Deja vu isn’t just an underrated Tony Scott movie starring Denzel Washington, and neither is it merely an Olivia Rodrigo earworm that you can totally admit has been stuck in your head since the spring of last year (apologies if you’ve only recently managed to vanquish it from from living rent free in your head). It’s also the experience of writing about Grand Seiko in 2022. Didn’t we just do this? Yes, we did. If it’s another week, it’s another new release from Grand Seiko, which by my unofficial count marks the fourth big product announcement in the span of a month. That’s this month. January. Is this going to be a weekly occurrence? Is a Grand Seiko limited edition akin to Andy Warhol’s concept of “15 minutes of fame,” with everyone having their own sooner or later?
Of course, Grand Seiko can’t possibly keep up this pace for a whole year. This flurry of January activity is, I’m speculating here, a product of a combination of factors, likely including the still evolving post-Baselworld landscape we find ourselves in, as well as the brand’s desire to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the 44GS case shape. The new watches announced today are part of that anniversary celebration, and represent an important first for the brand, answering a question that collectors have been asking for a year now: when will Grand Seiko’s next generation calibers appear in watches outside of what’s now known as the Evolution 9 Style case?
That happens today, with the SLGA013 and the SLGH009, featuring the 9RA2 and 9SA5 calibers, respectively. Both watches take advantage of their movement’s advances in construction to debut slightly thinner but still immediately recognizable 44GS cases, here in Grand Seiko’s “Ever Brilliant Steel,” which they claim is more corrosion resistant than regular steel, and has a sharp white hue.
The new watches also debut a new dial design, featuring textured pattern that Grand Seiko says is inspired by “the elliptical orbit of the stars as they move across the heavens.” To be honest, I’m not sure if I quite see it – it’s certainly not as immediately recognizable as birch bark. This is a more impressionistic design choice, but as with any Grand Seiko with a textured dial, you don’t have to see what the brand sees to enjoy it. It’s always tough to tell in the first batch of photos, but these dials appear to have a pretty dramatic texture with etchings that are on the deeper side. The Hi-Beat watch is rendered in a familiar shade of blue that Grand Seiko is keen to use on anniversary editions, while the Spring Drive version’s dial is dark gray.
It’s worth taking a close look at the measurements of these new cases, because it’s where the rubber meets the road on the next-gen calibers. Grand Seiko has kept the diameter at 40mm for both, which is typical of recent 44GS cases, but the thickness has been reduced to an extent that it will likely have a practical impact on the wearing experience for many, particularly when it comes to the Hi-Beat. The Spring Drive SLGA013 comes in at 12.1mm, while the Hi-Beat SLGH009 measures 11.7mm thick. As a point of comparison, a time and date watch in a 44GS case using the old school 9S85 Hi-Beat movement would come in at around 13.3mm, while a comparable Spring Drive watch in this case style measures 12.5mm thick.
Being anniversary pieces, these watches are, unsurprisingly, limited editions, with 550 of each reference being made. They’ll be available in February at Grand Seiko boutiques and select retailers, with the Hi-Beat SLGH009 retailing for $10,500, and the Spring Drive SLGA013 selling for $9,500. More information can be found at Grand Seiko’s website right here.