SBGW033 Grand Seiko ‘First’ 130th Anniversary
Value is a funny thing. I was once dining at a restaurant with my significant other when a man came up to me in outrage, holding a waiter by the wrist, claiming he’d ordered the same dish as me and received two fewer potatoes. This really happened, but then again it was Florida, probably a normal occurrence there. The point is, we are all incredibly sensitive to value. I start here, as when most journalists bring up Grand Seiko, they do so by evangelizing just how excellent the offering is relative to others. This SBGW033, the best ‘First’ reissue, is great precisely because it doesn’t approach watchmaking from any relative basis. I love Japan, their whisky, mad seafood markets, meticulously detailed approach to most things, sense of honor, tradition, detail, and the LFA. In my humble opinion, GS’s greatest weakness is that many of their offerings feel like they’re simply trying to slightly better than what currently exists in the market. The SBGW033 (catchy, right?) is great simply because it’s a celebration of their own history, removed from outside influence.
To celebrate the 130th Anniversary of the First, GS created this: a 36mm dress watch true to the original but in steel. It is not difficult to understand the timeless appeal of a well-executed dress watch. When complication is removed, effort in finishing is allowed to be a watch’s main focus. It’s just a lovely cream dial with the old font signature, blued steel seconds hand, and calibre 9S64. They even brought back the ‘S’ crown and lion medallion caseback. Released in 2011, this precipitated the brand’s massive push upmarket and has been largely forgotten to the stream of time, outside of collectors. The watch was ‘limited’ to an ‘Omega-approved’ production of 1300. But despite that, it’s a great of the genre. Confusingly, GS re-re-issued this watch in 2017 at 38mm with a totally white dial. Objectively equally great, but this has my heart.
Increasingly, Grand Seiko are finding an audience and collector base who care deeply. For decades it was just Jack Forster. But some of the watches from well before the arguable overuse of dials inspired by the raindrop of a spring thunderstorm really are worth a second look. This is a lowercase c calatrava that, precisely because it eschews direct competition, can objectively be said to give the uppercase Calatrava a run for its money. Hell, it might even make you reconsider that Saxonia purchase. The degree of simplicity here is such that I just made it through an entire GS article without mentioning Zaratsu once. A round of applause, please, for it, not me.
This example in excellent overall condition. There are light scratches and hairlines, nothing drastic. Small marks and nicks commensurate with consistent wear. This was someone’s daily. Its dial is lovely, undamaged or aged. It comes on its original strap with a full set, from a well-regarded Chicago retailer.