This particular wristwatch was announced in October of last year, and we’ve been looking forward to getting our hands on one ever since. The Hi-Beat GMT models from Grand Seiko have proven to be quite popular and as we mentioned, a Hi-Beat GMT won the Petit Aiguille prize at the 2014 Grand Prix Horlogerie de Genève (and just imagine how good a Japanese watch has to be to win an award in Switzerland). Grand Seiko made its first 36,000 vph watch in 1968: the 61GS, which was one of a range of high beat watches made by Seiko under the Grand Seiko (there were also Lord Marvel, Lord Matic, and King Seiko high-beat models at both 28,800 vph and 36,000 vph).
The GMT complication was introduced to Grand Seiko in 2002 and they’ve been selling like hotcakes ever since. There have been several previous Hi-Beat GMT limited editions from Grand Seiko. These include a green dial version (the model that won the Petit Aiguille) and another, with a textured deep red dial, having preceded it (SBGJ005 and SBGJ021 respectively) as well as a 10th anniversary model, with blue dial (in two versions; one on a strap, and one on a bracelet with a 24 hour bezel).
A quick refresher on the GMT complication – there are several different ways to show the time in two time zones at once; generally you have one hour hand that shows the time at home, and another hour hand that shows the time in the time zone you’re in when you’re traveling (local time). A “true” GMT complication is one in which you have a 24 hour hand and a normal hour hand which are synchronized to home time; when you travel, you can re-set the hour hand (either with a pusher, or with the crown) to local time. The advantage to this arrangement is that it makes reading local time more intuitive, and moreover the fact that you have a 24 hour hand for home time, lets you know if it’s AM or PM at home. This is how the Grand Seiko GMT works.
I suppose it seems monotonous to keep hearing just how amazingly high the quality of execution in Grand Seiko watches really is, but it’s always remarkable to see it in person and this model is no exception. There are very few watches from any manufacturer that can withstand very close scrutiny of dial furniture through a macro lens but Grand Seiko watches not only acquit themselves well, they actually look better and better the closer you look, which is certainly not usually the case. Here of course, in addition to the beautifully polished hands, diamond-cut indexes, and other customary Grand Seiko details, there’s the dial – a very deep sea-green that exhibits subtle shifts in color depending on the light; it can look anything from an iridescent green to almost blue.
There’s a slight disadvantage from a utility standpoint in the fact that there is no lume on the dial but in every day use, that turns out to be more a theoretical than actual issue; the edges of the hands are so highly polished that they can be read pretty easily in pretty much anything other than total darkness (I own a different model Grand Seiko GMT and have traveled with it quite a lot over the years and lack of lume has never been an issue).
Casework as well is irreproachable, with crisply delineated transitions between brushed and polished surfaces; the brushing is even and very finely textured and the polished surfaces are mirror-bright, approaching black-polishing in terms of reflectiveness.
Several of the preceding Hi-Beat GMT limited editions have had rotors featuring special designs and colors but I’ve always been a little on the fence about this as the designs do somewhat obstruct the view of the movement; for the Peacock Grand Seiko has gone with a standard execution of the rotor for the caliber 9S86 (9S86 is the 36,000 vph Grand Seiko caliber 9S85, with the addition of a GMT function. The 9S8x series of movements were introduced fairly recently – in 2009; and they were the first high beat mechanical movements Seiko had made in 41 years. Again, no surprises here; everything is very neatly done; Grand Seiko watches don’t feature the same elaborate hand-finishing that you see on higher end Credor watches (or in the Grand Seiko Spring Drive 8 Day) but they radiate a reassuring air of reliability and precision.
On the wrist it absolutely glows; this would be pretty much a picture perfect daily wear watch for anyone who travels a bit (or a lot). The only possible gotcha for some potential clients for this watch might be the case dimensions; it’s 40mm x 14.4mm, which is not at all out of line for a modern daily-wear sports watch, but if you want something slimmer with a bit more dressy vibe, consider the Hi-Beat SBGJ217; 39.5mm x 13.9mm on a strap.
The price on this 700-piece limited edition is $6,500. For more, visit Grand Seiko USA online.
The Grand Seiko GMT Hi-Beat SBGJ227 “Peacock”: case, Zaratsu-polished stainless steel with stainless steel bracelet and folding clasp. Movement, Grand Seiko caliber 9S86, time, date, and GMT function; 36,000 vph. Accuracy +5/-3 seconds per day maximum variation; 55-hour power reserve; self-winding.