In 1967, three years after producing its first watch, Grand Seiko launched the iconic 44GS reference under the new “Grammar of Design” code defined by designer Taro Tanaka. Revamped under the Evolution 9 moniker, these nine standards continue to set the standard for the aesthetics of Grand Seiko watches. With key elements such as the versatile case, contrasting finishes, flat dial, faceted hands and indexes, the spirit of the 44GS is very much alive. Through watches such as the White Birch, Green Birch and Night Birch, we are accustomed to this philosophy in the 40mm scale. However, as the new Grand Seiko Heritage Collection 44GS SBGW291G & SBGW293G proves, it does just as well in a more compact size.
If we 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 doesn’t feel entirely feminine. It may look small on paper, but once placed on the wrist, it will fit perfectly even on a male wrist. And this is not only related to the color of the dial, but also to the ergonomics. Reducing the dimensions of the 44GS-style case to a more compact 36.5mm without changing the proportions works very well.
The stainless steel case is very comfortable thanks to the 42.7mm lug-to-lug distance. Distortion-free Zaratsu polishing brings brilliant life to the angular shape of the case. The vintage 1960s charm is further enhanced by the box-shaped sapphire crystal, which adds a little to the watch’s 11.6mm height.
Changing from a very pale pink to a silver or brown sunray brushed dial can give a much dressier look and feel. Overall, the dimensions and aesthetics remain the same, but changing the color and shape give the watch a more classical, boardroom-esque appeal. The toned-down execution is no less impressive, however, and we still see all the features that make the 44GS heritage models so great. Applied, Zaratso-polished and faceted hour markers extend around the dial, with a double marker at the top.
The face and polished hour hand subtly touch the inner edge of the indexes, while the minute hands extend to a 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 wonderfully level finish.
As in other Grand Seiko Heritage Collection 44GS models, the caliber 9S64 is hidden from view by a solid caseback adorned with the Grand Seiko lion. This hand-wound caliber can be found in a variety of models, including the “Japanese Calatrava”, the reference SBGW231 and its pink dial limited edition sibling SBGW289. The 9S64 movement is one of Grand Seiko’s flagship calibers and is produced in-house, including the ruby pivot stones, which are usually outsourced to specialist suppliers. It is equipped with an anti-magnetic and shock-resistant balance spring and comes with a stop-seconds function, which helps set the watch precisely. 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 gives you 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 saw on the pink dial SBGW289 Limited Edition looks great paired with the brown dial of the SBGW293G (or silver SBGW291G), the leather strap is a great way to give it a lovely dressy look. . And while the strap is small for my larger-than-average wrist, the fit and finish are honestly pretty good. The Grand Seiko Heritage Collection 44GS SBGW291G and SBGW293G are not limited edition and will be available through Grand Seiko boutiques and select retailers from September 2022. Both are for retail EUR 5,200.
For more information, please visit GrandSeiko.com