A Grand Seiko SBGZ003 for sixty grand? WTF? I’m having a hard time understanding Grand Seiko. I love their craftsmanship and minimalist design – excluding any of their pieces with a power reserve indicator on the dial. Which is all of the “lower-priced” Spring Drive models. Which this anniversary model doesn’t have. But the question remains: what drugs is Seiko taking? Let’s take a look at their justification . . .
The Micro Artist Studio made its first contribution to Grand Seiko with the 8-Day Power Reserve Spring Drive watch that was greeted at Baselworld 2016 with great acclaim.
This same elite team of watchmakers now presents Caliber 9R02, a new movement that has two mainsprings set in parallel within a single barrel and uses the unique Torque Return System* to deliver a power reserve of 84 hours.
The power reserve indicator is visible through the sapphire crystal case back, next to the barrel whose shape echoes that of the bellflower that is the symbol of Shiojiri, where the studio is located.
OK, a new movement. Eight-four hours of power reserve. The power reserve indicator repositioned to the caseback (thank God). But how does that justify a fifty grand price differential with the “basic” Spring Drive Snowflake (a.k.a., SBGA407)?
Our good friends at HoDinkee sidestep this thorny question by comparing the SBGZ003 to the identically-powered, almost-as-pricey Seiko Eichi II. And then wheeling-out a casual remark by legendary watchmaker Philippe Dufour.
The most essential expression of craft in fine watchmaking, after all, is in movement finishing, and the 9R02 has all of the masterful execution of its vocabulary that led none other than Philippe Dufour to say, at the HODINKEE Collector’s Summit four and a half years ago, “If you want to know where the best movement finishing is, I’m sorry, it’s not in Switzerland right now.”
Hello? You call that finishing? Perfect of course – aside from the random screw head alignment. But c’mon. Here’s the caseback of the entry-level Patek Philippe 5123R-001.
Which movement would you rather feast your eyes upon, this Calatrava or the Grand Seiko SBGZ003? The Patek costs less than half the price of the Grand Seiko SBGZ003 and it’s perfect, too. If you move up the Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet or Vacheron Constantin ladder to the $50k mark, it only gets better. A lot better.
Strangely, neither HoDinkee or Grand Seiko make any mention of the Grand Seiko SBGZ003’s case material.
White gold? Platinum? Unobtanium? Nope. Stainless steel. Zaratsu polished stainless steel, but stainless steel none-the-less.
The previous sentence was written in error. The case is made of platinum. This accounts for a majority of the price differential with other, steel Grand Seikos. I regret the error and thank a commentator for pointing it out after my hiatus.
So where does all that leave us? Wishing Grand Seiko would sell the new Grand Seiko SBGZ003 in steel at $15k. If you think about it, the Anniversary model competes with the date window-less, power reserve-less $7600 Spring Driven SBGY003 LE (above), albeit with the “old” Caliber 9R31.