In 1967, Grand Seiko unveiled the 44GS, a watch that first embodied the design code now known as the Grand Seiko Style. The nine principles of the Grand Seiko Style, all focused on establishing a distinct and dynamic design language, culminated in a timepiece that would “sparkle with quality.” Today, the Grand Seiko Style remains the company’s north star, guiding new developments to this very moment, and the 44GS, which was reimagined and reintroduced in 2013, continues to be a bedrock design.
Celebrating the 55th anniversary of the 44GS and the 20th anniversary of its first mechanical GMT timepiece, Grand Seiko has debuted a new Hi-Beat 36000 GMT watch, reference SBGJ255, with a 44GS case rendered in High-Intensity Titanium, LumiBrite on the hands and dial, and a special oscillating weight visible through an exhibition case back.
The Grand Seiko Style is a design language of simplicity, purity, and practicality. It also reflects the essential characteristics of Grand Seiko: precision, legibility, beauty, and ease of use so that form follows function. It is an essential Japanese philosophy, with a central characteristic being the subtle use of light and shadow, which is often a critical component of many traditional Japanese art forms and implements.
The case facets, for example, are Zaratsu-polished by hand to create distortion-free surfaces, enabling the case ridges to be crisp and sharp. These many interlocking surfaces act as a perfect stage for the interplay of light and shadow. The hands and indexes are diamond-cut so that they offer high legibility even in low ambient light. The dials themselves are clear and easy to read. Because of these characteristics, every Grand Seiko timepiece has a clear, unique, and visually attractive aesthetic that says: “This is Grand Seiko.”
The modern 44GS case has a highly intricate geometry, with numerous flat surfaces, facets, and sharp lines where planes come together. From a production standpoint, the original 44GS design from 1967 was already difficult to achieve, but the modern interpretation was made even more complex through its design and high level of finish. Overall, the case is highly ergonomic, ensuring that the watch fits comfortably on the wrist, an element critical to Grand Seiko’s approach to watchmaking.
The case on SBGJ255 measures 40mm in diameter and 14mm in thickness. It is rated to 10 bar water resistance, and the magnetic resistance is 4,800 A/m. Both the case and the bracelet are rendered in an alloy Grand Seiko calls High-Intensity Titanium. This metallic composite has a high hardness, and it is about 30% lighter than standard stainless steel. It is extra resistant to both scratches and corrosion, and it can also be finished to a high degree, which makes it distinct when compared to industry-standard titanium alloys. High-Intensity Titanium has a bright quality, and the case is Zaratsu-polished to give it distortion-free surfaces that are a defining characteristic of the Grand Seiko Style.
The inspiration for this dial can be traced back to 2002, when Grand Seiko released SBGM001, its first watch with a GMT feature. A version of the dial design seen here was one of the early contenders for SBGM001.
The white dial of SBGJ255 is markedly vibrant, with a vertical texture creating a subtle dimensionality that catches the eye. Blue accents on the “GS” logo, “GMT” text, GMT hand, and the 24-hour index offer a pop of color. One notable point of distinction on the dial is the use of luminous pant (LumiBrite) across the hands and indexes. This is a feature generally relegated to the Sport Collection and this is the first 44GS model to come with luminous paint on the dial. Its inclusion here ensures nighttime legibility regardless of lighting conditions.
Powering SBGJ255 is the automatic caliber 9S86, a Hi-Beat 36000 engine with an accuracy rating of +5 to -3 seconds per day. The GMT feature allows the wearer to track an additional time zone. The local hour hand is independently adjustable while the GMT hand remains fixed to the “home” time, or whatever non-local time needs to be tracked. Upon arriving in a different time zone, the wearer can quickly jump the hour hand forward or backward to the appropriate hour without having to reset the watch. The GMT hand remains unchanged, continuing to track the second time zone.
The movement’s oscillating weight features the Grand Seiko lion emblem, and it is finished in a gold tone that is achieved through an anodic oxidation process. This is when the titanium is subjected to electrolysis, which generates an oxide film. The color itself is determined according to the light refraction index, and it can be changed by adjusting the thickness of the oxide film.
Grand Seiko reference SBGJ255 will be available as a limited edition of 1,200 at Grand Seiko Boutiques and selected retail partners worldwide in January 2022.