Sunday Morning Showdown: Grand Seiko SBGH269 Rate it or hate it? Whose side are you on? by Rob NuddsMarch 22, 2020 MIN READSunday Morning Showdown: Grand Seiko SBGH269
In this Sunday morning column, two of our writers go head-to-head in an epic showdown for the ages. Strong opinions and hysterical hyperbole are welcome (so feel free to join in with the fun in the comments section below). And don’t forget to let us know which watches you’d like to see torn to shreds/effusively exalted next week. We’ll try and feature as many of our readers’ choices as we can. As springtime breaks across Europe, we’re taking a decidedly unseasonal route to celebrate: The Grand Seiko SBGH269, inspired by the autumn.
Ah, the season of death. What’s not to love? As an adult, it is sheer bliss. School begins. Everything goes quiet. The gambling optimism of spring ends up in a butcher’s window somewhere, and everything around you reminds you time is running out… So what better way to make yourself feel better than to buy another luxury watch? And this week we’ve got a real doozy for you (well, at least that’s what I think…).
Before we start our debate regarding the Grand Seiko SBGH269, we must address the results of last week’s showdown. As you might have predicted, I got my fanny pack handed to me by RJ’s vibrant defense of the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore. Now, while every loss stings (this one drops me to 3-3 on the season), I feel pretty good about corralling over 40% of the vote. Yes, it was a solid win for RJ and the Offshore oglers, but it was a respectable beating. And, ostensibly, I live to fight another day. So come on, Hodges. Give it your best shot. It’s gonna take something special to knock this Japanese masterpiece from is lofty perch.
When we got the call to debate this watch, it has got to be said, the nay-sayer camp was pretty small. A cynic may even infer that you’re setting yourself up for an easy win, Mr. Nudds. Well, I am not going to let that happen. I genuinely do not understand why this particular Grand Seiko is so popular.
Rob: A cynic indeed…
Firstly, the SBGH269 was dropped into authorized dealers without any details or embargo dates. As word got out, Grand Seiko started pulling the plug on ADs releasing the info and publications had to retract any posts, as our friends at Scottish Watches found out. Conversely, Grand Seiko just did a massive release dump of new novelties this month (which the team covered fantastically here), but even I struggled to keep up. PR is not Grand Seiko’s strong point right now. Anyway, I was pulled up by RJ in my last SMS for talking about everything but the watch itself, so here we go…
You mention the SBGH269 is inspired by autumn, but more specifically, Grand Seiko says “…the leaves of autumn colors are reflected in the lacquered wooden floors of traditional Japanese architecture.” Floorboards? The inspiration for this red dial is floorboards?! I’m now convinced that the designers at Grand Seiko just look around their office for inspiration. Then saying it is “distilled Japanese tradition.” Will we see the water-cooler influenced dial soon? Or why not have fluorescent-tube lighting as indices?
Rob: You do know that Japanese water coolers are awesome, right?
To me, the dial here looks like closed red curtains at a show’s grand opening. And just like at a theater, I’m more interested to see what’s behind the curtain. But then when you flip the watch over, all you get is a bright green rotor blocking the entire view of the movement. What exactly are Grand Seiko hiding here? It must be a lot considering how thick this watch is. Last time I checked, this is a time and date watch with 100 meters of water resistance. So why exactly does it need to have a 13.4mm thick steel case to fit such a simple complication? Please educate me here, Rob.
Ahem, credit where credit’s due — that was a great opening gambit. Extolling a Grand Seiko (especially with the dedicated Fratelli as an audience) is just about the lowest-hanging and juiciest fruit a man can munch upon, but at least I picked one that was inspired by the reflections seen in floorboards to give you a chance. And your second point is also valid: Grand Seiko’s communication strategies are sometimes a bit head-scratching. But here’s the thing with a brand like Grand Seiko, which, let’s face it, is entirely product-driven: When your products are that good, you don’t really need to say anything.
Brands like Rolex have the story. Brands like Bremont have the ambassadors. And brands like HYT have mind-blowing horological humdingers to lever your cash from your pockets. Grand Seiko is its products. The brand really does need to tweak its communication model when trying to break into European markets (as the opening of a new European arm suggests it is keen to do), but, ultimately, the watches themselves will always — always — be front and center for this truly wonderful manufacture.
I really liked your theater analogy and will attempt to rebuff your criticism of the backside view with one of my own. The one thing I dislike about the Grand Seiko models that mostly grab my attention (basically anything powered by the Spring Drive system) is the naff case back crystal printing. The hi-beat specials, in my opinion, have easily the best case back views of all Grand Seikos. This mottled rotor finish (which we’ve seen before in other colors) reminds me of kinis (or slammers if you prefer) from POGs. Do you remember those? Maybe not what you want in a multi-thousand-euro watch, but what can I say. Pogman lives in me. And what are watch collectors if not big kids that found an acceptably adult hobby to obsess over?
Sure, the rotor is green. It’s a bit weird. And, as our dear Karina pointed out, along with the gold brand logo on the dial, makes for a more festive than autumnal affair. But, come on, Ben. It just. Looks. Cool. But not as cool as the up-coming water cooler limited, I’ll give you that…
Ben: You impress me, Rob. You’ve made it this far without mentioning the quality finishing, or the used the dreaded term, “zaratsu”. There was a time when Grand Seiko was offering supreme value for money. The thing is, that time has now passed. At $6,400, I fully expect the SBGH269 to have top-notch polishing. Speaking of that price, you’re attempting to sway me by referring to the rotor as a POG?
Does the grooved dial remind you of the scan lines of a Tamagotchi, whilst we’re having a 90s throwback?
Rob: Well, at least you don’t have to remember to feed your Grand Seiko…
And when it comes to the finishing, these days it’s almost a moot point. Perhaps the case of the SBGH269 is, as you mention, so thick to give the polishing artisans of the GS manufacture space to ply their craft. But everyone who’s considering buying a GS knows that the finishing is absolutely top drawer. But it’s the same for all of the brand’s products. It isn’t what makes this one in particular special.
And, buddy, the price is still a big plus for models like the SBGH269. Yes, some of Grand Seiko (and Seiko’s) pricing is more confusing to look at than an Escher while high, but these models, given their direct market competition, represent a good buy in terms of bang for beans.
Ben: You may not need to feed your Grand Seiko, but for the price, your family will be eating those beans for a while.
Let me be clear though, I am a fan of Grand Seiko. But for me, my interest lies in the incredible Spring Drive movements that better represent Japanese innovation. Alongside this are the icy dials that glisten and reflect the patterns in the snow in changing winds.
While the Hi-Beat watches are technically more advanced, ironically, I find they leave me cold. Especially this “warming” Autumnal Grand Seiko SBGH269. But what does the audience think? Let’s turn this seasonal stud over to the masses.
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About the author
Rob’s first exposure to the watch industry was a part-time retail role for the Signet Group at the age of 17. An obsession with watches soon developed. Following an ill-advised BSc in Archaeological Science, he applied for sponsorship to undertake… read more
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