Right, so this was not the watch I was intending to buy when I went to go check out a new Grand Seiko Authorized Dealer. I was looking to pickup something in the quartz lineup and hopefully a GMT, but truth be told I wasn’t even set on buying something.
And they had a couple of the watches I had been eyeing — I didn’t even know this particular watch existed, as I had never seen it before, or glossed over it if I had. But when I saw this in the case, I knew I wanted to try it on, and as soon as I tried it on, I knew I was going to end up snagging it.
This is the Mist Flake, aka SBGE285G.
It’s going to be hard to put this into words, but this is a truly phenomenal watch, probably the best watch I’ve ever handled, let alone owned or worn for extended time. So there’s that. And technically speaking, it is also very impressive.
Dimensions & Movement
The specs on this are worth spending some time on, because Grand Seiko really undersells this watch (and all of their watches). At a high level, this is a True GMT movement, Titanium case, 100m water resistance, with a 41mm diameter. That’s the highest of high levels I can give you, but it really doesn’t tell the entire story.
First, the entire watch case, and bracelet, are what Grand Seiko calls “High-intensity titanium” — and I had no clue what that meant. The best explanation of this I found is from Mark Mcarthur-Christie writing for Escapement Magazine:
Seiko is making the cases for this particular range of watches from what they’re calling ‘High-Intensity Titanium’. After a bit of digging, it looks as though rather than a case finishing process, this refers to the composition of the metal alloy itself; titanium, iron and niobium. The watchmaker also says this alloy is more scratch-resistant than stainless steel with a Vickers hardness rating of 250-350 (stainless usually comes in around 150-250).
It clocks in at about 30% lighter weight than 316L stainless steel. More than that, and it is still early days for me, I cannot find anything more than some very light snail trail type marks on the bracelet. I should be able to see more by now, but this metal is astounding.
A few smaller points to give you a breather: box sapphire crystal with AR coating on the inner surface; and LumiBrite on the hands/indexes which is fantastically good and a different color on the GMT marker.
Case is 41mm diameter, with a 48.3mm lug-to-lug, and 13.9mm thickness — that’s deceptive as it wears smaller and thinner thanks to smart case design. As with most Seiko’s this Grand Seiko’s bracelet is a little bit of a let down: there are no micro-adjustments and instead just half-links which use an annoying pin and collar system. The width is 22m, so you could toss straps easily on it. I got the fit just right, but many won’t.
Ok, there’s two things I find really interesting about the specs on this watch. The first is the Spring Drive, which I was aware of, but did not fully appreciate. This Spring Drive is the 9R66 with a 72hr power reserve.
For those who don’t know, the practical difference with this movement is that the second hand moves perfectly smoothly around the dial — no small stutters like on a mechanical movement. I’ll skip over the why on that, instead focusing on the part I didn’t know.
This watch is rated at +/- 15 seconds per month, or +/-1 second per day. That’s insane. And yes, when you realize what is going on here, maybe that’s less surprising (it’s a hybrid movement with a quartz crystal) — but I had no clue. In practice my watch is tracking at +0.3 seconds per day — blowing everything else I own out of the water.
The next bit is the water resistance, which is noted to be 10 bar, or 100 meters. That’s a little underwhelming at first. But, those who own many watches know that each manufacturer applies different thinking to their ratings. Some say that you can “swim” with a 50 meter rated watch, others advise you do not swim with their 100 meter rated watches. So at 100 meters, even with a screw down crown — what does that mean?
Grand Seiko actually gives really practical advice in their manual about this, specifying two things:
- Performance of 10bar: “Water resistance for everyday life at 10 (20) barometric pressures”.
- Conditions of Use: “The watch is suitable for diving not using an air cylinder.”
Ok, maybe the first one is not that useful — but that second one? OMG. Basically Grand Seiko rates 5 bar watches for swimming, and 10 bar watches for anything short of scuba diving. That’s impressive as hell.
Alright, enough with the specs…
On the Wrist
Ok, so I need to start off with the fact that this watch is my favorite watch I own, so it’s a little hard for me to color this accurately. A good place to start is what it is, and here’s some marketing snippets from Grand Seiko on the watch:
This “go-anywhere” Spring Drive GMT watch looks as good at the office as it does at home but has a dial that is inspired by the landscape where it was created. It has a delicately textured surface pattern that echoes the morning mist that envelops the mountains of Nagano, the home of Spring Drive, in winter.
With 10 bar water resistance, a see-through case back, an anti-reflective coating on the inner surface of the sapphire crystal, this is a GMT watch for every occasion.
In a lot of ways, I see this watch as a more refined/dressy variant of the extremely popular Rolex Explorer II with white dial (aka Polar Explorer). It has those vibes, with a light color dial, a fixed 24hr bezel, and lots of brushed surfaces — but at the same time the Grand Seiko Zaratsu polishing on the bevels, indices, and hands subdue the pure tool watch vibe. The grey dial is also subdued — it almost looks as though this isn’t that legible of a watch to wear.
But you would be wrong. Anyone who owns a Grand Seiko will tell you that you almost don’t need lume, as the polishing is so outstanding, that it catches any hint of light and reflects it. That’s the case here, with a matte grey dial, the lumed hands and indexes still have enough polishing surface area that they make the dial very legible in all lighting conditions — it’s impressive. My Datejust is less legible than this (meaning: instantly readable at a glance), and it has a charcoal dial.
So in a sense this is of the same design language as a Rolex Polar Explorer, except that it’s not at all. Because the Explorer IIs are beasts on the wrist, and this is not. It’s light, incredibly light, as the titanium makes it feel amazing. It is the most comfortable watch I have worn.
I love the weight of a heavier watch, but after a while it can become “noticeable” on your wrist which is not always good — the Grand Seiko seems to disappear. Some may not like that, but it’s executed perfectly here.
And the lume is tremendous on this, some of the best out there. It glows all night, charges up easily, and is nicely applied to make it a part of the design, without making it steal from the aesthetics of the watch. (I’d say it’s about 10-15% better than the lume on my Tudor.)
Watching the spring drive in action, and seeing how deadly accurate it is — I kick myself for not getting one sooner. It’s a fantastic movement to live with, and feels effortless. The power reserve is a nice touch and keeps me feeling good about not needing to wind the watch between wears.
The only downside to this watch is the bracelet. Which while lovely, and comfortable, is not as adjustable as it should be for a modern watch. This will make it hit and miss. I had to do an extra round of adjustments with the half links to get it to land perfectly, but once I did I had no issues.
A micro adjust would not kill Grand Seiko, but they seem to be against them pretty strongly. I know this is the most common complaint, but given that this is my first go with a Grand Seiko bracelet, I feel I too need to echo the sentiment. That said, it is a nice feeling bracelet and not nearly as bad as others make it out to be.
Like most Grand Seikos, this is a hard one to take your eyes off of. Unlike my other Grand Seiko, this one is incredibly versatile and wearable. I don’t know of many (any?) situations where this watch wouldn’t work for me, where I would need to take it off for use-case or fashion reasons.
It’s quite a watch, and quite amazing.
This is an astoundingly good watch. It hits all the marks: comfortable, durable, accurate, beautiful, and versatile. If one of my watches wasn’t my grandfathers, I would be very happy with this being the only watch I own, and it is certainly getting a lions share of the wrist time since I picked it up.
Aside from the bracelet, the price is slightly up there at $8,400 MSRP — but if you are benchmarking this against something comparable from Rolex, then you are still getting a fantastic value from Grand Seiko.