Introducing the Grand Seiko SBGA481 “Tokyo Lion”

A bold new offering from the elegant watchmaker

While Grand Seiko is historically renowned for its elegant and business-oriented wristwatches, the brand has, in recent years, delved into the realm of sports watches, adding an array of new cases that diverge from their regular collections. Among these, the most distinctive is the multifaceted face introduced in 2019 with the SBGA403 during the 20th anniversary of the Spring Drive movement. This case design rarely makes its way into the brand’s standard catalogue, but fortunately, this trend is shifting with the introduction of the SBGA481 “Tokyo Lion”.

A bold case with an elegant dial

The latest SBGA481 presents a case and dial that bear the unmistakable mark of Grand Seiko, thanks to their high-quality finishes. Yet, within these familiar elements, lie details that set it apart within the brand’s offerings. Let’s explore the case first.


In line with the design philosophy of many Grand Seiko models, the SBGA481 features a tonneau-esque shape, departing from the traditional round design. What distinguishes it, though, are the wide facets that elegantly highlight finely polished, flat surfaces.  These facets are notably broader than those typically found on quintessential cases like the 44GS. 

This design occasionally finds its place within the Grand Seiko catalogue. Since its debut four years ago during the 20th anniversary of the Spring Drive, only a select few Grand Seiko timepieces have adopted this case, most of which have been limited editions. However, the exciting news is that the latest SBGA481 is now part of the regular production lineup. Another piece of good news is that despite its large 44.5 mm case size and wide facets, comfort remains uncompromised. This is because the entire watch, including the bracelet, is made of lightweight titanium.

Similarly, the dial adheres to the expected pattern for a Grand Seiko piece, yet it unveils larger and more organically brushed strokes. Introduced in 2019, this novel “lion mane” pattern has become a recurrent motif across various collections, portraying subjects such as clouds and cherry blossoms. It now ranks among the most recognizable dial designs, standing alongside classics like the “Snowflake” or “Iwate” dials.


Interestingly, prior examples that featured this combination of case and dial tended to carry a more sporty demeanour. This character wasn’t solely shaped by the daring case design, but also by the choice of dial colours – often favouring dark or bold hues, as evident in the original SBGA403 and SBGA405 “Godzilla” editions.


However, the latest SBGA481 adopts a refined approach to dial colours. It now presents a light, silvery hue described by the brand as opaline. This gentle colour imparts a sense of tranquillity that balances the bold case design, lending the timepiece a versatile character suitable for various occasions.

Our verdict

The SBGA481 is a distinctive Grand Seiko timepiece, featuring an unusually large 44.5 mm case with sharply defined angles and facets, yet paired with a delicate dial. However, it’s this distinctiveness that precisely enhances its allure. Enthusiasts of the brand who already possess an assortment of Grand Seiko watches (often with similar cases and movements but varying dials) may find this watch particularly appealing due to its capture of the brand’s quintessential attributes – exquisite dial and impeccable case – within a wholly unique package, despite being one of the more expensive time-only Grand Seiko watches.

Grand Seiko SBGA481 “Tokyo Lion” Specs and Price


Movement: 9R65; automatic; 72 hours power reserve

Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, and power reserve indicator

Case: 44.5 mm; titanium; water resistant to 200 m

Strap: Titanium bracelet

Availability: At boutiques and select retailers

Limited edition: No

Price: USD 10,400


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