The 44GS Collection is one of the most important models ever created by Grand Seiko. If the brand was born in 1960 with this watch, it’s probably the 44GS that really best represents what the watchmaker stands for in terms of design. The reason is simple; the 44GS was the first watch to embody the Grand Seiko Style, the design grammar that gave Grand Seiko its distinctive look. We’ve recently seen this design applied to a variety of watches, from compact elegance to sporty traveller’s style. Today, it comes back in a restrained watch with a hand-wound Spring Drive movement and an elegant white textured dial, the new Grand Seiko 44GS Spring Drive Asaborake SBGY011.
As explained already in previous articles, it took Grand Seiko seven years to consolidate a design code that would define the brand’s identity, a set of style mandates that would allow it to navigate the decades intact. The watch that established the “Grand Seiko Style” was the 44GS of 1967. Turning 55 this year, it’s the perfect time for the brand to celebrate its stunning, sharp shape. Designed to express a unique Japanese idea of beauty, strict rules regarding proportions, finishings and angles governed and still govern the design tenets of Grand Seiko today. These have to do with a very Japanese obsession with light and shadow. The nine core style elements of the Grand Seiko Style, governed by “sharp lines and the sparkle of quality”, were established by designer Taro Tanaka in 1967 in his “Grammar of Design”. These mandates included the case shape with a flat front surface brought to life with distortion-free Zaratsu polishing, inwardly slanted case sides, a crown set deep into the case, a flat dial and multifaceted hands and hour markers to reflect even the smallest ray of light.
In the past months, we’ve seen Grand Seiko’s landmark 44GS appear in a Hi-Beat GMT model, with a gorgeous pink dial SBGW289 and two Hi-Beats in ever-brilliant steel cases. Also, GS has released a duo of compact time-only watches, the SBGW291 and SBGW293, as well as a desirable watch with an ice-blue textured dial, the SLGH013. All of them have their own identity, playing in different fields of the watch spectrum, yet with a common design for the case. A few months ago, Grand Seiko released the Heritage 44GS Spring Drive SBGY009, a refined watch with a high-end hand-wound movement, a textured blue dial and a limitation… The overall concept now comes back in the permanent collection with a different dial, bearing the reference SBGY011.
The inspiration behind this new Heritage 44GS Spring Drive, also giving the model its nickname, is Asaborake, or “the moment when dawn draws back the veil of night.” With its pale colour and discreet texture, the dial evokes the brief time when, as dawn breaks, the light penetrates the morning mist and begins to reveal the mountain landscape of Shinshu, where this, and all Grand Seiko Spring Drive watches, are made.
Let’s now talk about the watch in more pragmatic words. This SBGY011 is a slim, elegant representation of the 44GS design, with a case that measures a relatively compact 40mm in diameter, with a height of 10.5mm (thin by GS standards…) The lug-to-lug, as often with the Japanese watchmaker, is also fairly controlled, at just above 46mm. The shape of the case couldn’t be more emblematic for a GS watch, with this combination of sharp angles, flat Zaratsu polished surfaces on the (strong) shoulders, thin brushed accents on the flanks and internal facet of the lugs, and an almost absent bezel. The crown is slightly recessed to enhance comfort and despite its slim, elegant take, this watch remains user-friendly with a 100m water-resistance.
Under the sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating on the inner surface is a brand-new dial, mostly notable for its fine, delicate texture. This Asaborake pattern is reminiscent of the texture that was used on the Elegance SBGW267 and SBGW269 European Editions, yet with a different inclination. The rest of the dial is ultra-classic, and minimalistic. A no-date, time-only watch, this SBGY011 comes equipped with the superbly executed faceted and polished hands and markers of the brand. A small touch of colour is present, with a blued seconds hand – the latter having this unique continuous glide motion, a signature of Spring Drive watches.
Under the see-through caseback is a very fine movement, the slim hand-wound calibre 9R31. Made in-house at the Shinshu Watch Studio, it relies on the brand’s proprietary Spring Drive technology, which combines the beauty of mechanical movements with the precision of a quartz regulation (symbolized by the claimed accuracy of ±15 seconds per month or ±1 second per day). This in-house movement shares the same dual mainspring structure as calibre 9R02 but doesn’t use the Torque Return System. This results in a slightly lower but still sufficient power reserve of 72 hours. A remaining power indicator is located on the movement side, to keep the dial as clean as possible. The finishing, if slightly austere, is top-notch, with blued screws, and finely brushed bridges contrasting with the highly polished sinks and bevels.
This new Grand Seiko Heritage Collection 44GS Spring Drive Hand-Wound Asaborake SBGY011 is worn on a black crocodile strap closed by a steel folding clasp (note that the strap presented here is an embossed calf leather for export reasons). It will be part of the permanent collection and available as of December 2022. It will be priced at EUR 8,200.
For more details, please visit www.grand-seiko.com.