Review: Grand Seiko Refs. SBGV243 and SBGV245 — Two Watches That Will Have You Rethinking Quartz

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Watch enthusiasts are a persnickety bunch, and no time is that more true than when quartz watches enter the fray. “It’s just a quartz watch” and “ugh, why is it quartz and not mechanical?” are common refrains you’ll hear from the mech-faithful, and hell, I’ll admit to it right now, I’ve lent my voice to that chorus before I found enlightenment.

Quartz movements get a bad rep, and believe me, I get it. Really, I do. The vast majority of quartz watches out in the world are generic, cheap in every sense of the word, and ultimately disposable — as are the movements powering those watches. But Grand Seiko’s 9F quartz calibers, and the watches they live inside, are entirely different beasts. But I’m getting ahead of myself — I’ll get to the movements a little later. 

Refs. SBGV243 and SBGV245.

In recent years, Grand Seiko has really built up a solid catalog of sporty quartz watches, from the introduction of their newest 9F86-equipped GMTs to the two 9F82-powered references (SBGV243 and SBGV245) we’ll be looking at today. As you’ll see from this review, Grand Seiko puts the same care and attention into their quartz watches as they do their mechanical and Spring Drive stablemates. Let’s jump right in.

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$3000

Review: Grand Seiko Refs. SBGV243 and SBGV245 — Two Watches That Will Have You Rethinking Quartz

Case
Stainless steel
Movement
Grand Seiko 9F82 quartz caliber
Dial
Black; Silver/sometimes taupe
Lume
Yes
Lens
Sapphire
Strap
Cordura with deployant
Water Resistance
200m
Dimensions
40.1mm x 46.6mm
Thickness
11.8mm
Lug Width
19mm
Crown
Screw down
Warranty
Yes
Price
$3000

Grand Seiko is often lauded for excellent case finishing, and the praise is well-deserved. Grand Seiko’s casework is impeccable, often featuring a stunning mix of fine brushing, zaratsu polishing, and perfect points of connection where the two meet. This holds true here.


REFRESHER: WHAT EXACTLY IS ZARATSU POLISHING?
The word “zaratsu” is derived from an engraving (“GEBR.SALLAZ”) found on vintage polishing machines adopted by Seiko in the ‘50s. These machines are rare in the world today, and, but for a few Japanese and Swiss makers, they’re no longer really common in the watch industry. What makes them distinct is that they use the side of the polishing disc and not the front, and that’s what creates those distortion-free surfaces and clearly defined points where plane meets plane that Grand Seiko cases have come to be known for.

The downside is that each movement must be precise during the polishing process; the smallest of wrong moves can destroy a case. It takes years and years of practice to master one of these machines, and Seiko only allows their most skilled craftspeople to perform this function.


The case is arguably one of the more aggressive mainline designs Grand Seiko has put forth in recent years. It’s hard and angular, with a pronounced bezel and heavy, blocky lugs that pull from Tanaka’s “Grammar of Design.” In profile, the mid-case dominates and really emphasizes the lug design. But the overall design is not inelegant, and it’s bolstered greatly by the excellent finishing mentioned above. If I had to categorize it, I’d argue that the case here isn’t a dressy one, but rather a sporty one that’s been dressed up.

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The case measures 40.1mm across, 46.6mm lug-to-lug, and 11.8mm thick. I’d say it wears a touch larger than its numerical width because of the thick lugs, but it’s by no means an oversized watch. The proportions feel right to my eye and on the wrist, and altogether the case makes the right statement.

Around back, there’s a solid, screw-down caseback. It’s a nice looking piece of metal adorned with Grand Seiko’s lion emblem, which is pretty standard across the range and a nod to the Grand Seiko caseback medallions of years past. That said, Grand Seiko’s quartz calibers are quite attractive, and I’d love to be able to see them through an open caseback, which is what Grand Seiko has done on some limited editions.

The closed caseback does serve a purpose, however. The two watches featured here have an increased resistance to magnetism — they’re rated to 16,000A/m. That’s right — magnetism isn’t just a problem for mechanical watches. A strong magnet can effect on a quartz movement, too, so there’s a reason for the upped specs here. Additionally, the case is rated to 200 meters and has a screw-down crown.

Ref. SBGV243 has a black dial with yellow accents and a fine, vertically-brushed texture. The effect of the brushing is subtle, and the light needs to hit the dial just right for it to be seen. Ref. SBGV245 is a touch less subtle, with a silvery/sometimes-taupe dial finished with horizontal brushing. It’s a little weird to call this one the less subtle of the two since it has no color accents, but the effect of the dial color and finishing is very dramatic on the 245. If it were standard white or silver, maybe the dial would be boring, but the slight warmth here combined with the horizontal brushing gives it a much more interesting look.

Both dials feature large, applied indices generously filled with luminous material. The hands then are a sporty riff on Grand Seiko’s classic handset. They’re large, super sharp, and filled with matching luminous paint. When paired with a black dial, the hands are brushed for legibility (ever notice how polished hands get lost against black dials?), and against lighter dials they’re polished. The lume application here is excellent. It’s even and generous, so nighttime visibility is without complaints.

Between the two, I’d opt for Ref. SBGV243. I love the black dial — and Grand Seiko does black dials really well — and the yellow accents. It plays up the sportiness of the piece without overpowering the overall vibe, which is my favorite approach to flourishes of color.

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Now let us jump to the movement. Seiko pioneered quartz technology, introducing the first quartz wristwatch way back in 1969. In the time since, Grand Seiko has perfected the quartz movement to such a degree that even mechanical die-hards (such as myself) have been won over to the quartz side. A Grand Seiko 9F caliber is unlike anything you’ll find ticking away at your local Walmart. These are top-tier movements not unlike their mechanical counterparts in terms of build quality and longevity. They are meant to last and not simply be discarded at the first sign of trouble.

Here are just some of the impressive specs and features:

  • Accuracy within 10 seconds a year (and these tolerances can get even tighter on some limited edition models).
  • In-house grown and aged quartz crystals are paired with integrated circuits that are programmed specifically to the traits of that crystal.
  • There’s a backlash auto adjust mechanism that keeps every tick of the second hand precise and snappy.
  • Higher torque allows Grand Seiko to use their larger, heavier hands here, ensuring that Grand Seiko’s distinctive aesthetic remains intact. Your run-of-the-mill quartz movement can generally only handle smaller, lighter hands.
  • A sealed cabin improves retention of lubricants, which allows for longer service intervals.

One can see how a Grand Seiko quartz movement is unlike almost anything else on the market. For further background on Grand Seiko’s movements, be sure to check out our podcast with Grand Seiko’s Joe Kirk, who offers an excellent overview.

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The other thing worth mentioning here are the straps. Grand Seiko have paired padded Cordura bands with these watches for a really sporty vibe. I’m not a big fan of padded straps like these as they often start out too stiff for my liking, though they do generally soften over time with continued wear. Aesthetically, I do think they’re a good match, though I’m not too keen on the yellow contrast stitch on the 243. It’s a bit on the nose. Regardless, straps are easy to swap out (and made even easier here with the drilled lugs). The straps are fitted with a Grand Seiko deployant clasp.

Altogether, Refs. SBGV243 and SBGV245, both priced at $3,000, are great additions to Grand Seiko’s stable. The more aggressive-yet-still-elegant design, the overall sportier aesthetic, and the manageable size offer a compelling package that should work for a number of people, and the quartz caliber lends an air of ruggedness to these two watches that you just wouldn’t get with a mechanical movement. If you’re on the fence about the movement, let me just say this: I’ve put my money where my mouth is and added a 9F to my watch box, and I haven’t looked back since. 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.
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