The names Grand Seiko and Hi-Beat harmonize together better than Lennon and McCartney. But not all are created equal. This SBGH037 hails from a (currently) largely-unsung stretch of the Japanese manufacture’s history, what I like to call the double-signed era. This nascent stage I define as after the birth of the modern Grand Seiko reference system, but before dials became signed with Grand Seiko alone at 12 in the SBGR305. This was pre-watch-instagram, but post what we traditionally call neo-vintage. It is a timeframe many enthusiasts gloss over, but that really should not be the case. For Grand Seiko in particular, this is where the roots of the brand’s current identity formed. There is a tiny collecting community only starting to form around this double-signed era, and I am more than happy to use my infinitesimal platform here to sing praises of these watches, simultaneously extremely attractive and forgotten.
Even back in 2015, when Watches & Wonders went by Baselworld, Grand Seiko were a bit limited-edition happy. For the 55th anniversary of the first automatic GS, a limited series inspired by the original 62GS was born. The watches updated the 62GS case design with modern GS manufacturing techniques at 40mm proportions. Yet, the distinctly faceted lug design which many adore remained, more highly polished and tightly executed than ever before. Two of these releases, ref. SBGH039 and SBGH037, were Hi-Beats in a blackish red and radially textured silver dial respectively. Both were limited to just 1000 examples.
The 36000vph calibre 9S85 powering this gorgeous exterior is a more traditional alternative to the halo spring drive calibres many know Grand Seiko for. The brand’s history is rooted in technically competent Hi-Beat escapements and it shows. It bears no distracting power reserve and, perhaps more importantly, a clear and unadorned sapphire case back to proudly display its historic movement. The overall impression this creates feels very modern GS, but it hails from a time when there was far less brand cachet. In a culture where social media trends tastes toward singular directions, loving attention to any brand’s history is sure to turn up a few unsung, interesting gems. Careful study is always rewarding, but for Grand Seiko that aphorism is truer than most.
This example is strong all-round. Its highly polished case is still proudly displaying factory lines, with very light surface wear occasionally visible. Its bracelet and clasp show tiny marks, but are remarkably clear of bashes. The watch comes dated to 2015 with a full set from a well-regarded retailer.
Find this SBGH037 here from Belmont Watches for 4700 USD.