Grand Seiko has been a true value proposition for collectors since its rebirth, providing some of the highest quality watches for your dollar. Many have had some contention with the inevitable reality that the brand would eventually go further upmarket, anxious that their latest and greatest technical innovations would be out of reach of the more common consumer.
The next instalment in the 60th anniversary collection, the Grand Seiko SLGH003, assuages the minds and wallets of everyone who was in awe of the new 9SA5 movement, which until yesterday was only offered in a high-price precious metal model: the SLGH002. With its latest release, Grand Seiko has made it clear that their finest mechanical movement yet is now available in steel – with more non-precious material models on the way as well.
The Grand Seiko SLGH003 case is 40mm of Zaratsu-finished hotness, with the stainless steel rendered in contrasting satin and distortion-free mirror-polished surface that creates the signature light and shadow aesthetic known to the Grand Seiko brand. Only 11.7mm thick, the new movement does not add any height to the watch; it, in fact, presents one of the thinner offerings within the Grand Seiko catalogue. One hundred metres water resistant, with a screw-down crown, this watch is yet another entry into what I like to call the “beach and boardroom” category.
Continuing with the 60th anniversary colour scheme, this last entry into the collection has a rich blue metallic dial that creates the necessary play between light and shadow. This is an aspect of all Grand Seiko components, not just case finishing. The blue quadrants of the dial are met with adjacent quadrants that become a shadowy depth of blue that appears almost black. The red central seconds hand symbolises ceremony and graduation, ushering in the next generation of Grand Seiko and their watches. The white date disc with black numerals does not match the blue aesthetic of the dial, but fortunately does not interrupt the appearance to a large degree. I cannot understate how much there is to explore on this dial with a loupe — the markers are finished with channel-like ridges that continue the light-meets-shadow play on a micro scale.
The bracelet found on the Grand Seiko SLGH003 is the standard steel bracelet found on stainless steel models – with some slight and subtle differences. The usual composition of alternating high polish and satin facets has been revised to a predominantly satin finish, with the only high polish executed on the outer flanks of the bracelet. The other difference is found on the folding clasp, with the Grand Seiko emblem rendered in a gold tone on the folding clasp instead of bracelet-matching steel – likely signaling the special nature of this limited edition watch. The links are fastened by screws, rather than the pin and collar systems found on their titanium models. While these bracelets have minimal micro adjustment, compact link length, along with available half links, make their watches easier to size to the wrist than you would expect.
The real showstopper of the Grand Seiko SLGH003 is the 9SA5 caliber that has now found its way into a stainless steel model. The movement has three new innovations never before found in Grand Seiko movements:
1. The Dual Impulse Escapement. The escapement is entirely new and was developed in-house. According to Grand Seiko, “It enables the escapement wheel to transmit power directly to the balance, leading to a significant energy transfer efficiency increase.” This is why the 9SA5 power reserve is up to 80 hours – quite astounding for a high-beat movement.
2. The Grand Seiko Free-sprung Balance. The 9SA5 uses a new free-sprung balance that was developed especially for this caliber, ensuring a longer and more consistent level of precision in a more shock-resistant build. While other 9S calibers utilise a flat hairspring, the 9SA5 introduces an overcoiled hairspring. This hairspring shape is the result of more than 80,000 simulations, that optimised performance in every possible position – further displaying the meticulous craftsmanship of the Grand Seiko brand.
3. The Horizontal Gear Train. The new caliber is 15 per cent slimmer than the previous generation of Grand Seiko high-beat calibers, thanks to the new horizontal layout of the barrel and gear trains. Grand Seiko explain that the movement finishing and aesthetic is inspired by the rippling waves of the Shizukuishi River near the studio where the watch is made.
Grand Seiko SLGH003 pricing and availability:
The Grand Seiko SLGH003 is a limited edition of 1000 pieces, available in December 2020 at Grand Seiko boutiques and retailers, at a price of $14,500 AUD.