Hands-On: Grand Seiko Elegance Collection (Refs. SBGK002, SBGK004, SBGK005, and SBGK006)

The Elegance Collection is, as the name suggests, home to Grand Seiko’s dressier watches. You won’t find one of Grand Seiko’s big chronos or divers here. Instead, the watches making up the Elegance Collection fall on the dressier side of things — the dials are generally cleaner and more classic, the only major complications you’ll find here are a date and GMT function, and most of the watches share the same basic case design that, to my eye, looks less severe than some of Grand Seiko’s other cases and, therefore, I think are more universally palatable. Personally, I’m a big fan of the Elegance Collection, and the Ref. SBGM221 is one of my favorite watches in my collection and, generally speaking, in Seiko’s catalog. 

A few weeks back, I wrote about Grand Seiko’s announcement of a new caliber and with it four new watches for their Elegance Collection. But the movement is just part of the story. This release also introduced a new case design to the Elegance Collection.

I find that to truly appreciate a Grand Seiko watch (and to a lesser extent any watch, really), one does need to see and handle it in the metal. Most Grand Seiko naysayers are only familiar with the brand and its watches from afar, and I’ve known my fair share of converts who “got it” only after getting to try one on. I recently got to go hands-on with the new collection and I was not disappointed. In person, the watches are every bit as nice as I suspected they’d be, and the case, dial, and hands are finished to Grand Seiko’s highest standard.

There are four references in this release: 

SBGK002 (18k rose gold case with a red Urushi lacquer dial finished with a Mt. Iwate pattern) 
SBGK004 (18k rose gold case with a black Urushi lacquer dial) 
SBGK005 (stainless steel case with a blue dial finished with a Mt. Iwate pattern and applied markers)
SBGK006 (18kt yellow gold case with a white dial and gold applied markers)

Hands-On: Grand Seiko Elegance Collection (Refs. SBGK002, SBGK004, SBGK005, and SBGK006)

Stainless steel, 18kt rose gold, 18kt yellow gold
Domed sapphire
Water Resistance
3 bar
Lug Width

Let’s start with the movement powering this new range. The 9S63 is Grand Seiko’s newest manual-winding caliber in eight years, but it isn’t a new generation of movement from Grand Seiko; rather, it builds on the well-established architecture of the 9S64, which is a tried-and-true Grand Seiko caliber. It features a small seconds complication at 9 o’clock and a power reserve indicator at 3 (together, the horizontal positioning of these two functions  creates a pleasing balance on the dial). The movement boasts 72 hours of power reserve on a full wind, and the accuracy is rated to +5/-3 seconds a day. Furthermore, it has 33 jewels and a beat rate of 28,800 vph.

What I really like about these watches is the way the new case maximizes the thinness of the movement. In profile, the mid-case is quite thin, and on the wrist the watches wear even thinner than their dimensions suggest. As far as finishing is concerned, it’s Grand Seiko at its best. The polishing is perfect, the brushing is intricate, and the points where the two meet is without fault. This is true across all four models.

Urushi is an old technique, and rather than attempting to explain it myself, I’ll offer this link for a breakdown of how it’s done and its history. Ref. SBGK002 features a red Urushi lacquer dial finished with the subtle Mt. Iwate pattern that we’ve seen in select Grand Seiko references, and Ref. SBGK004 has a unique black Urushi lacquer dial. These two dials are also finished using the Maki-e lacquer technique, which involves using gold or silver powder as decoration. It’s used here for the numbers and markers. Note the precision in these macro shots — it’s pure mastery, and Grand Seiko employs only the best craftspeople to get this done.

Then there’s Ref. SBGK006, which features a simpler white dial with golden hands and applied markers. But my favorite of the four is Ref. SBGK005. The dial here isn’t lacquered, but it is finished in the same dynamic pattern that is meant to mimic the texture of Mt. Iwate. I cannot overstate how special this one looks — the way the dial catches the light just elevates the piece to new heights.

Refs. SBGK002, SBGK004, and SBGK005 are limited editions (150, 150, and 1,500 units, respectively), and Ref. SBGK005 is a general release model.

I’ve read and heard complaints and concerns regarding Grand Seiko’s upmarket push, an analysis that, to me, seems a touch unfounded. Yes, the three editions here in rose and yellow gold are quite expensive ($29,000 for both Urushi dials and $19,000 for the regular dial), but the stainless steel edition is $7,400. That’s still a lot of money, but it does feel appropriately priced relative to the rest of the Elegance Collection given the truly special execution of the dial. Overall, however, Grand Seiko pieces still run the gamut price-wise, much like the way many mainline Seiko ranges do, and I don’t expect that to change.  I do, however, expect more show-stopper pieces like this in the future, and those will be on the pricier side of things, especially if they’re rendered in precious metals. But as long as Seiko continues to offer stainless steel models, I can be relatively certain that Grand Seiko watches won’t become unobtanium.

In my book, this new collection is a clear winner, and I’m excited to see it grow with new references. Piggybacking off of what I wrote above, I’d definitely love to see more being done with stainless steel, however, because precious metals can be limiting for many in terms of pricing and even styling. Grand Seiko

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Ilya is Worn & Wound's Managing Editor and Video Producer. He believes that when it comes to watches, quality, simplicity and functionality are king. This may very well explain his love for German and military-inspired watches. In addition to watches, Ilya brings an encyclopedic knowledge of leather, denim and all things related to menswear.