Out Of Office: Cruising the California Coast With The Grand Seiko SBGE285

“Out of Office” is a series of stories accounting our experiences trying to find moments of solace outdoors, as well as our interaction with the gear that comes along with us, and that most certainly includes the watches on our wrist. Out of Office is an escape. It’s about finding an opportunity to put the world on pause, whether it’s the few minutes you take out of your day to read this article, or its the couple of hours you dedicate to getting out there. It’s where our experience meets our enthusiasm. Through this series we’ve already seen our authors do a hike in the local hills with a Sinn, explore a glacier via seaplane with a Citizen and a road trip through New England with a Rolex. Let’s continue this journey together and see where it takes us.”

It’s no secret that I love the west coast. I might have been born in Tennessee, but my heart belongs in California. The ocean, the trees, the mountains…they just have my soul. I was recently in San Francisco for our annual Windup Watch Fair and decided to take a few days after the event to travel North up the Sonoma Coast, then back down to Monterey before heading back to Nashville. I expected a fun relaxing vacation with my BFF and that’s exactly what I got. 

Before I dive into some of the places I visited on this trip, I want to quickly go over some of the gear I brought with me. My camera of choice for this vacation was the Panasonic Lumix S5II with the Panasonic 85mm 1.8 lens. This camera is on loan from Camera West as I’m currently working on a review for it, and I’ll be sure to share that with ya’ll soon. The 85mm lens was a hard choice for me, I also had a 24-70 I could have brought with me but I decided to travel lighter and honestly challenge myself with a focal length I don’t typically use much. I tend to stay with my 50mm or 100mm macro for 99% of my shots so this was a fun challenge. The 85mm lens I found was fantastic for landscape photography. I actually really dig the compression found in most of the images and the unique perspective it gave.


The next piece of gear was obviously my watch. I recently purchased the Grand Seiko SBGE285, which is a GMT titanium watch (I know, I know) that sits in an Evolution 9 case. This beauty features a Snowflake-like dial that has more of a gray hue than the white found in the Snowflake. I had been smitten with this model since it came out last year and only held back because it was titanium, and those that know me well know that I haven’t always been a fan of the metal. Well let me tell you…I can confirm, I am a titanium fan girl now. I put this watch on and nearly forget it’s there. This watch in steel just wouldn’t work in my opinion. It’s a little too large and bulky and wouldn’t wear as comfortably, but in titanium, it’s perfect. I brought the GMT because I was traveling and with the very neutral dial, I figured it would go with most of the clothing I brought. The watch fit in perfectly with all the textures that were to be found on the California coast, and perhaps, because of this watch, I had a more careful eye when seeking out some of these textures in nature. I kind of always thought some of the Grand Seiko nature marketing was, well, just that, marketing. But being out on the coast looking at my watch and looking at some of the natural finishes and grains of nature, it made me feel a little zen and one with my watch. A bonding experience I hope everyone gets the chance to have.

A few other pieces of gear I’ll quickly mention were my REI Co-op Sling, my Nocs binoculars, and a Triple Aught Design Quantum Nylon Strap for the Grand Seiko. The REI sling came in super handy to throw keys, phone, sunglasses, and the binoculars into during our excursions along the beach line. I love that it has a level of flexibility on the material allowing it to sit more comfortably when not fully packed. The Nocs came in super handy when looking out for whales, sea lions, seals, and sea otters along the coast. I was drawn to the orange colorway of their standard issue binoculars and they get huge bonus points for being waterproof and very durable. A solid impulse buy at the Windup Watch Fair (because I can’t leave without buying something, like a little kid) was the Triple Aught Designs Quantum Nylon Strap. It has titanium keepers which I felt paired well with the Grand Seiko. This strap is built so freaking tough, and I thought it would be the perfect companion on the Grand Seiko for this trip as well as saving my bracelet a little from the inevitable scratches it would endure as I climbed up rocks and such.


The first location on this trip was the Timber Cove Resort on Highway 1 off the Sonoma Coast near Fort Ross. About a 2 hour drive from San Francisco, it was easy to get to and honestly not much traffic along the way. The drive up takes you through gorgeous settings of farmland and ranches for miles. You’ll pass lots of signs for vineyards and quaint diners along the way if you wish to detour a bit before hitting Highway 1. I’m used to seeing farmland here in Tennessee, but what made this drive so stunning was the elevation changes and openness of the ranches here. Once you hit Highway 1 on the coast, you’ll see farms with cows on your right, and the cliffs with open oceans on your left. And yes, cows often come over to the beach side as we saw several hanging out, very dangerously I might add, on some of the cliffs.

As soon as we were out of the farmland on Highway 1, the first coastal city was Bodega Bay. This was a great place for us to stop and get some wine and snacks and fill up on gas before heading further up the coast where things were a little more sparse. The Tides Wharf restaurant is perfect for bird watching while eating lunch as there were lots of bird species hanging around, undoubtedly for the seafood that was making its way into the bay. Fun fact actually: this town was the filming location of Alfred Hitchock’s thriller, The Birds, a movie that really left a scar on me as a kid. Stopping in at the Wharf’s gift shop and the Sonoma Coast Visitor Center is well worth it. The local cheese and jams were a favorite during the road trip.

Once you leave Bodega Bay, it’s up, up, and away you go! The windy coastal roads begin again and you really have so many opportunities to stop and get out and visit all of the small beaches up the coast. You’ll find surfers catching waves and lots of families out at the beaches here. It’s not the warm spot spring breakers tend to go for, which is honestly really nice because it’s a much more relaxing atmosphere. One of the coolest beaches we stopped at was Jenner Beach and Goat Rock State Beach right next to it. This is a harbor sea lion restplace and you’ll also find quite a few seals out here too. We were lucky enough to spot a small seal pup resting in the rocks. His mom placed him here to camouflage him from predators while she was away hunting for the day. We kept our distance but took lots of photos of the little guy as he looked at us with so much curiosity.

These beaches are on either side of the mouth of the Russian River. They are actually in the Russian River State Marine Conservation Area so all marine and cultural wildlife are protected, which is why so many gather here. Because of the abundance of wildlife, it’s a great spot to picnic, kayak, or hike. Another interesting fact is that the Russian River got its name from Russian fur traders who explored the area in the early 19th century and established Fort Ross, a Russian-American Company outpost, very close to where we would be staying at Timber Cove Resort. The river was named after the Russians, even though they did not technically settle or colonize the area.

After we hit the beaches, we headed up another 30 minutes north on Highway 1 until we landed at the Timber Cove Resort. The hotel/lodge is made up of stone, wood, and glass, making it the perfect backdrop between the ocean and pine trees that surround it. Built in the early 60’s by an architect that was inspired by Frank Lloyed Wright, this resort sits on 25 acres of the stunning Sonoma Coast. There’s a few hiking trails, lots of boardgames, and plenty of lounge areas making this the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. The food was excellent – a favorite of ours was the cheese board with fine local cheeses, fruits, and spreads from the region. I’d recommend Timber Cove for those folks who want to go somewhere to disconnect. There’s not a whole lot going on in any of the towns north or south of the resort so don’t expect to go party it up anywhere nearby. There was, however, wine tasting night, live music night, and many other little events happening at the resort while there to keep you entertained in the evening hours.


I often sat in the lobby drinking wine and looking down at my Grand Seiko admiring the Spring Drive movement, and that second hand moving in such a smooth fashion. I have to say it’s really spoiled me with all my other watches.  It’s quite mesmerizing. Each room at the resort has a fireplace creating cozy vibes at night when the weather gets cooler. Another note is that from the rooms you can hear the ocean waves crashing below the cliffs, and it’s the perfect sound machine to lull you into a peaceful sleep every night.

After a few days on the tranquil northern California coast, our next big destination was to head south to Monterey. From Timber Cove, it’s about a 4 hour drive south. The drive here wasn’t as notable as we took the interstate as much as we could to save time. I was very excited and anxious to visit Monterey as it’s a town I’ve admired for a long time and I had heard so many stories of all the marine life that inhabits the bay. Monterey has a totally different vibe than NorthCal. We traded pine trees for a much more tropic and lush environment. The ocean was also stunning with its clear blue waters, making it extremely easy to spot little sea otters or seals. The marine life here did not disappoint. Everywhere we went, we were guaranteed to spot something in the water.


After an afternoon of visiting their absolutely wonderful (and big!) aquarium, we headed back out to the Monterey coast to see what we could find. Close to the aquarium you’ll find Hopkins Marine Station, where they have protected and closed off beaches that are full of seals and sea lions. You can get right up to the fence line and spot the mama seals giving swim lessons to their pups during the day. It’s really a site to see. If you stay on Ocean View Blvd as you make your way to Point Pinos, a great place to stop for a treat or coffee is Lovers Point. It’s a small recreational spot that has a swimming beach and some easily accessible cliffs where you can get a great viewpoint of the open ocean. Listen carefully when you’re out on the rocks as we heard several sea lions barking as we saw them swimming nearby. One note, if you plan on kayaking or paddle boarding here, be warned, there have been recent great white attacks. As Monterey is full of seals and sea lions, it also means it’s also full of great whites. A nearby aquarium volunteer stated there’s around 70 young great whites in the bay with over 200 adult sharks also close by.

This is a place where I was glad I had a nato on the Grand Seiko, as I was skirting around big rocks that would have definitely scratched my bracelet. I kept glancing down throughout the trip, so glad this was the watch I brought and how perfect it was. The water resistance, the easy legibility, and just the comfort for all those days that seemed to be both hot and cold on the coast. Grand Seiko housed this beautiful dial in an Evolution 9 case which I adore since this series has really taken a more sporty outlook from a lot of the current collections. They focus on all the things that are important to me like aesthetics, legibility, sportiness, and comfort. The fact that this Grand Seiko has awesome lume was another major bonus for me. I’m very excited to see where Grand Seiko continues to take this collection.

One of my favorite places in Monterey was Point Pinos and all the beaches along the point. You can literally drive and pull off at so many points on your way to Pebble Beach. These beaches were filled with locals walking their dogs, people exercising, and local kids playing in the water. It didn’t feel like a tourist destination at all. Off this coast is fantastic whale watching and the Noc binoculars came in super handy as this is where I spotted the tail of a rather large whale heading back into the water. These beaches are also a perfect place to spot sea otters, many we saw with little otters on their bellies floating in the waves. A great place for lunch is The Grill at Point Pinos, where I had one of the best chicken salad sandwiches. It was just what I needed for an afternoon of whale watching.

When I say Monterey is a picturesque place, I’m not lying, you almost feel it’s a little unreal. It’s an incredible getaway spot for families, for couples, or even for those that are single and are wanting to relax and enjoy nature a bit. I’m 100% sure I’ll be back on the west coast very soon. It was an interesting experience and very different from my east coast Out of Office trip last fall. I certainly felt more at home in California but I’m also massively obsessed with sea life and have been since I was a kid. The colors were amazing in California, it’s one thing that always surprises me. The rocks, the water, the trees, the animals, it’s such a joy for a photographer. Perhaps that’s what draws me closer and closer to the western coast.

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Kat is a watch collector, photographer, and Nashville native. You’ll almost never find Kat without a camera in hand but when she’s not shooting, she’s traveling or watching The Office for the hundredth time. Kat is a lover of all watches, but stainless steel sports watches have stolen her heart.