Grand Seiko 9F GMT Review

Grand Seiko 9F Quartz GMT at rest

A lot of watches offer GMT/second time zone functionality. Some of them are extremely expensive, powered by sophisticated automatic movements. Many self-described watch lovers turn up their nose at the very idea of a $3k Japanese quartz GMT watch. Those people are wrong. The Grand Seiko 9F Quartz GMT could well be the world’s best GMT watch . . .

Fair disclosure: I’m reviewing my personal Grand Seiko 9F GMT, reference SBGN003 and it’s the best watch I’ve ever owned. Hands down, full stop, no discussion necessary. I’ve owned several Rolexes with GMT complications, including two of the beloved Batmans. Sorry Bruce, but this Grand Seiko is better in every way – except for flip value.

The Grand Seiko 9F Quartz GMT couldn’t have existed a decade ago. Investing in technology, developing new manufacturing processes and doing it all themselves, Seiko took the long view (as always) and spent significant resources creating the best QUARTZ watch movements the world has ever known. Growing their own crystals, weeding out all but the very best, pairing them with a bespoke controller that compensates for temperature. Quartz was dead! No one was asking for any of this. Much like Mt. Everest, they climbed the mountain simply because it was there.

Grand Seiko 9F Quartz GMT under sleeve

The Grand Seiko 9F Quartz GMT is as quiet, modest and capable as the Sherpas that scale that epic peak. No bright colors or glossy bezels shouting for attention. No indicators or symbols on the dial hinting at the innovations it embodies. It doesn’t even have a transparent caseback to reveal the genius hidden inside. The GS GMT calls no attention to itself – it’s invisible to the general public. As Biggie said, real bad boys move in silence.

Grand Seiko GMT

Modesty rules in the styling department. The dial’s deep black glossy finish looks like hot oil in a skillet. The rehaut is two-tone black and silver, indicating day and night on the engraved 24 hour bezel. The applied hour markers are faceted like cut gems with tiny, bright lume plots at their ends. The Dauphine style lume-filled hour hands have perfectly polished edges.

The Grand Seiko 9F Quartz GMT ‘s seconds hand (which invisibly ticks twice per second) and orange GMT indicator add both color and visual interest with designs pulled from the sport watch world. If black isn’t your style, Grand Seiko makes two other models in different colorways.

Rolex devotees will never experience anything like the maniacally precise finish on every square millimeter of the GS’s metalwork. The bracelet has nearly invisible bezels on all the hard edges to make it smooth and comfortable. A double-pusher clasp with a deeply machined Grand Seiko logo keeps it secure.

GMT obscura

The case features Grand Seiko’s usual zaratsu polishing, with every edge rounded or beveled to play with the light and ensure comfort. The case and bracelet are held with scarcely credible precision. The lugs are drilled for an easy swap to a leather strap.

Paired with the 9F movement maintaining accuracy of +/- 10 seconds per year, the GMT complication is seamlessly implemented. The date advances instantly at midnight. Time zone changes could not be easier: unscrew the crown to the first position and either advance or reverse the jumping hour hand. The seconds hand continues running as if nothing’s happened.

On the downside, the comfortable bracelet has no micro adjustments to precisely fit my lumpy 8” wrist. Seiko provides two half-links. If I remove one, it’s slightly too tight, especially when traveling or in hot, humid weather. If I add it back, it’s slightly too loose. A bulkier clasp would enable welcome micro-adjustments –  I’ll happily trade that for the clean comfort of what’s provided.

Seiko GMT abroad

The Grand Seiko 9F Quartz GMT is the ultimate distillation of what Grand Seiko does best: take a set of prosaic elements, combine them with intense care and craftsmanship and elevate them into modestly luxurious timepieces that are a joy to own and wear. The SBGN003 does its job so well and so guilelessly that it’s become more than a watch for me. It’s a trusted companion for a life that sometimes moves a half a step faster than I do.

No matter where I am in the world, no matter what I’m doing, no matter who is sitting in front of me, one quick glance at the big orange hand instantly allows me to cross oceans of time and space, putting me at home with the rhythms and routines of the people I love. Does your daily do that? If not, the Grand Seiko 9F Quartz GMT is worth every penny, and then some.

Grand Seiko SBGN003 9F GMT
Street Price: $3200

SPECIFICATIONS:

Model Year: 2019
Item Shape: Round
Display Type: Faceted hour markers with 24 hour bezel
Case diameter: 39 millimeters
Case Thickness: 12.1 millimeters
Special features: GMT with jumping hour hand
Movement: Temperature-compensated 9F quartz
Water resistant depth: 100 Meters

RATINGS (out of five stars):

Design * * * * *
A dressy sport watch with beautiful details and perfect fit and finish; wear it with anything in any situation, it’ll always look better than you.

Legibility * * * * *
Easy to read day and night. Good luck prying your eyes away from it.

Comfort * * * * *
Grand Seiko has found a way to make stainless steel feel soft and nearly weightless. This is their way of sharing it with the world.

Overall * * * * *
A watch for life, for life.

4 thoughts on “Grand Seiko 9F GMT Review”

  1. Well Bruce is a JLC man anyway, and I’m fairly certain his family is too old money to wear Rolex.

    I have problems with the 9F, but I suppose the real issue with GS is…they have ~three~ movements! They’re all excellent! And the best quartz still would fall behind the other GMTs they make in my book, unless the money were staggeringly different. In for a dollar, in for a British pound. Of course, I have no need for a GMT whatsoever. It makes my choices easier.

    So more general questions. I really like polished hands, but I ~also~ do a lot of night driving and like my watch to be at all useful. It ~seems~ like this type of GS sport lumed dauphine hands would be a great compromise. Never seen in real life and photos lie, so I’m wondering if the lume legitimately useful, does it integrate with the polished surfaces?

    Obviously the bracelet is great, have you at all tried any different strap choices?

    1. Hey Mark, I hear you. I went with the 9F because of the slight size and weight advantage, but mainly because I love GS’s audacity to build such a thing. It’s a little hard to put into words, but I feel like the 9F GSs are peak GS. I tried to touch on it here: it’s the idea taking something so basic and unassuming and elevating to the level of a luxury watch. That’s why I like it so much.

      I find that the GS polished hands are really perfect for any situation. The lume on the hands is completely flush with the hands, it’s in a little machined slot. It’s just enough to notice but not enough to distract or overpower. The other advantage of these knife-edged hands is that they catch light really easily…even if there’s a little light, they’ll catch it and be visible. I don’t know what you are looking for exactly but I like how they work.

      Haven’t tried a strap yet. I am considering having a padded black suede strap made specifically for the watch. I have a handmade black Ostrich strap I could try too, but the bracelet is so good. I’m hesitant to mess with success.

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