I recently sold my Tudor North Flag, mainly due to its inability to accept aftermarket straps (go figure). This left my collection very dive watch-heavy, and I've been on the hunt for another "go anywhere, do anything" watch. Something robust but of moderate dimensions with a plain bezel but still unique and fun.
About a month later, I came across a pre-owned Grand Seiko SBGX341 at a good price. I'd been wanting to try out a watch with the 9F movement (more on that later), loved the colors, plus it had the novelty of being a boutique-exclusive model. Grand Seiko actually describes this watch as "a perfect grab-and-go watch for everyday wear," so it wasn't a hard sale.
If you're a frequent reader of the blog, you'll know that I have owned a lot of Seiko watches and that I have been trying to experience different levels of the Seiko brand hierarchy. Grand Seiko, of course, is at the top of that tree, although the $3,700 SBGX341 is one of its more entry-level models. This actually makes it less expensive than my $5,500 MSRP (non-Grand) Seiko Prospex LX SNR049 with its spring drive movement.
The unique chapter ring is one of the things that drew me to this watch originally. Rather than being sloped inward, it sits flat a few mm above the dial, giving a cool three-dimensional look. Additionally, the alternating black and orange quarters are something that I've never seen before, and I like the look. Only when viewed through a macro lens, will you see that the orange portions also have small dots to soften the color visually.
The orange second hand over the white dial gives it a Rolex Milgauss vibe (appropriate for a watch that says Anti-Magnetic on the dial) without looking like a copy.
Wearing the SBGX341
The SBGX341's dimensions are in the sweet spot for a lot of watch enthusiasts. 40mm diameter will fit almost anyone, and the compact lugs give it a tight 45.3mm height. Sub 12mm thickness is also very wearable for a sports watch.
It also has excellent legibility. Usually, white dial watches with silver hands can be difficult to read at a quick glance, as the hands tend to disappear and they are only easy to read when aimed at something dark. GS, however, has done some magic with these hands and markers, as they always stand out from the dial. The mixture of polishing and brushing always catches a bit of a shadow, and although I believe they are pure silver steel, it comes off as having a light gray tint that makes legibility that much better. Great AR coating on the crystal is then the icing on the cake.
It's the same story at night as well. This is one of the few GS watches with lume on every marker, plus the brand went one better on this model. The hands and quarter hours are green, and the other markers are blue at night. As you'd expect from Seiko's Lumibrite, the lume is very vibrant as well.
My only small complaint about using the SBGX341 is that when setting the watch, I found that the deeply recessed crown was a bit difficult to grip. This makes it less bulky though, and luckily I don't expect that I'll have to use the crown again on this watch for a long time (more on that later).
In the details is where Grand Seiko tends to stand out. If you're at all familiar with the brand, you've likely heard about the famous zaratsu polishing used on GS cases. The SGBX341 is a great platform to demonstrate Seiko's capabilities as it has a number of different surfaces that can play with each other, all of which are intersected by razor-sharp lines.
Another thing that Grand Seiko is known for is its hands and indices. High polishing combined with sharp brushing at all of the right angles ensures great legibility and amazing "playing with light." At this price range, you also finally get a signed crown.
If I had to give one small gripe about this watch, it's that GS is known for its amazing dials, and this one is not one of the more interesting ones. Don't get me wrong, it's a very attractive and bright pure white, it just doesn't best exemplify what GS is capable of (meaning that I might have to buy another one).
On the plus side, the dial is very clean. In the past few years, Seiko has removed the "Seiko/Grand Seiko" double branding on its watches. It also lacks the power reserve indicator typically seen on Spring Drive models and has minimal text. Even the date is removed, providing great symmetry.
Moving on to the case, Seiko refers to this design as the "Tough" Sport case. As far as I know, it is made from regular 316L stainless steel and does not feature Seiko's Diashield coating. This makes that fine finishing more vulnerable to scratching, and I do find myself worrying about marring the sharp edge on the bezel when wearing it.
Thus, I'm not sure what makes the case tougher than other Seikos, but it does have an aggressive, angular shape to it. The bezel might be vulnerable to scratches, but it is steel and should be robust against shattering. The screw-down crown, 200m of water resistance, and a sapphire crystal make it tough for a GS, and it's compact dimensions should make it less susceptible to accidental impacts.
As you can see from the dial, the watch is also resistant to Magnetism. Unless you're a scientist, you might be asking "is 40,000 A/m a lot?" To put it in perspective, it is equivalent to 503 Gauss which is roughly half the resistance of a Rolex Milgauss (or my Omega, or any other modern mechanical watch with an iron cage around the movement). So it's not the most resistant to magnetism, but it's still significantly higher than the ISO and DIN value of 4,800 A/m required to call a watch anti-magnetic (the value that most quality modern movements like an ETA2824 or Seiko 4R can achieve).
As in most traditional mechanical watches, Grand Seiko achieves this by shielding critical components in iron. Rather than shielding the entire movement, only the critical components are under a smaller shield in this case. I assume that this is to allow the watch to be thinner. I also wonder if the date, and thus the hole in the dial, is omitted on this model to further shield the movement.
To learn more about anti-magnetism in watches, read this article that I wrote for ABlogtoWatch. The short summary, though is that unless you're wearing it inside an MRI machine, 40,000 A/m is more than enough to protect against any magnetism that you'll encounter in everyday life.
Grand Seiko receives a lot of flack for its bracelets from watch hobbyists, but I would like to provide a counterpoint. Compared to a Tudor or Rolex bracelet, this one certainly does not have the feeling of solid build quality, largely due to the thickness, and tolerances between the links.
The clasp also does not have a trick tool-less micro-adjust or even any micro-adjust at all. Two half-links are provided instead, installed by captive pins with a removable screw on either side. Luckily the bracelet seems to fit me pretty well as it arrived to me, but I'd imagine that some people might find themselves in between links.
What it does have over other bracelets, however, is finishing and comfort. The edges of the links feature a bright mirror polish, and the brushing on the top surfaces is quite nice. Additionally, it is much lighter and thinner than other bracelets in the links, and being non-adjustable makes the clasp much thinner and more compact.
I personally find myself fiddling with micro adjusts too often when I have them and prefer a bracelet that is more comfortable on its own without adjustment. I feel that if you are able to get it sized well for your wrist, this is going to be a better wearing experience.
As you'd expect, I've removed the bracelet anyway and will be wearing this watch on a number of StrapHabit straps, with a Pumpkin Sailcloth being my current favorite. Scroll down to the end of the article to view some different looks for this watch.
This is possibly the section that should have gone first. As with other Grand Seiko watches, there is a lot to be said about the movement.
In this case, we're talking about the Caliber 9F61 quartz. Watch snobs might turn their noses at a quartz watch (or laugh at you when you tell them what you paid for one), but if you dig a little deeper, you'll find that this isn't the same as what you'll find in a Timex.
First, it's an all-metal movement with a striped finish like a mechanical watch. It is hand-assembled, features 9 jewels, and unlike most quartz movements, it can be serviced. Extreme accuracy is achieved by using an aged quartz crystal and thermocompensation. If that fails to keep it accurate, an adjustment screw is also present to fine-tune the timekeeping at service. Seiko rates this movement's accuracy to an astonishing +/- 10s PER YEAR! Many mechanical watches can't achieve that accuracy in a day.
It uses a high-torque motor that makes the long and wide hands of Grand Seiko possible (stubby hands are one of my pet peeves about many quartz watches). Said large hands are stacked with only a 0.2mm gap between them.
It also features a "Backlash Auto-Adjust Mechanism" and a double jump each time the seconds change to ensure that the hand lands exactly on the marker with no shake.
The movement is also sealed to improve the retention of the lubricating oils and prevent dust from entering it a battery change is required roughly every three years.
Other 9F variants also include an instant change at midnight (a difficult feat for a quartz movement), but the 9F61 is the thin no-date version.
If you'd like to learn even more about the 9F series, Grand Seiko's website is a great resource.
Like the JLC Polaris that I reviewed recently, this is one of those watches that makes me wish that the community would think outside the box more. Rather than sitting on a waiting list, or paying over retail for watches from certain brands, you could be wearing a watch that is as enjoyable to wear, less expensive, and more unique.
Additionally, I'm happy to find that this watch being quartz has not bothered me once. Sure, I don't get to feel like I'm powering the watch myself, but it's made up for by the precision, and being ready to go will likely lead to me wearing it more. If that sounds appealing to you, it's worth a look. If the white and orange combination is too bold for you, then check out the black dial version, SBGX343.
Name: Grand Seiko Tough Quartz Anti-Magnetic
Reference Number: SBGX341
Lug Width: 20mm
Movement: Caliber 9F61
Accuracy: +/- 10s/year
Battery Life: 3 Years
Water Resistance: 200m
Crystal: Sapphire with anti-reflective coating
Bezel: Fixed, stainless steel
Bracelet: Stainless steel w/ three-fold clasp
Shop Other Straps for the Grand Seiko Tough Quartz Anti-Magnetic SGBX341: