As longtime readers of WatchTime well know, Grand Seiko is a brand that has become known for turning to nature as an influence for its timepiece designs. This past month alone, we saw the latest display of the watchmaker’s affinity for natural phenomena, the forest-inspired Heritage Hi-Beat “White Birch” Ref. SLGH005, and before that a pair of releases celebrating different elements of Japan’s Mt. Iwate.
As part of its 2021 collections unveiled this week, and in commemoration of parent company Seiko’s 140th anniversary, Grand Seiko continues the trend with the release of its largest nature-inspired collection to date, comprising four new Elegance GMT watches (an example below), each celebrating a segment of twenty-four seasonal phases observed in Japan.While at first glance this inspiration might seem complicated, in Japan it is common to break down each of the four traditional seasons — that is spring, summer, fall, and winter — into twenty-four total seasonal phases, or sekki, with each of the traditional seasons composed of six total sekki.
The new watches, each using the now familiar Elegance GMT base design, are the Shunbun Ref. SBGJ251 (for the spring equinox),the Shōsho Ref. SBGJ249 (for the summer solstice), the Kanro Ref. SBGE271 (for the autumn equinox) and the Tōji Ref. SBGE269 (for the winter solstice). The Shunbun and Shōsho are fully mechanical, containing Grand Seiko’s Hi-Beat 36000 GMT Caliber 9S86, while the Kanro and Tōji use the brand’s quartz-mechanical hybrid Spring Drive GMT Caliber 9R66.
Shunbun Ref. SBGJ251
Leading the group of four is the verdant, spring inspired Shunbun Ref. SBGJ251. The watch is so named for the peak of spring at the equinox: the special two-week period or so in April when cherry blossoms bloom, and sakura blossoms decorate the mountains of the Japanese countryside.
The Grand Seiko GMT Elegance steel case measures 39.5 mm in diameter and 14.1 mm thick, with a simple right-side crown, tapered lugs, a round bezel, and sharp finishing throughout. The rounded case connects directly to a brushed and polished steel bracelet, itself secured via a three-fold clasp with a push-button release.
Underneath the box-shaped sapphire crystal lies the green textured dial of the Shunbun, with its unusual, almost sunray appearance that provides an additional spark of life. Like the case, the dial features the Elegance GMT format, complete with an outer printed minute ring punctuated with applied indices for most of the hours, and broken up by an outlined date window at the 3 o’clock position. Within this ring of indices is an alternating analog ring for the second timezone, with printed Arabic numerals and triangular markers. At the center are four hands, two produced in Grand Seiko’s signature dauphine style for hour and minute, a matching pointer for the seconds, and a contrasting, gold-colored arrow hand to indicate the second time zone, the gold color chosen to harmonize with the green dial in “perfectly [capturing] the promise of spring.”
Powering the Ref. SBGJ251 is the Hi-Beat 36000 GMT caliber 9S86, an in-house automatic mechanism developed by Grand Seiko. The caliber, as its name indicates, beats at a frequency of 36,000 vph, has an accuracy of +5/-3 seconds per day, hosts 37 jewels in its construction, and holds a 55-hour power reserve. As with other watches produced in the Elegant GMT style, the caliber will be on display via a sapphire exhibition caseback.
Shōsho Ref. SBGJ249
The Shōsho Ref. SBGJ249 takes its inspirations from high summer and the conclusion of the rainy season in Japan. Like the Shunbun, the Shōsho also features the same 39.5-mm steel case and mechanical movement, being differentiated solely by its dial texture and accent colors.
A closer look at the unusual dial reveals a surface of rippling light blues and whites, the unique look accented with deeper blues, blacks, and metallics. According to Grand Seiko, at the conclusion of the rainy season, many thousands of lakes and ponds are formed, with the start of Shōsho bringing new “warm winds” and sunshine to create delicate, shimmering ripples across these bodies of water throughout Japan. The dial strives to bring this majestic view to life, with the colors and textures meant to represent in vivid detail rippling waters in the summer sun.
Kanro Ref. SBGE271
The dial of the Kanro ref. SBGE271 is designed to emulate the peak of the fall season, when “the evenings draw in and there is a chill in the morning air,” when the moon “[glides] … across on the night sky” and “Autumn is at its height.”
Differing from the previous two models, the Kanro opts for a slightly larger, 40.2 mm steel case, though it is slightly thinner at 14 mm. These adjusted proportions come as a result of the Spring Drive movement the watch contains, while the case’s design, finishing, and bracelet are all otherwise the same. The dial configuration of the watch is also slightly different, adding a railroad-style outer minute ring, a different placement for the second-time-zone analog numerals, an additional Spring Drive power-reserve indicator in its bottom left corner, and a skeletonized GMT hand.
The deep black dial of the Kanro is slightly textured with cloudy greys to recall the clouds and moon in a nighttime autumn sky. Additionally, the dial opts for special gold accents, these presumably to recall the golden harvest season that autumn often represents.
Powering the SBGE271 is the Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT Caliber 9R66. The integrated automatic movement features a quartz regulator ensuring an accuracy to +/-1 second per day (or about +/-15 seconds per month). Among its other features, it uses 30 jewels, holds a solid 72-hour power reserve, and like its Hi-Beat sibling in the previous two watches is visible via a sapphire caseback.
Tōji Ref. SBGE269
Rounding out the four new releases is the Tōji Ref. SBGE269, a piece inspired by the winter solstice in Japan. The Tōji uses the same case dimensions, dial configuration, and Spring Drive movement as the Kanro, though it stands on its own with its dial color and texture.
Specifically, the dial features Grand Seiko’s interpretation of a Japanese winter landscape on its facet, with a textured surface recalling expansive snowbanks and golden accents for the sun’s fleeting glimmer on their surfaces during the short, crisp days. The intriguing, almost powdery texture instantly calls to mind the look of fresh, slightly irregular snow.
Availability and Pricing
Each of the new models is available now directly through Grand Seiko and via the brand’s authorized boutiques on a running, non-limited basis. The fully mechanical Shunbun Ref. SBGJ251 and Shōsho Ref. SBGJ249 are priced at $7,100, while the Spring Drive-equipped Kanro Ref. SBGE271 and Tōji Ref. SBGE269 are marked at $6,300.
To learn more and inquire for purchase, you can visit Grand Seiko’s website, here.