Grand Seiko has always had a soft spot for the natural world and it’s not hard to see why. Shizukuishi in Iwate prefecture is about as picturesque as a town can get, with birch-forested hills, lakes and mountains aplenty. It’s a theme that’s served as the inspiration for many of this year’s GS releases, not just the breath-taking White Birch Forest.
In the watchmaker’s new quartet of Elegance pieces, they’ve opted to pay homage to the seasons in a very Japanese way. Rather than spring, summer, autumn and winter, each watch is inspired by a specific Sekki.
Sekki are unique to the Japanese calendar and are essentially the microseasons that divide up the year. They denote various growing times, variations in rainfall and temperatures very specifically. Risshun, for example, is the very beginning of spring while Usui, next in line, starts with increased rainfall. The four new elegance pieces take their aesthetic quirks from the Sekki of Shunbun, Shōsho, Kanro and Tōji.
Shunbun – SBGJ251
Shunbun is, simply, the very middle of spring, and on the SBGJ251 all the lush foliage that entails picked out by a beautufiully-textured dark green dial with just a hint of gold on the GMT hand and lattering.
Shōsho – SBGJ249
Shōsho – meaning ‘small heat’ is when the warm winds of summer start picking up. Here Grand Seiko opted for the visualisation of wind whipping across still water, hence the engraved waves on the pale blue dial of the SBGJ249.
Price & Specs:
Ref: SBGJ251 (Shunbun); SBGJ249 (Shōsho) | Case/dial: 39.5mm diameter x 14.1mm thickness, stainless steel, pale blue dial | Water resistance: 30m | Movement: Hi-Beat 3600 GMT calibre 9S86, automatic, 37 jewels | Frequency: 36,000 vph (5 Hz) | Power reserve: 55h | Functions: Hour, minutes, seconds, date, 24 hour hand, calendar-linked time difference adjustment function | Strap: Stainless steel bracelet | Price: £6,860 (SBGJ251 & SBGJ249)
Tōji – SBGE271
It wouldn’t be Grand Seiko without some allusion to snow and the SBGE269 doesn’t disappoint, reflecting the snowscapes of Tōji with a bright white, frosted dial. It’s a finer texture than their famous Snowflake but suits the more elegant style of the collection nicely.
Kanro – SBGE271
Finally, we have the SBGE271 which gets the hardest job of evoking the autumnal Sekki of Kanro. It’s when the days start getting much shorter and daylight hours begin to shrink. So, Grand Seiko went for a black dial with a few gold highlights to imitate twilight. Because of the lack of texture, it’s the only one that I wouldn’t be able to attribute a season to without being specifically told, but it’s also the most versatile of the lot because of it.
Price & Specs:
Ref: SBGE269 (Tōji); SBGE271 (Kanro) | Case/dial: 40.2mm diameter x 14.0mm thickness, stainless steel, black dial | Water resistance: 100m | Movement: Hybrid Spring Drive calibre 9R66, automatic with manual winding, 30 jewels | Power reserve: 72h | Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, independent 24-hour hand, date, power reserve indicator | Strap: Stainless steel | Price: £6,140 (SBGE269), £6,140 (SBGE271)
The Elegance quartet are split into two pairs: the SBGJs (Shunbun and Shōsho) are equipped with 9S86 Hi-Beat movements, same as the White Birch Forest, while the SBGE (Kanro and Tōji) instead use the watchmaker’s seminal Spring Drive. They’re all GMT models, but the Spring Drive pair also have the power reserve indicator specific to that movement, the main reason I prefer the look of the Hi-Beat.
The movements are also the cause of the size difference between them, with the Hi-Beats measuring in at 39.5mm and the Spring Drives 40.2mm. It’s a slight difference, not enough to make much difference on the wrist, but it’s worth noting. Either way, all four watches are in steel with matching steel bracelets.
When it comes to nature, Grand Seiko never missteps and here they’ve done it again with three beautiful dial finishes – especially that water effect, my god – and one that fits thematically, but keeps things a bit more restrained. As far as I’m concerned, the new Elegance pieces have absolutely nailed it.
More details at Grand Seiko.