The Grand Seiko family of watches started in 1960 and was for decades originally only available in Japan, the only way of obtaining them was through willing dealers in Japan that would ship oversesas. Until in 2010 when a select number of models started being shipped overeseas by Seiko. This year Seiko released a number of impressive timepieces and one of, if not the most impressive was the Grand Seiko 44GS a re-issue of an earlier Grand Seiko watch. The 44GS Grand Seiko from 1967 was an important watch for Seiko, and this year to celebrate 100 years of watchmaking they chose to re-issue it.
The original 44GS named after the caliber inside, was important because it was the first watch Seiko released that used a designer to design the case instead of an engineer. The case featured a case shape that was unique for Seiko at the time as well as higher level of finishing, and these qualities are what became indicative of a Seiko watch.
The initial impression you get when looking at this model is that its very simple, but a closer look reveals the very high level of detailing and attention to detail that we have come to expect from Grand Seiko watches.
Grand Seiko 44GS – The Case
The case is 37.9 mm by 11.5 mm thick which is completely faithful to the original, and it comes available in steel, yellow, rose, and white gold.
The top of the bezel has a subtle radial patterning which contrasts with the polished sides which slope inward. You can see similar attention to detail between the outer brushed surface of the lugs and the inner polished ones. The polished surfaces are achieved by multiple passes from a diamond polishing machine, but apart from the finishing of the 44GS practicalites have also been considered; the angling of lugs gives the watch a smaller wrist presence while keeping a nice sized dial.
Grand Seiko 44GS – The Dial
Now let’s look at the dial. First thing you appreciate here is the stark simplicity of the design. When you look closer at the dial you will notice subtler details such as the shadowing beneath the “Seiko” and GS” logo’s which is due to a space of just few millimeters that has been left between the logos and the dial to give the dial a more three dimensional look and added sophistication.
The hands feature an impressive amount of faceting making the light bounce off them and adding a further dimension to them, indexes have also been faceted and compliment the design of the dial, the faceting gives the dials features a two-tone effect which contrasts with the plainess of the dial. A double baton marks the twelve o’clock index.
Grand Seiko 44GS – Movement
Inside the beautifully finished case is the 9S64 movement which is a manual wind version of the 9S55 automatic movement which was originally introduced about 15 years ago.
However this model features a number of improvements compared to the original one. Its power reserve has been increased up to 72hrs thanks to a new mainspring material called SPRON 610 which was developed by Seiko in association with a major Japanese university – the word SPRON being a contraction of SPRing and micron. The escapement has been produced using a technology called MEMS (Micro Electrical Mechanical System) which is a technology used to create components at tiny scales similar to nanotechnology, involving components between 1 to 100 micrometres in size (i.e. 0.001 to 0.1 mm). You can read more about MEMS as well as other technologies used in the creation of Grand Seiko watches here.
In terms of surface finish, components produced used MEMS technology have a surface roughness less than 20% of the machined item. The 9S64 movement runs at 28,800 vph with 24 jewels and has an accuracy claimed to be -3 to +5 seconds per day, ahead of the -4 to +6 seconds required for COSC certification.
Grand Seiko 44GS – Conclusion and Price
100 years ago Seiko introduced its first wristwatch, so it says a lot about the 1967 44GS that of all their watches Seiko chose to create a reissue of this particular model as a tribute to their anniversary. That is because the 44GS in the words of Seiko “invented the grammar of Seiko design,” so the 44GS represents a significant release that honours an historically important watch and is a classic just like the original it is based on. With this new updated version they have redifined their classic and like the original it embodies Seiko’s purely functional goals of precision, practicality and comfort.
In terms of pricing. there is a steel version that retails for $6,000 (SBGW047) and its production will be limited to just 700 pieces, while those preferring gold have the choice of three colours and these retail for $24,000 but are in more limited runs of 70 pieces each.
More resources about the Grand Seiko 44GS available on Hodinkee (Live Pics), and ABTW (Hands-On).