Seiko’s humble classic: The Great Blue series

SNA001P

Some years ago my long time friend Eddie spoke of a Seiko watch that he had seen in a watch store and was pretty excited about it. I was at my infancy of watch collecting and had absolutely no idea what this watch looked like, much less his enthusiasm for this mysterious timepiece.

As fate would have it, one day we happened to be at a shopping mall and he pulled my arm towards a display window of a watch retailer. “There! That’s the one I was talking about!" he gushed in excitement.

I peered closely at the watch. It had a very dark blue dial, bordering on black and had an intricate grid lines on the dial, very much like the Mercator lines you’d see on a globe. “Ah, I see what you mean!" when I saw the intricate globe-like appearance of the dial and “The Great Blue"

So what’s interesting about the Great Blue series?

Not much is known about the history of Seiko’s The Great Blue lineup  as it was a low profile range of watches that appeared between 2001 and 2002. Yeoman’s Watch Review blog also made a brief mention of the Great Blue series here.

Historically, the (then) K. Hattori Seiko company registered  “The Great Blue" as a trademark as early as Dec 1997 although its first watches under the Great Blue didn’t appear until sometime in 2001.

The Great Blue appeared to be marketed mainly in Southeast Asia with a handful of pieces making their way to certain European countries. The Great Blue series are not Japan domestic market models, (based on their reference numbers) and were certainly not sold in North America.

As with Seiko’s current Premier, Arctura, Sportura and Velatura range, The Great Blue came in various calibers, from simple ones like the date-only 7N42 to the flagship 5J22 caliber, Kinetic Auto Relay. They were also available as chronographs based on the older 7T32 and the contemporary 7T62 calibers. Most Great Blue watches were equipped with sapphire glass as standard, with cheaper variants using Hardlex mineral glass.

 

Great Blue dial closeup

Above: The hallmark of The Great Blue is perhaps its beautiful, glittery blue dial and the world globe-like lines, as depicted by this SDWG11P model. Watch photo courtesy of Chuck Tse.

 

Interestingly, Seiko’s first mainstream 7T92 and 7T62 quartz models – the SND001P and SNA001P respectively, were sold as part of The Great Blue line.

Great Blue models had a common trait – they were designed as interesting, sporty, gentlemen’s watches loosely based on a nautical theme that could be worn as formal or casual wrist wear. Some models come with anodized blue colored crowns while others have a decorative blue stripe on the crown.

The Great Blue wasn’t marketed like Seiko’s relatively new, high profile Velatura range, whose models were designed for yachting and marine sports activities in mind.

All Great Blue models had  either quartz or Kinetic Auto Relay movements (the 5J22 caliber). It seems that Seiko never made any Great Blue watch in automatic form, not any that I know of anyway.

 

 

Models from The Great Blue lineup

The earliest instances of The Great Blue that I had seen were fitted with the 7T32 alarm-chronograph caliber. The watch which my friend Eddie was referring to was actually the SNA001P, pictured below. It had an inner rotating elapsed time bezel that was controlled by a crown at the 9 o’clock position.

 

SNA001-1 sdwg11p

Above: The luxurious, leather-clad SNA001P (left) and its earlier sibling, the SDWG11P (right).

 

The SNA001P would have been perfect if not for its loose rotating bezel, which unfortunately could not be locked by its crown. My pal Eddie decided against buying the watch when he found out that the inner bezel could be nudged from its resting position all too easily. (Yes, Seiko enthusiasts can be a picky lot!)

Seriously? I would have purchased this watch at the time had I not been so influenced by his personal views. Alas, the watch had been purchased by some less discerning customer a long time ago. 🙁

Other Seiko Great Blue models are shown below (all pictures belong to their respective owners):

 

SNA013P sge487p SNG437P (pic by Badern) SNG487 (pic by Badern)

snd007big SNG437P (pic by Dan B.)

 

 

Not all Great Blue models come in blue!

For some strange reason, Seiko also made white dialed versions of The Great Blue. I have no explanation for this, save for marketing decisions known best to them. Prior to seeing actual photos of white ones I had assumed that all Great Blue models came with shiny blue dials, keeping true to its namesake.

Here are some examples:

 

SGE483P1 SMA159 sdwg07p

 Above: SGE483P, SMA159P Kinetic Auto Relay and SDWG07P alarm chronograph.

 

 

snd001pp2 SND005P (pic by Skywatches) SDWG07Pb

Above: SND001P chronograph, a TV-shaped SND005P and a gorgeous SDWG07P alarm-chronograph.

 

 

Do the Great Blue series make collectible watches?

In my opinion, the Great Blue models are collectible Seiko watches (depending on the model) but they won’t make good investments. While they are rare on the basis of their short production run, the Great Blue models wouldn’t exactly make the A-List of Rare and Most Sought-After used Seiko watches.

Putting it another way, don’t expect the Great Blue that you bought for USD300 will fetch twice its original price in the future. At best you might just break even without making any profit. There will be interested parties in a used Great Blue model, but generally they aren’t willing to pay a premium for one.

As a final note, Seiko made really nice designs for their discontinued Great Blue lineup. I really like the SNA001P and wouldn’t hesitate buying one if I saw a NOS piece in a watch store. Great Blue models have a unique character, something that’s sadly lacking in today’s generic Seiko watches.

Worth checking out if you happen to see one at a store. It’s likely that a retailer who still has one will sell you based on 2001/2002 prices. I would say you’ll also get a Great Value for money considering that prices of watches have gone up since the beginning of the millennium.

 

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Comments

[…] Seiko’s humble classic: The Great Blue series […]

Hello Stratman11,

I enjoyed the read mate, and glad to see you back writing this awesome watch blog again!

Jimmy
Poseidon-Jim

Hi Jimmy,

Thanks for posting the comment and glad you liked the article! 🙂

Quartzimodo

Thanks for the nice writeup about this watch series. I am one of the happy owners of the SDWG11P in Sweden — I was just searching for its dimensions today to compare it with new watches I’m interested in purchasing and stumbled on this article.

Indeed, I picked this one up around 2001-2002 and it was my first “real” watch that cost a substantial amount of money for 20-year-old — I think I paid around SEK 2500 for it (around 360 USD with today’s exchange rate; probably above 400 USD at the time), and that was after getting a discount because my friend knew the people working in the watch shop. I immediately fell in love with that hologram looking blue dial. 🙂 And I definitely agree about the bezel being too easy to rotate! It actually renders that feature useless, because you can never be sure that it hasn’t moved since you first set it.

It’s still my most sophisticated watch I own, but I rarely use it today as I find it to be on the small side by today’s standards. I mostly wear stylish/cheap watches from Fossil and Axcent nowadays, but very recently I’ve discovered the world of automatics and “real” watches, so I have a strong feeling that my next watch is going to be either the Tissot T0356141105100 or the Tag Carrera CV2010 (if I can find a used one — could never justify the cost of a new one… yet).

Hi David,

Thank you for the comments. As per my article, the Great Blue models were short-lived and faded into the oblivion. Not many people have heard about it, so I decided to write about The Great Blue series. Too bad that Seiko overlooked the loose crown that rotates the inner bezel.

Welcome to the wonderful world of “real” timepieces. If you ask my opinion, you’ll get a much better value for your money in a Tissot rather than a TAG Heuer, anytime. TAG never makes watches and is not a real watch company but more of a slick marketing firm. It often outsources its products to one of the cheapest quoting, watchmaking vendors in Switzerland.

You’ll find the same caliber used in both Tissot and TAG, only that the latter charges a lot more for prestige. I will never buy a TAG Heuer, period. 😉

Quartzimodo

Hi,
I bought a Great Blue (like the above SND001P) way back in 2002 I think, it has been my every day watch for quite some time.
I’m gutted though, I recently had the battery changed (by a reputable dealer not one of these Watchlab places) and shortly after it stopped working again. Weirdly though, the alarm keeps good time even though the main hands or the seconds dial do not move. The dealer is now saying that they will have to send it off to Seiko for repair at a cost of between £90 and £130!! Something to do with the circuits shorting the battery?
You wouldn’t happen to know if this is a fault with this watch or if there is somewhere I could get it repaired cheaper?
Thanks in advance.
Ian

Hi Ian,

I’m no watchmaker but my guess is that you may have a case of faulty stepping motors that drive the second hand and the main hands. I assume you have either the 7T32 or 7T64 model Great Blue, because these are the only two calibers with an alarm function. The alarm subdial works independently of the main time mechanism, which explains why it’s still functioning. If battery shorting is suspected, your watch should not be working at all (not even the alarm subdial).

Try to bypass your dealer (he may be making money on the side from you) and contact Seiko UK directly for a quote. I assume that you live in the UK.
The problem with quartz watches is that they are not like mechanical watches, where a competent watchmaker can service the watch. If there is a serious problem with a quartz watch, its circuit board (or even the whole movement) will need to be replaced. Watchmakers do not keep stock of spare movements and they’ll need to order whatever necessary parts from the closest Seiko service center.

It is possible that you could send to Seiko service centers located in Asia (where labour is a lot cheaper), e.g. Seiko Singapore, Malaysia or Japan to fix your watch but I don’t know if they will accept repairs for watches from overseas that are not purchased in their respective home countries. Even if they do, you also have to factor in the cost of shipping your watch to and fro, which might be expensive.

hope this helps,
Quartzimodo

Thanks for your advice, Quartzimodo. I actually didn’t know that TAG didn’t create their own watches, but in any case, I’m definitely leaning more towards the Tissot. I just need to wait until the next time I travel to the US, as the cost of this watch is approximately cut in half compared to buying it in Sweden (at least if you’re ok with a gray market watch, which I am).

Wow a great article you have here, very informative. I actually have 2 of the great blue range the SDWG11P and the kinetic one with the blue face not sure of the number. I’m actually considering selling them if any of your readers are interested? The kinetic has never been worn and still in its box with tags/blue plastic etc (though it hasn’t moved in a couple of years so the mechanism might need lubricating/servicing). The battery powered chronograph has been used but is in very good condition, any decent offers considered via email.

Thanks,

Paul

Hi Paul,

You happen to own one of the last batches of the well liked, 7T32 alarm chronograph (SDWG11P) shortly before Seiko replaced the 7T32 with the cheaper but simpler in design, 7T62 which the watch company still uses to this day. As for your white dialed Kinetic Great Blue, it might be the SMA159P, 5J22 Auto Relay model. For privacy and anti-spamming reasons, this blog does not display the poster’s (your) email address unless you explicitly type in your email address.

I would suggest that you post a WTS (Want To Sell) ad on the Seiko & Citizen Trading Post. It’s free but be sure to read their strict rules before posting your ad. Good luck! 🙂

Quartzimodo

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Great article, and informative posts. Thanks you for doing this!

I have a Great Blue (7T32) that was a gift from my wife when we lived in Italy C 2001. I have worn it to the point where the bracelet needs to be replaced. Any suggestions where I might find a new or less-used bracelet ?

Hi Alan,

That’s a great question! Since your Seiko 7T32 (you didn’t specify the caseback code) has been long discontinued, your chances of getting the exact replacement band will vary. If your watch uses the integrated bracelet type, it has to be the exact model and I very much doubt if a third party bracelet will fit your watch lugs. On the other hand, if your The Great Blue has regular lugs, you might be able to use third party bracelets (of the same lug width) and most certainly, leather straps if you like. 🙂

There are a few ways of seeking your replacement watch band:

1. Inquire with the Seiko service center of your region/country via email or telephone. Be sure to specify your caliber/caseback code when making that request.
2. Search eBay using your caliber/caseback code plus the key words “bracelet” or “watch band”.
3. Look up Chronograph.com and see if your bracelet is listed by the seller. If it isn’t, you can try contacting Mr Lee Wee Wah who runs the online store.

If you’re contacting Mr Lee, be aware that the Chinese Lunar New Year is around the corner and he may be on holiday for at least a week. 🙂

Let me know if you need further help. 🙂
Quartzimodo

[…] up off the auction site for a good price. This is all the history I could find on this model: Seiko’s humble classic: The Great Blue series Mine is an SNG437. Has a sapphire crystal, solid links, including endlinks, a nice solid buckle. […]

I own a SDWG11P (I think). It’s the exact one you have shown up here in the post. Is it something rare or hard to find? I can’t manage to find something about it on google…

Hi Victor,

Thank you for the comments!

If you have the SDWG11P, it should be from the The Great Blue series with the deep blue dial (7T32-6N40). It might interest you that your watch was one of the last batches that used the extra complicated, 7T32 alarm chronograph module. By “complicated”, I’m referring to the movement itself and the 7T32 has three push buttons and two crowns (three crowns if you include the SDWG11P’s inner rotating dial wheel). I suppose it cost Seiko more to manufacture the 7T32 movement compared to its simpler successor, the 7T62 module.

With the demise of the old 7T32 movement, Seiko bade farewell to their multi-pusher timepieces and went for the simpler, two pusher and one crown layout. I don’t have a Great Blue, but I happen to own three generic 7T32 models myself and love having a watch with side pushers on the left side of the case. 🙂

Seiko made no models with the prefix “SDWH” therefore the 7T32 models ended with the “SDWG” reference code. However the company did include early versions of the 7T62 alarm chronograph movement into the Great Blue series. I don’t know why Seiko ended The Great Blue lineup but Seiko has been known to discontinue entire sub-ranges that didn’t sell that well.

In my opinion the Great Blue series are hard to find watches and were probably limited to certain international markets. Your watch is indeed rare but not necessarily valuable on the used market. I don’t know of anyone who collects The Great Blue series watches but there are Seiko collectors who like the 7T32 based models.

If there’s something to worry about, it’s the fact that the SDWG11P was designed with an integrated bracelet. Watches with integrated bracelets cannot use third party bracelets unless they are custom made to fit the watch, and they can’t be substituted with regular leather straps either. Should the stainless steel band break, you’ll have to hunt for the exact replacement bracelet – and since the SDWG11P has been discontinued decades ago, Seiko may not have the exact replacement band in stock.

Wear your watch in good health! 🙂

Quartzimodo.

I have one of these watches, the watch looks the same as the picture labelled SGE487P.

I just wanted to let you know some of these must have made their way to North America, because my mother purchased mine, new, in a Canadian jewelry store.

Hi Robert,

Interesting piece of information, thanks for sharing. Your Seiko Great Blue would be an official model to North America if the hang tag indicates “SGE487” and if says “SGE487P” instead, it’s an export model that found its way to that jewelry store. The vital identifier however, lies in the warranty card. If it has Seiko USA’s credentials on the card, then it is an official model to North America. If its warranty card makes no mention of Seiko USA, then it’s an international model.

Some small time watch dealers are able to source Seiko watches that are not native to their region, which are purchased directly from watch sellers elsewhere (Japan, for example). In such cases, the watches are technically “re-sold” although they have never been sized or worn. It’s no different from having someone buy a Seiko watch in Tokyo for you and bringing it to you.

cheers,
Quartzimodo Admin

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