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Thread: Review: Grand Seiko SBGH257

  1. #1
    Master yonsson's Avatar
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    Review: Grand Seiko SBGH257


    2017 is a big year for Grand Seiko. Seiko announced during Baselworld 2017 that GS (Grand Seiko) from now on will be separated from Seiko. What this means is that GS will now be considered a ďseparate brandĒ, meaning the GS line-up shall be able to hold its own with a complete line-up in all different categories of watches. GS has since the introduction 1960 aimed to compete with the best high-end Swiss made watches but there has never been a mechanical GS Chronograph or a mechanical GS diverís watch (until now).


    Seiko launched their first hi-beat diverís watch, the 6159-7000/7001 the year 1968. The 6159 movement was taken directly from a GS model and was only modified to be able to carry the larger hands required by a diverís watch. The watch had a monoque (one piece) case and a water resistance of 300 meters. The 6159-7000/7001 was discontinued a year later and replaced by the ďGrandfather TunaĒ, the 6159-7010 the year 1975.

    The discontinuation of the Grandfather Tuna left a void in the line-up of hi-beat diverís watches from Seiko all the way up til 2015 when Seiko released the SBEX001, a Prospex (Professional Specification) diverís watch with a 8L55 movement, meaning a hi-beat version of the 8L35 commonly known from the SBDX001/017 aka mm300. From that day we knew that it was only a matter of time until we would see a hi-beat Grand Seiko diverís watch and a hi-beat version of the 6159-7000/7001.


    The SBGH255/257 is not only the first mechanical diverís watch from GS, itís also the first GS Prospex model. The SBGH255 is a standard model with a black dial while the SBGH257 is a limited edition of 500 watches in the new Grand Seiko color scheme, blue and silver. The limited edition version also comes with a Grand Seiko blue silicone diverís strap to match the dial.



    SBGH257

    Diameter: 46.9mm x 17mm
    Material: Case and bracelet in high intensity titanium (only used for GS models)
    Vertical measurement (lug2lug): 51mm
    Band width: 23mm
    Movement: 9s85 (36000 vph, 55 hrs power reserve)
    Price: Fluctuates a lot depending on market.
    LE: 500 watches.


    Movement

    The 9S85 was introduced 2009 and is Grand Seikos first mechanical hi-beat (36 000 vph) movement. The movement has one mainspring resulting in a power reserve of 55 hours. The traditional prawl lever/magic lever introduced by Seiko 1959 has been replaced by a gear-train called the ďreverser wheelĒ, enabling effective bi directional automatic winding.

    The movements high frequency poses some problems, mostly regarding wear and lubrication. This has led to the development and usage of a high precision pallet fork and escapement wheel produced by using MEMS (Micro Electro Mechanical System). The MEMS escapement parts are used exclusively in todayís Grand SEIKO mechanical movements and in the latest generations of the 8L versions mentioned previously. The result is better lubrication and better timekeeping.

    Another thing to note is that the 9S85 is magnetically protected in the SBGH255/257 the old fashioned way, by a double caseback and a metal dial. The magnetic resistance meets the requirements of JIS 2. This is indicated by the double lines under the magnet inscription on the caseback.


    Case

    Grand Seiko cases are polished by a technique called Zaratsu which essentially is to polish the case against a flat rotating disc. This is what Casio calls Sallaz polish and the Swiss often call polishing by lapping machine. The result is a flat high gloss surface that doesnít distort the reflection. The Seiko polishers have perfected the art of polishing and they are continuously improving the technique to enable more complex case shapes.


    GS introduced the first model that utilized the Seiko design language ďGrammar of designĒ 1967. The designer Toro Tanaka introduced Grammar of design to improve the legibility and style of Seiko in general but it is mostly seen in the Grand Seiko and King Seiko line-up. Combining this design language with the Zaratsu polishing techniques is what distinguishes Grand Seiko from the rest of the watch industry and makes a Grand Seiko easy to recognize.


    The current designer, Shinchiro Kubo, has designed all of the Grand Seiko diverís watches; the SBGH255/257, SBGA029/031/229/231 (the Springdrive diverís), and the SBGX115/117 (discontinued quartz diverís watch). All of the previous GS diverís watches have however had curved lugs and a softer/rounder case shape than the SBGH255/257, so it pleases me that the hi-beat GS diverís watch got the sharp angled case that I consider to be the essence of Grand Seiko.


    The sharp angled mirror polished lugs of the case and the industrial designed bezel feels innovative yet reminds us of the design history. The sides of the case are brushed, just like the top of the case.


    Initially, I didnít like the case chamfering closest to the bracelet but now itís one of the elements I really like about this case. The high gloss chamfer matches the polished parts of the end links perfectly. As always with Grand Seiko, the finishing of the case is very close to perfectly executed. Both the bezel and the crown are recessed into the case which in turn results in a case shape that looks very compact. The overall case shape reminds me of the SBGH037 case, also designed by Mr Kubo.


    Bezel

    The polished part on the inside of the bezel inlay that meets the crystal hint that there is something new going on. The bezel construction is new and is developed to ease servicing of the bezel and eventual replacements of single parts. The bezel inlay is made by IP, Ion Plating. It looks ceramic but itís not. The reason for this is that Seiko feels that ceramics is fragile and can crack when suffering hard blows. IP parts are also cheaper to replace if bruised.


    The bezel inlay is slightly raised which offers great grip in combination with the deep grooves in the bezel. Turning it is a joy and the friction is just about right with no play in either direction.


    Caseback

    Turning the watch over reveils the solid screwed down caseback. I personally hate display casebacks so Iím happy to see that engraved lion looking at me. We also see the big chamfer of the back of the case which has been incorporated with most of Seikos diverís watches since the release of the 6215 model 1967. This chamfer in combination with the downward angled lugs are what makes the watch hug your wrist and sit great despite itís measurements.


    Bracelet

    The bracelet is specifically developed for the case of the SBGH255/257 and it has thicker links than we are used to. This is of course a positive since too thin bracelets is a common complaint from owners of Seiko diverís watches.


    The links are the new H-type introduced only a few years ago and the links have a new chamfer which looks great. The chamfer matches the end links and the case perfectly resulting in an overall great looking angular package. The weight of the bracelet is just about right and makes for a balanced weight distribution between the case and the bracelet.


    As usual with Seiko, titanium means pins and collars, a system which I like and which I in contrary to many people consider a great system. This system provides fast adjustments and prevents the need for Loctite to hinder screws from vibrating loose when diving/swimming.


    Clasp

    The clasp is the only obvious negative part about the watch. It is the classic bulky mm300/GS diverís type folding clasp with integrated divers extension. There is nothing functionally wrong with it but itís far from OK at this price point. It is made of partly folded metal and while its less obvious with these thick links, itís still way too thick at this price point.


    The clasp rattles when itís off the wrist but sits firm once the watch is on the wrist. The clasp features both regular micro adjustments and a 3cm ďon the flyĒ adjustment. The clasp is far from competitive at this price point. I did of course know about the clasp before I bought the watch and I have become used to the ďclasp aspectsĒ that comes with buying a Seiko diverís watch, but still, something surely needs to evolve.


    A closer look

    The designer, Mr Kubo got the inspiration to the dial during his first scuba diving experience. He was wearing a Seiko Tuna and he noticed that the gold color accents was the first color to disappear when descending. That effect made the luminous parts stand out and this is the reason for the color scheme of the standard black dial version (SBGH255). The limited version, the SBGH257 obviously got the Grand Seiko blue/silver color scheme to celebrate the GS independence.


    Mr Kubo was also mesmerized by the shape of the bubbles rising and that is where the design of the dial pattern comes from.


    The indices and the seconds hand are polished to a mirror finish, while the other hands are brushed. The dial color shifts from a very dark blue to a bright blue depending on the light conditions. There is always some part of the dial, indices or hands catching the light which results in that great Grand Seiko legibility.


    The date disc is silver which harmonizes well which the silver dial text.


    All the hands have perfect length and reaches where they are supposed to. The fantastic finish of all the detailed parts under the crystal is as usual with GS very hard to match, regardless of price point. Legibility is very very good.


    Another detail to note is that the GS high intensity titanium (only used for GS models) is brighter than what most consider to be the norm with titanium. In some lights itís just as bright as steel.



    On the wrist

    46,9mm sounds crazy for everyday wear, and while I was a sceptic before I bought the watch, I must say it wears great.


    As I see it, there are three negatives to wearability when it comes to large watches; They are too heavy, they are often too long lug to lug resulting in a bad fit and they have a tendency to hinder the movement of the hand since the crown or the case sides are bumping/digging into your hand.


    The SBGH257 eliminates all these negatives and even manages to not be too top heavy. This is achieved by using titanium, by making the lug2lug only 51mm, by integrating the crown and the bezel into the case and of course by chamfering the back of the case.


    The bracelet also tapers from 23mm to only 18mm, which works wonders when you want to bend the wrist. The large flat case sides and the overall brute appearance is deceiving.



    Conclusion

    I must admit I was quite disappointed when the SBGH255/257 was announced during Baselworld 2017. Sure, it looks amazing but I had been waiting for a hi-beat GS diverís watch for ever and when it was finally released it turned out to be a beast. A beautiful beast, but a beast non the less and a very expensive one.

    I did what I do most of the time and tried to resist, then I bought it anyway since I was so curious. I immediately realized what a fool I had been. I have now worn this watch pretty much nonstop for the last three weeks and I love it. I neither like titanium nor blue but with this watch it works great. Itís also nice that Seiko released the limited edition version in the new color combination that will represent Grand Seiko from 2017 and onwards.

    The design is fantastic, brutal yet sophisticated and it connect very well to the ďGrammar of designĒ heritage and still feels new and fresh. The finishing on the details is as always when it comes to Grand Seiko flawless and hard to beat regardless of price point. I really hope that Grand Seiko sticks to the sharp angular designs which for me represents the essence of Grand Seiko.

    There are however a few negatives, as there always are. The clasp is far from OK at this price and the silicone strap is so bad I donít even want to include it in the review. As a Seiko fanatic however, these flaws where expected and I can easily live with them since the rest of the package is so great. The special box for this model (and a few other 2017 LE models) looks like a very nice watch case for three watches but sadly doesnít include three pillows which I find odd. It would be a great bonus for those purchasing a new LE model.

    From my point of view, the SBGH257 stays true both to the Prospex aspects of Seiko and the minimalist perfectionist philosophy that is Grand Seiko. The hi-beat GS diverís watch is basically a Seiko Tuna by GS, making it a very nice Grand Tuna, or ďBlue whaleĒ, as I like to call it.

    Iím very excited to see whatís next for Grand Seiko as they continue to broaden the lineup, hopefully there will soon be a mechanical ďair diverísĒ with the same design.
    Last edited by yonsson; 23rd February 2018 at 21:00.

  2. #2
    Master murkeywaters's Avatar
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    Lovely...but, the hands.. so many high end watches look great but lack detail on the hands, in this case the second hand is finished with polished bevels on the center which looks great, but if the hour/minute hand had polished bevels to complement the brushed it would give it so much more attention to detail and reflect light at different angles which GS is know for..

    Great review and macro shots by the way.
    Last edited by murkeywaters; 22nd December 2017 at 12:43.

  3. #3
    Master
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    Great review, thanks for sharing. The finishing on that is fantastic and like you, I think the case chamfering adds to the watch

  4. #4
    The facets on the lugs and bracelet...utterly sublime. The precision!

    Lovely review, and stunning photos.

  5. #5
    Master
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    Great quality, amazing details, fantastic movement.

    Just wish GS would make the dive watch that everyone is waiting for - 40mm, new clasp and GS accuracy and details

  6. #6
    Master mindforge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steppy View Post
    Great quality, amazing details, fantastic movement.

    Just wish GS would make the dive watch that everyone is waiting for - 40mm, new clasp and GS accuracy and details
    Agreed, I'd buy that!

  7. #7
    Craftsman
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    Great review of a fantastic watch, nice to see those details close up.

  8. #8
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    Great review of an awesome watch. I own the SS version of the GS Spring Drive diver, and if I ever win the lottery this will be joining it!

  9. #9
    Master yonsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steppy View Post
    Great quality, amazing details, fantastic movement.

    Just wish GS would make the dive watch that everyone is waiting for - 40mm, new clasp and GS accuracy and details
    I start drooling when I imagine this case in 42mm. :D

  10. #10
    Master
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    Is the bezel ceramic or the same material as the SBGA029/31?

  11. #11
    Master Tokyo Tokei's Avatar
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    Looks really, really top class. Not too big on you (but is on me). By the way I believe "zaratsu" and "sallaz" are just two ways of writing the same Japanese word "ザラツ" in Roman script. From "ザラツ研磨" ("zaratsu/sallaz kenma"). The kenma bit meaning polishing or grinding.

  12. #12
    Master
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    Quote Originally Posted by steppy View Post
    Is the bezel ceramic or the same material as the SBGA029/31?
    It's Ion plated not ceramic.

    OP beautiful watch, stunning photos and great review. Much appreciated.

  13. #13
    Master yonsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tokyo Tokei View Post
    Looks really, really top class. Not too big on you (but is on me). By the way I believe "zaratsu" and "sallaz" are just two ways of writing the same Japanese word "ザラツ" in Roman script. From "ザラツ研磨" ("zaratsu/sallaz kenma"). The kenma bit meaning polishing or grinding.
    Correct. I believe the word Sallaz comes from the original polishing machine factory in Switzerland during the 40s.

    Some sources says Germany but this guy should know:
    Hayashi Seiki began using the term “Sallaz polishing” when it imported a polishing machine built by this company in the 1940s.”.

    It is said that it often takes a person 10 years to become accomplished in those technologies and 30 years to master them.”

    https://jgoodtech.smrj.go.jp/info/report04-01?locale=en
    Last edited by yonsson; 22nd December 2017 at 15:55.

  14. #14
    Craftsman
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    A lovely watch but very expensive. I have a steel GS Spring Drive diver and a hi-beat GMT and do like my GS watches, would love one of these one day.

  15. #15
    Craftsman
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    A beautiful watch and a great review with some good macro shots .Sadly well above my price range .

    Sent from my [device_name] using TZ-UK mobile app

  16. #16
    Craftsman
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    Really well written and informative review from which I learned a lot, please accept my compliments 👍

    Personally I wouldn't buy this watch. I've no doubt the mechanical engineering is first class, and there are many things about it I like. But I'm not a fan of 'waffle' effect dials, and the date at 4 o'clock is not pleasing to me; it just gives the watch a 'wonky' feel. Also, as someone with 6.5" wrists I imagine a 46mm watch would be far too big - I just about get away with a 42mm!

  17. #17
    Master
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    I had a GS117. Very well-made watches, and tough as they come. But, as pointed-out, the clasp is really poor for the money. I also find these GS designs are just too big and clumsy. Weird that Grand Seiko show great taste in some of their ranges, and not others. I think that several Swiss manufacturers do this type of watch better.

  18. #18
    Master
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    it really annoys me that GS has all the skills/quality/technique/movement to make a truly excellent dive watch, instead they go down the big/clunky path.

    40mm, GS titanium, Auto movement, New clasp - it would beat many others - won't happen though

  19. #19
    Craftsman
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    A great review thank you. Much to consider


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  20. #20
    Master yonsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by steppy View Post
    it really annoys me that GS has all the skills/quality/technique/movement to make a truly excellent dive watch, instead they go down the big/clunky path.

    40mm, GS titanium, Auto movement, New clasp - it would beat many others - won't happen though
    Well, you can buy a SLA017 and pretend itís a GS. ;)
    There are sadly no perfect watches but I would love a smaller version (42mm) of the Blue Whale, that would pretty much be an exit watch for me. I donít mind large diverís watches but I get that most would consider this model too big for everyday wear. Iím sure GS will release an ďair diverísĒ with hi-beat movement soon, I just really hope Mr Kubo stays with the sharp angled cases. All my three GS watches have those type of cases.

  21. #21
    Master shalako's Avatar
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    Great review thanks for taking the time, I have now added one of these to my list for next year, interesting about that Sallaz polishing, I read my higher end GShock MTG-S1000D-1AER is finished the same way and itís incredibly beautiful and robust.

  22. #22
    What a fantastic review, I really enjoyed reading it.

    Thank you.

    I think this watch shape and design is stunning. Titanium is such a great material on some watches, I bought a two liner Pelagos last year and I really love that, it is fantastic, this is what draws me to this GS as well.

    I have a real love for watches from Japan and Japanese made items in general.

    I own a fair few Seikoís but not the higher end of the scale.

    I am more drawn to GS than the other high end brands at the moment.

  23. #23
    Craftsman
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    Quote Originally Posted by mindforge View Post
    Agreed, I'd buy that!
    Ditto


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  24. #24
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    Hi Yonsson,

    Thanks for another great review. It's not only very informative but also very engaging. I do have another question, what is the accuracy like on this piece? Thanks in advance.

  25. #25
    Master
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    I can't talk about the precision of that specific model, but I have owned at least six Grand Seikos including three hi-beats. In all honesty, they are good, but not among the best , in my experience anyway. A typical hi-beat doesn't quite match a modern Rolex for accuracy, even though it has a faster rate. Whether these small differences matter, only the buyer can judge.
    More to the point, GS need to be a bit less complacent. Starting with a five-year guarantee and better bracelets. They have upped their prices and are very expensive watches.
    Incidentally, if you value precision, a spring-drive is awesome. Wonderful precision . Lovely watches.
    I feel GS need to offer a bit more to match their new prices. A different name doesn't do it.
    Last edited by paskinner; 24th December 2017 at 11:03.

  26. #26
    Master yonsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyC View Post
    Hi Yonsson,

    Thanks for another great review. It's not only very informative but also very engaging. I do have another question, what is the accuracy like on this piece? Thanks in advance.
    I have three Grand SEIKOs with the current hi-beat movement.
    They keep +5 (this diver), +7 and +8 seconds a day. So not very accurate but still within the -1/+8 seconds a day specification.

  27. #27
    Master yonsson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by paskinner View Post
    I can't talk about the precision of that specific model, but I have owned at least six Grand Seikos including three hi-beats. In all honesty, they are good, but not among the best , in my experience anyway. A typical hi-beat doesn't quite match a modern Rolex for accuracy, even though it has a faster rate. Whether these small differences matter, only the buyer can judge.
    More to the point, GS need to be a bit less complacent. Starting with a five-year guarantee and better bracelets. They have upped their prices and are very expensive watches.
    Incidentally, if you value precision, a spring-drive is awesome. Wonderful precision . Lovely watches.
    I feel GS need to offer a bit more to match their new prices. A different name doesn't do it.
    That’s what a silicon balance spring gives you. +-5 seconds/week instead of/day.
    Too bad I don’t like Rolex since I can buy both a Submariner and a Datejust for the price of the GS. :D
    Last edited by yonsson; 24th December 2017 at 22:19.

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