Grand Seiko SBGA387 Review
Today we’re going to look at the SBGA387, one of three new Grand Seiko limited editions for 2018. Of the three, which includes the rose gold SBGA384 and the platinum SBGA385, the SBGA387 is by far the most affordable, thanks to its stainless steel case. It’s also the most colorful, featuring a light blue dial.
All three, however, are set apart from other Grand Seikos by their incredibly elaborate dials. The other two are relatively subtle, but the SBGA387 wears its textured dial quite proudly, thanks to the fact that it’s much more colorful than its brethren.
The dial is inspired by a Japanese painting technique known as “kira-zuri,” which I’m told translates to “sparkling painting.” This was, apparently, used in ukiyo-e paintings to create the textures used in depictions of kabuki actors. I’m not a Japanese art historian, so I’ll just have to take GS’ word on this, but the dial is undeniably fascinating. Unlike most other GS LE dials, like the SBGM235 I recently reviewed, which have clear, premeditated repeating patterns, the SBGA387 feels more natural and more random, as if each dial were bespoke for this particular watch. In that sense, it has that effortless feel of classics like the SBGA011/SBGA211 Snowflake.
The color, a light blue, is more vibrant than the other two models of this collection. It’s an interesting choice, because the blue isn’t at all subtle, yet it’s so light that it remains unobtrusive. It reminds me a bit of the Rolex Day-Date’s “ice blue” dial, although Grand Seiko’s take on it seems a bit bolder. It’s quite a departure for GS, a brand that often uses blue dials, but these are nearly always very dark, very rich blues, like the SBGH051 or the SBGA105.
Unlike the matte-white Snowflake, however, the SBGA387’s dial retains Grand Seiko’s famous dynamic character, with the fabric-like texture reflecting light in myriad ways as it moves. It is, as its Japanese description would suggest, akin to a sparkling painting.
The SBGA387 uses Grand Seiko’s polished dauphine hands, accented by a blued seconds hand. These hands are perhaps even more amazing than the dial, with their perfect polishing and finely beveled edges. The hands are consistently one of my favorite parts of a GS. I was slightly worried that the seconds hand might get lost against the blue dial, but because the blued hand is much darker that’s never the case.
The same is true for the applied hour markers, which feature similarly beveled edges.
The date is nicely implemented, with an applied frame that matches the rest of the face. However, it would have been nice to see a light blue backdrop for the date ring. That might have compromised legibility, but it doesn’t seem to have been a problem with other writing on the dial. Still, this is the practice of virtually all watch brands these days, so I suppose it’s to be expected. To GS’ credit, at least, the date is large and easy to read.
The steel case is of the 44GS variety, likely Grand Seiko’s most popular. It’s 40mm, which is pretty much my ideal size of watch, and a nice balance that’s large by classical standards but subdued by contemporary ones. That is to say that I suspect this size will age well, as it is somewhere between the fads of small and large watches.
The signed crown is large and easy to grip, but the spring drive movement takes so little effort to wind that they could have gotten away with something more demure. The crown screws down, which normally annoys me in dressier watches, but in my experience, spring drives are so accurate, have such long power reserves, and get so much energy from their automatic winding mechanisms, that you rarely need to unscrew the crown anyway.
The SBGA387 is 12.5mm thick, hardly an ultra-thin, but reasonably thin compared to many other Grand Seikos.
The SBGA387 is powered by the mainstay of spring drive movements, the 9R65. The gold and platinum models of this limited edition receive the 9R15 “super spring drive,” but it’s worth remembering those models are $29,500 and $53,000 respectively. The upgrade to the 9R15 is unlikely to make much of a difference anyway, aside from the gold medallion on the rotor. The 9R65 is, after all, conservatively rated for +/- 1 second per day, sufficiently accurate to satisfy even the most demanding watch collector. In any case, both of these movements also possess impressive 72 hour power reserves.
The 9R65 is among the best-looking movements Grand Seiko has ever made. The only better looking movements offered by Grand Seiko are the more expensive 9R86 and the extravagant 9R01. This model receives a silver Grand Seiko emblem, replacing the extremely subtle (to the point of most owners not even knowing it’s there) etched GS logo in the sapphire. I rather like it, in no small part because it’s a nod to the days when GSes came with cool medallions on the back, and it doesn’t get in the way too much.
The SBGA387 is arriving now, although you can still reserve yours here. Priced at $6,800, it’s much more affordable than its gold and platinum versions. Only 558 will be made of this great watch, and light blue dialed GSes don’t come along often, so I imagine it’ll be gone pretty quickly.