Grand Seiko has two real inspirations behind everything they do: the beauty of nature and traditional Japanese crafts. We’ve had plenty of the former with pieces like the Majestic White Birch, but not nearly as much the artisanal angle. However, now Grand Seiko is tackling the craft every teenager and anime fan knows Japan for: katanas. These are the Grand Seiko Heritage Collection 44GS USA Exclusives.
First up, yes, they are US exclusives. That sucks honestly. In the UK we get some of their most pared-back editions like the Light and Shadow and our stateside cousins get swords? Come on! That said, in this globalised world of buying online, getting one shipped over isn’t the end of the world. Now, that out of the way, onto the watches.
Grand Seiko Heritage 44GS SBGA489 and SBGA491
At first glance, both watches are typical Grand Seiko fare. That’s not a bad thing of course, it means razor-sharp finishing and the less-is-more approach that has made them a collectors’ darling over the years. Other than Yamazaki, they’re Japan’s greatest luxury export.
The difference between the two references here is simply the dial, which each represent a different type of steel used in Japanese swordmaking. In case you didn’t know (don’t worry I don’t expect you to), a katana is made from two different types of steel, both smelted from traditional Japanese steel Tamahagane. There’s the inner core, which uses a softer, low-carbon steel called Shingane, then there’s the harder cutting edge called Kawagane.
The point of this method is that the high carbon steel is brittle, so a full blade could shatter. The Shingane on the other hand is softer, so less prone to irreparable damage, but would lose its edge too quickly. The katana therefore has the best of both worlds. And it looks cool. Never forget that.
Those two different types of steel are represented in this pair of watches, with black equating to Shingane (soft) and the green representing Kawagane (hard). Both have the sandy texture of the original Tamahagane mineral for a lovely, grained look.
These being Spring Drive models, the only interruption on the dial is a gold power reserve indicator which for once suits the design nicely. It adds a metallic flourish like the decoration on a Katana’s Saya, or sheath. The movement also means you have a 72-hour power reserve, excellent accuracy and arguably one of the best movements in the world.
Both the SBGA489 (black) and the SBGA491 (green) will set you back $5,600, or roughly £4,410 if you can find a good currency exchange. Then there’s the limited edition.
Grand Seiko Heritage 44GS SBGA493
A fiery interpretation of the same blueprint, the limited edition SBGA493 offers not just an incredibly red dial but a completely different finish to the other watches in this US-centric sub-collection. Paired with yellow accents, it’s eye-catching in the extreme, even compared with other red-dialled Grand Seiko pieces. The pattern itself is designed to evoke radiating sparks as the katana gets forged and, while I think that’s a bit of a stretch, it’s nonetheless an absolutely gorgeous looking thing.
Otherwise, it has the same specs as its non-limited siblings. That means a 40mm stainless steel case, a matching, impeccably machined and polished bracelet and a Spring Drive movement with all that entails – like, for example, + / – 1 second per day accuracy.
While the black and green are production models (granted, limited by location) the SBGA493 is limited to 500 pieces, priced slightly higher at $6,000, or £4,730 in old money. For a brand like Grand Seiko that’s a solid number of watches; the bigger problem will be getting one of these before the Americans snap them all up.
Price & Specs:
- Model: Grand Seiko Heritage 44GS ‘Katana’
- Ref: SBGA489 (black), SBGA491 (green) and SBGA493 (red)
- Case/dial: 40mm diameter x 12.5mm thickness, stainless steel case, tamahagane inspired textured dial (black & green) and deep red dial (red)
- Water resistance: 100m (10 bar)
- Movement: Grand Seiko Spring Drive calibre 9R65, automatic, 30 jewels
- Power reserve: 72h
- Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date, power reserve indicator
- Strap: Stainless steel bracelet
- Price/availability: $6,000 (approx. £4,700) (SBGA493), limited edition of 500 pieces and $5,600 (approx. £4,395) (SBGA489 and SBGA491)