Entry Level Sure, Grand Seiko's Entry Level Is Quartz, But That Only Makes Me Love It More
Sure, there's no perfect watch, but I'd submit that if there were a platonic ideal of a watch, a watch so full of watch-ness as to be the purest expression of the form, it might look something like the Grand Seiko SBGX261 and SBGX263. Let's call them the SBGX Series. They also happen to be the least expensive watches in Grand Seiko's catalog, making them the perfect feature for another edition of Entry Level.
These are time-and-date watches with black (SBGX261) or silver (SBGX263) dials that measure 37mm in diameter, with accuracy to +/- 10 seconds a year, featuring the simplest of polished markers and sharp dauphine hands. If you look at them, they're just watches, pure and simple, that cost an equally unalarming $2,200. But when you look closer, you see that Grand Seiko has executed every single element – sparse as they are – precisely.
It's a perfect expression of Grand Seiko, and honestly, for me, an illustration of what I love so much about watches, too.
I'm kind of a low-key guy, so the vibe of the SBGX Series immediately appeals to me. These are classic "simple, but not boring" watches. The stainless steel case is as polished as you'd expect from Grand Seiko (which is to say: shinnnyyy), with a few facets that catch the light in just enough ways to keep things interesting. Sure, there's no lume, but with those polished hands and indices – look at the bevels on those hands! – it's not like you need it. And while it might not be a true sports watch, the case still has a sporty detail I love: drilled lugs, baby. By the way, with 100 meters of water resistance, I wouldn't be afraid to throw the SBGX Series on a NATO and dive deep for some serious underwater basket weaving.
Okay, on to the quartz of it all. Yes, the SBGX Series uses Grand Seiko's 9F quartz movement (the 9F62 to be exact, which this watch is). We put together a pretty good explainer on the 9F62 when we reviewed the older SBGX061 years ago, but here's the bottom line: this isn't just any quartz movement. This thing is "thermo-regulated" – it checks the ambient temperature 540 times a day and uses this info to adjust the frequency of the crystal to compensate (temperature is one of the biggest variables affecting the rate of quartz). There are all kinds of other details too: a hyper-quick date change, a regulator, and the movement's even got some stripes and jewels (nine of 'em).
An average, cheaper, quartz movement might be accurate to within 10-15 seconds a month, so for the 9F to have this level of accuracy per year is a stepwise improvement that should be recognized as such. Saying this is "just another quartz" movement is kind of like saying that Tom Brady is "just another quarterback," a statement I recognize as absurd, even having grown up in Indianapolis believing that eventually, Peyton Manning would get ole Tommy's number. Not only is this the most handsome quartz watch in the league, it's super accurate too, and it's got the titles to prove it (notwithstanding last Sunday's poor performance – and the Sunday before that, too).
We can classify quartz movements the same way we do mechanical movements, and the Grand Seiko 9F is in a class of its own. Oh, and it's also totally "in-house," if that's something you care about. Seiko grows its own raw quartz, saving the best stuff for Grand Seiko's calibers; it also has its own semiconductor facilities.
Sure, you don't get the smoothness of a sweeping seconds hand, but you do get something else that's kind of satisfying: You can watch the seconds hand tick forward each second, always landing exactly on the second marker. I'll grant that it's not as soothing as that sweet sweeping seconds, but it's not as bad as we sometimes make it out to be.
Listen, the SBGX Series isn't without fault: The bracelet could be better, but if you've handled enough Grand Seiko watches, you probably could've guessed that already. But remember – drilled lugs! So pop the bracelet right off and throw it on your strap of choice. As I said, this isn't the perfect watch, I'm simply saying it's one of the purest expressions of a watch you'll ever find. It's not trying to be anything but a thing that tells time accurately. All those mechanical watches are fussy; Grand Seiko's said before that the 9F can run for something like 50 years without needing lubricant changes (it'll just need a battery change every few years).
At $2,200, the SBGX is a perfect entry point into Grand Seiko. While there's been much fuss about the brand's move "upmarket," these watches have been unaffected by such corporate strategy, industry trends, or even the current moment's inflation. And thank goodness for that. I won't deny there's some decent mechanical competition at this price point – much of it from Grand Seiko's less grand sibling (and don't get me started on vintage values) – but if you just want a watch that you can buy and forget about for literally 50 years, well, you've found it.
THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON www.hodinkee.com