Why I Bought It: Grand Seiko Seasons Winter Taisetsu SBGA415

Raman Kalra is the founder of The Watch Muse blog and has kindly agreed to share some of his articles with us here on Quill & Pad.

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Buying a new watch is a big occasion. For many people, including myself, there are several questions that need to be answered before making a purchase. What style of watch do you want to consider? What brands are “best” at that style of watch? What watch fits with the rest of your collection? What will you continue to like and love as time passes?

And arguably most importantly, what price bracket you are targeting?
It is not a quick and easy exercise by any means. Arguably, I may have spent too long thinking about it, but when it comes to a bigger purchase, I want to make sure I get it right. With that in mind, I recently added a new watch to my collection – the Grand Seiko Seasons Winter “Taisetsu” SBGA415.

Grand Seiko Seasons Winter Taisetsu

For those that do similar, I want to take you through my thought process and what factors led me to choose the Grand Seiko over other great watches I was considering. In addition, what are my first impressions now that it has been one month of ownership? We all know that owning a watch is a very different experience from trying it in a boutique, and there have been aspects that have surprised me.

Background and My Confusing Wish List

Before getting to the deciding factors, I wanted to share what I was looking for, the watches that were on my wish list and comments about how I narrowed it down. Instead of listing them out, I want to take you through how I landed on these few.

Grand Seiko Seasons Winter Taisetsu

What was I looking for? I wanted a watch that would be a step above my Tudor Black Bay 36. I love my Tudor and wear it more than anything else in my collection, but for this next purchase, I wanted a watch that would be the next level when it came to finishing, design and movement. However, I also wanted this new watch to be versatile enough to wear every day, which meant it had to complement my casual taste in clothing as well as look great in a suit for those days in the office.

A watch that I could wear every day also means one more thing to me – being understated. Often, no one recognizes or cares that you are wearing a particular watch, but prefer this to be the majority of the time. I want to avoid unwanted attention and that is just something I value. You may be different here.

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Let us get right into my wish list. One of my main contenders – the Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch. The Moonwatch has always been on my list to some degree. How could it not be? I find the design to be nearly perfect. Coupled with its history, it is hard not to put the Moonwatch on and feel something towards it. The latest updates including the new bracelet design made the watch better in my eyes and took it to a new level (as I was not a big fan of the previous bracelet).

Omega Seedmaster Moonwatch

However, in practice, the longer I spent considering the Moonwatch, the more I found it slightly too large for me. It might be my wrists, but it felt a little top-heavy and had a lot of presence. Then there was the price. I started my search in 2021 and since then prices have risen a fair amount. I could have bought it on the grey market or pre-owned but I like the boutique experience.

Take your pick of Omegas

This was not the only Omega on my list, there were actually three in total. The others were the Aqua Terra 38mm in white and the Seamaster 300M in dark green. The Aqua Terra is a fantastic watch and I have spoken about this before. It does everything extremely well. The dial is interesting, the movement is the solid Co-Axial caliber, it works on different straps and it is potentially an ideal one-watch collection candidate. 

However, as I have a collection of watches, I found the Aqua Terra to lack some personality. It would be great to wear daily, but would I love it? I wasn’t sure.

Then the Seamaster 300M. I have mixed emotions, partly because I like the watch in only certain colors and have never been fully won over by the design. 

Then there is the bracelet – I have been confused for some time as to why Omega refuses to update it, especially as they now have on the Speedmaster. I do believe it will make its way into my collection one day, but it wasn’t to be this time.

Zenith Pilot

The final two watches on my list were the Cartier Santos Medium (35mm) and the new Zenith Pilot. The Santos was one that won me over when I got it on my wrist. It came down to the comfort more than anything else. I have written a full review that goes into my thoughts on the watch in a lot more depth. 

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Finally, the new Zenith Pilot reference for 2023. The size is great at 40mm and I love the new modern aesthetic. I find the design very clean and legible and combined with the vertically brushed case, it spoke to me. However, the reasons I found myself liking the Zenith were not as strong as the Grand Seiko and it was priced higher. Ultimately, it made for an easier decision. 

I am the first to admit that my wish list had no logic to it. There were watches that had different complications, and sizes that varied from 35mm to 42mm. I did end up making a decision but let me be clear, every watch on this list I would want to own. They are all fantastic and my decision does not reflect anything negative against those other options in the slightest.

Grand Seiko Seasons Winter ‘Taisetsu’ SBGA415 – Why?

One glaring exclusion from the list above is the brand and watch I landed on. Grand Seiko in recent years has grown in popularity. This has been by design. Grand Seiko became its own brand in 2017 under the Seiko Group and this has coincided with a push to expand out of Japan and into more markets such as the USA and Europe. Coverage of the brand has grown, and with that the appreciation for what they offer has become broader.

Grand Seiko Seasons Winter Taisetsu

I, like many others, was aware of the growing buzz surrounding the brand and models like the Snowflake. I was intrigued and eager to experience it first-hand. When I finally did, I was blown away by the dials and finishing. No photos will ever do Grand Seiko justice. Of all the models, it was the ‘Skyflake’, the SBGA407, that caught my eye initially.

I preferred the Skyflake case shape over the Snowflake and the light blue color was attractive to me (I am not immune to current trends). However, after digesting my first impressions and considering Grand Seiko more seriously, I looked at a range of references. It didn’t take me long to find the SBGA415 Winter.

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A year in Japan is divided into 24 micro-seasons, one of which is called “Taisetsu”. This season is characterized by deep snow on winter pine trees under the winter sun, which is reflected in the dark grey dial of the Grand Seiko Winter SBGA415. The reference is part of the Seasons collection, which was initially released as a US exclusive in 2019. It is one of their more understated and simple models. 

I want to avoid going into the factual details too much. I will save that for a full review. However, the dimensions of the SBGA415 are great. The case is 40mm in diameter and 12.8mm thick. It is a modern re-interpretation of the 62GS from 1967 and inside you will find the 9R65 Spring Drive movement.

Grand Seiko Seasons Winter Taisetsu

The watch case and bracelet are made using the Grand Seiko High-intensity grade 5 titanium. This gives the watch all the great benefits of titanium such as the darker hue and hardness, but still allows the brand to Zaratsu polish the beveled edges and parts of the bracelet. On paper, this watch has it all. It might not be hard to understand why I came to this decision, but what were the defining factors for me?

Finishing

You may have seen this one coming, but the finishing on Grand Seiko watches is exceptional. As previously mentioned, to fully appreciate it, you have to see a Grand Seiko in person. I am going to try and get it across the best I can here. 

The first thing that captures your attention about a watch is its dial. This could be obvious given how much attention is given to their dial quality, but it’s for good reason. Are there better dials on watches below £10,000? I don’t think so. In press photos and online coverage, macro shots are often used to showcase their full beauty. Yet in person, I find all their dials to be a lot softer than the images you see, and because of that, they tend to be more subtle.

This is a generalization as some models like the SLGH005 ‘White Birch’ are more noticeable and intense.

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Once you move beyond the texture, you start to appreciate the colors. A photograph may depict a blue dial, but the in-person experience reveals a much more vivid and intense shade of blue. After adjusting to the reality of the watch in front of you, you’ll start to notice the Zaratsu polishing. This is a polishing technique dating back to 1964 and is a method of polishing where the metal is pressed against emery cloth or paper abrasive on a rotating disk. It may sound simple, but it requires a tremendous amount of skill, and the resulting effect is fantastic.

Zaratsu polishing on the SBGA407 Skyflake

While there are Zaratsu polished beveled edges, I find the effect to be most noticeable on the hands and indices. The way they capture the light and reflect it back makes each feel more like a precious gen. It keeps you captivated. The quality that Grand Seiko offers is remarkable, and I firmly believe it has shifted my standards in what I expect from the major Swiss brands.

I settled on the SBGA415 with its lightly textured grey dial because of its versatility. The watch is sportier than the SBGA407 Skyflake, which suits my overall style. It comes on a bracelet, and the 62GS case is more angular. The grey dial gives me the texture that I longed for from Grand Seiko, yet the color can vary from light to dark grey, which played a significant factor in how I viewed the longevity of the design.

Grand Seiko Seasons Winter Taisetsu

When I buy watches, I do so with a view of never selling them, and I had a concern in the back of my mind with other references like the Skyflake – would a sky blue or an overly textured dial still be something I would enjoy in 5 years? I didn’t know.

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Movement

I have been quite open about this before – I appreciate good movements but they are not everything to me. However, there are two movements (without getting into high horology) that I admire and aspire to own: the Spring Drive, and the El Primero Chronograph. The Spring Drive can be divisive due to its use of quartz, but I believe that those who disregard it because of this are missing out.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive Caliber 9R65

The Spring Drive technology is unique and essentially combines the best of mechanical and quartz movements. It could be argued that, rationally, this is what most mechanical movements should have moved towards: efficient, accurate and mechanical. There are many in-depth articles looking at how the movement is engineered, so here I will continue to focus on the emotional aspect that led me to the SBGA415.

Tri-Synchro Regulator

Understanding and appreciating the technical marvel of Spring Drive is one thing, but the smooth second-hand sweep resulting from the uniform release of energy is yet another Grand Seiko feature that needs to be experienced. The brand’s marketing approach of producing timepieces that convey the nature of time is exemplified by the perfectly smooth seconds hand, which reflects the continuous progression of time.

Seiko Tri-Synchro Regulator

I am not ashamed to say I bought into this and it resonated with me. Even if you don’t share this opinion, it is still mesmerizing to see. Similar to the finishing, it starts to change your standards and expectations of what watches should offer in general. Being able to buy a watch with this movement was just too compelling.

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Value for Money

The finishing and movement technology come together and result in Grand Seiko watches offering value for money. That is not to say they are cheap. Any watch can be considered a luxury, especially when the time is easily accessible today. Value for money refers more to what is on offer compared to the competition.

Grand Seiko Seasons Winter Taisetsu

When I experienced the Grand Seiko compared to Omega, IWC, Cartier and Zenith watches I was considering, it felt different. The surfaces and indices were that bit more reflective and impressive. The dial was that bit more intriguing and felt to be truly hand-made.

The movement and second hand smoothness felt more captivating to me. I was surprised that I could get something that felt this special for the same price, if not less, compared to other luxury watches. This is not to discredit anything else, but more how the above factors made me feel. At the end of the day, a luxury purchase like this is driven by emotions.

The final point to make here is that Grand Seiko has a certain level of exclusivity to it. I understand that they are available and therefore, not necessarily exclusive from that point of view. However, when you consider the production numbers on an annual basis (not officially known but estimated at 30,000-50,000), the likelihood of you coming across someone wearing a Grand Seiko, let alone the same reference, is low.

While I don’t particularly mind if someone is wearing the same watch as me, but if I ever do, I can almost guarantee that I could start a conversation with that person and they would be an enthusiast of some sort. Is this a reason to buy a watch? Not really, but nice nevertheless.

First Impressions

Now you know the reasons behind the Grand Seiko, what is it like after a month of ownership? Owning a watch is a very different experience when compared to trying something in a boutique. The Grand Seiko has been the watch in my collection where this difference has been felt most.

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It all starts with the dial. Before owning a Grand Seiko, and as I mentioned above, the intensity of the texture was something I assessed. I wanted it to have the texture but not too much. The reality is that the texture is less visible than expected, and it becomes much more subtle once you take the watch away from the bright boutique spotlights. In most instances, it is the polishing that stands out when glancing down at your wrist. Nevertheless, the texture is always there and it is beautiful when you catch the dial in the right light, without being overbearing.

Grand Seiko Seasons Winter Taisetsu

The color is another detail that varies. This will depend on the reference. With the SBGA415, the grey is broad and can change from a bright silver to a grey that matches the titanium case and bracelet. The small additions such as the gold “GS” applied logo and blue second hand add a small hint of color that I did not think it needed. I can now tell you, regardless of what you think in pictures, those colors work perfectly. 

It results in the watch being even more dynamic and having more personality than I expected. At the same time, the indices and hands really jump out at you. I am a big fan of well-designed hands as I believe they can set a watch apart and be a good indicator of overall quality. No matter how dim or bright the light environment is, the Zaratsu polishing is able to capture the light. They pop like no other watch I have experienced. By doing so, they give the impression that they are floating on the dial and create a level of depth not first appreciated.

I think it is time I focus on the bracelet. I know that this is a contentious issue, and even I have in the past called out Grand Seiko for needing to improve it. Their bracelets, in general, do not live up to the quality standards that you find for the rest of the watch. I was concerned by this, but I thought that by buying a bracelet reference, I would at least have the choice to remove it. From reviews what are the main areas of complaint? The lack of micro-adjustment, the clasp, the taper and overall solidity between links.

Grand Seiko Seasons Winter Taisetsu

Having worn it on the bracelet the whole time, I have been positively surprised once again. Although I think it comes down to my expectations being low. I really like the design, especially the combination of brushed and polished surfaces, and the darker titanium hue. It is soft to the touch and comfortable on the wrist, but this could also be down to the material. 

The lack of micro-adjustment is a minor inconvenience, but it isn’t anything I am not used to. My Tudor Black Bay 36 has no micro-adjustment either for example. Should they offer it for the price? Definitely, but it would never stop me from buying the watch I like. 

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Lastly, the lack of taper has been less noticeable than I thought it would be. However, there is truth in the bracelet needing some work. The clasp has a very nice stamped GS logo, but it does not sit flush with the rest of the bracelet leaving a slightly raised lip. This makes me feel less confident while wearing it, so I would never do anything too active with it on.

Grand Seiko Seasons Winter Taisetsu Ref. SBGA415

Then there is some flex between links. You can feel it more so when holding the watch and I have been fortunate enough to try, as well as own, bracelets that have felt more sturdy.

In conclusion, there is room for them to grow here and it surprises me that, despite their strive for perfection, it has not carried over to the bracelet. Even though it is not there yet, for now, I am enjoying it thanks to the overall comfort and design.

Final Thoughts

The final thought I want to share comes down to my emotion and feeling towards the Grand Seiko SBGA415, I have learnt what the brand is about even more. You may have heard the somewhat famous quote “You buy a Rolex to impress others, but you buy a Grand Seiko to impress yourself”. Now owning one, this statement resonates with me even more.

Grand Seiko Seasons Winter Taisetsu Ref. SBGA415

The details and finishing are so fine that you need to be looking out for them. Only the wearer can truly appreciate this. The beauty of catching the Zaratsu indices, the soothing movement of the second hand from the Spring Drive movement, or even the fine texture details, are all created for the person wearing the watch. No one else is looking at your wrist close enough or long enough to take any of this in.

It flies under the radar and is solely there to impress the enthusiast in you. It won’t stir up the same emotions you feel towards trying on one of the iconic designs out there, but the craftsmanship will. I have been left with a very distorted view now of what should be expected from luxury watches at this price point.

For more information, please visit www.grand-seiko.com/us-en/collections/sbga415g

Quick Facts Grand Seiko Seasons Winter “Taisetsu” SBGA415
Functions: hours, minutes, seconds, date, power reserve

Case: high intensity titanium
Dimensions: 40mm diameter, 12.8mm high
Movement: Spring Drive caliber 9R65
Accuracy: ±15 seconds per month (±1 second per day)
Power reserve: 72 hours(3 days)
Bracelet/buckle: stainless steel, three-fold clasp with push button release
Water resistence: 100 meters
Price: 7,000- euros

You can read more articles by Raman Kalra at www.thewatchmuse.com.

You might also enjoy:

Grand Seiko: Looking at What Makes the Brand so Special – And Grand Seiko is Definitely Special!

Grand Seiko Blue Snowflake: Why I Bought It (Despite The Strap And Buckle)

Seiko Credor Kumakawa Worldtimer: a genuine Rolex beater for under $2,000
Titanium vs. Stainless Steel Watches: Beyond the Silvery Surface

Recommendations for Building a Watch Collection for £5,000/$6,000 Featuring Tudor, Tissot, Oris, and a G-Shock

8 replies
  1. Dan K
    Dan K says:

    Great review! One qualm as a Black Bay 36 owner and lover like yourself. It does have micro adjustment, just not *toolless* micro adjustment, by default. The three holes on the clasp were never enough for me, but the Uncle Seiko half link and the Steel Reef 5mm extension link (basically a Rolex Easy Link clone) have dialed it in perfectly.

    Enjoy that gorgeous GS. I’ll be after a spring drive some day, too. I’m just hoping they can get the thickness down another mm or so in coming years, as the cases wear just a shade beefy for me when I’ve tried them on at the local AD.

    Reply
    • Raman Kalra
      Raman Kalra says:

      Thanks Dan – happy you liked the article. I have been very happy with the GS so far. I agree on the thickness, although it’s working ok on my wrist. Maybe check some of the manual wind spring drives like the Omiwatari?

      You’re right about the Black Bay bracelet. I don’t really view it as a micro-adjustment even though it technically is 🙂 can’t complain though. Find it very comfortable overall!

      Reply
    • Ian Skellern
      Ian Skellern says:

      Grand Seiko was a collection under the Seiko brand. In 2017 Seiko split Grand Seiko into a seperate company and it became a brand in its own right. If you read the history in the link you referenced, under 2017 it states: “Grand Seiko has always been distinct in its design, character, presentation and, more recently, its calibers. In order to further reinforce its unique appeal and to reach out to a wider audience, in 2017 Grand Seiko took another step forward and became an entirely separate brand.”

      Regards, Ian

      Reply
  2. Steve
    Steve says:

    Hello,
    Excellent article.
    I tell you what, I’m mind-blown how GS is still a watch under 10k € , don’t get me wrong I love the fact it’s like this. Tho believe me in few years people will be sorry for not investing in GS. This watches Will go up in price and when they do there’s no coming back.
    When I see one of these beautiful watches in wild, I just want to go to first GS office and buy every watch they have in a lot 😄.
    Just mind-blown how GS looks,works and still looks stealthy(I’m not afraid getting robbed like with some other timepieces on my wrist 💯🤌 GS👑

    Reply

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