Grand Seiko is celebrating 25 years of its flagship 9S series of mechanical movements with the launch of two new GMT models, but it’s the outstanding ice-blue dials that are likely to catch your eye. In a way, the two pieces—one in the Sport collection and the other in the Elegance line—are as much a celebration of Grand Seiko’s outstanding dials.
Ice blue is making the rounds of luxury watches at the moment, and has become a popular color for special editions (Rolex’s platinum watches, for example, always have ice blue dials). These standouts are inspired by the skies over Mt. Iwate in Japan’s Iwate Prefecture, where mechanical watches are hand-assembled in Grand Seiko’s Shizukuishi workshop. The identification with Japan’s reverence for nature is an increasingly important element of Grand Seiko’s brand identity, and why not? The Swiss brands have been trading on the mythology and magic of the alpine origins of their watches for decades.
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The patchy blue dial of the Sport Collection GMT is inspired by the sea of clouds over Mt. Iwate at daybreak when the humid air forms dense clouds that overlap to create a kind of tapestry. It sounds almost kitschy, but it works on a watch dial, particularly on a sporty model like this one with its thick, darker-blue bezel. We have seen far more high-concept treatments on Swiss watch dials, including everything from meteorite slices to straw marquetry. The rotor has been treated with an anodic oxidation process to a matching patchy shade of blue.
The dial of the Elegance Collection GMT is a more even-toned, clear-sky representation of the horizon above Mt. Iwate, glowing under a box-shaped crystal that calls to mind dress watches of the ’50s. The dial is clean but for the discreet second-time zone index that corresponds to the tempered blue GMT arrow. The mirror polish of the dial matches the Zaratsu-finished sheen of the bezel and case.
The dials may be the attention-getters, but the movements are the meat of these pieces. The caliber 9S was designed from scratch to compete with the kind of high-precision chronometry the Swiss are delivering as a mark of today’s luxury watches. It has become the base on which all Grand Seiko mechanical watches are built, including the caliber 9SA5 with its dual-impulse escapement and Grand Seiko’s first mechanical chronograph, the Tentagraph, along with GMT watches in a diverse range of styles, including those with hi-beat movements.
The Sport model, SBGJ275, contains the hi-beat GMT caliber 9S86, with a frequency of 36,000 vph, equal to ten beats per second or 5 Hz. It drives three time zones that can be read at once. This is a limited edition of 2,000 pieces, priced at $7,600.
The Elegance edition, SBGM253, houses the 9S66 GMT movement, which has been outfitted with a titanium oscillating weight in Grand Seiko blue, also colored by an anodic oxidation treatment. The local hour hand is independently adjustable for quick setting. This 1,700-piece edition is priced at $5,500.
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