Richard the Watch Nerd reviews the Grand Seiko Quartz SBGX263
View the Grand Seiko Quartz on AMJ Watches.
I know what you’re thinking. This is Richard the Watch Nerd. Our literal comfort blanket for dissecting the good and bad in the high-end watch world. Our evangelist of horological craftmanship. Our champion of wrist-worn mechanical marvels. So, what the dickens is he doing owning a battery powered quartz movement? And a £2000 one, at that? I appreciate your exasperation but do not worry. All is as it was. As you will learn from my passionate yarn below, the Grand Seiko 9F quartz watches have hand craftmanship lavished upon them to rival any haute horlogerie independent brand and are worth every single penny.
The Grand Seiko 9F movement has been made as perfect as a battery powered quartz movement possibly could be. This all ties in with Seiko’s life-long philosophy, first initiated by Kintaro Hattori in 1892 when he created the Seikosha Factory. By the way, Seikosha is Japanese for “House of Exquisite Craftmanship”. Talk about setting your stall out early. Kintaro Hattori’s two famous sayings were “Customers always favour a quality product“, and “Always stay one step ahead of the rest”.
Allow me to elaborate about this aspirational perfection with the 9F movement as a paradigm:
- Each 9F movement is hand built, from start to finish, by a single, highly trained, watchmaker in the Shinshu Watch Studio at the Seiko Epson factory in a clean room environment.
- The movement has a high tolerance regulator that allows the watch maker to perform incredibly small adjustments to the movement’s accuracy.
- Seiko are the only watch company to manufacture their own quartz crystals, giving them superior quality control over their rivals. This in-house quartz is then paired to an IC for maximum accuracy.
- The movements are thermo-compensated and shock resistant. Quartz crystals are most vulnerable to temperature fluctuations and shocks.
- Seiko developed their own twin stepper motor to motivate the seconds hand. The hand moves twice each second, which is imperceptible to the human eye. This is unique.
- Grand Seiko incorporate a “backlash auto-adjust mechanism” to allow every tick of the seconds hand to be precise to every second marker, completely free of the usual juddering associated with quartz movements. This backlash mechanism employs a spring, much like a hairspring, that not only keeps the hand aligned to each second marker but also utilises the tension of this spring to totally eliminate any backlash. This is unique.
- The 9F movement has a high torque movement that allows for the large and, relatively, heavy Grand Seiko customary hands to be utilised. This is also unique.
- Unlike all other movements the date changes instantaneously. In fact, the date switches at the ridiculous rate of 1/2000th of a second. Imperceptible to the human eye. This is, you’ve guessed it, unique.
- Particular attention was made from day one in the design process to allow for incredibly long service intervals. The hermetically sealed 9F movement does not need intervention, apart from battery changes, for 50 years.
These bullet points above drive home Grand Seiko’s commitment to create watches that are as close to perfection as is humanly possible.
This Japanese way of thinking is transposed over to the case and bracelet. Regardless of whether your Grand Seiko is manufactured from steel, titanium, gold or platinum the highly trained craftsmen and women employ a technique called Zaratsu polishing. This labour-intensive process is a derivative of the centuries-old technique for polishing Katana swords. The case and bracelet are all finished by a handful of artisans using hand and eye only. A final, high accurate, template in quality control ensures the polisher has created symmetrical perfection once again.
This is by far the most beautiful silver tone dial I have ever seen. I appreciate any object’s aesthetics are subjective but this isn’t like “My wife is gorgeous, why don’t you think so?”, just look at that dial.
Seiko’s proprietary High Definition antireflective coating gives the optical illusion of there being no glass. The designers have managed to create a captivating transmutational and iridescent finish that is equally stunning in all of its hues as a result of ever changing light sources. It is simply mesmerising. And yet it is also classical as well, as befits the rest of the watch. The diamond polished applied hour markers and hands reflect light to offer a high contrast despite the dial being silver. The seconds hand is sublime in its tapered cylindrical design and execution. Easily, the nicest seconds hand I have seen (alright Watch Nerd, calm yourself down).
I love the simplicity of this dial. It is far more difficult to create an aesthetically pleasing simple dial than a dial that is overwhelmed with detail, as is becoming the norm. Simply having the Grand Seiko script and applied GS logo is pure aesthetic reverie.
The only other embellishment to the dial is a simple and discreet monochromatic date window.
Also available, and equally stunning, are the piano black SBGX261 and the enamel white SBGX259.
Image courtesy of Grand-Seiko.com
Image courtesy of Grand-Seiko.com
Case and bracelet
The 37mm diameter is perfect for this style of case, in my humble opinion. The more contemporary SBGV205 and SBGV207 have a 40mm diameter.
The bracelets links are buttery smooth at their outer edges as a result of the exclusive, aforementioned, Zaratsu polishing by hand. Extended wear comfort is guaranteed.
The crown has a high relief GS logo engraving that stands up to the closest scrutiny. Further owner peace of mind is assured by the 100m water resistance, despite have a user-friendly push-in down crown.
Optimum wearer comfort is ensured as a result of the previously mentioned hand polishing of the bracelet links and the, comparative, lack of weight. The size is ideal for my 7 ¼ inch wrists. I have been blissfully content to wear this watch with a full suit ensemble and dressing down to the extremes at the beach.
By the way, if 10 seconds per year is just not accurate enough for you Grand Seiko have released a small number of ultra high precision 9F motivated watches that will gain or lose no more than 5 seconds per year, guaranteed. Just ridiculous. These can be identified easily by the 5 pointed star on the dial. The latest issues were announced this year to commemorate 25 years of the 9F movement.
Almost identical to the original Grand Seiko 9F is the SBGT241 with the rare 9F83 movement with day and date display.
The original 9F Quartz. Image courtesy of Grand-Seiko.com
Image courtesy of Grand-Seiko.com
Setting the bar incredibly high for quartz watches is the gorgeous steel and gold (also rare for a Grand Seiko) with the typical Japanese whimsical addition of a sapphire glass case back. This seems irrelevant folly for a static movement but just look at the detailing of the movement. I love the capricious dial with it’s subtle GS9F motif in continuum. Also, take note of the subtle 25, in the same font, next to the 5 O’clock position (the 25 past the hour point to signify 25 years anniversary).
Image courtesy of Grand-Seiko.com
As a self-confessed watch geek I have always favoured high end, preferably in-house, mechanical movements. Having worked, in a previous life, as an engineer for an electronics company, creating Quartz crystals, I am aware of the mass-produced stigma that immediately springs to mind when thinking about cheap electronic watch movements. This was, of course, the catalyst, for the Swiss watch crisis back in the 1980s.
However, it should be of no real surprise to now learn that I broke rank and bought the exquisite Grand Seiko 9F quartz described above.
Seiko are the granddaddy of the quartz movement. It is befitting that they should aspire, through their tireless campaign for watch making flawlessness that is Grand Seiko, to produce the best quartz movement available. The 9f is no mass produced, assembly line movement with no human interaction throughout.
A chronometer rated quartz movement only(?) has to be accurate to 25 seconds per year so, in automotive parlance, I believe this makes the Grand Seiko 9f movement a hyper quartz.
As far as performance is concerned there is some positive and some negative feedback from my ownership. The positive is that, in the 7 months I have owned this watch, it has gained less than 1 single second! Even I can work out that this equates to less than 2 seconds a year. As a percentage of accuracy, I am further staggered to learn that this beautiful little timepiece of mine is 99.999994% accurate! That would be mind boggling for a watch that had been let in a vacuum for the seven months. However, this watch has been subject to all that a daily wearer has to go through, including one of the hottest summers on record and road cycling excursions on a bike that could loosen fillings.
The slightly frustrating negative is that, although the date changes, as advertised, quicker than I can see it happening, it happens at about 6 minutes past midnight. This may be unique to my watch (our others in stock all change much closer to midnight), but it would have been nice to have this change at bang on midnight, allowing Seiko to advertise that the date is never incorrect. It is still the most amazing and exceptional situation to witness, however.
I can not complete this review without addressing the elephant in the room: price. The asking price may seem incongruous to the uninitiated but, hopefully, I have argued the Grand Seiko quartz’s corner to the point where you also feel this family of meticulously finished/detailed/engineered timepieces with their world leading technology and specifications are excellent value. I am not advocating that Grand Seiko is at the top of the tree for fit and finish, before I am vilified for over-exaggeration, for case and movements, but at the price point for the entire range there is no better manufacturer, in my opinion.
To conclude, I adore this watch. I proffer the argument to potential customers in our store that a quartz watch is more practical and more accurate than a mechanical one. All the time not being convinced myself. It was going to take something incredible for me to pay a high-end premium for a battery powered quartz watch. The Grand Seiko Quartz SBGX263 is that watch, and I couldn’t be more delighted with it.
I love the fact that I can put it on after any period of isolation and it will be the correct time. Not ball park. The absolute correct time. It wears perfectly, and Seiko’s design aspiration of comfort has created a steel watch that has the right amount of heft without becoming uncomfortable or overbearing in any way.
The dial is a constant pleasure to view and is worth the asking price alone.
I have been told by a reliable source that this very family of Grand Seiko quartz timepieces are regularly gifted in Japan to employees as long term or achievement awards. The Grand Seiko quartz is the model, errr, model for this because it so close to perfection it what it pertains to be and can easily be considered the ultimate every day watch. I would certainly be motivated (yes, even more so) at my place of work if there was a chance of one of these being bestowed upon me.
As a final conclusion, I would say that the Grand Seiko 9F quartz SBGX263 is one of the most pleasurable watches I have ever owned. You have all of the benefits of a luxury timepiece without any drawbacks that can inflict such pieces (inaccuracy, finite power reserve, dis-comfort, legibility). The Grand Seiko quartz has not just converted me from the head of the mechanical watch debate team, it actually resonates with all that I love about the world of high end horology.
Along with time our greatest luxury is pleasure. In whichever individual way we wish to create this for ourselves. And for this, now converted, watch aficionado it comes in the shape of a quartz watch. Who’d have thought it?
All words and images by Richard Atkins, unless otherwise stated. Use of this article in whole or in part is strictly forbidden without permission of the author.