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Introducing The Grand Seiko SBGA403 Spring Drive 20th Anniversary Limited Edition (Live Pics & Pricing)

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This year is the 20th anniversary of Grand Seiko's unique Spring Drive technology (which you can learn all about right here, if you're not already familiar). As you'd expect, a celebration is in order and the Japanese watchmaker is doing so in a number of important ways. We already showed you the limited edition hand-wound anniversary dress watches and the new hand-wound Elegance collection, but now we've got something else entirely for you to enjoy: Meet the SBGA403, a new sports watch that brings together an automatic Spring Drive movement with a new style of case and an absolutely stunning dial. The entire package is inspired by the lion, a longtime symbol of Grand Seiko.

Let's start with the new case. Made from high-intensity titanium and measuring in at 44.5mm across, it has a distinct shape with faceted lugs and dramatically curved sides that give it a ton of dynamism. The underside of the case angles inward, making it wear lower to the wrist and ensuring that the faceting doesn't make the watch uncomfortable (you don't want "sharp lugs" to go from being a compliment to being a warning, after all). The shape of the lugs is inspired by the claws of a lion. There is a black ceramic 60-minute bezel too, which frames the dial nicely and emphasizes the sportiness of the new case. There are two anniversary Spring Drive chronographs built on the same case architecture, but that's a story for another time.

And then there's the dial. I mean...wow. The olive green color can read as slightly grey or slightly brown, depending on the light, and the pattern is the result of a hand-carved stamp that is inspired by a lion's mane. As you move the watch, the texture seems to jump right out at you. The applied markers and diamond-cut hands with luminous centers keep things super legible though, despite the intensity of the overall pattern.

But don't forget, this watch is all about celebrating Spring Drive and the caliber 9R15 inside is an automatic movement that's been specially regulated to +/- 10 seconds per month (GS also quotes a crazy +/- 0.5 seconds per day). The rotor has a gold lion on it in a final nod to the watch's inspiration.

The SBGA403 is limited to 500 pieces and will be available from May. It is priced at $10,600.

Initial Thoughts
When I first saw photos of this watch I was blown away. But when I saw that it measured 44.5mm across, I was a bit crestfallen. How the heck was I going to wear a watch that large? Luckily, after seeing it in the metal I can report that never in a million years would I have guessed the dimensions from wearing it on the wrist. The new case design, beyond being beautiful and showing off what Grand Seiko can do with Zaratsu polishing, is extremely comfortable and the way the short lugs integrate with the bracelet and the way the case sides taper make it wear much more like a 42mm watch than I'd expected. Lucky me. 

Though the case is obviously big news, I think the dial is the stand-out element here for me. Grand Seiko does great dials, we all know this. From the Snowflake to the Eichi II, they make some of the most incredible dials on planet Earth. I would put this dial in the same class as those without a moment's hesitation. The pattern has a ton of three-dimensionality to it, and it has an almost holographic effect as you roll your wrist back and forth. The olive color is extremely subtle, taking on different hues in different light, and I could see it being very easy to work into your wardrobe, no matter your style. 

It would be silly of me not to at least address the movement inside, which really shows off what Spring Drive can be. It's extremely precise and practical, while offering something that you just can't get anywhere else. Two decades in, it's clear that Spring Drive is something here to stay. While there are plenty of people who balk at the fact that it's not a traditional mechanical movement, those who truly understand what Spring Drive is know that it's a special part of 21st-century watchmaking and something worth paying close attention to – especially when it's used for a watch this awesome.

The Basics
Brand: Grand Seiko
Model: SBGA403

Diameter: 44.5mm
Thickness: 14.3mm
Case Material: High-intensity titanium
Dial Color: Olive 
Indexes: Applied
Lume: Yes, on hands and hour markers
Water Resistance: 200 meters
Strap/Bracelet: High-intensity titanium bracelet with three-fold clasp, push button release, secure lock, and slide adjuster

The Movement
Caliber: Spring Drive 9R15
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, power reserve indicator 
Power Reserve: 72 hours
Winding: Automatic (with manual winding)
Jewels: 30
Additional Details: Regulated to +/- 10 seconds per month (approximately =/- 0.5 seconds per day)

Pricing & Availability
Price: $10,600
Availability: From May 2019
Limited Edition: 500 pieces

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