Quick Take

The Elegance Collection is a group of watches from Grand Seiko which have one thing in common they all skew slightly dressy, with nary a GS Dive watch nor, for that matter, even a steel bracelet among them. The eight watches in the existing Elegance Collection include both hand-wound and automatic movements, which clock in at about 11.6mm thick for the hand-wound models, and a more-typical-for-Grand-Seiko thirteen and change for the automatic models (13.10mm for SBGR261, which is a date-and-time-only model, and slightly thicker for GMT and Spring Drive GMT models). Grand Seiko has just announced the addition of four new watches to the Elegance Collection. Three watches sport Japanese urushi lacquer dials, two of which are decorated with the technique known as maki-e, and all four are also launch vehicles for the first hand-wound Grand Seiko movement in eight years. This is the caliber 9S63, which takes the basic plate architecture of the existing 9S64 and adds a running small seconds at 9:00, as well as a power reserve indication at 3:00.
Urushi lacquerware is a very old, very traditional decorative art, even by Japanese standards. The technique involves harvesting the sap of the Japanese lacquer tree (a species of poison oak; lacquer workers tend to develop some immunity to the irritating oils in the sap from prolonged exposure) which is aged, and then applied in very thin layers to create a variety of forms. Lacquer dries to a very hard, waterproof and highly lustrous surface and it can be used to decorate a wide range of objects, using a very complex vocabulary of techniques. The specific technique used for the new Elegance urushi watches is called maki-e; this is a method in which gold or silver powder is used as an additional decorative element (fountain pens decorated with maki-e lacquer are in high demand among writing instrument collectors).*
At launch, the watches will be available in two rose gold maki-e dial models, and one maki-e dial model in steel; there will also be a gold model with a simple white dial the latter is the only model of the four which is not a limited edition. All four watches have the same dimensions: 39mm in diameter, and 11.6mm thick.
The two maki-e dial lacquer models.
Initial Thoughts

The increasing number of limited edition watches from Grand Seiko, using both mechanical and Spring Drive movements, is part of a larger move on the part of Grand Seiko to clearly distinguish itself as a true luxury product, from other types of watchmaking at Seiko. Grand Seiko announced that it would function as a separate entity from Seiko in 2017, and since then, a number of new models, including special and limited editions for specific markets, have given Grand Seiko enthusiasts a greater and greater number of models to choose from, compared to the relatively small selection available even just a few years ago.
The only concern that this has raised among the Grand Seiko fan base, is that as the choices increase and the firm moves its image more and more upmarket, that at some point Grand Seiko will to some extent lose its appeal as a company that offers an unmatched price-value proposition. Happily, this seems thus far to not be the case, and the fact that quartz Grand Seiko models are still available starting at $2,200 (and under $4,000 for mechanical automatics and Spring Drive watches) is a reassuring sign to Grand Seiko enthusiasts as well as prospective owners, that the core identity of Grand Seiko remains intact.
While the gold urushi and plain dial models are probing the higher end of the Grand Seiko price bracket, the steel model is under $8,000, which for the quality present, in the finish and quality of the case and hands, the hand-made make-e dial, and quality of the movement, is still something of a bargain as well.*
Gold and steel models, with applied markers. The yellow gold model will become part of the permanent collection and is not a limited edition.
The Basics

Brand: Grand Seiko
Model: Elegance Collection, new "Slim" watch debut
Reference Number: SBGK002 (rose gold, red lacquer dial) SBGK004 (rose gold, black lacquer dial) SBGK006 (yellow gold, white dial) SBGK005 (stainless steel, blue lacquer dial)
Diameter: 39mm
Thickness: 11.6mm
Case Material: Rose gold, yellow gold, or steel
Dials: Two in maki-e Japanese lacquer (rose gold) one white dial (yellow gold) and one lacquer dial with applied markers (steel)
Water Resistance: 30 meters
Strap/Bracelet: All supplied with matching crocodile straps
The new hand-wound, small seconds caliber 9S63.
The Movement

Caliber: Grand Seiko caliber 9S63
Functions: Hours, minutes, small seconds, power reserve
Power Reserve: 72 hours
Winding: Manual
Frequency: 4 Hz (28,800 vph)
Jewels: 33
Additional Details: Internal control, +5/-3 seconds/day
Pricing & Availability

Price: maki-e dial models in gold, $29,000; yellow gold model, $19,000; in steel with urushi dial, $7,400
Limited Edition: 150 of each maki-e model, and 1,00 of the steel model. The limited editions will be available in March, with the yellow gold model joining the permanent collection in July.
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