Seiko has been collaborating with Giugiaro Design since the 1980s. The most famous fruit of this collaboration was the “Aliens” watch line, which was picked from a family of “Speed Master” branded watches. These have been reissued in recent years, starting with the “Ripley” and “Bishop” models, then the “motorcycle” analog chronographs. In late 2018, Seiko introduced another reissue: The SBJG multi-function digital models we will discuss today.
Revisiting the Original SSBA A828-4000 Line
As seen in this vintage listing, The legendary 7A28 quartz chronographs weren’t the only Speed Master products. Seiko also produced quartz LCD multi-function watches under the SSBA model designator. The SSBA022 and SSBA028 were similar in style to the “motorcycle” SBBJ models reissued in 2016, with the dial rotated 15 degrees to increase legibility while riding. This dramatic design is reminiscent of the off-center bracelet of the “Bishop” and reflects how much these designs shook up the Japanese watch maker.
But there was a dramatically new usability enhancement to these watches as well. The bezel rotates to select various functions, including a stopwatch, alarm, and timer. This clever system is much more intuitive than the multiple button presses on most LCD chronographs and Seiko doesn’t get credit for the innovation. It reminds me of the (patented) selector bezel on the Rolex Sky-Dweller!
The original SSBA022 and SSBA028 are not well-remembered today, especially in the west. In fact, most English-speaking mentions of the watch focus on the case number (printed on the back) because they do not know the original model designator. I believe that three models were produced: Silver (model number unknown, case number A828-4020), Black (SSBA028 or A828-4019), and Grey/Green (SSBA022 or A828-4000).
Only the SSBA022 and SSBA028 are listed in my old Seiko catalogs. The price is listed at ¥30,000, which was about $150 at the time. Note that they first appear in the second half of 1983, suggesting that is the release date for the model. It is curious that the silver version is not listed there, since it appears as plentiful as the others today. Maybe it came later or wasn’t offered in Japan. Note too that both models have case number A828-4000 in the catalog.
Update: A commenter notes that he bought his black A828 watch in 1982. It wouldn’t be surprising that they appear in the next catalog after they were released!
This lack of awareness is surprising because of the current enthusiasm for all things Seiko today. Although not produced in large numbers, it was a popular model at the time. Indeed, it was the watch of choice for racing drivers in the 1980s, including the legendary Ayrton Senna, who often wore the grey SSBA022 in while racing. You can also see it on his wrist in the following video
The movement was Seiko’s A828 LCD quartz module, which included a 1/100 second stop watch function. It also includes a tachymeter, lap counter, alarm, and so on. The new model uses the similar A825, which thankfully seems to have all the same functions and controls. And the new watch is made of the same materials as the original, unlike the SCED series of reissues. This makes it a remarkably accurate remake!
A Look At the New SBJG Line
The two main models are quite accurate to the originals. The SBJG001 is brushed steel with a bright bezel and looks almost exactly like the old silver model. The SBJG003 is black coated steel with orange lettering like the old SSBA028. Sadly, Seiko did not reissue the grey/green SSBA022 that Senna wore.
|Stainless Steel||Stainless Steel Hard Coated|
As is typical lately, Seiko also produced special limited editions for partner retailers and brands. Where the SCED009/011 was just for one partner (Tic Tac stores), there are no less than six branded models of the SBJG! The Nano•Universe model (SBJG005) is quite like the basic silver SBJG001 but has a black background for the LCD and orange text for the functions. The blingy gold SBJG006 for BEAMS Japan might be a bit much, though I do like the orange LCD text. United Arrows gets the grey SBJG007 with a gold display, the closest option for Senna fans. Next up are three black coated models: SHIPS Limited has a blue screen and text, ESTNATION is white on black with red, white, and green accent text, and Barneys New York (of Japan) gets a similar model with gold accent text.
Not everyone appreciated an LCD quartz watch, but the SBJG series is pretty cool. The tilted dial gives it some flare, and the bezel-operated mode selector is quite innovative. It’s hard to find the partner limited editions in the West, but the basic silver and black models are in stock at most importers. Seiya Japan has both, priced at $338 and $378.
Seiko released one more Giugiaro limited edition watch in 2019. The SBJG015 is similar to the 2018 SBJG013 but with red markings. 500 examples were produced for Barneys New York stores in Japan.