Back in 1967, three years after producing its first-ever watch, Grand Seiko launched the iconic 44GS reference under the new “Grammar of Design” code outlined by designer Taro Tanaka. Revived under the Evolution 9 moniker, these nine standards continue to set the standards for aesthetics for Grand Seiko’s watches. With key elements such as a multi-faceted case, contrasting finishings, a flat dial, faceted hands and indices, the spirit of the 44GS is very much alive. Through watches like the White Birch, Green Birch and Night Birch, we’ve become accustomed to this philosophy on a 40mm scale. However, as the new Grand Seiko Heritage Collection 44GS SBGW291G & SBGW293G will attest to, it works just as well, if not better, in a more compact size.
If we take a look back at the equally compact Grand Seiko Heritage Collection 44GS SBGW289 55th Anniversary Limited Edition, one thing is important to mention: the 36.5mm size is not to be perceived as purely feminine. It might sound petite on paper, but once put on the wrist, it’s perfectly at home on a male wrist as well. And it’s not just down to the colour of the dial, but simply a matter of ergonomics. Reducing the dimensions of the 44GS-style case to a more compact 36.5mm without changing the proportions simply works incredibly well.
The stainless steel case wears very comfortable thanks to the 42.7mm lug-to-lug distance. The distortion-free Zaratsu polishing brings incredible life to the angular shape of the case. The vintage 1960s appeal is further enhanced with a box-shaped sapphire crystal, adding ever so slightly to the 11.6mm height of the watches.
Changing things from very light pink to a silver or brown sunray brushed dial results in a far dressier look and feel. Overall, the dimensions and aesthetics are identical yet the change of colour and texture drastically shifts the watch towards a more classical, boardroom-esque appeal. The toned-down execution is no less impressive, however, as we still see all the attributes that make the 44GS Heritage models so great. Applied, Zaratso-polished and faceted hour markers are spread around the dial, with a double marker at the top.
The faceted and polished hour hand subtly touches the inner edge of the indices, with the minute hands extending to the printed track on the outer edge of the dial. The only other elements on the dial are the applied Grand Seiko logo and “Japan 9S64 – 00V0 R 3” printed on the bottom. The result is a clean, uncluttered dial with a superb level of finishing.
Just like in most other Grand Seiko Heritage Collection 44GS models, the Calibre 9S64 is hidden from view by the solid caseback decorated with the Grand Seiko lion. This hand-wound calibre can be found in a range of models, including the “Japanese Calatrava”, the reference SBGW231, and of course the pink dial limited edition sibling, the SBGW289. The 9S64 movement is one of Grand Seiko’s staple calibres and is produced in-house, including the ruby pivot stones, something that’s normally outsourced to specialist suppliers. It is fitted with an anti-magnetic and shock-resistant balance spring and comes with a stop-seconds function, which helps in precisely setting the watch. Using 24 jewels, and running at a frequency of 28,800vph, it is regulated to run within +5/-3 seconds per day. When fully wound, the 9S64 provides you with a comfortable 72 hours of power reserve.
The Grand Seiko Heritage Collection 44GS SBGW291G & SBGW293G are worn on a charcoal or chocolate brown alligator leather strap with a stainless steel buckle. While the bracelet we’ve seen on the pink dial SBGW289 limited edition might have looked stunning paired with the brown dial of the SBGW293G (or the silver SBGW291G for that matter), the leather strap is a great way to give it a delectable dressy look. And although the strap was a touch short for my above-average wrists, the fit and finish are honestly very good. The Grand Seiko Heritage Collection 44GS SBGW291G and SBGW293G are not limited, and will be available through Grand Seiko boutiques and selected retailers from September 2022. Both retail for EUR 5,200.
For more information, please visit GrandSeiko.com