The highlight of 2021 for Grand Seiko has been, without a doubt, the White Birch Hi-Beat SLGH005, a watch that came on the market with a stunning silvery-white textured dial, a relatively new case design (sharper and slimmer) and an impressive movement with multiple mechanical innovations, including the Dual Impulse escapement. For a couple of years now, Grand Seiko is definitely hot and its watches are becoming highly sought-after. Now that the year 2021 has ended, it seems that another watch is slowly taking the White Birch’s place on the throne, a watch that isn’t new as it came on the market in June 2019… But for the US only. We’re talking about the Grand Seiko “Shunbun” SBGA413 and its surprising pink dial. And since it will soon be available worldwide, alongside 3 other Season editions, it might well be on its way to becoming the new hottest GS on the market.
The trend for coloured dials…
For long, luxury watches have mostly been available in traditional colours. Alongside classics that are white/silver and black, we’ve seen blue as the trend for the 2010s, followed by salmon and recently green dials. Still, the colour spectrum is large and there are multiple paths to explore. With the liberation of mentalities and the growing effect of the unisex watch, bright colours are less and less reserved to what used to be once named the women’s watch. Light blue, turquoise, pink, yellow, orange are all growing fast in collections, and even for the most traditional brands.
Even though it has been introduced in mid-2019, at the time as a US-exclusive model, the Grand Seiko Shunbun SBGA413 made a relatively discreet entrance. Maybe it came too early to really make an impact. Back in 2019, and even though it’s not that long ago, the trend for lightly coloured wasn’t yet what it is today. In my opinion, the trigger came in 2020, when Rolex launched its Stella-inspired Oyster Perpetual collection, the 41mm ref. 124300 and the 36mm ref. 126000. This collection, beyond classic dials in silver, black or blue, also included colours such as racing green, yellow, bright red and mostly, light blue and light candy pink. Then came Oris with the Cotton Candy collection. And of course, a few weeks ago, Patek Philippe and Tiffany teamed up to create the Tiffany-blue Nautilus 5711, the hottest watch on the market now. With this in mind, it seems that the trend for the beginning of 2022 is truly on these funky, light coloured dials.
Surprisingly, the Shunbun SBGA413, when it has been introduced in 2019, somehow flew under the radar. Back then, many were still talking about the Snowflake Spring Drive SBGA211, and with the arrival of the White Birch, all minds have focused on this impressive watch and its silvery-white texture dial. But then came the growing trend for coloured dial and the announcement of the 4 Seasons collection being released worldwide, giving this range of 4 watches and specifically the Shunbun SBGA413 a boost of visibility. One thing leading to another, the watch seems to have gained impressive traction in the past weeks, making it to us the new go-to Grand Seiko on the market now…
The Grand Seiko Heritage Four Seasons “Shunbun” Spring Drive SBGA413
The Grand Seiko Shunbun or SBGA413 was, as said earlier, presented in June 2019 as a part of a quartet of watches available exclusively for the American market – something that Grand Seiko does quite often, with Europe-only editions or US-exclusive models. Here, the 4 watches in question were a celebration of the seasons, with a watch dedicated and inspired by all 4 moments of the year. Seasonal changes have been an inspiration for Grand Seiko before, with watches representing the unique characteristics of spring, summer, autumn and winter. The concept is comparable to the Grand Seiko Elegance GMT 4 Seasons collection we featured earlier. There was a pair of purely mechanical, high-frequency watches, dedicated to summer (the dark green SBGH271) and autumn (the dark blue SBGH273). And there were also two Spring Drive models, the grey SBGA415 for winter and the pink SBGA413 for Spring.
The first important thing to keep in mind is that these watches are no longer the preserve of the American market and are, or will be soon, available worldwide from boutiques and retailers. More precisely, the watch that we’re looking at today, the spring-inspired SBGA413 will be available as of the 1st of February this year. And seeing the shift in the market, I’d say it’s the perfect timing to release this watch.
What is this watch? Well, its full name is the Grand Seiko Heritage Spring Drive Four Seasons SBGA413 (as always with Grand Seiko, names are not the easiest…) Let’s stick to its nickname; the Shunbun. Looking at the case, there’s a clear inspiration, that of the vintage Grand Seiko 62GS. Presented in 1967, this was Grand Seiko’s first watch with an automatic movement and, together with the 44GS released the same year, the watch that first expressed the design grammar, the Grand Seiko Style. This can be seen in the overall shape of the watch, with its strong shoulders, its multiple facets, the no-bezel architecture with large dial opening, the almost vertical facet at the tip of the lugs, the oversized bevel on the side and the internal angle between the lugs and the start of the bracelet. Sharp, sharp, sharp… The style was there to emphasize the Zaratsu (distortion-free) polishing technique and to demonstrate the brand’s design codes.
The Grand Seiko Shunbun SBGA413 is certainly inspired by the past and is a case study in design consistency, but its shape remains more than contemporary and fresh. The case is also using modern materials, as it isn’t made of stainless steel but of High-Intensity titanium. The use of this material is important since it brings a completely different colour to the case and bracelet – darker grey, thus contrasting with the bright dial – and a different feeling on the wrist, being lighter than steel (about 30%). The comfort is definitely improved, yet some will be surprised by the lack of heft. The feeling of luxury isn’t only visual but is, for some collectors, also perceived by wearing the watch. So, be aware, the watch is lighter than what your brain will imagine, and it can be surprising at first. Nevertheless, the finishing is, as you’d come to expect from Grand Seiko, impeccable. The surfaces, either brushed or polished, are flawless. The Zaratsu technique still makes an impression with its ultra-neat reflections. The separation between the different techniques is ultra-precise.
Besides these technical considerations, the Grand Seiko Shunbun SBGA413 is also a watch with almost perfect proportions. The case is 40mm in diameter, making it suitable for most wrists. The case isn’t particularly thin but at 12.8mm and for a casual watch, it remains totally manageable, specifically since the watch is equipped with a box-shaped sapphire crystal. And the 47mm lug-to-lug measurement is just below average, making sure the watch is comfortable. Other specifications include a screw-down crown and a 100m water-resistance. Plus, High-Intensity titanium brings better protection against scratches and corrosion, making this watch a trustworthy ally on a daily basis.
The star of the show in this Shunbun SBGA413 is, of course, the dial. As most of you might know, Grand Seiko watches are often inspired by nature and this watch is no exception to the rule. The SBGA413 is the brand’s vision of spring, and specifically of a short but important moment in Japanese people’s life, “Hana-Ikada, the much-loved scene at the moment soon after the spring equinox, Shunbun when cherry blossom petals scattered by the wind cover the surface of a river.” As such, the dial of this watch shows a very subtle light pink colour combined with a strong texture that represents sakura blossom petals. The beauty of this dial is that it doesn’t reveal its true beauty immediately. At a glance and under direct light, it might appear silver coloured. It’s only after a closer inspection that the pink hues come to life and that all the originality of this watch starts to make sense.
While the texture is very present and impossible to miss, the colour remains discreet, subtle and elegant. It thus offers its true nature mostly to the wearer of the watch, making it still perfectly wearable on a daily basis. The rest of the dial is typical GS, with ultra-sharp, extremely detailed and perfectly executed applied markers and hands. As always, and even if all elements are using the same tones, legibility is great thanks to the multiple facets and the way they reflect light… at least in daylight as there’s no luminescent material on this watch. Also, if the presence of the date window at 3 o’clock feels natural to me, the way the power reserve is integrated remains sort of a mystery. I truly believe that Grand Seiko could do a better job with the power reserve in its Spring Drive models.
As for the mechanics, we’re in known territories, with the Spring Drive Calibre 9R65, designed and made in-house, at the Shinshu Watch Studio. This “hybrid” movement combines the practicality of an automatic winding and the beauty of a mechanical movement with the superior precision of a quartz regulator. Indeed, the movement is wound by a central rotor, looks like a traditional mechanical movement but is rated at an impressive precision of ±1 second per day. And there’s the show offered by the smooth sweeping seconds on the dial. You can read more details about the Spring Drive technology in this in-depth article. The movement is protected by a sapphire crystal back, with the GS Lion logo transferred on its surface.
The Grand Seiko Shunbun SBGA413 is worn on a High-Intensity titanium bracelet, closed by a three-fold clasp with push-button release. The bracelet is supple, smooth to the skin and pleasant to wear. The only missing element is a fine-adjustment device on the clasp.
Availability & Price
The Grand Seiko Heritage Four Seasons “Shunbun” Spring Drive SBGA413 and its stunning pink dial will be available worldwide on the 1st of February 2022. It can be pre-ordered from Grand Seiko Europe’s online boutique now. It is priced at EUR 6,700 (incl. taxes) or USD 6,600 (excl. taxes).
For more details, please visit www.grand-seiko.com.