With its extremely precise mechanism and a nice sporty case, the new Grand Seiko 55th Anniversary Spring Drive Chronograph (ref. SBGC013) is a perfect (if not a bit overpriced) choice for a person who already has a collection of Speedmasters and wants to spice it with a lot more technologically advanced -and better finished- timekeeper from Japan.
This new watch is a perfect example of how a company that is mostly known for its affordable, made-by-millions, products can create a sub-brand that is to the world of watches as Bugatti is to the world of cars.
From the aesthetics point of view, this new timepiece looks like a slightly revised version of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT Chronograph (ref. SBGC005) that the Japanese brand has introduced around three years ago back in 2012.
Featuring the same shape, size, and dial layout, the new ref. SBGC013 looks like just another facelift with its revised bezel and new dial color, but there is a whole new beast lurking under its hood. Way more accurate and featuring a lot more refined finish to its oscillating weight and plates, this is the perfect mechanism to power the anniversary model of the flagship sub-brand.
Case & Strap
Measuring bearable 43.5 millimeters in diameter and around 17 millimeters thick, this watch looks even more massive thanks to the “muscular” shape of its case. In real life, however, it is not terribly large taking roughly the same amount of space on a normal wrist as, say, one of those recent Omega Speedmasters that this timekeeper clearly competes with.
The case is still crafted from what they prefer to call “High Intensity” titanium alloy that not only looks cool thanks to its unique color, but also offers an impressive level of scratch-resistance: something that many owners will appreciate after the first year of continuous abuse.
The control elements are very ergonomic, although the chronograph push-pieces are a bit too long to my taste (yes, I understand that the timepiece’s designer wanted them to be on the same line with the relatively short winding/setting crown).
For the new model, the Japanese watchmaker decided to use a brand new Caliber 9R96 automatic movement with an electronic balance regulator. Looking like a fine-tuned version of caliber 9R86 that powered the 2012 watch (throughout its history, Seiko has been known for its constant pursuit of an ideal caliber and it clearly shows here), it offers even more impressive accuracy gaining or losing no more than 0.5 seconds per day: an absolutely remarkable timekeeping ability for the hybrid technology.
Unfortunately, there is almost no information regarding the new movement. However, by the looks of it, I can assume that main changes were introduced to the regulator module since its physical layout, as well as main specs (it is still built on 50 jewels, beats at 28,800 semi-oscillations per hour, and offers three days of guaranteed power reserve) seem to be the same.
The mechanism is nicely decorated with a Japanese equivalent of Geneva Strips and its open-worked oscillating weight features their signature “Grand Seiko” Golden Lion emblem that not only works as decor but also makes the rotor a bit more massive thus making winding more efficient.
As before, the movement features manual winding capability, which is quite handy for those who don’t plan to wear the watch on a daily basis and doesn’t like winding boxes.
With its deep blue lacquer (that, by the way, changes its shades of blue quite nicely when looked at different angles) and mirror-polished elements (they look like they were treated with rhodium, although I am not really sure about the finish), the dial is very contrast. Despite a great number of indicators, the dial doesn’t look cluttered and is actually easy to read.
Although I have always preferred symmetrical layouts, the way they positioned the sub-dials (clockwise, there are 30-minute and 12-hour chronograph counters at 2 hours and 4 o’clock, a power reserve indicator at seven and the signature “gliding” small seconds sub-dial at 9 hours) actually speaks to me. Perhaps, it is this asymmetrical arrangement that makes this watch so attractive and, surprisingly, easy to read.
The 24-hour second time zone is still indicated by a secondary hour hand with the usual arrow-shaped tip.
Night time legibility is still a great problem of the device. Although probably supposed to be worn as a dress watch, the timekeeper deceptively looks like a sporty timekeeper, but, regrettably, have a single drop of lume neither on its hands nor on its hour markers. Compared to Omega Speedmaster that offers superb readability in almost any lighting condition, this new SBGC013 still doesn’t look very impressive.
Your mileage may vary, but for me, this is a serious flaw.
Pricing & Availability
On their web site, the SBGC013 is listed at a price of $10,500. While not terribly low, it is still about two Grands more affordable than the SBGC005 model that was mentioned above. As usual, only select stores will receive their share of the 300 timepieces that this model is limited to. You will probably have to act really quickly if you really need one of these devices.
Build quality: 5/5
Value for money: 4/5
Grand Seiko 55th Anniversary Spring Drive Chronograph (SBGC013) specification
Movement: Spring Drive, Caliber 9R96, in-house, Made in Japan
Number of jewels: 50
Movement frequency: 28,800 vph
Power reserve: 72 hours
Movement decoration: Vertical stripes, yellow gold medallion on the oscillating weight
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, chronograph, second time zone (GMT), power reserve indication
Case and Crown: “High Intensity” Titanium
Bezel: Black ceramic
Size: 43.50 mm
Case height: 16.50 mm
Dial: Deep blue
Hour markers: Applied
Hands: Brushed and polished
Water resistance: 100 meters
Strap: Brushed “High Intensity” titanium bracelet with polished inserts
Crystal: Sapphire, antireflective