Having launched several elegant and concise time-only watches this year, Grand Seiko has unveiled something once again simple but still unusual: the first regular-production, manual-wind Spring Drive 44GS, the Heritage Collection SBGY011 “Asaborake”.
The SBGY011 combines two of the best elements of Grand Seiko (GS), namely the hybrid Spring Drive movement and the distinctive 44GS case. While the combination has been seen before, the SBGY011 brings something new to the table because the movement is manual wind, instead of self-winding as most Spring Drive calibres are.
I appreciate the SBGY011 because it retains the key features of the original, namely the 44GS case, silver dial, and hand-wind movement – but reinterpreted to incorporate contemporary elements such as the Spring Drive movement and patterned dial.
Combined with the 44GS case, the silver dial gives the SBGY011 an aesthetic that’s close to the vintage 44GS of 1967. In fact, it’s essentially a modern, more technically-capable version of the original, which also contained a hand-wind mechanical movement.
In fact, the SBGY011 is only the second hand-wind Spring Drive watch with a 44GS case, and the first and only one that’s not a limited edition.
The hand-wind movement matters because the 44GS case is exponentially more attractive when it’s thin; in this case it is only 10.5 mm high. In comparison, a typical automatic Spring Drive is around 13 mm thick.
Notably, despite being a regular production model, the SBGY011 has a textured dial, something typically reserved for limited editions. The texture is finely patterned and not as pronounced as on other GS models.
While purists might prefer a simpler dial with a brushed finish, the dial of the SBGY011 has a subtle texture that’s almost indiscernible at arm’s length, so the watch should appeal to a variety of enthusiasts.
Hand-wind Spring Drive
Made of repeating criss-crossed lines, the dial pattern is a familiar one, having been applied in various colours across different models. But GS patterned dials are usually colourful, which makes the present example stand out.
At 40 mm in diameter and just over 10 mm high, the case is more compact than the average modern 44GS, but retains the signature sloping mirror-polished flanks that define the design.
Over on the back, the view is more typical GS. Inside is the cal. 9R31 that debuted in 2019 but used sparingly since. It’s a practical calibre with twin barrels that provide a power reserve of 72 hours, which can be read off the back of the watch via a tiny power reserve indicator near the barrel.
The cal. 9R31 is derived from the cal. 9R02 found in the top-of-the-line GS models, but simplified in terms of technology, construction, and finish – explaining the affordability of the SBGY011 (the watches with the 9R02 cost almost ten times as much).
Key facts and price
Grand Seiko Heritage Collection SBGY011 “Asaborake”
Diameter: 40 mm
Height: 10.5 mm
Material: Stainless steel
Water resistance: 100 m
Features: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Frequency: Spring Drive
Power reserve: 72 hours
Strap: Crocodile leather with folding clasp
Availability: Starting December 2022 at Grand Seiko boutiques and retailers
For more, visit grand-seiko.com.
Correction November 16, 2022: The 9R31 movement was used not only in limited edition models but also the SBGY007 launched in 2021.Back to top.