical, and tells a fascinating story that’s uniquely Japanese, which is part of the reason we love this brand so much. And as someone who grew up on Seven Samurai and other films by the great Akira Kurosawa, a samurai themed watch from Grand Seiko feels like something that was a long time coming. 

The case, in rose gold, has the same sporty and angular look that has been creeping into Grand Seiko’s growing sports watch lineup. It measures 44.5mm in diameter and is 16.8mm thick, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering the level of complexity of this movement (and Grand Seiko’s propensity of chunkiness in their sportier offerings). That said, I don’t think this is the type of watch someone wears when they’re looking for a little discretion. It’s a big, loud, conversation starter.

Naturally, the SBGC238 is not inexpensive or easy to obtain. It’s limited to 100 examples worldwide, with a retail price set at $44,300. Grand Seiko

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.