Collectors of elegant two or three-handed watches are spoiled for choice – as long as they buy vintage. There are modern Patek Philippe Calatravas and Piaget Antiplanos that scratch that itch. But it’s slim pickins’ further down the food chain. With some exceptions, Rolex Cellini and OMEGA Deville dress watches have lost the plot. Jaeger Le-Coultre’s Master Control nails it, but Grand Seiko is your go-to modern day minimalist manufacturer . . .
Don’t get me wrong: Grand Seiko sells an a lot of watches defiled by a power reserve indicator on the dial. Set those aside. If there’s one modern watchmaker who really “gets it” – in terms of old-fashioned fuss-free elegance – it’s Grand Seiko. The $3k new-for-2020 SBGP003 is an excellent example.
It’s hard to describe the depth of the watch’s black dial, or the build quality of this – or any – Grand Seiko. Suffice it to say, Patek Philippe isn’t the only watchmaker that makes a perfect watch – precise in every detail. Nor is Rolex the only manufacturer who creates a silky smooth, butter soft metal bracelet. Nor is OMEGA the only company selling unimpeachable movements.
The SGP004 is quartz, powered by GS’ 9F85 engine (accurate to an astounding ±10 seconds per year). I know: many minimalists are also mechanical movement traditionalists. A 40mm quartz dress watch on a steel bracelet is like a Porsche with DUB spinners.
Enter the $4300 SBGW231, a 39.5mm three handed mechanical Grand Seiko on a crocodile leather strap.
Fair disclosure: I bought this watch for my 60th birthday. Not because it’s powered by Grand Seiko’s 9S64 movement – accurate to +10 to -1 seconds per day with a 72-hour power reserve. Because it embodies everything I admire about a vintage dress watch: simplicity, subtlety, longevity and versatility.
Like the OMEGA Seamasters of yore, the SBGW231 is a watch, not a statement piece. Wearing it is all about the silent satisfaction you get from admiring an object whose quality speaks for itself – regardless of who’s listening.
The 39.5mm SBGH213 is another solid choice for a buyer looking for a watch made like they used to – assuming they’re OK with Arabic indices.
If so, the gentle sweep of the mechanical Hi-Beat 36000 Caliber 9S8 movement offers a lifetime of enchantment, along with +5 to –3 seconds a day accuracy and a 55-hour power reserve.
This $6,200 watch’s appeal can’t be grasped via photographs. The way the light plays off the faceted surfaces of its razor-sharp hands and meticulously formed indices can only be appreciated in person.
Climb to the top of the Grand Seiko price ladder and you’ll find a wide selection of watches with all the austere magnificence of the dress watches of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. The best boast Grand Seiko’s peerless Spring Drive movement, such as the $57k SGBZ003.
That’s a price level where you’d be insane not to spend your money on an equally suitable handsome Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, Blancpain or other famous Swiss maker.
If nothing else, the depreciation on GS top end three handers is outrageous. Which brings to mind another Grand Seiko option: vintage GS pieces. Funny right? Grand Seiko makes ’em like they used to, like they used to.