Grand Seiko SBGA083 Spring Drive Watch Review

I have to be honest, when I first saw and purchased the Grand Seiko SBGA083, I was more interested in owning my first Spring Drive than specifically owning the SBGA083. In fact I expected it to be a catch and release – to see the movement in action, in person, and then move on to the next thing. However, more than 5 months after originally purchasing the watch, I can only say that it’s grown on me with time. And although I expect I will be parting with it soon, the only reason I’m planning to do so is to eventually replace it with what I consider to be the perfect Grand Seiko Spring Drive (for more on that, skip to the end of this review).

At first glance, the SBGA083 is incredibly understated. The watch is almost monochromatic in color, with the case, dial, hands, and markers all being entirely silver (although the dial color is slightly warmer, like a champagne). However, this makes it perfect to pair with a bold strap, such as the royal blue alligator strap pictured. The strap also does a good job of bringing out the few splahes of blue from the printed “Grand Seiko / SPRING DRIVE” and the power reserve level on the dial. While I first purchased this watch on a bracelet, I feel that putting it on the right strap really has brought it to life.

I recently learned the the term “loupe watch” – a watch that really has to be under a loupe to be properly appreciated. While I hope it doesn’t become a cliche, I really have to say that the SBGA083, and really all Grand Seikos I’ve seen so far, are perfect embodiments of the term. It’s common knowledge that the selling points of Grand Seiko watches are the quality of hand finishing using Zaratsu polishing techniques, and the sophistication of the Spring Drive movement that produces a perfectly smooth sweep of the seconds hand – both of which are accentuated when observed under magnification. There’s also something special about the texture and color of the dial. It looks almost matte up close, but has an awesome sunburst effect when viewed further away. And finally I have to point out the signed “GS” crown. I’m incredibly impressed by the level of detail and refinement Grand Seiko has managed to squeeze in an area that small.

Ok, enough drooling over the watch. You’re probably wondering how it will wear on your wrist, so let’s get some measurements and other specifications out of the way. Here are my measurements of the case dimensions:

  • Case width: 39mm
  • Case thickness: 12.5mm
  • Lug width: 19mm
  • Lug-to-lug: 46mm

The SBGA083 has a solid case back, screw-down crown, and 10 bar (100m) of water resistance. Of course, the Spring Drive movement is also famously accurate to within 1 second per day/15 seconds per month. Finally, the watch houses date (with a beautifully applied window) and power reserve indicator (72 hours) complications.

This is the first watch that I’ve owned with a power reserve indicator, and I’ve found it to be quite a useful complication. I also don’t mind the position of the indicator, although somewhat strange at first. However, I will say that the close proximity of the power reserve indicator and “GS / Grand Seiko / SPRING DRIVE” lettering did make the dial feel a bit bottom heavy. I’m sure this is better with the new dial design, with the “SEIKO” logo replaced by the Grand Seiko logo at the top of the dial. I will say though that it’s kinda cool to have the “old school” dial from before Grand Seiko became its own separate brand.

So clearly I love the SBGA083 – so what will I be selling it for? The answer – as I mentioned at the beginning of this article – is what I think to be my perfect Spring Drive; a watch that shares many characteristics with the SBGA083, with a few small differences: the Grand Seiko Spring Drive SBGA373.

The SBGA373. Official photo from the Grand Seiko website, since I don’t own the watch yet. No copyright infringement intended.

So what are these “small differences” that I speak of? Well, I really consider them upgrades for the most part.

Firstly, the case is slightly wider at 40mm, and trivially thicker. It also features the classic 44GS case design, which Grand Seiko calls “a cornerstone of its design philosophy” and in my opinion just looks pretty damn good. It’s a much “fuller” case design than what’s on the SBGA083, which suits the watch’s bigger size and should give it more wrist presence.

Secondly, the exhibition case back that exposes the 9R65 Spring Drive movement. While this might be controversial, I’ve always liked exhibition backs, especially when the movement being revealed is one as interesting as a Spring Drive.

Thirdly, the dial with the more subtle power reserve indicator and new Grand Seiko branding. While I did say that I like the old dial with the Seiko logo at top, I don’t mind the new design, especially given how it makes the whole watch look a lot cleaner.

And finally, the heat-blued seconds hand, which retains the splash of blue on the watch and does a better job of highlighting the smooth sweep created by the Spring Drive movement.

* * *

It feels wrong to end this review of an excellent watch by pointing out all the ways in which I find it slightly inferior to another one, so I’ll just say this instead: you probably can’t go wrong with any Spring Drive, or in fact any Grand Seiko, from the catalogue. And the SBGA083 will always be memorable to me as a watch that ended up being much more special and interesting that I originally thought it would be, and the watch that first exposed me to Grand Seiko and Spring Drive. When the time comes to sell, I hope that the new owner will enjoy it as much as I have.