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