Hands-On With the Grand Seiko SBGC275, with a Dramatic Red (but Sometimes Orange) Dial

Something we find ourselves saying a lot: these pictures don’t do justice to this watch. These pictures, by Kat Shoulders, are excellent, of course, but because they only capture a single moment in time, they miss an important element of drama in the dial of Grand Seiko’s new SBGC275. The new Spring Drive chronograph GMT has, at a glance, a pretty brilliant red dial. But thanks to a new process, the color changes, and I mean really changes, when it’s seen at an angle. It’s actually uncanny, and not merely the common experience we’ve all had of seeing the range in tone on a colorful dial as it’s seen in different lighting conditions. It makes a watch that would otherwise feel like “just another variant” something a little more substantial in the Grand Seiko catalog. 

Grand Seiko achieves the effect of a color-changing dial with something they call “Optical Multilayer Coating,” which is described by the brand as a physical vapor deposition process. This process results in Multiple layers of a nanoscale film adhering to the dial which allow for the shifts in how we perceive the color. From head on, it looks dark red. But if you start to tilt the dial a bit the tone becomes lighter, and will appear as orange as a Doxa Professional if you turn it just right. The moment where it noticeably changes is an incredibly cool thing and even harder to describe than it is to show in still images. It’s not really a gradual shift, like you’d expect. One second the dial is red, and then it’s orange, and then it changes again. And it’s not really impacted by light in the way a normal dial is – it’s all in the motion of the dial and the angle you’re viewing it from. 


The new dial process allows for another way to interact with and observe a popular Grand Seiko texture, the so-called “Lion’s Mane,” first seen on the SBGA403. Another remarkable aspect of this watch is that the texture is incredibly vivid even at very extreme angles. Most Grand Seiko dials I’ve observed have a texture that becomes or less subtle in different lighting conditions or at angles, but here it’s quite stable. According to the brand, the dial is meant to evoke the sunrise in Shinshu over the Hotaka landscape. 

The SBGC275 uses what most would consider Grand Seiko’s sportiest case, coming in at 44.5mm in the brand’s High Intensity Titanium. It’s an exceedingly complex design, with lots of angles and broad facets, all immaculately finished using Grand Seiko’s Zaratsu polishing technique. 

This is not my personal favorite Grand Seiko case, as the whole presentation is just a little aggressive in my opinion, but I have to say that it wears better than you’d expect given the listed dimensions (16.8mm thick). This is due to the use of titanium to keep the weight down and the relatively short lug to lug distance given the diameter. It’s not disappearing under any cuffs, but it’s not offensive and not uncomfortable on my 7.5 inch wrist, though of course wrists under 7 inches will probably find it too big to wear comfortably. 

The watch is powered by Grand Seiko’s 9R96 Spring Drive caliber, featuring both a chronograph and a GMT complication. This is a higher performance version of the 9R86, and is accurate to +/-10 seconds per month, or just 0.5 seconds per day. The movement can be seen through the display caseback and features a golden lion emblem signifying that it’s been adjusted to this more accurate spec. 

The SBG275 is a limited edition of 700 pieces and will be available through Grand Seiko retailers later this summer. The retail price is $13,400. 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.