Things I love about my Grand Seiko SBGV238 9F 25th Anniversary Limited Edition

A few months ago, after my IWC Portofino failed so spectacularly to keep precise and consistent time in its first year of regular use, I threatened to “go quartz” in search of better timekeeping. Well, now I have!

I dipped my toes into the waters of luxury quartz watches a few months back with the Grand Seiko SBGV238, one of the 25th Anniversary Limited Edition pieces for the iconoclastic and quintessentially Japanese 9F quartz movement. In the last couple months, it’s hardly left my wrist. Only my vintage Movado broke the blockade for a short stretch but it wasn’t long before the Grand Seiko was back in action full-time. It just does so many bloody things well.

Here are a few of the salient things I love about this watch :

  • Accuracy and precision, never having to wonder how far off the displayed time is from the actual time
  • Shock resistance when leading active dad lifestyle. Suck it RM!
  • Sweat resistant bracelet (compared to all my other sweat-soaking leather straps)
  • Dressy enough for work and evenings out while being casual enough for weekend usei
  • Sapphire case back showing off 9F movementii
  • Design of numbers on date displayiii
  • Hand-finishing of case, bracelet, dial markers and handsiv
  • Manual application of indices
  • Secret “25” characters on dial at 5 o’clockv
  • No Rolex pretensionvi
  • Solid 18K gold bezel, rehaut, hands, hour markers, “GS” logo on dial, and date window
  • Proportion on wristvii
  • Comfort of braceletviii
  • Screws instead of pin sleeves on braceletix
  • Satin and polish finish of bracelet
  • Cheap enough to buy that it’s not preciousx yet expensive enough that it’s not cheaply made

Yet it was with this general contentedness that I arrived at the inaugural WatchTime LA event a few weeks back. Do you think I went home with anything else ? Of course not, though the URWERK EMC Time Hunter X-Rayxi and the Kari Voutilainen 28tixii managed to steal my heart all the same. More boxes on the bucket list…

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  1. Part of this chameleon effect comes down to the fact that this GS is really a “two-tone” without having a two-tone bracelet. While “two-tone” gold/steel is definitely making a comeback after 20 years of being “uncool,” this is definitely a subtler and more refined interpretation. Will it prove more timeless ? I’m not really invested enough to care! For now, it’s every bit as versatile as the girl’s 278271.
  2. The SBGV238 is only the second Grand Seiko 9F to feature a sapphire display case back after the 2016 limited edition SBGV019G. It must be said that the display case back adds a beautifully interactive element to the watch. Something so lovingly crafted deserves to be exhibited. Hopefully more 9Fs with display case backs are on the way because the 9 jewel movement is frankly the sexiest-looking movement Grand Seiko makes this side of their manually-wound 8-day and Credor Spring Drive movements. Their run-of-the-mill 9S and 9R movements don’t hold a candle to the 9F aesthetically, to the degree that I’d rather see a solid case  back than the automatic 9S and 9R! Even the Caliber 9R31 in the new SBGY003 doesn’t “wow” like the 9F with its finnisage.
  3. Probably the single most unexpected and delightful elements of the entire design is the font used on the date dial. Who knew fonts could be so satisfying!
  4. #howdoyouzaratzu etc.
  5. In case you can’t make it out, the dial pattern is actually “GS9F” repeating and rotated 90 degrees to the right. Of the hundreds of “GS9F” characters, the two characters in-board of the 5 o’clock hour markers are “25” for the 25th . anniversary. The things you learn reading other people’s reviews of objects you already own and thought you knew pretty well, I tell ya!
  6. While I have increasing admiration for Rolex, there’s no denying that it comes with some pretty serious and pretty obvious baggage, which is the primary reason why I still don’t sport one.
  7. 40mm is a great size.Grand Seiko SBGV238 25th Anniversary Limited Edition
  8. The hand-finished bracelet comes with multiple half-links already installed whereas Rolex charges extra for each additional half-link.
  9. What now, Nautilus ?
  10. This is how I know I’m “ready” to buy new luxury goods : that I know I’ll own them instead of them owning me. Some people like owning precious things, whether watches or cars or clothes or what have you, but I can’t stand living on fucking eggshells, especially with two wonderful and active kiddos running around. I don’t wanna be the dad who spends his weekends yelling “that Calder mobile is NOT for hanging off!” or “that Rothko is NOT a whiteboard!” or “don’t flush that Greubel down the…. ahhh… too late… why you little!!!”And I never will, hopefully. Because if/when I end up collecting those kinds of things, they’ll either be out of harm’s way or I’ll be in a position to “Do A Liu.” Y’know ?
  11. The Time Hunter wears huge visually but since the case is titanium, it’s actually very light, secure, and wearable. Really no worse than the Apple Watch Series 4 at 44mm. The EMC is also the world’s first user-auditable mechanical wrist watch, and as you well know I have a certain fondness for user-auditable devices, and so too URWERK’s myriad innovations in time-telling.

    URWERK EMC TimeHunter X-Ray

    The original EMC won two GPHG prizes in 2014 : Innovative Watch Prize and Mechanical Exception Watch Prize. Rightly so! It’s so fucking cool.

    The EMC is also closely related to URWERK’s latest mindfuck, the atomically-regulated AMC, which WestTime in LA actually had on display and for sale in their boutique, if for a cool USD $2 mn. Somehow they’re not all sold out ? Yet there are lines around the corner for PNPNs and double-signed 2499s… And you thought man was reasonable. Ha!

  12. Also in titanium*, the 28ti shows off Kari’s resplendent craftsmanship dial-side. It’s a little less legible and a little less introverted for it, but it also reminds you why owning one of the Finn’s masterpieces is a must for serious collectors of independent watchmaking. His dial-making is legendary, but even when he skips the dials, Kari’s openness and ability to customise each and every one of the 60-70 pieces going out the door of his atelier each year makes the design process uniquely involving. What an experience that’d be!

    Kari Voutilainen 28ti

     

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    *Why is it that pretty much only the “independents” take titanium seriously as a case material ? Not only because titanium is difficult to machine but also because middle-of-the-road (ie. unsophisticated) consumers associate physical heft with value, and so prefer steel or even white gold and platinum for their “white” metals.

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