I was looking to add a GMT watch back into my collection and decided that the Grand Seiko SBGN003 would fit the bill perfectly. I wasn't travelling as much and had sold my Seiko Prospex LX Sky Spring Drive GMT. An upcoming trip sparked the desire to find a suitable replacement.
The criteria included:
-"Traveller" GMT functionality
-Something that feels special, without being too expensive
-Moderate size and versatility
-Excellent legibility of the main time and second time zone, and in the dark..
-Rotating 24-hour bezel to allow tracking of other time zones while at home or during mid-travel.
While the SBGN003 is lacking the last item, I decided that it hit all of the other targets so well that it was the best choice. Any alternatives were lacking in other areas. I also love the 9F movement in my Grand Seiko SBGX341 and thought that a travel watch that I never have to set adds a nice layer of convenience.
Grand Seiko SBGN003 First Impressions
Besides the specs and features, another thing that drew me to the SBGN003 is its deep gloss black dial. While not as intricate as the dial on a birch or snowflake, it shows once again that Grand Seiko knows how to do dials. It's something that's difficult to show in photos. The interaction between the dial and sharp markers looks fantastic in person!
The orange GMT hand and text give it just enough pop!
Wearing the Grand Seiko SBGN003
The SBGN003's dimensions are in the sweet spot for a lot of watch enthusiasts. Its 39mm diameter will fit almost anyone.
It's only about 1mm thicker than the SBGX341, likely due to the GMT hand. At 12mm, it's very wearable for a sports watch.
SBGN003 has actually been discontinued and replaced with SBGN027. The main difference that I can spot is a change of the GMT hand from orange/red to white. I find that the orange hand is easier to differentiate, giving the older model better legibility. Plus it looks cooler in my opinion!
As it is, it has excellent legibility. Black dial watches with silver markers and white lume tend to be good in this category. GS also does magic with the finishing of its hands and markers to help them stand out from the dial.
Great AR coating on the domed sapphire crystal is then the icing on the cake. The crystal is also distortion-free, giving great legibility even at sharp angles.
Switching to nighttime legibility, like the SBGX341, this is one of the few GS watches with lume on every hour marker. Seiko's Lumibrite is always great, but the application is pretty thin on SBGN003. Legibility in darkness is decent, but not as good as other Seikos. Larger lume plots on the quarters help to orient the watch in pure darkness. Lume is also present on the tip of the GMT hand.
Grand Seiko SBGN003 Details
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. SBGN003 uses a lug shape and case finishing similar to Omega.
Unlike SBGX341, SBgn003 doesn't employ the Diashield coating. It might be slightly easier to get fine scratches, but this makes it even easier to admire the polishing. I also feel slightly less worried about dinging the case edges as the bezel is sloped on this watch. I purchased it used, and it did arrive with one small ding, however.
Grand Seiko does make a spring drive GMT with similar styling and a ceramic bezel, but it was more than I wanted to spend at this time. Additionally, the date application is better on this model. It's at 3, rather than 4, and has an attractively finished metal frame around it.
The dial is also 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.
Grand Seiko SBGN003 Bracelet
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 fit me 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.
Additionally, it is much lighter and thinner than other bracelets, 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 I 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 19mm straps. Scroll down to the end of the article to view some different looks for this watch. My current favorite is a PSL Sailcloth Colorway strap.
Grand Seiko SBGN003 Movement
SBGN003 is powered by Grand Seiko's caliber 9F86. From the same family as the movement in my SBGX341, it adds a date function, and traveller's GMT. This allows the 12-hour hand to be jumped forwards or back in 1-hour increments, as well as the date, when traveling. This jump is very sharp and crisp. Better than other more expensive GMTs I've handled. An additional hand rotates every 24 hours, allowing wearers to track the time at home.
The date has an instant change at midnight, which I'm told is a difficult feat for a quartz movement. Seiko rates this movement's accuracy to an astonishing +/- 10s per year.
I went into more detail describing the merits of the 9F in the SBGX341 review. If you're interested, I recommend reading that article. If you'd like to learn even more about the 9F series, Grand Seiko's website is a great resource.
The Grand Seiko SBGN003 will fit the bill almost perfectly for my upcoming trip. It feels very special on the wrist, and the finishing is above about anything for the price. I consider its quartz movement to be an asset.
I wish that it had a rotating bezel and better lume, but I'll get over it. I foresee myself wearing this watch often!
Name: Grand Seiko Quartz GMT
Reference Number: SBGN003
Price: $3,200 (Discontinued)
Lug Width: 19mm
Movement: Caliber 9F86
Accuracy: +/- 10s/year
Battery Life: 3 Years
Water Resistance: 100m
Crystal: Domed sapphire with anti-reflective coating
Bezel: Fixed, 24hr, stainless steel
Bracelet: Stainless steel w/ two-button clasp
Shop Other 19mm Straps for the Grand Seiko Tough Quartz Anti-Magnetic SGBX341: