The recent release of the Grand Seiko “Omiwatari” SBGY013 Spring Drive, with its new dial colour and nine-link steel bracelet, is bound to confirm the leading position of this “Pathway of Gods” dial-design-inspired edition as a fan favourite. Until recently, the Grand Seiko Heritage Collection reference SBGA211, a.k.a “Snowflake”, was the watch fans of the brand placed on top of their wish list. The release of the “Omiwatari” SBGY007 in 2021 stole hearts, and for a good number of reasons, this new SBGY013 is a fine addition to the family.
It is no surprise that a brand like Grand Seiko is seeking to spread rich and exciting Japanese traditions and history. Now, before anything else, the godly theme requires some explanation. Not many people would otherwise learn of a Shinto God, Takeminakata-no-kami of the ancient Suwa Taisha Shrine. He leaves his domicile in winter, when the ice of Lake Suwa is thick enough, to cross the lake to visit Yasakatome-no-kami, a Goddess. She resides in the Lower Shrine of Suwa Taisha, on the other side of the lake. The trail Takeminakata-no-kami leaves is the Omiwatari. This Omiwatari is a natural phenomenon – the water of Lake Suwa freezes over, and a long ridge appears in the ice from one side of the lake to the other. The colour, feel, and texture of the snow-covered ice on Lake Suwa is the inspiration for the exclusive dial decoration we see in this Grand Seiko reference.
Not knowing the story does not make this Omiwatari watch any less attractive, though. The SBGY013 comes in a stainless steel round 38.5 mm case, 43,7 mm lug-to-lug width with a sleek 10.2 mm thickness. All the Omiwatari’s surfaces are mirror polished; the bezel, lugs, and the caseback ring holding the sapphire glass. The lugs curve to fit the wrist with a great degree of comfort; we expect nothing less from any watch in the Elegance collection. The case is rated as “splash resistant”, but it is hard to imagine anyone taking this elegant Grand Seiko to the Aquapark or similar adventures.
The dial steals all attention and makes this watch a pleasure to own. It is clean, understated, and – thank you, Takeminakata-no-kami, the power reserve indicator has been moved to take its place on the back side of the movement as if to make way for the Gods should they wish to cross the dial. The first Omiwatari reference had a subtle and exquisite ice-blue dial with a wave ripple-like texture. This pattern is made by hammering a mould with several types of hammers.
The SBGY013 Grand Seiko Omiwatari offers the same pattern, only the colour is a shade of white, “recalling a frozen Lake Suwa covered by snow”. The dial is slightly domed down with curved indexes that are diamond cut and shine brightly. The hour and minute hands, as well as the heat-blued seconds hand, are curved too. In a mesmerizing fluid motion, the latter moves around the dial without the slightest tremor thanks to the hand-wound Grand Seiko Spring Drive calibre 9R31, also found in the Asaborake SBGY011.
Only eight watches in the Grand Seiko catalogue house this 9R31 movement, accurate to +/-1 second per day and capable of 72 hours of power reserve, thanks to the dual spring barrel (two mainsprings set in parallel). This unprecedented performance is made possible by the innovative use of both mechanical and electronic technologies, where the mainspring drives gears. A rotor connected to these gears generates an electric charge powerful enough to supply the circuit and a quartz oscillator. It is a unique Japanese technology, with the Swiss looking in a similar direction, but nothing ever came to light. If Accutron springs to mind, it has some common conceptual ideas, but Spring Drive, as the name suggests, is all about the spring, where electrostatic generators are used in an Accutron movement.
The Grand Seiko Omiwatari SBGY013, as previously mentioned, is distinguished not only by the new dial colour. It also comes on a stainless steel bracelet. The nine links are alternatingly polished and brushed for a touch of contrast. The folding clasp has release buttons and is engraved with a GS. The bracelet is said to be adaptable to SBGY007 and SBGY003 models if this is of any interest to you.
Despite the apparent similarities, the two Omiwatari references are very different and great-looking elegant Grand Seikos. It beats me why the icy blue was not offered right away with a bracelet option, or even better, both strap and bracelet that are easily interchangeable, but they know better in Japan. If I had to choose between the two, I would go for the SBGY007, icy blue with a strap. The Grand Seiko Omiwatari SBGY013 Spring Drive watch is not a limited edition; the retail price is EUR 8,800 or USD 9,000.
For more information, please visit Grand-Seiko.com.