Why not...? Grand Seiko SBGA 405 Godzilla
The GS Godzilla is in the line of eccentric watches and offers us a departure into Japanese science fiction with one of its favourite monsters: Godzilla.
At a time when everything seems to be depressing and difficult, humour becomes a survival tactic. A smile, the ability to let go and not take yourself too seriously – these are valuable skills when it comes to dealing with everyday tensions, and coping with the anxiety-inducing lives we lead. Humour is also a positive attitude; it shows humility, and an ability to question yourself. A lack of humour, on the other hand, denotes a kind of insecurity, even arrogance. In short, if you want to do something properly, do it with humour!
The first few lines of this Why Not probably sound like a personal development article, or perhaps a management or leadership essay. It isn’t (well, it is, but you have to read between the lines). But the subject of humour is also important for our favourite objects – watches – and the people who make them.
When you look at current watch production, it’s abundantly clear that very few watchmakers really dare to let go and have fun. And what’s even worse, many of them take themselves far too seriously, and some even go as far as attacking colleagues who occasionally dare to poke gentle fun at this rather uptight industry. I remember a watch H. Moser & Cie released a few years back – the Frankenstein Hommage – which elicited outrage from certain big-name brands that felt they were being targeted by this horological joke. That’s a great shame, and it’s also rather sad.
Frankenstein Homage H. Moser & Cie
Humour rarely sits comfortably with watches. Often, pieces that dare to push the envelope a little bit are entry-level pieces, or children’s watches. So, if you want to have some horological fun, you’d probably be well advised to get in touch with your inner child, and save your money. When you look a little closer at the current tally of “humorous” watches, it’s a pretty short list. I’m thinking of the wonderful pieces by Konstantin Chaykin, the Joker and all its variants, including the superbly executed Halloween and Dracula. But as far as the mainstream Swiss brands are concerned, there’s not a lot out there. You have to look East, or go back in time to find one of the Mickey Mouse tribute Genta watches.
Joker Dracula © Konstantin Chaykin
You could also turn to some of the smaller brands, such as Undone, which offers the ability to personalise your watch and produce something both unique and fun. Finally, the list would not be complete without mentioning Swatch, which treads the line between humour and art (like the quirky Lisa Masquée). But that’s more or less it.
Lisa Masquée © Swatch
Given that we have concluded that Switzerland is not the place to find watches that are synonymous with fun, let’s take a look at Asia, and Japan in particular. Why? Because the Land of the Rising Sun can be surprisingly good at not taking itself too seriously. I travel to Asia, and Japan in particular, every month, so I can tell you that a quick walk through the streets of Tokyo will immediately convince you that our Japanese friends are not shy of breaking free of convention. Lovers of vintage Seiko watches will also be only too happy to tell you about the Disney pieces produced in the 1970s, delicious watchmaking gems that are both fun and well made. More recently, we’ve seen a number of Seikos that pay tribute to manga. They are a good illustration of the creative strength and imagination of the Japanese brand. But once again, the higher in the range you go, the rarer it is to find humour. And that’s why I was immediately won over by this Godzilla watch – about which, more in just a minute.
Why Grand Seiko?
This is not the first time I’ve talked about Grand Seiko. In my opinion, it offers some of the very best value to be found in the industry, with beautifully made movements (quartz, mechanical or automatic), unique technological innovations (Spring Drive) and exceptional finishes.Collectors have got it right, and demand for GS continues to rise, particularly here in the USA.
I recently wrote: “Choosing a Grand Seiko is entering the realm of Japanese haute horlogerie, and owning a totally unique watch, with the charm, attention to detail and rigour for which Japan is known.” Today, Grand Seiko has its place among the finest watch brands worldwide. Its image as a serious watchmaker – and we will come back to that assessment later – continues to gain credibility, and the brand continues to gain market share.
After restructuring to clarify its positioning, Grand Seiko is going full speed ahead to conquer the international markets. It possesses perfect technical and stylistic mastery of high-end watchmaking, which it has built up over the course of its proud and illustrious history. Grand Seiko nevertheless does sometimes let its hair down enough to venture outside the rigid confines of high-end horology, producing original and unusual watches that are invariably well made, but with that little something extra, like the magnificent SBGH 269 with its fire-engine red dial, or the SBGC 229 which pays tribute to the iconic Nissan GTR.
SBGH 269 & SBGC 229 © Grand Seiko
The GS Godzilla is the latest in this line of eccentric watches. Here, there are no references to Japanese seasons or sports cars, but instead a departure into Japanese sci-fi, and one of its favourite monsters: Godzilla.
The Grand Seiko SBGA 405 Godzilla: a beautiful sea monster
Before going into more detail about the watch, let’s talk about the monster. In Japan, Godzilla is considered the King of Monsters. It’s an improbable cross between a gorilla and a whale (that’s where its name comes from – it’s a contraction of the Japanese words for gorilla and whale). This science-fiction character appeared for the first time in 1954, and subsequently found its way into many films and mangas. Sometimes a goody, sometimes a baddy, but always extremely scary, Godzilla is neither handsome nor subtle. It’s a prehistoric creature created by a nuclear explosion, which occasionally surges up from the ocean depths, destroys cities with its huge lumbering feet, and encounters other kaiju colleagues, to the delight of old and young alike. Its cinema exploits may not always be Oscar-worthy, but they never fail to entertain.
In 2019 we celebrated the creature’s 65th birthday, and Grand Seiko decided to offer a fine gift in the shape of this tribute watch. For a brand positioned at the top end of the market, playing with a character like Godzilla was not an obvious choice. True, the watchmaker and the monster do have some things in common: both, in their own way, are a symbol of Japanese culture, and they are around the same age. But on the one hand we have subtlety and refinement, and on the other, brutality and exaggeration. The GS SBGA 405 has skilfully avoided all the traps; it’s an original, almost too-sensible watch, with plenty of references to Godzilla.
SBGA 405 Godzilla © Grand Seiko
First, it’s a sport watch, which fits perfectly into the ecosystem in which our kaiju lives. It’s also an imposing timepiece (44.5 mm), one of the biggest in Grand Seiko’s current collection. The SBGA 405 has several other Godzilla-related features. The burgundy dial is a reminder of the rays with which Godzilla destroys its enemies. Its finish – as with all the GS dials – is exceptional, and its unusual colour and subtle design are endlessly fascinating. The texture of the burgundy strap is a reference to Godzilla’s scaly skin. And finally, the watch back features a famous scene that gave me the theme of this Why Not: Humour. What do we see? It’s Godzilla, destroying a clock tower. And it’s not just any clock tower. It’s the Seiko clock that was installed in 1952 on the top of the Wako building, a luxury store in the heart of Tokyo’s Ginza district, and a Seiko/Grand Seiko retailer. Try imagining a Rolex, decorated with a Swiss Loch Ness Monster laying waste to the company headquarters in Geneva. No, me neither. That’s why this GS is genuinely humorous. It shows that when you are confident, you can (respectfully) send yourself up. To conclude, our Grand Seiko offers the other features we would expect: a haute horlogerie movement (here, a Spring Drive), Zaratsu polishing and a titanium case.
The Godzilla really hits the mark. We can only hope that Grand Seiko will do more in this vein, given that Japanese science fiction is full of original characters deserving of just such a tribute.
What does the Devil’s Advocate think?
Finally, a watch that celebrates destruction, catastrophe and fear! The Devil’s Advocate loves it! And that hellish shade of red... delicious.
But seriously, although this Grand Seiko SBGA 405 is a fine watch, there are a few minor details that could be improved. First, the strap. It’s a beautiful strap, but it’s made of sharkskin. I’d like to see Grand Seiko move away from animal skin straps, and take a punt on textiles. The choice would be entirely justified for a watch based on a fictional character that we’re used to seeing represented in rubber or plastic! Then there’s the dial: again, a fine piece of work. But it would be even finer without the power reserve and, maybe, with markers designed to look like the monster’s claws.
But, apart from those quibbles, all I can say is: bravo!
How to wear the Godzilla with style
Given that Halloween is over, I can’t in all conscience advise a sea monster costume.
But the Grand Seiko Godzilla could be worn in tandem with a Japanese-casual outfit, while nevertheless paying tribute to the big guy with the teeth. For the jacket, we’ve chosen something rather unusual: a Godzilla 65th Anniversary bomber jacket by Kidrobot. I love the very kawai design with its khaki and gold colourway, and the Godzilla head on the back. Underneath, the best choice will be a long-sleeved tee. Why not a simple J Crew, or something from United Arrows in Shinjuku? For the pants, it has to be denim. The Grand Seiko and Godzilla deserve the very best, which is why we are going for Evisu. While some of their models are rather extreme, I do like their new Tiger and Seagull embroidered jeans. What could be more appropriate, for an outfit inspired by a cross between a gorilla and a whale? On the feet, I’ll stick with Berluti, and a pair of their new Stellar sneakers in brown and red scritto leather.
Thus kitted out, you’re ready for a trip to the cinema to see the latest Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019). To be brutally honest, it’s not a great movie. But once again, with a bit of humour and duly moderated expectations, you’ll have a good time anyway... admiring your Grand Seiko!
From the very beginning, Grand Seiko has been pursuing the essential characteristics of a watch: precision, beauty, legibility. Its design reflects the unique Japanese sense of beauty. The brand will continue to reach new heights as a global brand.Find out more >
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