Updated: May 5, 2020
I love Grand Seiko. In terms of under the radar brands, you are hard pushed to do better in my opinion. For years they have been absolutely killing it but without the recognition from the wider market. And this is sadly due to the identity crisis that Grand Seiko has had for many years. Being attached to Seiko meant that consumers were simply not willing to spend Rolex money 'on a Seiko'. However, since breaking away and forming their own entity, Grand Seiko is becoming more and more appreciated for watchmaking which in my opinion, is far better than a Swiss watch at the same price. And this watch only serves to emphasize that.
The watch in question is the reference SLGH002, which was released as part of the 60th Anniversary collection. And let me just say it now, this watch is pretty incredible.
As with all GS movements, automatic, spring drive, or quartz, they are all stunning to look at, as well as being technically innovative. The 9SA5 in this model is no different. It is a high beat movement, beating at a rate of 36,000VPH (Vibrations Per Hour). To put this into context the standard beat rate is around 28,000VPH. There are two benefits to this, one aesthetic and one practical. Aesthetically it means a smoother sweep to the second's hand, which is becoming somewhat of a defining feature for Grand Seiko. From a practical standpoint, there is a theory behind having a higher VPH rate. In theory, offering a higher frequency oscillation means that there should be less beat error within the movement, leading to increased accuracy. Furthermore, this movement is in house, as with all of Grand Seiko's movements. Not something that a lot of brands can boast. An 80-hour power reserve coupled with an instantaneous date change makes this movement very 'Grand Seikoey', to say that it has been engineered with the sole purpose of being as accurate as physically possible, which is effectively Grand Seiko in a nutshell.
Photo Credit: Hodinkee
This attention to detail and superb finishing does not just feature on the movement of this piece, but again in true Grand Seiko fashion, it is apparent on the case as well. This piece is cased in 18 karat yellow gold and comes in at a well-proportioned 40mm by 11.7mm thick. Although I would have to like to see it at 37 or 38mm, it is impossible to deny that 40mm is a very universally wearable size, and as I will never be able to buy one of these, it doesn't really matter how I would want it does it? As with all Grand Seiko's, the finishing to this case is second to none. The contrast between the smooth vertical polishing on the bezel and the mirrored finish on the lower bezel look super. These contrasting finishes are carried on through to the lugs, which are frankly so sharp I think you could cut yourself on them. Furthermore, the lug profile is curved down towards the wrist. Without having seen this watch in the metal I get the impression that the lug profile would possibly make the watch wear closer to a 38 than a 40mm.
Photo Credit: Hodinkee
It will come as no surprise to you to hear that the immaculate finishing carries through to the dial, which is presented in a gorgeous sunburst silver colour. The standout feature here are the indices and hands. The attention to detail here is amazing. The indices are polished and faceted in gold and have such a depth and richness offered by the contrasting finishes and deep grooves running down the centre. This is matched by the hands which feature the same finishing. The date window at 3 o'clock is framed in the same style and is unobtrusive but clearly legible. This dial is elegant, simple and legible, and the subtle three lines of text at 6 o'clock do not detract away from this what so ever. Grand Seiko really does know what they are doing.
Photo Credit: Hodinkee
This watch is something else. It has been flawlessly designed and executed in true Grand Seiko fashion and is an incredibly fitting celebration of 60 years of technical innovation, attention to detail, and stunning overall watchmaking. It is being produced in a Limited Edition run of 100 pieces, and now here is the difficult pill to swallow, it will set you back £33,000. Now, there are two ways of looking at this figure. You can either take the nerd standpoint, which is appreciating it as an amazing piece of watchmaking, and knowing that it will be so under the radar to the layman. Or you can look at it through the eyes of someone who thinks Grand Seiko is basically Seiko, and say that it is ridiculous to pay more than £500 for 'A Seiko'. I very much fall into the first camp, and if this is article has not made you come away thinking the same, I strongly urge you to dive deeper into Grand Seiko, and see for yourself just how amazing they are.
Editor & Co-Founder
The Young Horologist