REVIEW:

Borrowed Time: Hands-On with the Grand Seiko SBGV245


Earlier this year, Grand Seiko quietly released two timepieces within its Sport Collection. These two watches, SBGV243 and SBGV245, weren’t as flashy as the releases we saw from the Japanese firm at Baselworld 2019, nor did they utilize a mechanical movement or one of the brand’s Spring Drive calibers. Instead, Grand Seiko equipped both of these watches with one of its emblematic 9F quartz movements, a decision that — in my opinion — only serves to enhance the watch’s appeal. We recently got our hands on one of those two watches, SBGV245, for a trial period to see where it fits within Grand Seiko’s ever-increasing lineup of timepieces. 

The Grand Seiko SBGV245 is a relatively new addition to the Grand Seiko catalog and is one of the brand’s first sports-oriented quartz watches that isn’t a diver.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen Grand Seiko build an impressive amount of brand clout within the minds of American consumers. Gone were the perceptions built during the heyday of the Quartz Crisis of a company intent on pushing away our anachronistic mechanical comforts and replacing them with cold electronic timekeeping machines; today, Grand Seiko occupies rarefied territory among watch enthusiasts worldwide due to its ability to coexist in the genre of accessible luxury while firmly maintaining its superlative watchmaking ability. 

The new SBGV245 fits firmly in the realm of accessible luxury with a price of $3,000 (same for its black-and-yellow sibling, SBGV243). This figure fits well into the lower portion of the current Grand Seiko catalog. In fact, only the 9F62-powered SBGX259, 261, and 263 feature a more affordable price tag in the hierarchy of Grand Seiko timepieces. While four figures might seem steep for the average quartz watch, it’s important to note that the 9F82 movement inside the SBGV245 is vastly different from most quartz out there. 

The dial features soft horizontal brushing.

Seiko pioneered quartz timekeeping in 1969. Today, the brand is one of very few to grow its own quartz crystals in house. The first 9F caliber, released in 1993 after five years of development, represented the pinnacle of quartz technology, something the brand has continued to improve on in the 26 years since. Among that movement’s attributes were an instantaneous calendar change for the date display; a “backlash” auto-adjust mechanism that allowed for a cleaner “jump” of the seconds hand with no “shuddering”; a twin-pulse control system for increased torque, which allowed for larger minute and second hands that reached all the way to the dial’s edge; and a special shield that protected the gear train and motor from dust. The most impressive part for watch enthusiasts back then just as it is today, however, might just be the accuracy rating of +/- 10 seconds per year, effectively launching the trend of high-accuracy quartz.

The dial is largely absent of additional branding.

The movement inside the SBGV245, Caliber 9F82 with date, is a beefed-up version of the more standard Caliber 9F62 built to match larger case sizes. Speaking of, the dimensions of the SBGV245’s stainless-steel case come in at 40 mm with a thickness of just 11.8 mm. While the SBGV245 and SBGV243 were directly preceded by SBGV247, a JDM limited edition that was released last year to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the 9F movement, Grand Seiko selected this year’s two releases as the first regular production models to feature an entirely new case design for the brand, something Grand Seiko says is intended for a “tough and rugged lifestyle.”

Following Seiko’s long-held aesthetic tenets of the “Grammar of Design,” the case is defined by sharp facets and angles that dart around the raised bezel that fits prominently above the main structure of the case. The lug design, which for Grand Seiko typically follows a more flowing and sloping arrangement, has been slashed short and contours directly downward on the wrist. The finishing, of course, remains to the masterful quality than Grand Seiko is known for with broad swathes of vertical brushing on the front-facing portions of the case, an almost intimate level of horizontal brushing on the dial, and Zaratsu polish ever-present on the angles of the case as well as on the dauphine hands and indexes. In tandem with the pale color of the dial, which switches between silver-gray and off-white, the case dances with light in unexpected ways. While at first glance the watch may seem overly sober — if not almost austere — the depth of finishing offers a more textural wearing experience that benefits the SBGV245’s sporty designation. It also leads to a high degree of legibility for the watch. Speaking of readability, Grand Seiko injected a powerful dose of Lumi Brite into the center of the hour indexes and hands. Each pool of luminescent material glows bright green and stays that way — at least for an extended period. 

The rest of the design choices fall in line from here. The caseback is of the screw-down variety and features the traditional Grand Seiko lion medallion; the fluted crown is screwed down as well. The former provides the watch with enhanced resistance to magnetism and the latter is indicative of both the “set-it-and-forget” nature of quartz-based timekeeping and the watch’s heightened water resistance, which is specced to an impressive 200 meters, the same depth that Grand Seiko’s standard dive watches like the SBGA229 are measured to.

The screw-down caseback features Grand Seiko’s traditional lion medallion.

The final aesthetic choice that Grand Seiko took with the SBGV245 is the decision to equip the watch with a Cordura/ballistic nylon strap with a deployant buckle. This combination is a first for the brand and it’s something that matches the dial color well. That being said, I wouldn’t mind seeing how the watch looks on a bracelet, or even a sleek rubber strap to hammer home its sporty orientation. Even a standard NATO would suit the SBGV245 well. Although I didn’t take the time to switch the strap out, Grand Seiko has made it a simple procedure due to the presence of drilled lugs. 

The Cordura/ballistic nylon strap is a first for Grand Seiko.

The Grand Seiko SBGV245 is a versatile watch. It deftly navigates the hard-to-tread terrain between that of a pure sports watch, and that of a daily wearer. It has the robustness to be worn while working in the yard, yet could work as a dress watch in a pinch. It’s a tool watch in that it can be depended on for to-the-second accuracy while on land or sea, but features a straightforward design language with an emphasis on details and finishing. The SBGV245 stands out due to all these factors and offers an ideal entry point into the greater Grand Seiko collection. 

4 Responses to “Borrowed Time: Hands-On with the Grand Seiko SBGV245”

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  1. martti_s

    Chronomaster or Grand Seiko?
    The former has a technological upper hand while the latter is a statement for perfection in execution. Either way, you cannot go wrong.

    Reply
  2. I had been searching for years for a watch that can accompany me on life’s adventures, rugged enough and waterproof but with a sense of elegance and style. Finally, Grand Seiko came through with this one.I didn’t want the ubiquitous numbered dive bezel since I only swim and snorkel. My other problem was, I don’t like wearing bracelets and most luxury / high grade timepieces come with one. The strap/ clasp on this model is exceptionally good. Beautifully finished even with a little Seiko lion engraved on the metal keeper. I’ll also say that while the photos here are pretty good you really do have to see the watch to appreciate the subtle finishing and quality. It almost looks boring in photos but on the wrist it is captivating. So happy to find the watch I really wanted after several mis-steps.Grand Seiko have done an excellent job with this to the point where i can hardly fault it. And for those who wouldn’t buy a quartz. This has a three year power reserve. ( Basically, the time it will keep running when you take it off your wrist ) can’t beat that..or the accuracy with a mechanical. The icing on the cake is that this can look dressy but it has full lume too!

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  3. It sure would be nice if Seiko could engineer an instantaneous date change into their spring drive and classical autos. It was a bit of a surprise to see the date change start at 11 pm and then look half-changed for an hour when I got my snowflake. They obviously acknowledge that the date change being instantaneous is important, because they emphasize how quickly it happens on their 9F movement.

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  4. Greg Romines

    I want to thank Mr Baker for his fair treatment of the quartz movement in this piece. If one is to pay upwards of two grand for a wrist watch, isn’t it reasonable to expect the level of accuracy the 9F affords? Your open mindedness on this gives your writing all the more credibility in my eyes.

    Keep up the good work.

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