Introducing the Grand Seiko Sport 9F86 Quartz GMT

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To celebrate 25 years of their venerable 9F quartz movement, Grand Seiko has just announced three new handsome GMT models. Grand Seiko has adapted the movement for two time zones, and they’ve dubbed it the 9F86. The 9F86 is accurate to within +10/-10 seconds per year, but Grand Seiko is also offering up a limited edition of 800 pieces (SBGN001) that will stay within +5/-5 seconds per year. The 9F86 allows independent hour hand adjustment, making these three new models “true GMTs.”

SBGN005, SBGN001, and SBGN003.

These 39-millimeter watches are only marginally thicker than their standard three-hand counterparts, which took no small amount of engineering on Grand Seiko’s part. They’ve redesigned the main plate, the gear train, and the connection between the four hands and their individual, concentric axes. As a result, the case is only 12.1 millimeters thick. Impressive.

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The fixed 24-hour chamfered bezel is reminiscent of Rolex’s famous Explorer II GMT, but looks entirely at home, even familiar, on the Grand Seiko. AM/PM indication is found on the two-tone rehaut, which is refreshingly subtle compared to many GMT’s that overstate the case. While there’s no denying the sporty looks of these GMTs, they are pretty mellow, and with 100-meters of water resistance, we might have to dub them Dressy Tool Watches, or DTWs. Ilya and I had originally disqualified quartz movements in our DTW description, but his recent acquisition of a 9F equipped three-hander ref. SBGX061 has both of us rethinking that criteria.

Aside from the more finely tuned movement, the limited edition also sports a bumblebee colorway and the dial is rendered in a metallic dark charcoal with a textured pattern consisting of intricately arranged quartz symbols. Those familiar with Grand Seiko’s other patterned dials, such as the white-dialed SBGT241G, will recognize the look.

SBGN005 and SBGN003.

Typical of Seiko’s releases, there are two standard, non-limited models to accompany the limited edition. These are the black-dialed SBGN003 and the blue-dialed SBGN005, both handsome and decidedly less sporty than the bumblebee version (yellow on a watch almost always says “sporty”).

The standard models have red GMT hands, the limited edition a yellow one, all of which pop off the dial without looking disjointed. On all three versions that hand extends all the way to the edge of the dial for exceptional legibility against the 24-hour bezel. This long GMT hand may not appear terribly significant at first, but as an owner of GMTs with hands that don’t extend that far, I can attest to the added clarity of time-telling on these Grand Seikos. Further, to get the GMT hand that close required precision engineering of the hand’s connection to the movement, as any slop could, under shock, cause a collision. If, like me, you find tight tolerances sexy, then you’ll also take pleasure watching that hand make its rounds.

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If you’ve never seen the Seiko 9F in action, it may be hard to appreciate how excellent it is. Most important to the naked eye, an auto-adjusting system prevents the seconds hand from shuddering after each tick. The 9F’s seconds hand stops like an Olympic gymnast pinning their dismount versus the other 99.9% of gymnasts who take a little step upon landing—and we know who goes home with the gold. That crisp tic-tic-tic is captivating, and I spent more than a few seconds watching Ilya’s 9F Quartz do its thing recently. Equally satisfying, though only happening once a day, the date changes instantaneously at midnight, eliminating the weird late-hour drift of most mechanical date discs.

To further your grasp of the 9F86’s exceptional nature, note that Seiko grows its own quartz crystals and—like wine or tobacco—pre-ages them until they’re as accurate as possible. This all sounds more like the work of a futuristic farmer than a watchmaker.

Though I’ve not had these watches in hand as of yet, I can speak to the high precision of Grand Seiko’s case work, which incorporates the zaratsu polishing technique that goes back to ancient Samurai sword making. The design is both familiar and unto itself, foregoing surprises and little gimmicks in favor of svelte angles, subtle articulations, and superb architecture. Marveling over Ilya’s 9F on a recent podcast, we noted that Grand Seiko manages to outdo Rolex’s case work while simultaneously avoiding the Swiss brand’s bling or glitz. These cases are understated masterpieces, and the GMT appears to be no exception.

Similarly impressive are the bracelets that come with Grand Seikos. Tolerances between the bracelet’s many pieces are ultra-tight (read: sexy), making this bracelet really comfy and entirely free of slop. The signed clasp is handsome, secure, and easy to deploy. The connections at the lugs and around the case are among the best of the best.

The blue and black versions (SBG005 and 003 respectively) will sell for $3,200 and the special edition is $300 more at $3,500. Grand Seiko

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At age 7 Allen fell in love with a Timex boy's dive watch his parents gave him, and he's taken comfort in wearing a watch ever since. Allen is especially curious about digital technology having inspired a revival of analog technology, long-lasting handmade goods, and classic fashion. He lives in a one-room schoolhouse in The Hudson Valley with his partner and two orange cats.
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