At this point it’s almost a joke how many micro-seasons have inspired the watches of Grand Seiko. The Sakura-Kakushi always stands out in my mind, a watch inspired by the specific late winter to early spring period where snow and cherry blossom can co-exist – it’s a gorgeous watch but niche in a way that only a Grand Seiko can be. They’ve returned to the concept of seasons again for the new US-Exclusive 44GS Mount Iwate ‘Hanami’, ‘Tsuyu’ and ‘Juhyo’ watches.
Structurally and mechanically the three watches are identical with vintage sized 36.5mm diameter cases in the 44GS style. The 44GS design dates to the 1960s and was the progenitor of a lot of aspects we now consider Grand Seiko staples. Angular shapes, Zaratsu polishing, facetted lugs and sharp edges. You can see how those heritage elements have influenced modern collections in watches like the Evolution 9.
Where the new watches differ from each other are the colours and inspiration behind the dials, all of which feature the Mount Iwate pattern. There’s the ‘Hanami’ SBGW313 with a pink dial inspired by the viewing of the cherry blossoms, which occurs in late spring in northern Japan. The pink colour really suits the Mount Iwate pattern because it kind of looks like a macro photo of a flower petal. Although the vivid colour does clash a little with the green seconds hand.
Second is the ‘Tsuyu’ SBGW311, based on the East Asian summer rainy season. As such, this dial is a dark, desaturated green that’s designed to evoke images of the rich, rain-soaked earth. Although to my eye it looks very close to grey, which is no bad thing because it makes the piece look like an overcast cloud, which is also thematically appropriate.
Last up is the ‘Juhyo’ SBGW309, the winter model. The term ‘Juhyo’ translates roughly as Snow Monster and refers to the phenomenon whereby trees get bent over and deformed by the weight of snow on them. For the watch that means a hyper-vibrant blue dial inspired by the sun reflecting off snow on a cloudless day. In stark contrast to the desaturated ‘Tsuyu’, this may well be the most saturated dial Grand Seiko have ever produced. The ‘Juhyo’ is also different to the other two models here because in addition to being a US-exclusive it has the additional restriction of being exclusive to the U.S. GS9 Club.
All three house the 9S64 manual movement with 72-hour power reserve and impressive accuracy of -3/+5 seconds per day. It’s protected by a solid stainless steel caseback, which is a slight shame because an exhibition caseback would reveal the intricacies of the inner workings. Still, that’s only a small issue and to be fair, the main focus of this collection is on the unique colours of the dials anyway.
As mentioned, the 44GS Mount Iwate ‘Hanami’, ‘Tsuyu’ and ‘Juhyo’ are exclusively available at US boutiques and online in the US. They’re priced at $5,900 (approx. £4,800), near enough the same price as 9S64 models in the UK. Of the three, I have a tough time picking a favourite, but I think I land on the darker ‘Tsuyu’, the green/grey tone has a quiet elegance and strength to it.
Price and Specs:
More details at Seiko.