Back in July, I wrote about the Grand Seiko SBGY009, which I described as “the highlight of the year” in one that has proven to be absolutely packed with special watches. The SBGY009 – now sold out – was part of Grand Seiko’s year long celebration of the 44GS case, which celebrates its 55th anniversary in 2022. For many collectors, the SBGY009 represented something of a perfect combination of design, technical, and aesthetic elements that draw people into Grand Seiko in the first place. Not only did it make use of the iconic 44GS case shape, but it also had a beautifully textured dial and was powered by a hand wound Spring Drive movement, a technology invented by the brand that has been embraced by more and more collectors year after year. Now, mere months after the release of the SBGY009, Grand Seiko has unveiled the regular production follow up, the SBGY011.
This pattern, of course, is typical of Grand Seiko. Like clockwork (excuse the pun) they can be counted on to release a limited edition version of a watch with a combination of dial, case, and movement features that is highly sought after, and then release variants on that watch in the permanent collection that are slightly tweaked, and maybe have slightly more mass market appeal than the collector focused LE. For the new SBGY011, we have exactly the same case (a slim version of the 44GS that measures 40mm across and just 10.5mm tall) and the same Spring Drive movement. The caliber 9R31 is a hand wound Spring Drive movement that we’ve thankfully seen Grand Seiko use more frequently. Last year saw the release of the SGBY007, an entry in the Elegance collection that is perhaps the ideal Grand Seiko dress watch. And we only recently got the follow up to that watch in the SBGY013, which added a steel bracelet and flipped the dial from blue to white. The 9R31 gives Grand Seiko a chance to give their customers something they’ve been begging for for years: a thin, discreet way to wear a watch running a Spring Drive movement. Until recently, a Spring Drive powered watch meant a case that was too bulky for some enthusiasts. The 9R31 provides an alternative.
The release of the SBGY011 marks the first time a 9R31 powered watch with the famous 44GS case has made into the permanent collection, so be sure to make a note of that for Grand Seiko trivia night at your local bar. As we’ve discussed many times, the 44GS design is quintessential Grand Seiko, fully showing off the impressive Zaratsu polishing technique the brand has made famous through the use of ultra wide facets and prominent flat surfaces. In recent Grand Seiko history, the 44GS case has been fairly chunky as a result of the modern automatic movements it has been responsible for housing, but it takes well to a thinner profile and has a natural elegance about it that lends itself to dress watch duty, or casual daily wear.
The dial of the SBGY011 is inspired by “Asaborake,” a Japanese word that describes the time period during which light penetrates the early morning mist to reveal the mountainous region of Shinshu. The dial is white with a very subtle texture, likely the type that only fully reveals itself when it hits direct sunlight. That feels appropriate for a dial inspired by a natural phenomenon that occurs at daybreak.
The SBGY011 is available to order now through Grand Seiko’s website, with deliveries expected to begin in December. The retail price is $8,100. Grand Seiko