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First Impression: Grand Seiko Evolution 9 ‘Birch Bark’ Rose Gold Hi-Beat SLG002 Limited Edition

Grand Seiko Evolution 9 'Birch Bark' SLGW002

Grand Seiko loves intricately detailed and nature-inspired dials, blending natural patterns with captivating colors and traditional Japanese craftsmanship. For their Watches & Wonders releases this year, this has taken form in the breathtaking Genbi Valley and now in the new Grand Seiko ‘Birch Bark’ 18k Rose Gold Hi-Beat Limited Edition, which we had the pleasure of seeing in person at the Geneva showcase.

It’s worth noting that while we’re focusing on the rose gold limited edition model, the ref. SLG002, there’s also a titanium edition, ref. SLG003, which will not be limited. Returning to the limited edition, it’s a new addition to the Evolution 9 collection, designed to meet all the traditional criteria for a dress watch featuring a precious metal case with a svelte diameter of 38.6mm and presented on a brown crocodile leather strap.

Grand Seiko Evolution 9 'Birch Bark' SLGW002

While it’s smaller than the majority of the other Evolution 9s, such as the Lake Suwa at 40mm, the overall design of the case is more or less identical. It has the same sharp facets across the lugs, the same brushed bezel with polished bevels and the same crown. While the Evolution 9 was originally designed to be something of a sporty collection, it works surprisingly well for a dress watch too, with its flat surfaces and multiple finishes really show off the gold nicely.

Grand Seiko Evolution 9 'Birch Bark' SLGW002

As with any Grand Seiko release, a lot of the attention is drawn inwards to the dial. The pattern consists of a set of horizontal engraved lines and markings creating a patch-like display designed to emulate the texture of Japanese birch bark. This isn’t the first time Grand Seiko have created watches inspired by these tree and the original White Birch from 2021 proved to be incredibly popular (coincidentally it was also the first Evolution 9 watch). Compared to that original watch, the new Birch Bark has a much more authentic texture thanks to the fact it’s horizontal rather than vertical and also has that patchy quality common to birches.

Grand Seiko Evolution 9 'Birch Bark' SLGW002

While the watch is very comfortable to wear, as most sub-40mm watches on leather straps are, the biggest tactile aspect of the Evolution 9 ‘Birch Bark’ Rose Gold Limited Edition SLG002 is its manual-winding movement. Despite being manual, it’s still a hi-beat movement and in order to achieve this GS redesigned the automatic hi-beat 9SA5 to create the new calibre 9SA4. It’s also now dateless, enhancing the dress watch aspect with a more refined display.

Grand Seiko Evolution 9 'Birch Bark' SLGW002

Special attention was paid to the feel and motion of the watch as you wind it with superb attention to detail. On top of that, the winding efficiency has been increased via a redesigned gear train meaning it takes on average 15 fewer rotations of the crown to wind it to full, compared to the 9SA5. Plus, with a power reserve of 80-hours it’s more than weekend proof so you can take it off on Friday and it will still be ticking on Monday.

Grand Seiko Evolution 9 'Birch Bark' SLGW002

As for pricing and availability, the watch is £43,600 with only 80 pieces available. That’s among the most exclusive watches in the entire Evolution 9 collection, beaten only by the platinum anniversary edition. In my opinion, it ranks on par with models like the White Birch and Lake Suwa, and I much prefer it to the bulkier GMTs and Chronos.

Price and Specs:

Model: Grand Seiko ‘Birch Bark’ 18k Rose Gold Hi-Beat Limited Edition
Ref: SLGW002
Case: 31mm diameter x 4.15mm height, 18k rose gold
Water resistance: 30m (3 bar)
Movement: Calibre 9SA4, manual winding, 47 jewels, +5 to -3 seconds per day accuracy, magnetic resistant to 4,800 A/m
Frequency: 36,000 vph (5 Hz)
Power reserve: 80h
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Strap: Crocodile leather with 18k rose gold three-fold clasp with push button release
Price: £43,600, limited to 80 pieces, exclusive to Grand Seiko boutiques and select retail partners worldwide

More details at Grand Seiko.

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About the author

Sam Kessler

Legend has it that Sam’s first word was ‘escapement’ and, while he might have started that legend himself, he’s been in the watch world long enough that it makes little difference. As the editor of Oracle Time, he’s our leading man for all things horological – even if he does love yellow dials to a worrying degree. Owns a Pogue; doesn’t own an Oyster Perpetual. Yet.