Grand Seiko SBGM221G

This is a far cry from being something which could be my only watch, but it might still be my favorite watch.

I was on a mission to see if I could get my hands on something silly, something different — but I wasn’t set on buying. In my mind there was one, maybe two watches, I would snag if came across them: Rolex GMT-Master II ‘Sprite’ (the new left handed one); Tudor’s Pelagos LHD; yeah, ok probably a Polar Explorer II. Those who know watches might be smiling at the thought of walking into an ‘AD’ find one of these watches right now. And that’s where I was coming from: if fate let me find one to buy, buy I shall.

What I didn’t expect was a display of Grand Seiko in the store. I had only seen a few Grand Seiko in person, and after finding out they had none of the watches I assumed they wouldn’t have. I walked over to look at the Grand Seiko, after all: I was there. They had the SBGM221G front and center, a watch I had long looked at, and admired — never seen in person.

It was stunning. I put it on, and it looked even better. My wife said “yeah, get that” and so we did. It might be my favorite watch I own. Let me tell you more about it.

Movement and Specs

This watch is an automatic movement, the 9S66, which is not the Hi-Beat or Spring Drive — but it is regulated to +5 to -3 seconds per day on average. It boasts an impressive 72 hours of power reserve as well.

The case is a 39.5mm diameter with a lug-to-lug of 46.9mm and a thickness of 13.7mm. The height looks visually smaller, as it includes the box shaped sapphire crystal — and the case itself has a lot of dimension to it — visually it looks thinner no matter what the dimensions state. The case offers 4,800 A/m resistance, but a disappointing rating of “splash resistant” for the waterproofing (I suspect 3 atm at the most).

The watch is a GMT with a Date complication. The GMT is a true GMT, or travelers GMT, with a jumping local hour hand. All in all, the specs are hard to put in words, but practically speaking it feels more than on par with my other luxury watches. It’s a great automatic movement, excellent complications, and a near perfect case size.

What’s Grand Seiko?

Right, so, you probably saw that the price on this is $4,600 MSRP, and are wondering why a ‘Seiko’ would be worth that. But this is a Grand Seiko, and that means it is one of the two high-end luxury lineups that Seiko runs. Grand Seiko is a group which focus on the art and craftmanship of watch making. To polish a case of a Grand Seiko using the famed Zaratsu method — that takes 5 years to learn.

The blue GMT hand on this watch? Hand done, both sides. So what is a Grand Seiko? It’s Japan’s answer to Rolex — and it’s a damned impressive answer at that. When looking up Grand Seiko to write this blurb, one comment I kept seeing is that you cannot accurately photograph what makes a Grand Seiko special — I could not agree with that more.

In person, this watch (and all of the GS I have handled) look even better than in the best pictures of them — and I already thought this looked amazing in pictures, in person it is next level. Of all the watches I wear to the office, this one gets the most comments. If you have a chance, go look at them in person.

Grand Seiko is playing at a very high end tier. It’s best to not think of Grand Seiko as a part of Seiko, but rather in the grouping tier of Rolex, Omega and the other swiss luxury players.

On My Wrist

In a word: comfortable. This watch wears spectacularly, better than any other watch I have to wear to the office. While it is missing two big things I normally look for in a watch: bracelet and lume. Here the lack of a bracelet is a feature, as a nice crocodile leather strap in a deep brown with a deployant finishes the watch nicely. It looks dressy, without being too dressy. I typically struggle to be comfortable with a leather strap, but I’ve found this particular strap to be more comfortable than many bracelets I own. Something I didn’t think was possible. Even walking around in hot weather with a wrist getting sweaty, the watch remained comfortable and my wrist at ease.

Then there’s the lack of lume, and what looks like a lack of high contrast. High polished silver hands, on top of an ivory dial, with applied high polish indices — it has the making of a hard to read watch. But it’s highly legible in practice. The hands are so well polished they reflect even a flicker of light, and make them easy to read on top of the dial — if there’s a lumen of light to grab, the hands grab it to show you the time here. The date wheel is a machined/brushed metal disk with black numerals, it almost glows the disk with a hint of light hitting it — again impossible to capture in words or images.

And that’s what it is like to wear this watch generally, it’s thousands of little polished facets catching even the faintest of light to remind you this watch is there. It looks extraordinary in person. The shape of the case itself is at once classic, but organic. Culminating in a watch that has fantastic presence on the wrist, while also being a very versatile size which still slips under the cuff of your shirt with ease.

There are some quirks with the watch. The GMT hand is small, and while the blue is lovely, in some light it fades to something less vibrant. The clasp/buckling is backwards, something pointed out to me when buying as an oddity of the brand, which looks odd for the first week and then makes you wonder if everyone else has been doing it wrong all along.

And then there’s the water resistance, or frankly, the sheer lack of it. Why? Why not even 50m of resistance so that there’s a level of confidence in a rain storm. In this day and age, with the case making abilities Grand Seiko possesses, it seems out of place to not have a greater rating.

Even with those caveats, I cannot stop wearing this watch. It flies under the radar as a ‘Seiko’, and yet it wears like so much more than that. I am often staring at it, and people assume I am timing something, but really I am entranced in all the small facets catching light and dancing about. You truly cannot capture this in images.

And that’s before you get to the power reserve. Take it off after work on Friday, and pop it back on Monday — it’s still sweeping away, ready for the new week. You’ll not likely take it off much, but it has stellar power reserve should you need to take it off for a dip in the pool.


In the watch world, the true grail is the watch which could be your ‘only’ watch. Is that this watch? Not for me, simply because leather is hard to make your only watch, and this watch is not something I would want to bang around when hiking and adventuring. But if you like heritage looks, and a rigorous day is having to dash to an Uber in a light rain, then this is perhaps the perfect watch for you.

I kid, a little.

It’ll survive most rain without issue, and the reason I wear it as often as I do, is because it is a near perfect office watch, and business travel watch. I really love this watch, and suggest you check one out. It’s a best seller for Grand Seiko for a reason. In my collection of watches, it’s my favorite.

More info here.

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