A Condensed Guide To Grand Seiko Releases In 2022
It’s not the first time we mention it. Seiko and Grand Seiko reliably grace us with numerous brilliant releases every year. We decided to create an overview of the watches we covered on Fratello over the past twelve months. In this first of two articles, we will start off with Grand Seiko. The brand had another year full of great releases. Part of the new releases was centered around the 55th anniversary of the 44GS, which was introduced in 1967. But there were a lot more releases that caught our eye in 2022. So let’s look back at another great year for Grand Seiko.
When Nacho and I started talking about this article, we quickly understood that this would not be a walk in the park. With so many releases, you’re bound to miss some. On top of that, there are JDM releases, US releases, European releases, limited editions, additions to the regular collection, etcetera. So the list is long, very long. But we decided to focus on the releases we covered here at Fratello. That list is extensive and gives a nice overview of the great diversity of releases and nature as the endless source of inspiration for the different dial versions. While we like to poke fun at it sometimes, it is actually a very clever inspiration to create a story behind the colors. But enough with the rambling; let’s move on to what the year 2022 brought us in terms of Grand Seiko releases.
The year started early in January
We were barely six days into January when we covered the first pair of new Grand Seiko releases. Lex described the Sōkō Frost SBGH295 and SBGA471 as a pair of “icy beauties.” Both feature an icy light blue dial and were US releases. The first is the Spring Drive-powered SBGA471 with an iconic 44GS-style case design. And the second is the Hi-Beat SBGH295 with a reimagined 62GS case design. Both are in stainless steel with dials inspired by Japan’s 24 sekki that mark nature’s ever-changing seasons. It’s a great source of inspiration for Grand Seiko, with the SBGH413 as my favorite.
Not even a week later, one of the most important releases of Grand Seiko’s year came out. On January 11th, the White Birch II was announced, and not long after, Robert-Jan reviewed this Spring Drive version of the White Birch. In the review, he confessed that the SLGA009 “White Birch II” is the next Grand Seiko for him.
Fast forward to the 18th, and we got another pair of limited editions. The first is the titanium SBGC247 automatic chronograph, and the second is the stainless steel SBGE275 Spring Drive GMT. Both are limited editions of models that we have seen before. The watches feature beautiful dials inspired by the rugged Hotaka mountains visible from the Grand Seiko studio in Shinshu, in central Japan.
And if you thought January was over already… Well, guess again. At the end of January, I wrote about two more 44GS 55th Anniversary Limited Editions. Both are executed in ever-brilliant steel and come with upgraded movements. The first is the Spring Drive SLGA013 featuring a beautiful black dial. The second is the Hi-Beat SLGH009 came equipped with a blue dial. We close out the first month of the year with these two releases.
February was a quiet month
In February, we were graced with the SLGH011 “Green Birch.” The green version of the SLGH005 “White Birch” looks absolutely stunning and is the perfect option if you are not a fan of its white sibling. But don’t be fooled; Grand Seiko’s inspiration for the dial color was very much connected to the “White Birch.” As Lex explained in his introduction article, Grand Seiko poetically explained its inspiration as: “The deep green dial expresses the white birch forest as seen in summer, surrounded by lush greenery amongst the white stalks.” Seeing the stunning dial color, what’s not to like?
Watches & Wonders for March
In March, Grand Seiko was part of Watches & Wonders, where the brand unveiled a string of impressive releases. We covered all of them in separate articles so let’s see which ones were unveiled. In an expansion of the Evolution 9 collection, we saw the introduction of the SBGE283 with a black dial and the SBGE285 “Mist Flake” that both Lex and I adore.
Another Evolution 9 release that introduced a newly designed case was the Evolution 9 SLGA015 Diver. Lastly, there were the Evolution 9 SBGC249 and SBGC251 Chronograph GMTs. The first was a limited edition model with a blue dial, and the second was a regular addition to the collection.
The incredible Kodo Constant-Force Tourbillon was the watch that had people talking during Watches & Wonders. The release is a masterclass in watchmaking that showed the brilliance of the 9ST1 caliber with over 340 components developed by Yu Ishihara. Grand Seiko will create 20 of these masterpieces for a whopping €370,000 each, making twenty lucky people very happy.
Spring is in the air in April
Right around the time the Watches & Wonders releases came out, Grand Seiko also introduced the SBGW283 “Kishun” and the SBGW285 “Byōka.” These two stunners were technically not part of the Watches & Wonders releases. But both of these 37.3mm stunners, powered by the manual winding caliber 9S63, deserve all the attention they get. Thor actually swapped his SBGH279 for the SBGW283 “Kishun” as he explained in his article about the “Kishun.” In a craving for smaller watches, the “Kishun” turned out to be a winner for Thor and Mike, who also put it on his best of 2022 list.
April also saw the release of the very popular 44GS 55th Anniversary SBGW289. As Nacho explained, this limited edition introduced a pink dial inspired by the springtime blooming of the cherry blossoms — combined with a fresh dusting of late snow. The dial has a beautiful color and texture that look stunning. But there was more. The watch also introduced the smaller 36.5mm 44GS style case fitted with Grand Seiko’s manual-winding caliber 9S64. The watch was a breath of fresh air after the many sports watches unveiled during Watches & Wonders.
June sees the release of a brilliant Grand Seiko quartz
After a quiet month of May, we saw the release of the Grand Seiko SBGP017 44GS 55th Anniversary Limited Edition. Another release to celebrate the 44GS anniversary, but the brand did something special once again. This quartz-powered SBGP017 comes with the Caliber 9F85 with a deviation of just ±5 seconds per year. The little star on the light blue dial inspired by the sea of clouds in Shinshu is proof of that.
Turn the watch around, and you’ll see the movement through the display case back. It’s not something we often see with quartz watches. But if there is one brand that makes quartz movements that deserve a regular glimpse, it’s Grand Seiko. Their movements, whether mechanical, Spring Drive, or quartz, are visually stunning. I am happy to see that the brand proved that with the display case back on the SBGP017.
Expansion of the Grand Seiko “Birch line-up in July
Just before the summer started, Grand Seiko added another model to the Evolution 9 “Birch” line-up. Nacho and I had a chance to check out the SLGH017 “Night Birch” from up close, and it was nothing short of spectacular. If you are not a fan of the “White Birch” variants, the green SLGH011 and this black SLGH017 could be perfect options for you. The titanium “Night Birch” comes with the Hi-Beat 9SA5 caliber that also powers the “White Birch,” creating a very tempting offering.
July also saw the announcement of another 44GS-style release to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the 44GS. The SBGY009 55th Anniversary Limited Edition features the iconic 44GS case style and comes with manual-wind Spring Drive caliber 9R31. The night sky above the Shinshu mountains inspired the beautiful dark blue dial under the box-shaped crystal. The combination of the classic case style with a profile that is only 10.5mm thick and a stunning dial makes this another stunning anniversary release.
Grand Seiko shines bright in the August sunshine
In August, Grand Seiko graced us with two non-limited releases that many of us at Fratello absolutely adore. Thomas wrote the introduction article where he confessed his love for the SBGW291 and SBGW293, taking the 44GS shape down to a vintage-inspired 36.5mm size. They follow in the footsteps of the pink-dialed SBGW289 I mentioned earlier. The big difference, however, is that they come on leather straps. It makes these two watches look more like classical dress watches. But as Thomas mentioned, these two amazing pieces would also look great on a stainless steel bracelet.
The manual winding caliber 9S64 with a 72-hour power reserve is hidden behind the closed case back as in the past. It makes these modestly sized pieces great tributes to the classic 44GS pieces from the past. The light dial of the SBGW291, in combination with the black strap, brings back the 44GS aesthetic of the 1960s perfectly. But the SBGW293 with its brown dial is the one that impressed me tremendously. Knowing that these two models are non-limited gives hope for smaller-sized manual winding stunners in the future.
In September, Mt. Iwate made a return to the Grand Seiko collection
In early September, Robert-Jan confessed that the stunning SLGH013 blew him away. We had the chance to witness the watch from up close in the Fratello offices, and besides its stunning looks, the ever-important details made this such a winner. The first thing that stands out immediately is the light blue dial with the “melting snow on Mt. Iwate” motif. It’s something special that will have you constantly looking at your watch.
Additionally, with the introduction of the 9SA5 movements, Grand Seiko has managed to slim down the profile of the 44GS-style cases. The SLGH013 has a very wearable 11.7mm thick case for great comfort. Another impressive feature is the combination of Grand Seiko’s Ever-Brilliant Steel with the famous Zaratsu polishing. It leads to stunning results that make this a watch that is impressive in every sense of the word.
September also saw a return of the “Skyflake” name. As Thor explained in his review, the new Grand Seiko SBGX353 Skyflake comes in a 34mm Elegance Collection case and is powered by the brand’s 9F61 quartz movement. It makes it a smaller watch than the original Skyflake (SBGA407) that is also powered by a Spring Drive movement. Losing the power reserve indicator on the dial side cleans up the dial design and makes for a smaller but impressive piece.
October was an icy month for Grand Seiko
Late October saw the release of the Grand Seiko Omiwatari SBGY013 Spring Drive. Nacho explained perfectly what Omiwatari actually means: “This term refers to an icy ridge that forms on the surface of Lake Suwa when its waters freeze in winter. Legend has it that this ridge shows where the gods walk over the water, and thus, it was given the name Omiwatari (御神渡り — literally, “god passage”).” And this natural phenomenon provides the inspiration for the crisp white dial with its intriguing texture.
But the watch comes with a twist. Grand Seiko introduced a new bracelet for the piece inspired by the traditional beads of rice bracelets from the past. Additionally, it features a great 38.5mm case that is only 10.2mm thick, thanks to the manual winding 9R31 caliber. This, for me, is one of the best surprises of 2022. The Omiwatari SBGY013 is the perfect fusion of vintage-inspired style with modern execution and technique. It’s an absolute stunner!
October also saw the release of the manual winding SBGW281 and SBGW287. Both watches feature the same 37.3mm case as the “Kishun” that Thor owns. And both dials are once again inspired by Japan’s 24 sekki. The champagne dial of the SBGW281 is inspired by Bantō, the sekki when winter gives way to spring. The dial color is a winner. Just imagine the endless strap variations that this would look great with.
The second is the SBGW287 which comes with a Boshū dial meant to remind us of the rich autumn colors of this sekki. The burgundy color combined with the texture feels rich and classy. Inside both watches, Grand Seiko uses the manual winding caliber 9S64, which provides 72 hours of power reserve. Both watches celebrate the flow of the seasons with their outspoken dial colors.
But October wasn’t over just yet…
In October, Grand Seiko also announced the special SBGY027G “Karesansui” — an exclusive limited edition of 100 pieces made for the European market. It’s a beautiful gesture to the European Grand Seiko fans. Some of whom joined Grand Seiko and Fratello for a special event at the brand’s Paris flagship store at Place Vendôme. It’s also one of the stores that will sell this stunning piece from January 2023 on. Daan explained that Japanese zen gardens inspired the “Karesansui” design.
The special patterns in the sand of these gardens were the inspiration for the grooves that gently swirl away from the center of the dial. With its 38.5mm case that is only 10.2mm thick, the watch is a joy to wear. Inside the stainless steel case, you will find the manual winding Spring Drive caliber 9R31 that powers several other watches in this overview. As you can see in the pictures, the dial is very clean, and the usual Spring Drive power reserve indicator is neatly placed on the back of the movement. It’s a feature we have seen more and more in 2022, much to the excitement of many Grand Seiko fans.
November brought us more nature-inspired Grand Seiko poetry
We were getting close to this year’s end in November, and the question was whether Grand Seiko would grace us with something spectacular. The answer came with the Grand Seiko Heritage SBGY011 “Asaborake” that many of you loved. Lex wrote the hands-on review of the watch. He hinted at the fact that the watch is only the second Grand Seiko with a manual-winding Spring Drive caliber in a 44GS-style case. This non-limited model, once again, takes us back to the classic aesthetic of the classic 44GS from 1967.
The watch comes with a 40mm case that is 10.5mm high. The dial is inspired by “asaborake” (朝ぼらけ), which stands for the light of dawn. This spectacular resembles the special light at daybreak with spectacular results. The color, combined with the texture, makes for another great Grand Seiko dial. Inside the case, you will find the brand’s Spring Drive caliber 9R31, which comes with 72 hours of power reserve. As Lex explained, this SBGY011 “Asaborake” has it all. It makes it compete with his and my favorite SBGH285 for the best Grand Seiko of 2022.
Grand Seiko shows its great diversity in 2022
This brings us to the end of this overview of the Grand Seiko releases we covered in 2022. It was a year that was once again marked by a great number of releases. But if the releases are this good, is there a thing as too much? I leave the answer to that question up to you. What stands out for me in 2022 is the great diversity Grand Seiko shows with its releases. The anniversary year of the 44GS reminded us of the brilliance of its design. The special thing about the different 44GS-style releases is the diversity in size. There is one for every wrist size, and that makes it great.
The Evolution 9 collection, on the other hand, is a perfect example of the brand’s will to innovate constantly. I think the brand has found the perfect design signature for the Evolution 9 collection that takes the design influences from the past and combines it with new exciting shapes. The results are spectacular, with the SBGE285 “Mist Flake as my favorite this year. Furthermore, Grand Seiko has focused on releasing a lot of manual-winding watches. Something a lot of watch fans will love. The frequent use of the brand’s manual winding Spring Drive movements is an exciting development that hopefully will get a great follow-up next year.
I can’t wait to see what Grand Seiko comes up with throughout 2023. Especially after seeing the watches that were released this year. We’d love to hear your thoughts on Grand Seiko’s stream of new releases in 2022. What were some of your favorites, and what do you hope to see in 2023? Let us know in the comments section down below.