Grand Seiko is driven by a philosophy that it describes as “The Nature of Time”. The most tangible aspect of this quasi-spiritual concept is that their watches are deeply inspired by the natural beauty of Japan. Far from being some tokenistic one-liner or florid piece of marketing spin, it’s an approach that visibly informs much of the brand’s work.
Grand Seiko has created watch dials that evoke snowflakes, cherry blossoms, bamboo forests and mountain passes – all executed with the terrifyingly obsessive attention to detail for which the brand is renowned. The SLGH005 takes a similarly lyrical approach. The source material here: the white birch trees that surround Studio Shizukuishi where all the brand’s mechanical watches are made.
Ironically, this bucolic notion is brought to life by some fairly extraordinary mechanical engineering. Last year, Grand Seiko developed a brand new escapement – the part of the movement that regulates the energy release from the mainspring to quite literally make the watch tick. Inventing a new escapement is a big deal in watchmaking that doesn’t happen often. Understandably therefore, this new hi-tech 9SA5 caliber was initially reserved for some of Grand Seiko’s most rarified and expensive models. What’s exciting here is that this new movement is now being used in a standard-production model in stainless-steel. In short, it’s making this state-of-the-art technology more accessible than ever before.
Grand Seiko has a track record for creating formidable watch dials, but this one is particularly notable. The effect of white birch trees is brought to life by the dial’s texture that is forcibly indented by a press pattern stamp. Onto this woodland backdrop, the minute and seconds hand glint with hard edges as razor-sharp as a samurai sword.
The watch is based around Grand Seiko’s 44 GS case that is characterised by its abundance of flat surfaces that are buffed to a distortion-free, mirrored finish by a process known as “Zaratsu” polishing. It’s an effect that really sings here in steel yielding super-crisp lines that ensure strong legibility and dance in the light. Visually, it’s an eye-catching package. But the real star of the show is hiding beneath the surface in the form of the 9SA5 caliber. Not only is this movement accurate to +5 to -3 seconds per day, it’s also significantly thinner to give the entire watch, a slimmer and more flattering profile.
In Japan, Grand Seiko is one of the top five best-selling luxury watch brands and, judging by the watch media’s genuflections, you’d expect that success to soon be replicated elsewhere. Radiating conspicuous quality on every level, the White Birch shows exactly why this is a brand with momentum. If you’re looking to invest in a serious watch, Grand Seiko could well be your natural selection. Price: $13,600