Have you heard the expression, “more than just a pretty face”? Let’s take the new Grand Seiko SLGH003, a limited edition piece as part of the 60th anniversary that Grand Seiko are celebrating this year, a watch from the esteemed Japanese watchmaker that is truly pulchritudinous. The combination of blue and red is striking, of that there is no doubt. But going back to my opening comments, this watch is so much more than a pretty face…
As the name would suggest, Grand Seiko’s Heritage collection is a celebration of the brand’s rich past that has an eye on the rear-view mirror but is resolutely looking forward and producing timepieces that are every bit 21st century in execution. The SLGH003 harks back to the legendary 44GS and also includes elements of the seminal Grand Seiko from 1960. The 44GS needs little introduction to fans of Grand Seiko and is the watch that set the tone for the aesthetics of the brand. A revolutionary case that was finished with the primary purpose of the distortion-free reflection of light became Grand Seiko’s leading trademark. This design code is simple in concept but requires significant work to execute to truly achieve the sparkle of quality that is present in every Grand Seiko watch. In the earliest days of Grand Seiko, the primary focus had been on the precision of the movements but there was a significant amount of research going into the refinement of the perfect case. How does one achieve a sparkle in a watch case? Much like the facets on a diamond that create brilliant flashes of light, so too a watch case can be finished with sharp edges that allow the seemingly perfect interplay of light and shadow.
These design codes are all there on the new limited-edition piece. The Zaratsu polished case features wide lugs, characteristic flat surfaces and mirror finishing and hits the sweet spot of 40mm for such a sporty elegant watch. And the dial…what a dial! It is finished in Grand Seiko Blue with a sunburst effect and the second hand is a vibrant red. The interplay between these two primary colours is like the sun’s deepest setting rays across the calm blue ocean. The flat dial makes it easy to read. The dial is set with multifaceted hour markers that are bold for ease of reading, another key ingredient in the Grand Seiko recipe for perfection. The 12 o’clock marker is double width to immediately draw the eyes into sharp time-reading focus and, like the case, the intricate markers contribute to the holistic sparkle of quality.
Behind that beautiful blue dial is the recently launched high beat mechanical movement 9SA5. Sixty years is an important landmark in Japanese culture, primarily due to the fact that the full lunar cycle take 60 years. This sexagenary cycle has been culturally significant since the Japanese adopted the Chinese lunar calendar in 604 AD and therefore 60th anniversaries are key milestones, which is why Grand Seiko is so delighted to launch the 9SA5 in such a special year for the brand. The new automatic movement is, in Grand Seiko’s own words, their finest mechanical movement ever and took nine years to perfect and refine. The development project was led by Hisashi Fujieda, “Our aims were to achieve high accuracy and long-lasting performance, and to bring about a revolution in mechanical watches.” So how was this achieved?
Fujieda’s revolutionary movement achieves its two main objectives, longer-lasting performance and enhanced accuracy, by utilising two key innovations; a Dual Impulse Escapement and twin barrels. It was the former that Fujieda dedicated his efforts to most. The escapement and the balance are central to a mechanical watch’s accuracy and the Dual Impulse Escapement transfers the energy from the mainspring to the balance more efficiently. Another key component in the watches accuracy is the hairspring, on which a great amount of time was spent. As part of the development process 80,000 different designs were tested before the final overcoil design was settled upon. “It was impossible to use the existing theory on the ideal shape of hairsprings to make predictions about the impact of minuscule diff¬erences in their shapes. It took two years of trial and error to finally establish the new analytical technique, and only then did the search for the ideal hairspring shape start in earnest.” This fastidious commitment to refinement and the quest for perfection is the Spirit of Takumi that each Grand Seiko watch designer embodies. So as I said at the top of this piece, the SLGH003 is so much more than a pretty face and only 1,000 pieces available globally!
Caliber: 9SA5, with Grand Seiko Dual Impulse Escapement
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Power Reserve: 80 hours
Frequency: 36,000 vph
Chronometer Certified: Mean daily rate of +5/-3 seconds per day
Pricing & Availability
Price: Approximately £8,650
Availability: December 2020
Limited Edition: 1,000 pieces