In 2019, Grand Seiko unveiled the Japan Seasons collection to great acclaim. That initial launch featured four watches, each of them representing one of Japan’s twenty-four sekki (or micro-seasons) that mark the progression of the four seasons. SBGA413 (Shunbun) is a celebration of the vernal equinox that evokes the spirit of the fleeting sakura season. SBGH271 (Rikka) marks the days when spring passes over to summer. SBGH273 (Shubun) evokes the autumnal equinox, and specifically the moment when day equals night. And SBGA415 (Taisetsu) represents winter’s heavy snow as it gathers and shines against the sunlight.
The following year, Grand Seiko expanded the collection with two special edition timepieces exclusive to the United States named after one of the twenty-four sekki known in Japan as sōkō. Sōkō, which means “frost descends,” marks the end of autumn, precisely at the moment when the first frost embraces the forest. In the case of references SBGA427 and SBGA429, the two watches making up the Sōkō collection, the forest in question is the famed Arashiyama bamboo grove, a lush attraction of towering bamboo stalks covering 10 square miles in Kyoto.
Today, Grand Seiko announces four new timepieces continuing the brand’s exploration of the twenty-four sekki: SBGJ249 (Shōsho), SBGJ251 (Shunbun), SBGE269 (Tōji), and SBGE271 (Kanro).
Continuing the Japan Seasons
The initial Japan Seasons collection placed all four references in the modern interpretation of the 62GS case design. Other than dial aesthetics, the main distinctions among the four are the case material (stainless steel versus titanium) and the movement (Hi-Beat versus Spring Drive). SBGA413 and SBGA415 feature High-Intensity Titanium cases and are powered by the Spring Drive 9R65 caliber, and SBGH271 and SBGH273 feature stainless steel cases and are powered by the Hi-Beat 9S85 caliber. Sōkō was a departure from this foundation. SBGA427 and SBGA429 unveiled a 39mm version of a case design that harkens to the contemporary Grand Seiko Style, a design language first introduced in 1998 and reinterpreted by Sōkō designer Kioyotaka Sakai. Both watches are rendered in stainless steel and feature the Spring Drive 9R65 caliber.
SBGJ249 and SBGJ251 utilize a case design seen before in references SBGJ217 and SBGJ219, two Hi-Beat GMT models from the Elegance Collection. The case measures 39.5mm across and 14.1mm thick, the latter number accommodating a vintage-inspired box-shaped sapphire crystal. SBGE269 and SBGE271 pull from a similar case design of reference SBGE277, a Spring Drive GMT model also from the Elegance Collection. The case diameter measures a bit larger at 40.2mm, and a touch thinner at 14mm, which also includes the box-shaped sapphire crystal.
Despite the slight differences in dimensions, both cases are interpretations of the first-ever Grand Seiko case from 1960. The softly contoured case features beveled lugs and Zaratsu-polished sides for a distortion-free finish, a Grand Seiko mainstay.
Though all four watches feature a GMT complication, the engines, which can be seen through an open case back, are quite different.
SBGJ249 and SBGJ251 are powered by the Hi-Beat GMT 9S86 caliber. Running at 36,000 bph, caliber 9S86 has a 55-hour power reserve and an accuracy rating of +5/-3 seconds a day. Through the utilization of MEMS to manufacture precise lightweight parts, and through the development of new Spron alloys for the mainspring and hairspring, Grand Seiko was able to create high frequency movements that could maintain a 55-hour power reserve while running at a beat rate of 36,000 bph.
SBGE269 and SBGE271 run on caliber 9R66, a Spring Drive GMT. Produced at the Shinshu Watch Studio in Nagano, Spring Drive is a proprietary movement that combines a mainspring with an electro-magnetic regulator that functions without an external power source. It delivers a precision of one second a day, offers 72 hours of power reserve, and has a second hand that advances in a smooth, gliding motion, a feature unique to Spring Drive.
Both calibers 9S86 and 9R66 are “true” GMTs, which means that the local hour hand is independently adjustable while the GMT hand remains fixed to “home” time. The benefit of this sort of GMT is that upon arriving to a new locale in a different time zone, the wearer can quickly jump the hour hand to the appropriate time on the 12-hour scale on the dial without having to reset the watch.
SBGJ249 (Shōsho) and SBGJ251 (Shunbun)
Shōsho takes us to high summer right when the rainy seasons ends. In Shōsho, the warm winds blow across the thousands of lakes and ponds throughout Japan, creating delicate ripples along the top of the water, shimmering under the early summer sun. This effect is captured by the dial of SBGJ249, with its horizontal ripple pattern finished in a light blue hue.
SBGJ251 focuses on a different expression of Shunbun, this time capturing the verdant bloom of the spring equinox with a vibrant green dial. Fans of the 2018 Kira-Zuri releases will find that the dial texture here looks somewhat similar. The subtle rose gold accents across the “GMT” text and hand offer a touch of warmth.
SBGE269 (Tōji) and SBGE271 (Kanro)
The winter solstice is in Tōji. This brings us to reference SBGE269, which, with its stark white dial and fine texture, evokes a winter landscape across a vast expanse. The golden accents represent the setting sun.
Finally, there is Kanro. In Kanro, autumn is at its height, and reference SBGE271 forecasts a cloudy, moonlight sky. For fans and owners of SBGA413 and SBGA415, the two original Spring Drive models from the Seasons Collection, the dial here should be familiar, featuring a similar pattern, but rendered in black.
Altogether, for the most recent series, Grand Seiko switched things up once again. All four watches pull inspiration from the aesthetic of the brand’s Elegance Collection, have stainless steel cases with matching bracelets, and feature a GMT complication for additional functionality.
Case: Stainless Steel
Dimensions: SBGJ249 and SBGJ251 – 39.5mm in diameter x 14.1mm thick; SBGE269 and SBGE271 – 40.2mm in diameter x 14mm in thickness
Movement: SBGJ249 and SBGJ251 – caliber 9S86; SBGE269 and SBGE271 – caliber 9R66