Take Two With The Grand Seiko GMT SBGM031 – A Limited Edition from 2012
By Daniel Yong
Ah, the Grand Seiko SBGM031. This watch was seriously one of the most underrated limited-edition pieces from the brand. With its gorgeous flat, but not so flat, midnight blue dial that contrasted against the golden GMT hand. What’s not to love about this piece? So years ago, I was once the lucky owner of this particular example, but sadly had to let it go to make room for another watch. During my newbie Grand Seiko “collecting” days, I was kindly offered to submit a write up of my SBGM031 and SBGW031 by a good friend, Chelsey (Instagram @olive55wrist). Which brings me to this story. I re-read that article, and I honestly don’t think I did the SBGM031 justice. So give me another chance folks, and I hope you get something out of this revised story.
But first, some background information
In 2002, Grand Seiko introduced its first GMT model which featured a black dial, fixed 24-hour steel bezel, and a red GMT hand. Ten years later, the brand would then introduce two models (SBGM029 and SBGM031) that were of course, limited editions, and were sure to induce “thirst” amongst Grand Seiko fans. The sportier SBGM029 was 6700 USD, limited to 700, and the classically styled SBGM031 was 6300 USD, limited to 1000. Both featured dark blue dials, gold accents (most prominent on the GMT hand), and collectors had the choice of choosing a sporty example or a classically designed piece on a crocodile strap. I obviously chose the SBGM031 on the strap because I preferred the classic look, so for the purpose of this short review, I’ll focus on that reference.
After rocking it for two years, the first aspect of the watch that draws both wearer and admirer, is that stunning dial. Let’s explore the blue here. At first glance, the blue appears to be a flat midnight blue if you will, but really, it’s so much more complicated than that. Depending on the lighting and environment, it could appear either blue or black. Angle your wrist in the direction of where the light shines, and that blue illuminates into a brighter blue. Navy as opposed to midnight. Note, navy has lighter hues than midnight blue. At the time, I believe I mentioned that the dial reminded me of Van Gogh’s famous painting ‘Starry Night’. My reasoning for this analogy, is because the dial becomes alive when the dauphine hands sparkle via the movements of the wearer. Another important feature to note, is the golden GMT hand. Let’s just conclude by stating the fact that gold and blue are a bread and butter combination. I’m no designer but damn it, this combo just works.
Like most limited editions by Grand Seiko, there’s just something a little bit extra that the average guy or gal might miss. For example, on the new hand winders (SBGK005, SBGK007 and SBGK009), the difference featured on the movements from my knowledge, is heated blue screws versus no heated blue screws (the SBGK005 was the limited-edition piece featuring the blued screws). So, what was special about the SBGM031? The movement was the first (to my knowledge anyway) to feature that sexy (damn right I said it) blue tungsten-titanium rotor. Grand Seiko claimed that this addition to the movement was because it absorbed shock ten times better than brass… whatever that means.
Lucky for me, a collector friend of mine still owns the SBGM031, so I was able to pick it up again and revisit those memories. On the wrist, the 39 mm watch sits comfortably on my 7-inch wrists. However, shift it sideways and you would notice that the watch does sit quite high. Being 14 mm tall, it certainly is not a thin watch, which is why I hesitate to refer to it as a dress watch. It just isn’t. But you bet, it would look great in a range of outfits, from smart casual to jeans and a t-shirt.
When I first got my SBGM031, I noticed that it originally comes stock with the Grand Seiko crocodile strap. Personally, I found this strap to be a little too fancy for my liking. It was glossy blue with a highly polished butterfly clasp. I personally prefer the good old basic buckles because I’m boring, so I naturally ditched the OEM strap for an aftermarket one.
Unfortunately, because the SBGM031 was a limited-edition piece from 2012, you may find some difficulty in securing one. My suggestion is to look online and buy from a reputable used dealer, but be prepared to pay premium. From the last time I checked, these held their value as to when they first came out.