The new 36.5mm Grand Seiko SBGW289 has fans rejoicing at the possibilities beyond this kira-zuri cherry blossom limited edition The new 36.5mm Grand Seiko SBGW289 has fans rejoicing at the possibilities beyond this kira-zuri cherry blossom limited edition

The new 36.5mm Grand Seiko SBGW289 has fans rejoicing at the possibilities beyond this kira-zuri cherry blossom limited edition

Zach Blass

When a compact and classically dimensioned watch is debuted, a tiny-wrister bat signal is lit high in the sky for me to rush and cover it. Look, in journalism we have to remain objective, but this release hits home for me on a personal level and, based on your comments on social media, for many of you as well. The new Grand Seiko SBGW289 Limited Edition continues the 55th anniversary celebration of the 44GS design, born in 1967, with a smaller 36.5mm case and cherry blossom kira-zuri dial. It is already clear that many are digging the the cherry blossom shade, an established winner considering the success of the SBGA413 “shun-bun”- a watch that I consider myself lucky to own. But, it is also clear that this release is stirring up the imaginations of enthusiasts everywhere – commenters hoping this size and framework does not end after the 1,200 pieces are sold.

Its stainless-steel case is closer in proportion to the original 1967 case design, clocking in at 36.5mm in diameter, a slender 11.6mm thickness (including the boxed sapphire crystal), and wearing 42.7mm across the wrist lug-to-lug. While smaller, the case aesthetic is every bit the same as its more typical 40mm counterpart – the 44GS design known for having broad faceted shoulders that are Zaratsu mirror polished with surrounding hairline-brushed accents.

The Grand Seiko SBGW289 pairs the beloved kira-zuri texture and sheen with their widely appreciated cherry blossom shade. Assuming its tone is akin to the SBGA413, the pink will be more subtle than overt with a silvery hue. That being said, its sparkle-painting inspired kira-zuri texture may cause the pink notes to be a touch stronger than what we have seen previously. With the watch being more compact, Grand Seiko has opted not to include a 3′ calendar complication. This results in a dial purists’ dream: a clean three-hander with diamond-cut indices that allows the entire dial to be taken in without the interruption and breakage of complication. Even the GS applied logo at 12′ appears to have taken on a pink-gold tone hue, blending enough into the cherry blossom backdrop to maintain the colour visual without getting completely lost to the point of invisibility.

Now, I strongly advise against gendering watches or their elements whenever possible. But, one point of contention I have seen raised against this release is the handset. Instead of the stronger razor-sharp hands we typically see, we have a smaller, more stick-like, faceted hand-set that is usually found on Grand Seiko releases geared towards women. Again, to gender the handset is quite silly and this still-attractive handset allows more of the dial to be visible with their narrower presence. But I would feel safe in presuming that, regardless of gender, everyone would have preferred the razor-like hands we are more accustomed to as they better convey the level of finishing Grand Seiko is able to provide.

Affixed to the watch is the standard mixed finished five-piece link bracelet to deliver light and shadow around the wrist, secured by a three-fold clasp. Remember, while there is no micro-adjustment to the clasp, you can fine tune the size very well by utilising the right combination of half links (which are really 2/3 links) and full links. Beneath a solid limited edition engraved caseback, you have Grand Seiko’s base in-house manual wind calibre 9S64 that offers 72 hours of power rese3rve and a regulation of +5/-3 seconds per day.

Earlier I mentioned how many people have not only commented that this watch is quite attractive, but also that they hope this size and framework expands to regular production. Why? Well, we have seen across the market a desire for more classic and compact dimensions – which, I as well, have long been a strong advocate for. But many also see this design as a Rolex OP or Datejust killer. Now, of course Rolex makes a fantastic watch. But, to have a Japanese alternative (or, better yet, pound for pound competitor), which delivers more hand-finishing and equal water-resistance and calibre power reserve, seems to be in-demand by the vocal majority on social media.

There are plenty of dial textures and colours for them to explore in this size and format, and, considering how clean and uncluttered the dateless three-hander is, it is an ideal canvas to work with in the eyes of dial purists. So, perhaps Grand Seiko should take a note from the film Field of Dreams. If you build it Grand Seiko, it seems they will come.

Grand Seiko SBGW289 pricing and availability:

Grand Seiko SBGW289

The Grand Seiko SBGW289 is a limited edition of 1,200 pcs. and will be made available beginning in June 2022. Price: $5,400 USD

Case Material Stainless Steel
Case Dimensions 36.5mm x 11.6mm x 42.7mm
Water-Resistance 100m
Dial Cherry Blossom Kira-Zuri
Strap Stainless Steel bracelet with three-fold clasp
Movement In-house manual wind 9S64
Power Reserve 72 hours
Complications Hours, minutes, seconds
Availability June 2022, limited edition of 1,200 pcs.
Price $5,400 USD