It might still be early in the year but nothing, not even a pandemic, has slowed Grand Seiko’s creative output, as regular readers might have gathered. And while new re-editions and limited-edition divers are great to see, this is perhaps one of the loveliest we’ve seen in recent years: the Grand Seiko “Shirakaba” SLGH005.
This isn’t the first time even this year that Seiko has taken design cues from nature; their 140th anniversary Prospex pieces all use forest-green dials taken from the painfully pretty island of Iriomote island in Okinawa. This though is a lot more involved than some new livery and the Grand Seiko Birch Forest models are nothing short of breath-taking.
The white birch – or in local parlance, the Shirakaba – is a tree that can be found around Shizukuishi and Shinshu, the regions in which Grand Seiko have their studios and that the exquisite Japanese collectors’ brand has drawn inspiration from before. Here, all of that inspiration is on the dial.
The engraving is made to look as close to the fine, rippling bark of a birch tree as a solid piece of metal ever can and is quite rightly the focal point of the watch. It’s a softer finish compared to the clean-cut Zaratsu polishing of the case and catches the light in a more natural way. If you liked Grand Seiko’s snowflake dials, this is the next level up and trust me, you need to see it in the flesh.
Otherwise, Grand Seiko has kept things restrained across the board. The Series 9 design is the watchmaker’s archetypal case and if you’ve tried on one before, you’ll know what to expect here. The Birch Forest uses the same sort of hands, overall faceted shape and superbly polished indexes that we’ve come to know and love.
The 40mm stainless steel case sits well on the wrist and being full steel works in pretty much any circumstances. The version we have here is equipped with the 36,000 hz, 80-hour power reserve Hi-Beat movement, which is slimmer than the alternative Spring Drive option, a difference that follows through to the thickness of the case, 11.7mm vs. 11.8mm.
I doubt you could notice the difference, but I’d opt for the Hi-Beat for more than just its svelte size. On the reverse, it’s almost as beautiful as the dial, with an extraordinary level of finishing.
Price & Specs:
Model: Grand Seiko Heritage SLGH005 “Shirakaba”
Case/Dial: 40mm diameter x 11.7mm height, stainless steel, box-shaped sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Water Resistance: 100m (10 bar)
Movement: In-house calibre 9SA5 Hi-Beat 36000 80 Hours, automatic, 47 jewels
Frequency: 36,000 vph (5 Hz)
Power Reserve: 80h
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Strap: Stainless steel bracelet
More details at Grand Seiko.