Although Grand Seiko produces a fairly wide assortment of different models, the brand’s distinctly Japanese design language can trace its roots back to the original 44GS from 1967. Over the years, Grand Seiko has created quite a few models that either revive or reimagine its classic 44GS case design and as its latest new release of 2023, Grand Seiko has announced a trio of midsize 44GS watches that are exclusively for the U.S. market. Officially known as the SBGW313, SBGW311, and SBGW309, the three new Grand Seiko models are part of the brand’s Heritage Collection, and they feature manual-wind movements paired with textured dials that are inspired by the landscape surrounding Mount Iwate during different points throughout the year.
The three new Grand Seiko 44GS watches are essentially U.S. market-exclusive dial variations of the pair of midsize models that joined the Heritage Collection earlier this year. This means that the new midsize 44GS watches are all crafted from stainless steel and have cases that measure 36.5mm in diameter by 11.6mm thick, with angular lugs that are set 18mm apart and extend to create an overall lug-to-lug profile of 42.7mm. To emulate the appearance of the acrylic crystals that can be found on the original 44GS from 1967, the new trio of midsize models all feature box-shaped sapphire crystals above their dials with an anti-reflective coatings on their inside surfaces. Similarly, all three of the new midsize 44GS watches have signed push/pull crowns located at 3 o’clock, solid casebacks adorned with Grand Seiko’s lion emblem, 100 meters of water resistance, and they all come fitted with the same style of stainless steel bracelet that can be found throughout the rest of brand’s Heritage Collection models.
From an external perspective, the new trio of midsize Grand Seiko 44GS watches are all identical, and the only details separating them are the finishing on their dials and hands. While they appear in different colors, the dials all feature the same core design with a clean time-only layout, baton-style markers, and Grand Seiko’s signature “Mt. Iwate” pattern that creates a unique radial texture that extends outward from the center. Additionally, all three of these U.S. market-exclusive models feature the brand’s dauphine-style hands, although just like the dials that can be found among the trio, the finishing on the hands can slightly differ among the three new midsize 44GS watches.
The first of the three new Grand Seiko midsize 44GS watches is the SBGW313, and it is known as the “Hanami” due to its pink dial that is inspired by the flowers of the sakura cherry blossom trees that reside in the Iwate prefecture of Japan. The word “Hanami” translates to the viewing of flowers (specifically cherry blossoms) and since the Grand Seiko SBGW313 “Hanami” is inspired by this fleeting period in late spring that is characterized by pink flower-filled trees set against green grassy fields, this version of the new midsize 44GS features a bright green seconds hand to add a splash of contrasting color against the pale pink hue of the dial.
The second model among the trio of new 44GS midsize watches is the Grand Seiko SBGW311, and this version is known as the “Tsuyu” because it is inspired by Japan’s rainy season that starts in early summer. The word “Tsuyu” literally translates to rainy season, and to mirror the lush green landscape and overcast skies that characterize this particular time of year, the Grand Seiko SBGW311 “Tsuyu” is fitted with a smoky green dial that has the brand’s “GS” logo applied in gold below the 12 o’clock marker. Additionally, unlike its pink-dial sibling, the green-dial SBGW311 “Tsuyu” version of the new midsize 44GS omits the vibrant contrasting seconds hand and instead receives a more traditional single-color handset.
Lastly, the final model among the trio of U.S. market-exclusive 44GS midsize watches is the Grand Seiko SBGW309, and this model is inspired by the ice-covered trees of winter that are known as “Juhyo” and appear as large monstrous shapes that scatter the landscape. Fitted with a bright blue dial to recall the appearance of the cold skies that reflect across the snow-covered formations, the Grand Seiko SBGW309 “Juhyo” receives the same style of handset as its green-dial sibling, although it omits the small splash of gold for the “GS” logo at 12 o’clock and instead opts for a standard polished option that matches that rest of the hour markers on the dial. Additionally, while all three of these new midsize Grand Seiko 44GS models are exclusively for the U.S. market, the blue-dial SBGW309 “Juhyo” will only be available to members of the brand’s GS9 Club.
Powering the new trio of U.S. market-exclusive Grand Seiko 44GS midsize watches is the brand’s Caliber 9S64 manual-wind mechanical movement, which runs at a frequency of 28,800vph (4 Hz) with a power reserve of approximately 72 hours. While the entry-level mechanical movements produced by the standard Seiko brand are often criticized for their fairly loose timekeeping tolerances, Grand Seiko takes its accuracy standards incredibly seriously, and the hand-wound Caliber 9S64 inside the new midsize 44GS models adheres to the strict timekeeping tolerances of -3 to +5 seconds per day, which is even more stringent than what is required for COSC chronometer standards.
Most collectors would agree that the Grand Seiko 44GS is a truly beautiful and timeless design that checks all of the major boxes for what constitutes a classic and refined everyday wristwatch. However, Grand Seiko does lean fairly heavily on the design of the 44GS, and while this format is undeniably a proven recipe for creating objectively lovely watches, the 44GS has also become a rather familiar aesthetic over the years, and there are now numerous different Grand Seiko models that offer slightly similar takes on this same core design that dates back to 1967. That said, while the core design of these latest midsize Grand Seiko 44GS watches is hardly all that revolutionary, an equally familiar concept is the season-themed inspiration behind this latest trio of dials.
Grand Seiko is already famous for its various “Seasons” models, and while the brand doesn’t explicitly use the word “season” to describe this latest batch of midsize 44GS watches, the fact that they are all inspired by the surrounding landscape of Mount Iwate during different periods of the year is (more-or-less) the exact same concept. However, nature-themed dials are a major part of Grand Seiko’s design language and while we can joke about the countless different seasons that Japan’s Iwate prefecture must experience within a single year, all of the watches that have been produced as part of this concept have been rather lovely creations. Some offerings will naturally resonate with certain individuals more than others, and having more options is ultimately a positive for buyers, with the only potential drawback being that it is now becoming increasingly difficult to choose a favorite model among the vast assortment of equally beautiful nature-inspired Grand Seiko watches.
Despite their different dials and hands, all three of the new U.S. market-exclusive Grand-Seiko 44GS midsize watches cost the exact same and are accompanied by an official retail price of $5,900 USD, which represents a premium of several hundred dollars compared to the internationally available versions of the model. Additionally, while neither the case design nor thematic inspiration is all that original (granted, that is hardly what you should expect from models that are part of the brand’s Heritage Collection), these watches still represent rather compelling offerings, and there is ultimately quite a lot to like about these new additions to the U.S. market. The 36.5mm case diameter is right in the sweet spot for many people when it comes to this style of wristwatch, and the clean time-only textured dials paired with manual-wind movements come together to create a highly attractive overall package. For more information on the Grand Seiko Heritage Collection and the 44GS midsize watches, please visit the brand’s website.