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7. 26. 2021
The Epoch Makers: Vintage 44GS and Grand Seiko Design
By Masayuki Hirota: Editor-in-chief of Chronos Japan edition and webChronos.net.
Grand Seiko vintage 44GS sketch watches

Taro Tanaka – The First Watch Designer

Taro Tanaka was the first watch designer at Seiko to focus on what Seiko watches lacked: the luxury of Swiss-made timepieces. It was only after his appointment that Japanese watches began to display an individuality different from that of Swiss-made watches.

The first thing Tanaka and his team did was to change the unit of measurement for cases from the European “ligne” to the millimeter. In 1961, Seiko completed the revolutionary Seiko Exterior Millimeter Standards. The Seiko Sportmatic 5, designed according to this standard, was a big success, and the design team, which had adopted a slender bezel similar to that of the Seiko Sportmatic 5, went on to create the design of the 57GS by adding prominent lugs. Nevertheless, Tanaka was still dissatisfied.

Grand Seiko 44GS Vintage Watches Zaratsu Polishing Reflection
The 44GS recreation from 2013

44GS – A Design Philosophy Established in 1967

The design team incorporated completely new elements into their next work, the 44GS. They created the curved sideline that integrated the case sides and lugs, and the reverse slanted bezel wall and case side that narrowed the case toward the case back. Not only was the undistorted mirror surface emphasized by flattening the top surface of the case, but by narrowing the sides, the watch was also made to look thinner.

This ambitious design, however, did not achieve high productivity. The three-dimensional shape of the watch was not suitable for press forming the case, while the wide top surface made it difficult to apply Zaratsu polishing. Nevertheless, Seiko was able to overcome various challenges. With this model, Grand Seiko succeeded in establishing the Grand Seiko Style.

The Starting Point of Grand Seiko Design, Continued Today

This timepiece still holds a special place in the Grand Seiko family. To mark the 100th anniversary of the company’s first wristwatch in 2013, Seiko chose the 44GS as its reissue model. The 44GS is a milestone in the history of Japanese watchmaking.

Introduced in 1967, the 44GS is known as the model that established the Grand Seiko Style, the design guide for subsequent Grand Seiko watches. Its design consists of flat and two-dimensional curved surfaces, while its distortion-free mirrored finish is the result of advanced polishing techniques.

Portrait of Hirota Masayuki

Masayuki Hirota

Editor-in-chief of Chronos Japan edition and webChronos.net. After graduating from university, he worked for an electronics manufacturer and IT companies. He started his career as a watch journalist in 2014. He has been in his current position since 2017.

text by Masayuki Hirota  illustration by Yoshifumi Takeda  

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