For those with only a tenuous grasp on the horological world, there can be some major sticker shock when viewing the MSRPs of Grand Seiko watches. With the Japanese brand’s timepieces starting in the $2,000 range, it can be difficult for some outsiders to fathom how what they see simply as a Seiko could be priced similarly to a new Tudor or Omega. However, those with even a basic comprehension of the modern watchmaking world are well aware of the fact that the addition of those five letters before the Seiko name carry an enormous amount of weight, with Grand Seiko striving to produce some of the finest luxury timepieces that money can currently buy. And after recently field-testing a handful of our favorite high-end watches for under $5,000, were curious to see how the references from Japan’s most revered luxury watchmaker compared to its Swiss-made counterparts. In order to find out, we’ve been wearing one of the latest releases from the Shinshu label’s Heritage Collection, which we’ve put to the test in this hands-on review of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA467.
At A Glance
Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA467 Specs
Case Size: 40mm
Lug to Lug: 46.6mm
Case Thickness: 12.3mm
Lug Width: 20mm
Case Material: Stainless Steel
Water Resistance: 100m
Movement Type: Spring Drive
Power Reserve: 72 Hours
Movement: Caliber 9R65
Crystal: AR-Coated Dual-Curved Sapphire
Strap: Three-Link Stainless Steel Bracelet
Turning Back The Clock
A Brief History Of The Grand Seiko Brand
To fully appreciate the Spring Drive SBGA467 — or really any watch from Grand Seiko — it’s vital that one has a basic understanding of the brand, its history, and the place in which it operates in the larger horological space. Though now a household name, Seiko is a company with humble roots, originally founded by a then 21-year-old Kintarō Hattori in central Tokyo as a hole-in-the-wall of a shop that sold and served wall clocks, wristwatches, and pocket watches. Over the years the outfit grew, expanding into new locations, hiring on additional staffers, and eventually beginning to develop its own in-house horological offerings, starting with the Timekeeper pocket watch in 1895.
Fast-forward three-quarters of a century, and Seiko had blossomed into one of Japan’s largest and most respected watchmakers — as well as arguably its most innovative, with an extensive list of industry firsts to its name. In 1956, Seiko debuted the first-ever automatic wristwatch. In 1958 the brand unveiled its “Dia-Shock” anti-shock device, just one year prior to it introducing the game-changing self-winding Gyro Marvel — and just over a decade prior to eventually revealing another horological game changer with the world’s first-ever quartz watch.
With a skilled, cutting-edge research and development team, state-of-the-art facilities, and a rich, more than century-long history, the company revealed one of its most significant endeavors to date in 1960 with the debut of the Grand Seiko brand. While its development was anything but, Grand Seiko’s inaugural timepiece was developed with one simple yet ambitious goal in mind; to be the single most accurate wristwatch on the planet. This marked a major deviation from the horological space — and price point — that Seiko had traditionally operated in, though even with its very first watch Grand Seiko came out swinging and unequivocally proved to the world that it could go toe-to-toe with the planet’s most revered Swiss luxury brands.
Since the brand’s inception in 1960, Grand Seiko has maintained the tradition of churning out watches that can only be described as world-class, now sitting amongst the pantheon of other lauded luxury watch labels like Omega, Tudor, Breitling, IWC, and Rolex. Alongside ultra-precise movements, Grand Seiko’s watches are also largely characterized by their elegant designs and top-shelf fit and finish. And these traits very much live on today via modern incarnations like the Spring Drive SBGA467.
Out Of The Box & Onto The Wrist
First Impressions Of The Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA467
As a company that aims to position itself amongst the upper echelons of the horological industry, it’s frankly unsurprising that Grand Seiko’s watches are routinely compared to timepieces made by Rolex — most often the Oyster Perpetual for obvious reasons. Even when held up next to the Crown’s watches, Grand Seiko’s offerings can very much hold their own, boasting an overall fit and finish that’s nothing short of world-class — as well as an overall appearance that readily announces itself as a high-end luxury timepiece. And the Spring Drive SBGA467 is no exception in this regard, with a level of attention to detail that only comes with more than half a century of experience meticulously crafting world-class watches.
Its high-end nature instantly jumps out at you as soon as you lay your eyes on the watch, with every surface being carefully considered and perfectly finished. While decidedly elegant, the SBGA467 boasts a minimalistic overall appearance that harkens back to Grand Seiko’s vintage watches — an aesthetic that Grand Seiko refers to as its “original vision of purity.” Another crucial detail that makes an instant impression on its wearer is the SBGA467’s smooth seconds hand sweep, which circles its sub-dial radial with what’s almost certainly the smoothest sweeps we’ve ever seen on a wristwatch — a reminder of the cutting-edge movement that lies beneath the dial.
The Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA467’s Case
As part of Grand Seiko’s Heritage Collection, the SBGA467 is a high-end contemporary watch that keeps one foot firmly planted in the past. This aesthetic balancing act between old and new can be seen on several levels when looking at the case alone. Measuring 12.3mm thick, the case sports a minimalistic yet unmistakably upscale appearance that’s better described as uncluttered than it is spartan — unlike say, a field watch. Crafted from stainless steel, the case also features sizing that straddles the line between old and new. At 40mm, the case is decently larger than Grand Seiko’s watches from yesteryear such as its 35mm ‘60s era cases though is still on the smaller end of the spectrum for contemporary men’s timepieces — though not to the point where it looks or feels particularly small on-wrist.
Sporting a 46.6mm lug-to-lug that wears in a more compact manner than one would guess based on the metric, the watch’s case features a 20mm lug width, 100 meters of water resistance, and a knurled and polished crown. The back of the case is capped off with a stainless steel caseback with a matte circular-brushed finish surrounding Grand Seiko’s Lion emblem logo. And while its lines and design are undeniably handsome, what really makes the case shine — both figuratively and literally — is its exquisite level of fit and finish. The Grand Seiko comes cloaked in a combination of perfectly-applied brush and polished surfaces that beautifully contrast one another. Even for a watch with roughly $5,000 MSRP, the SBGA467’s overall finish is still beyond impressive. This aesthetic does give the watch a markedly more formal vibe that makes it harder to dress down even when paired with a more casual strap, however, it’s also a major part of what gives it much of its overall charm, upscale character, and appeal.
An Ultra-Smooth Sweep
The Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA467’s Dial
Encompassed by a fixed, mirror-polished bezel, the Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA467’s dial features an ultra-deep and ultra-glossy black base fitted with rectangular applied indices at every hour — with the exception of 3 o’clock which is replaced with a framed date window. Just above the hour marker at 9 o’clock is a simple yet elegant power reserve indicator, while just below 12 o’clock is the classic Grand Seiko GS logo and text motif. And while these elements are undeniably very attractive on their own, our favorite aspect of the dial is undoubtedly its diamond-cut hand-set. Sitting beneath a dual-curved sapphire crystal with an internal anti-reflective, the set features ultra-sharp minute and hour hands and a skinny seconds hand with the smoothest and most consistent sweep we’ve probably ever seen in the flesh. It is, however, worth noting, that the dial on this watch is completely devoid of lume — a design choice that undeniably adds to the timepiece’s overall elegance though is nonetheless an uncommon one, especially on watches at this price point.
The Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA467’s Bracelet
When viewed in photos, the Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA467’s bracelet may not look like it’s anything to write home about, however, this simple three-link item is surprisingly satisfying when seen in person. This 20mm staggered stainless steel item features a simple GS-branded push button clasp and vertical brushing and high-polished accents that mirror the finish found on the Spring Drive SBGA467’s case. Like the case itself, it’s the bracelet’s fit and finish that really set it apart. With that said, the bracelet is devoid of any micro-adjustment points which is unfortunate, especially when you consider its nearly $5,000 price — and the fact that most of our other favorite watches in the $5,000 range do come equipped with this amenity. If your wrist does happen to align with its preset sizing it is admittedly an incredibly comfortable bracelet.
The Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA467’s Movement
At the heart of the SBGA467 is Grand Seiko’s 9R65 caliber movement that benefits form the use of the luxury watchmaker’s Spring Drive mechanism. First patented in 1978, this watershed mechanism essentially combines the framework of a mechanical caliber with the accuracy of a battery-powered quartz movement — a particularly logical design considering Seiko’s groundbreaking history with quartz movement and watches. Using only the power of the mainspring without any battery, the 9R65 swaps the traditional balance spring for an electronic speed-regulating unit consisting of a generator, an integrated circuit, and crystal oscillator. In order to produce its power, the generator converts the mainspring’s unwinding into what is essentially electricity, that’s directly utilized by the integrated circuit and crystal oscillator — all in an incredibly compact package that also manages to deliver a 72-hour power reserve and an accuracy of ±/-1 second per day. It doesn’t end there, however, as the movement is also directly responsible for the ridiculously smooth sweep of the watch’s seconds hand — a feature that may sound simple on the surface but is immensely satisfying to take in firsthand.
A World-Class Watch From Japan
Closing Thoughts On The Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA467
Like the Rolex OP, the Spring Drive SBGA467 blurs the line between a sports and dress watch, with traits that can place it into either category. This allows the watch to lend itself to a wider range of different settings and wardrobes — though the SBGA467 is undoubtedly most conducive to more formal occasions and uses such as being worn to the office, a wedding, or yacht club. While it’s not the kind of watch we’d wear to a dive bar or bowling alley, the Spring Drive SBGA467 is an extraordinarily attractive offering that while high-end through and through, affords solid value and decent levels of versatility. If you happen to go with a more dressed up, formal look on a day-to-day basis, the Spring Drive SBGA467 can actually make for a pretty stellar everyday watch, too. Between the heritage of the brand that makes it, the world-class fit and finish, and the unique Spring Drive movement and the wildly smooth sweep that it produces, it’s hard not to be somewhat enamored with the Spring Drive SBGA467.
The Best Watches You Can Buy Under $5,000
Want to see some of our other favorite sub-$5,000 references? Then be sure to check out our guide to the best watches under $5,000 for a handpicked array of genuinely premium timepieces that can are still fairly accessible.