In terms of design, 2020 was an important year for Grand Seiko - it was the year that the Evolution 9 style was unveiled by the Japanese brand. Since branching off from Seiko to be established as a separate Maison in 2017, Grand Seiko has been strengthening its prowess with exceptional mechanics, and the Evolution 9 style marked a turning point in terms of design. While nature-inspired themes represented in beautifully crafted dials have been front and centre at the brand of late, the Evolution 9 line sought out design details that built on the existing Grand Seiko style (in specific the 1967 44GS case style). These were subtleties that could go possibly go unnoticed, but ultimately went a long way to make a watch formidable. Focusing on the triumvirate of legibility, ergonomics, and aesthetics, watches sporting the Evolution 9 style are undoubtedly more nuanced. How? We explain this with the help of the SBGE285 - Evolution 9 High Intensity Titanium GMT, also WatchTime India’s first digital cover.
The Grand Seiko SBGE285 is GMT watch
The Evolution 9 models
The SBGE285 - Evolution 9 High Intensity Titanium GMT is a watch that debuted at Watches & Wonders 2022, and aside from being from the Evolution 9 line, had another claim to fame: It was part of the first set of sports watches within the Evolution 9 collection. Last year, the brand unveiled a chronograph (SBGC249 and SBGC251) and a diver’s watch (SLGA051), and completing this set was the SBGE285 GMT watch with a grey dial and a black dial version (SBGE283). Till then, the Evolution 9 line had been marked by time and date watches with beautifully engraved dials. Some of these are the 40mm stainless steel SLGA009 - ‘White Birch’ Spring Drive 9RA2 Caliber, the successor of the 2021 40mm, stainless steel SLGH005 - ‘White Birch’ powered by the Hi-Beat Caliber 9SA5m, which won the Men’s Prize in that year’s GPHG, and the Red Dot Award in 2022. Both watches captured the quiet mood of the white birch tree forests near the studio in Shinshu, where all Grand Seiko Spring Drive watches are crafted. In a similar vein was the SLGH011-‘Green Birch’ Hi-Beat 36000 Automatic 9SA5 Caliber with a green dial unveiled early last year. It is then easy to see how the SBGE285 - Evolution 9 High Intensity Titanium GMT, with its dual timezone complication, marked a milestone in the Evolution 9 line.
The Evolution 9 line sought out design details that built on the existing Grand Seiko style (in specific the 1967 44GS case style). These were subtleties that could go possibly go unnoticed, but ultimately went a long way to make a watch formidable.
The Grand Seiko SBGE285 - Evolution 9 High Intensity Titanium GMT
As explained earlier, the beauty of the Evolution 9 line lies in its design tenets, so let’s place that in the context of the SBGE285. First off, this is a 41mm watch with a lug-to-lug length of 48.3mm, and a thickness of 13.9mm. The watch is crafted in high-intensity titanium, which means that apart from being light on the wrist (122 gms approx.), it has a much brighter finish, and a hardness that is higher than that of pure titanium. The watch features a light grey textured dial - the patterns and colour are reminiscent of the wintery morning mist that surround the mountains of Nagano, the home of Spring Drive, in the winter. The power reserve indicator is set at 7 o’clock, there is a date window at 3 o’clock, and the bezel features a 24-hour scale in keeping with the GMT function, with the legible markers – Arabic numerals and bars - painted in black. The dial is topped by a box-shaped sapphire crystal, with an anti-reflective coating on the inner surface. The screw-down down at 3 o’clock has been engraved with a ‘GS’ logo. The watch has a grey textured dial inspired by the wintery morning mist that surrounds the mountains of Nagano, the home of Spring Drive, in the winter
The Evolution 9 details
Diving into the specifics, the hour markers of the watch are broad, applied, facetted, and polished, and feature deep middle grooves that are filled with LumiBrite, Seiko’s proprietary luminous paint that is brighter and longer-lasting, with a green luminescence. The hour markers are the start of that Evolution 9 design language that sets this watch apart. Part of this ethos is the focus on legibility, and the distinctive hour markers achieve this - the one at 12 o’clock, in particular, is broader, more emphatic. It is complemented by the facetted and polished hour and minute hands - the hour hand is significantly truncated, which adds to its presence, and the minute hand reaches all the way to the minute track on the flange. The electro-magnetic system of the 9R66 Spring Drive movement ensures that the seconds hand also glides smoothly across it. The fourth hand is an elongated, trapezoidal GMT hand, also coated with LumiBrite, albeit with a blue luminescence that allows one to immediately tell the home time in the dark. The green and blue LumiBrite of the watch
The Evolution style also places emphasis on aesthetics, in specific the Japanese passion for the interplay of light and dark. As a result of this, the watch employs more planes and flat surfaces arranged three-dimensionally, which allow for distortion-free reflections, and for the black and white (or dark and light) to emerge more emphatically. This is an aspect seen in the typical flat, textured dial of Grand Seiko watches (also in this watch), alongside its case and elongated lugs.
The Evolution style also places emphasis on aesthetics, in specific the Japanese passion for the interplay of light and dark.
This is something that we could very distinctly observe when we held the SBGE285 in our hands. The lugs have a flat top with a fine vertical hairline finish while the case sides have a horizontal one, and the beveled side had a distortion-free flat mirror finish, known as Zaratsu polishing. These finishes appear on the bezel and crown guards as well. Hairline finish is a Grand Seiko signature, wherein extremely fine lines of the same depth are achieved on a surface with the help of sandpaper; the grooves catch the light and play up the chiaroscuro. These hairline patterns are formed after the case has been polished to a mirror finish by Zaratsu polishing. Together, the hairlines and the mirror finishes beautifully play off each other to create a strong visual impression. The Evolution 9 line seeks to bring out design details while building on the existing Grand Seiko style
The last pillar of the Evolution 9 style is ergonomics. A direct result of this is that the width of the bracelet of the SBGE285 is at least half the case diameter, with a certain amount of thickness. The lugs are also wider and the height of the case is reduced, resulting in a lower centre of gravity on the wrist. Both aspects work towards a better wearing experience.
The matte, satin finished links with the GS logo on the single-folding clasp
This is further helped by the slightly tapering, high-intensity titanium bracelet with large end links that ensure that the bracelet sits comfortably on the wrist. A three-link one, wider links sit in the centre and slimmer ones on the sides. The bracelet has a matte satin finish with bevels on the side that are polished. The clasp is a single fold, with a twin trigger release system for higher security. It is engraved with the ‘Grand Seiko’ logo.
Movement and GMT function
The watch is powered by Calibre 9R66, an automatic Spring Drive 3-Day GMT movement, visible through the exhibition caseback. Flaunting a finishing of Geneva stripes, the movement has an accuracy of ±1 second per day (±15 seconds per month) and has featured in Grand Seiko GMT models like the SBGE277, SBGE271, SBGE269, and SBGE257 amongst others. It has 30 jewels, and the rotor is engraved with the Grand Seiko logo. The watch is water-resistant to 100 metres. The watch sits comfortably on the wrist, thanks to the Evolution 9 design
Of course, the beauty of the movement is in its GMT function. The caliber 9R66 is considered a true GMT movement, which means that the local hour hand can be set independently of the GMT, minutes, and seconds hand. To set the time, first, the home time is set, which makes the GMT hand move as well to the corresponding time on the GMT bezel. Now, if one is travelling, one simply needs to advance the hour hand, forward or backward, to set it to the local time, while the GMT continues to point to the home time. The calendar function sets itself with the setting of the hour hand.
The 9R66 movement with Geneva stripes
Given all these facets, the Grand Seiko SBGE285 - Evolution 9 High Intensity Titanium GMT is not just a great travel watch but also makes for excellent everyday wear. Or you could employ it as an occasion piece that could serve as the perfect conversation starter.
The Grand Seiko SBGE285 - Evolution 9 High Intensity Titanium GMT is priced at Rs 6,90,000 approx. The SBGE283 – Evolution 9 High Intensity Titanium GMT is a black dial variant.