Introducing the Grand Seiko 9F 25th Anniversary Limited Editions, refs. SBGV238 and SBGT241

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When Seiko killed off Grand Seiko in 1975, few mourned its passing. As the last unloved mechanical Grand Seikos left the workbench, almost everyone was gathered around shiny quartz things that went “beep” and showed the time in either bright-red LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) or those newfangled black and grey LCDs (Liquid Crystal Displays). The world was nuts for quartz. Mech, schmech.

Back then, if you’d suggested to anyone that you were thinking of making a career in mechanical watchmaking, they’d have laughed at you. No one wanted those old steam-powered things anymore. It was all about new, super-accurate, battery-powered quartz.

In the last forty years a lot has changed. Mech is back—big time. And quartz—once Watchworld’s darling—is regarded by some as a bit nylon-trousered and passé; the sort of watch you’d wear if you think character ties are acceptable at a board meeting. Actually, scrub that—the sort of watch you’d wear if you think they’re acceptable at all.

But, typically, Seiko are ahead of the rest of us; they started the rehabilitation of quartz years ago—in 1988, in fact, with the relaunch of the Grand Seiko 95GS. Powered by the quartz cal. 9581, the 95GS did the typical GS thing of being an exceptional watch that only a proper, nailed-on watch nerd would spot.

Grand Seiko 95GS. Image via Rakuten.
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You could wear your 95GS in a room full of mechy-watch people and have them not even see you. You, on the other hand, could quietly enjoy +/-10 seconds-a-year accuracy with no need to wind anything up (apart from people who were sniffy about quartz, clearly). And you could have enjoyed one of four models powered by the new movement from anywhere between 120,000 to 480,000 yen (a little over $1,000 back then). Not bad for a piece of technology more complex than the haute horlogerie mob’s fuseé-driven, triple-tourbillon minute-repeaters.

Original 9F from 1993.

Seiko hit the ball quite a long way further five years later, in 1993, with the cal. 9F83. This was perhaps the first quartz movement that did more than tell the time very, very accurately. Quartz movements had been traditionally effective and efficient, but ugly—a sort of Toyota Prius of Watchworld.

But the cal. 9F was a movement so beautiful you would happily take it home to meet your mother. You got striping on the plates, anglage, and an elegance of proportion that would send plenty of mechanical watch motors to the nearest cosmetic surgeon for a nip and tuck. Strangely, it would take Seiko another 25 years to realize that the 9F shouldn’t be hidden away and mount it in a watch with a display back.

But now they’ve done it. The 25th anniversary of the Grand Seiko cal. 9F sees Seiko release two anniversary quartz Grand Seikos: references SBGT241 and SBGV238.

You get the drop-dead, hand-built 9F, 9-jewel movement in both (the 9F83 in the SBGT241 and the 9F82 in the SBGV238), so there’s hairsbreadth accuracy as standard (in fact, these movements are adjusted to an even sharper +/-5 secs), an auto-adjust mechanism that removes that “quartz shake” of the second hand as it comes to rest, enough torque from the motor to drive proper-sized GS hands, and an instant date changeover.

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The dial of each watch is embossed with a pattern based around Seiko’s traditional quartz symbol and the model designation “GS9F.”  And, if you look closely through the anti-reflective sapphire, you can also see the stylized, hexagonal letters spelling out ‘‘9F25’ to indicate the 9F’s 25th anniversary. Just above six o’clock is Seiko’s five-pointed star symbolizing the +/-5 secs accuracy of the 9F.

SBGV238

There’s a choice of the display-backed SBGV238 with an 18k gold bezel and a 40mm case that pulls heavily from the iconic Grand Seiko 44GS. And then there’s the rather plainer (and perhaps more in keeping with the GS ideal), all-steel, closed-back SBGT241 coming in at 39.1mm. The SBGT241 also gets a screw-down crown, although both watches are water-resistant to 10bar.

The SBGT241 pulls more direct inspiration from the 9F from ’93.

You’ll need to shift to snag one of either flavor though. Seiko are only making 1,500 of the SBGT241 and just 600 of the more ornate SBGV238. Prices are around $3,400 for the SBGT241 and $4,800 for the SBGV238.

So, who wants to referee the fight between the “HOW much for a QUARTZ?!” brigade and the “Where do I sign” GS quartz-lovers? Remember, no hitting below the waist, no gouging, no biting and no hitting after the bell. Grand Seiko

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Mark developed a passion for watches at a young age. At 9, he was gifted an Omega Time Computer manual from a local watch maker and he finagled Rolex brochures from a local dealer. Today, residing in the Oxfordshire village of Bampton, Mark brings his technical expertise and robust watch knowledge to worn&wound.
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