Grand Seiko SBGA211G Snowflake
© Tom Pettit & Fraser Vincent

There aren’t many brands that command the kind of quiet respect from collectors that Grand Seiko does. The upper echelon of Seiko (bar Credor, but that’s a different story entirely) is an obsessive artisan brand with the attention to detail most independents with a few hundred watches a year can’t manage.

The only problem is that before the last couple of years I’ve not found them all that interesting. Lovely for sure, with the signature Zaratsu polishing and minimal, classical designs, but nothing that really grabs me. That changed with this year’s Grand Seiko GMT Lion, the intense, sporty limited edition we covered a couple of issues back.

Grand Seiko SBGA211G Snowflake

The problem was, that watch isn’t really the essence of Grand Seiko. After all, they set out to create the perfect watch and stopped when they created the flagship case shape and dial layout; there has to be something to it. So when I got a chance to try the Spring Drive Snowflake, I leapt at the opportunity – and not just because it fits too damn well with our winter theme.

The watch gets its name from the unique, snowflake-shaped bridges on the movement. Just kidding, it’s the dial, obviously. The usually-plain, minimal dial has instead been transformed into a snowscape by Grand Seiko’s engraving maestros and it’s beautiful, an apparent mimic for the snowfall on the mountains near Grand Seiko’s workshops. If I had the balls to pop the sapphire off I assume it’d be soft to the touch; it’s that lifelike.

Other than that the Snowflake is pure Grand Seiko. The facets to the 41mm case show off its signature Japanese polishing to the full, especially around the lugs, with light playing off the entire watch. Possibly my only gripe with that case is I’d have preferred the steel over the quite high-intensity titanium.

Grand Seiko SBGA211G Snowflake

Titanium’s great for sports watches, anything necessarily large and bulky. For everything else though I like a bit of weight on my wrist and here the ultra-light metal just makes me feel like I have something far less pricey on my wrist. That goes doubly for the bracelet which feels… well, for want of a better word, flimsy.

It’s not of course, the metal is incredibly practical and the entire watch is comfortable on the wrist, a good size to fit under most sleeves and versatile in its deceptive simplicity. It’s just a personal gripe about titanium that I have with most watches.

As for the Spring Drive, Grand Seiko’s hybrid movement opus, it’s simply fantastic. But then you probably already knew that; its reputation is second-to-none. The addition of a power reserve is a nice quality-of-life change so you don’t need to obsessively wind it; it also adds a little twist to the otherwise unobstructed snowfield of silver white.

Seiko may have started using the Spring Drive in its standard line and Grand Seiko may have started embracing some of the cool creativity of the Prospex collection among others. But for pure Grand Seiko, the watch that defines them… well, this is it, and it’s just shy of perfect.

Price & Specs:

Model Name: Grand Seiko ‘Snowflake’ Spring Drive Titanium
Reference: SBGA211
Case/Dial: 41mm diameter × 12.5mm thickness, high-intensity titanium case, white dial
Water resistance: 100m
Movement: Calibre 9R65, automatic with manual winding
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, power reserve
Power Reserve: 72 hours (3 days)
Strap:
Titanium bracelet
Price: £5,400

More details at Grand Seiko’s website.