The Grand Seiko “First”, an understated, minimalist watch that embodies the essence of the watchmaker, is the first wristwatch produced by the company in 1960. To commemorate the 110th anniversary of Seiko’s first wristwatch, the Laurel, Grand Seiko has reintroduced the “First” with the new SBGW295, which features unique and unexpected elements, including a black Urushi dial and gold maki-e markers.
In terms of size and movement, the SBGW295 is comparable to earlier iterations of the “First,” but what sets it apart is its design. The SBGW295 features a black dial with striking gold markers, a first for the model. Nearly all earlier models had silver or champagne dials with markers in complementary colours.
Not only does the design look different, but the execution of the dial and markers is unusual and impressive as well. Grand Seiko has moved away from its signature “sun-ray” finish dial and polished baton indices and has instead opted for a painted dial and markers. While it may be less sparkly and three-dimensional, the new dial exudes finesse and depth thanks to the artisanal techniques used.
Indeed, the Urushi dial is created using a technique that involves applying multiple layers of lacquer to achieve a deep, lustrous finish. The lacquer used is sourced exclusively from Japan, which sets it apart from most lacquer used for Urushi that is produced abroad. To ensure the longevity of the dial, Grand Seiko has applied a special treatment that “prevents its colour from changing over time”, though the specifics are not disclosed.
Similarly, the hour markers are created using layers of lacquering and finished with sprinkles of gold powder, a traditional technique known as maki-e. The challenge lies in the fact that the watch dial is domed and curves down towards the edge, making it more difficult to achieve uniform depth and width for the markers. To ensure the quality of the dial, Grand Seiko turns to its favourite collaborator, Isshu Tamura, who has been partnering with Seiko for over a decade.
The rest of the watch is conventional, except for the titanium case, a rare material for dress watches. In this case, it’s made of Brilliant Hard Titanium, a proprietary alloy that offers a brighter surface than traditional titanium alloys, making it both lightweight and luminous. The SBGW295 has a 38 mm case, instead of the original 35 mm, which remains elegant and is perhaps a better size for modern times. The watch is powered by the cal. 9S64, a workhorse movement found in all of Grand Seiko’s mechanical hand-wind watches with a central seconds.
The 2020 titanium model from Grand Seiko signalled a shift towards incorporating creative elements into the “First” line of watches. In keeping with this trend, the latest SBGW295 takes the design even further with its black-and-gold dial. It’s a welcome change as it’s well-executed and visually appealing. The use of Urushi and maki-e greatly enhances the look of the watch and adds a cultural, heritage dimension to its character.
Compared to the previous titanium model with a blue dial, the SBGW295 is a step up in its execution. However, it comes with a 70% premium over the standard model, which could be challenging for some to accept, despite its artisanal finish, unique design, and limited edition status.
Grand Seiko Seiko Watchmaking 110th Anniversary SBGW295
Movement: Cal. 9S64; hand wind; power reserve 72 hours
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Case: 38 mm x 10.9 mm; titanium; water resistant to 30 m
Strap: Black fabric-and-leather strap with and additional leather strap in black
Price: USD 13,800
Availability: Limited edition of 500 pieces