Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001

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Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

The Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 is one of the first modern Grand Seiko watches I learned about, and it feels like already a decade or so since it was first released. I seem to feel that it was among the first Spring Drive-based watches from Grand Seiko. In the mid 2000s when Spring Drive was being introduced at Seiko, the brand had a dedicated collection for the innovative movements. Later Spring Drive was anointed as a “Grand Seiko only” piece of technology. That means Grand Seiko watches are available with quartz, purely mechanical, and also Spring Drive movements.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

If you don’t know what Seiko Spring Drive is then I’ll leave it to other articles I wrote in the past like this Seiko Spring Drive watch review to explain it. In short, Spring Drive is a hybrid between a traditional mechanical movement and a quartz movement. The system replaces a traditional balance wheel and escapement regulator with a quartz regulation system. Otherwise, the movement is mechanical and powered by a mainspring with three days of power reserve. The benefit? All the “perpetual” beauty of an automatic mechanical movement with the accuracy (mostly) of a quartz movement. The particular movement inside of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 is Seiko’s in-house-made caliber 9R66.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

It is difficult to pinpoint the precise accuracy of Spring Drive since Seiko actually tends to under-promise. They claim accuracy to within a second a day, but I’ve heard real world reports of closer to a second per week. Spring Drive movements also benefit from having a perfectly smooth “gliding” seconds hand. This is a perfectly linear movement which is so much more graceful than the “sweeping” seconds hand on mechanical watches (which isn’t exactly inelegant to begin with).

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

People tend to frame the Grand Seiko SBGE001 as Seiko’s answer to the Rolex GMT-Master II. In a sense, that is/was true, even though the two watches have very distinct appeal. Around the same time the Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 was released, Seiko also released the Grand Seiko SBGA029 Spring Drive Diver, which can be viewed as the Grand Seiko answer to the Rolex Submariner. Rarely does a Seiko compete with a Rolex when it comes to which watch to buy, but increasingly that is the case with Grand Seiko. It isn’t that Seiko watches are routinely beating Rolex, but rather that when looking at bang for your buck, obsessively detailing, and a true tool watch spirit, there just isn’t that much around that can actually reach the bar set by Rolex, but Grand Seiko can do that.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

With that noted, when it comes to GMT watches, there is really no limit on the competition out there. However, given the unique technology of Spring Drive, and the welcome attention to detail and construction in Grand Seiko, there are few competitors to products like this. Infiniti’s biggest competition aside from Lexus or Land Rover is probably itself. The current generation QX80 is based on the Nissan Patrol. Previously the QX80 (known as the QX56 prior to 2014) was based on the Nissan Armada, but more recently it has “matured” into a serious luxury true SUV.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

The Infiniti QX80 is easily more luxurious than that Patrol, but there is a lot of overlap between the two products, and the Patrol’s external styling will probably appeal to people who aren’t fan’s of Infiniti’s sometimes polarizing design choices. The answer to this problem is that in most markets the Nissan Patrol and Infiniti QX80 aren’t both available to choose. In Dubai and much of the Middle East, you can get either the Nissan or the Infiniti, in North America you have just the Infiniti QX80 as your option.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

Contrary to the opinions of some people I know, I feel like I “get” Infiniti’s design language, and I’m a fan of what they were going for in the look of the QX80. It’s curvy, and it’s a bit awkward at some angles, but it is a graceful form with interesting lines throughout. In my opinion, Infiniti should be applauded for an instantly recognizable design, and being able to mix a muscular, masculine look with something that doesn’t look like it is running on 10% testosterone. I really feel as though the Infinity QX80 feels comfortable in its own skin, and that is more than I think can be said for many other cars on the market.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

With the wrong type of driver (or the wrong type of passenger), some people may be subject to motion sickness while the Infinity QX80 sails across the concrete rivers ahead of it. The electronics and stability control systems in the car are impressive, but at the end of the day it is still heavy and tall. Steering and braking have a detached feeling, which a lot of driving enthusiasts dislike. That means it takes a bit of getting use to to drive the Infinity QX80 comfortably, and you can’t simply port over instincts you developed driving a sporty sedan. It is easy to call the handling of something like the Infinity QX80 “numb” before you realize that its trying to filter out things that would make the ride harsh or uncomfortable. With 400 horsepower, the truck has a lot of pickup and passing power – but, yeah, don’t take it into a turn like a 911. Three rows of seats and cavernous space don’t lend themselves well to agility, but the Infinity QX80 does quite well with the situation it was given.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

It is interesting how the Infinity QX80 truck and Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 watch handle technology in vastly different ways. For the driver, tech is served up all over the place. I like the adaptive cruise control system which brakes for you. The latter part of the system can be turned on at will and uses radar to identify a car slowing in front of you and applies the brakes accordingly if you aren’t paying attention. The adaptive xenon headlights and five-camera system making maneuvering the Infinity QX80 about as easy as you could hope for. It is a serious help to have these visibility systems in a car this size. I can barely fathom how parking was accomplished before we had these toys. What I feel Infiniti should really focus on next is a heads up display (HUD) system that offers handy information on the windshield without the driver having to remove their eyes from the road.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

Seiko, on the other hand, is more discreet about its technology, but that goes with the territory of high-end watches where conservatism and design restraint reign. The impressive features are in how nicely the Spring Drive GMT mixes durability and functionality with hints of sober style. Much of the “bling” (if you could call it that) is in the hands and hour markers which contrast well in polished steel against a matte black face which is set deep into the dial. Seiko does lose a few points for not having a fully lumed face (hour and minute hand, as well as four of the hour markers have luminant on them), but it likely regains those points by having not only a fully lumed bezel, but also one that is covered in a protective sapphire crystal (eliminates many scratches that bezels in other materials can accumulate).

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

While the Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 is uncommonly comfortable, it is large, at 44mm wide and 14.7mm thick. It doesn’t have a sapphire crystal display caseback, but the watch is water resistant to 200 meters. The screw-down crown is positioned at 4 o’clock so as to reduce its propensity to dig into one’s wrist, and it helps make the watch appear a bit smaller as well. The bi-directional GMT bezel helps set the time in a third-time zone using the GMT hand on the dial, but can also be used for other timing purposes.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

Seiko does excellent work with Grand Seiko, which is why I am a pretty ardent fan – mostly (but not exclusively) of their sport watches. Feeling the assuring weight and solid build of the watch are something you can only do when it is in your hands. It is a watch that has the uncommon claim to be more than the sum of its parts. The comfort and versatility of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 is where all of its personality comes from. Seiko lends zero marketing or naming support to give this watch character – so it’s fortunate that its wearing and ownership experience can accomplish that end.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

The fitting bracelet that goes with the Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 is not dissimilar from bracelets offered on other Grand Seiko watches that came out around the same time. Interestingly enough, the bracelet – in its own funny way – exposes the main strengths and weaknesses of Grand Seiko as a sub-brand.

Note that Seiko recently updated the deployant clasp on these bracelets to include some micro-adjust holds. I am not aware of whether this applies to newer production versions of the Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 or not. The new deployants are longer, not as compact, and result in bracelets that do not taper as much, I believe.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

Seiko has not had too much luck in making bracelets that feel distinctively Japanese, highly engineered, and as special as their cases, dials, and movements. That isn’t to say their bracelets are bad, but rather that it feels like where the least effort is put. While the dial design takes detailing to an extreme, the bracelets feel “good enough,” without too much extra effort. The design feels very much inspired by that of the Omega Speedmaster, which is OK, but I prefer to see it on an Omega, and not a Seiko. You won’t be disappointed with the bracelet on this or any other Grand Seiko, but you might find yourself feeling that Seiko could have put a lot more effort into making it as special as the watch itself.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

Weather-weary residents of South Florida are fans of trucks to tow their boats and to pull through rain and sometimes mud. The Infinity QX80 was remarkably at home in this environment where duty was always potentially right around the corner. If you can park it, then this Infiniti is eager to cruise through town of Key West at the tepidly regulated speed of mostly 30mph. You might get envious of others who easily park their small subcompacts, but you’ll also get the distinct impression that you can also monster-truck-style run them right over if you feel so inclined.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

Someday, an electric machine will replace the combustion engine powering this comfortable tractor. When that times comes, people will invest in automobiles like the Infinity QX80 Limited more readily, as these days fuel costs (and ethics) are a popular topic. If fuel costs don’t perturb you, frequent stops to the gas station might. Infiniti’s V8 does as good a job conserving gas as I am sure an engine of this type can, but it is still big and unavoidably thirsty.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

Those who travel with young (or very easily entertained) passengers will like the “Limited” version of the Infinity QX80 for its rear-seat screens and available on-board internet WiFi. The Infinity QX80 Limited is probably better as a means of taking a lot of the questions out of optioning the vehicle with everything you should get such as the Driver’s Assistance Package and Deluxe Technology Package. Without stuff like that, the Infinity QX80 just isn’t all that it can be.

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

You have many options when buying an SUV these days, as well as a luxury SUV. You have fewer options if you want a more true SUV that combines a capable on-road and off-road experience, with the type of all-climate, all-weather safety you should probably hope for in a vehicle such as this. It isn’t a budget option, either, but neither are any of its competitor products. Here stands (tall) a modern interpretation of the now rare super truck, complete with oodles of toys and features. Its utility narrowly beats out its quirks, which means you really ought to need the functionality of the Infiniti QX80 regularly to get your money’s worth. While the base Infinity QX80 starts at about $64,000, the Infinity QX80 Limited as tested here starts at $89,450 (expect circa $90,000 for a well-equipped one).

Car & Watch Review: Infiniti QX80 Limited SUV & Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 Wrist Time Reviews

The Seiko Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 in steel has a cousin model in titanium with gold-toned dial and bezel accents with the Grand Seiko SBGE015 (hands-on here). Retail price for the Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 is $5,500.

As colleagues, the Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001 and Infiniti QX80 Limited pair well, and they share many values. With that said, the watch and car come from two very different design theories even if they are both tools at heart, with a lifestyle twist to them. Enjoy them together, or separately – they don’t mind. Though, to enjoy them properly, they each need owners who will make use of their features regularly – so plan on some adventure in your life. infinitiusa.com | grand-seiko.com

Necessary Data
WATCH
>Brand: Seiko
>Model: Grand Seiko Spring Drive GMT SBGE001
>Price: $5,500
>Size: 44mm wide and 14.7mm thick
>Would reviewer personally wear it: Yes.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Large-watch lover seeking the ultimate in luxury sport watch discretion, and who travels frequently to different time zones.
>Best characteristic of watch: Extremely well-aging design that is arguably a modern classic. Beauty and utility in one slick package. Spring Drive is a great movement if you are amenable to its hybrid nature.
>Worst characteristic of watch: Original generation deployant clasp closes with a noticeable gap, and with little micro-adjustment options. Could use more dial luminant.

CAR
>Brand: Infiniti
>Model: QX80 Limited
>Price: About $90,000 as tested
>Engine: 400 hp 5.6 liter V8
>Would reviewer personally drive it: Certainly, if I had a lifestyle that needed it.
>Friend we’d recommend it to first: Family person with well-mannered (car-interior-respecting) kids who frequently battles ice/water/snow/wind/sand as part of their regular commute.
>Best characteristic of car: Japanese engineering at its best, taking something inherently rough (a 4×4 vehicle) and making it refined. Lots of space and comfort. Welcome assortment of interior features and amenities.
>Worst characteristic of car: Car genre crossovers have trained people to expect different driving styles which the Infinity QX80 does not deliver, as it is more truck than car. Difficult to see over bulbous hood. No HUD. Fuel consumption may make it a tough choice for anyone who strictly doesn’t need the functionality.

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