The Grand Seiko SLGH021 debuts a new Genbi Valley-inspired dial pattern in luscious light green The Grand Seiko SLGH021 debuts a new Genbi Valley-inspired dial pattern in luscious light green

The Grand Seiko SLGH021 debuts a new Genbi Valley-inspired dial pattern in luscious light green

Zach Blass

Grand Seiko has a lot of references in the catalogue, and we often see the brand take one of its established dial patterns and introduce it in a variety of hues – think the Snowflake, Mt. Iwate, and Birch dials. For the Birch dial references alone you can explore silver, green, blue, and black. I am not throwing any shade here, it makes sense to offer as many colours of these handsome textures – and each new texture takes time to develop. This is why when a new one comes along, it is an exciting moment for Grand Seiko fans, and that is exactly what we have here. The new Grand Seiko SLGH021 Evolution 9 Genbi Valley Limited Edition introduces a light green dial with a brand-spanking-new dial pattern.

The case

Grand Seiko SLGH021 6

Before we get into the details of the dial, it is also worth noting another first for Grand Seiko at play here. The SLGH021 is the first-ever Evolution 9 case to be crafted in Grand Seiko’s Ever-Brilliant Steel, an alloy that is rated to be 1.7 times more corrosion-resistant than standard stainless steel on the PREN scale. It also has a brighter and longer-lasting lustre. Side-by-side you will find that the hairline brushed surfaces of Grand Seiko’s Ever-Brilliant Steel will appear whiter and brighter than their standard steel models – enhancing Grand Seiko’s core aesthetic play with light and shadow. While in a new alloy, the Evolution 9 case remains identical in dimension and spec to prior models like the high-beat White Birch: 40mm in diameter, 11.7mm thick, and 47mm lug-to-lug with a screw-down crown securing a 100-metre depth rating.

The dial

Grand Seiko SLGH021 dial

Okay, back to the dial. The new pattern emulates the rocks that frame the Iwai River flowing through the Genbi Valley in the Iwate Prefecture, where Grand Seiko Studio Shizukuishi, the home of all things 9S Mechanical, is located. Were I not informed of this muse, I would have described the texture as a mosaic of broken eggshells. Google the Iwai River, however, and the throughline will be immediately clear. The light green colour we have here is not necessarily new to the Grand Seiko catalogue, for example, the Genbi Valley-inspired SBGW273 also has a light green dial. But texture changes light play, and therefore this feel like a fresh and subtly different expression of the hue. With its sunburst finish and microscopically three-dimensional depth and texture, as the quadrants of the dial darken and brighten the light play is akin to staring through the waters of a river as the sunlight pierces through.

Grand Seiko SLGH021 8

Getting into some of the other minutiae of the dial, the GS logo is gold-toned and the central seconds hand is heated blue. Other than that, the dial continues the format of its predecessor with the sportier and broader Evolution 9 hand and applied index set that are polished to go dark against the brighter backdrop.

The bracelet

Grand Seiko SLGH021 3

There is no novelty in terms of the bracelet besides the fact it’s also executed in Ever-Brilliant Steel for the first time. It remains the same, untapered, pseudo-five-link bracelet format, once again fully brushed on its front-facing facets and secured to the wrist with the familiar folding clasp. Preferentially speaking, I am still an advocate for the idea that these bracelets should have polished narrow links instead of the full brush. It’s not that the full brush looks bad by any means, I just think the introduction of polish would look better. Especially when you consider the fact the Evolution 9 case has the highest number of alternating finishes to the various facets of the case within Grand Seiko’s catalogue.

The movement

Grand Seiko SLGH021 4

Inside and exhibited is Grand Seiko’s marquee in-house 9SA5 high-beat automatic which features a dual-impulse escapement, 80 hours of power reserve, Grand Seiko’s first-ever overcoil hairspring, and wonderfully decorated surfaces. Striped and diamond-bevelled, they emulate the shape of the rivers in Shizukuishi. Aside from their tier of Micro-Artist Studio calibres, this is, in my opinion, Grand Seiko’s best mechanical calibre in their arsenal. Upon its introduction, it was a proverbial middle finger to Swiss watchmaking. Actually… Grand Seiko is too humble and kind for such shenanigans. But, the innovations within this movement ultimately flexes the fact that Grand Seiko are one of the most talented movement manufacturers in the world and that any prejudice against non-Swiss watchmakers is completely unfounded.

The verdict

Grand Seiko SLGH021 7

If you are a fan of previous Studio Shizukuishi Evolution 9 creations, then I suspect you will find the SLGH021 a welcome addition, that, like other limited editions, you probably wish was a regular production model. I mean, the pattern is handsome, the colour attractive – as I said, the only complaints I could foresee here are completely subjective elements like the style of the handset or lack of mixed finishing to the bracelet (which are Evolution 9 signatures). Understandably, the first-ever Ever-Brilliant Steel Evolution 9 is a limited edition, but I hope they make it a habit down the line.

Grand Seiko SLGH021 Evolution 9 Genbi Valley Limited Edition pricing and availability

The Grand Seiko SLGH021 “Genbi Valley” Limited Edition will be available as a limited edition of 1,000 pieces beginning in June 2024. Price: US$10,400

Brand Grand Seiko
Model Evolution 9 Genbi Valley
Reference SLGH021
Case Dimensions 40mm (D) x 11.7mm (T) x 47mm (LTL)
Case Material Ever-Brilliant Steel
Water Resistance 100 metres, screw-down crown
Crystal(s) Box-domed sapphire front and back
Dial Light green, patterned
Bracelet Ever-Brilliant Steel bracelet, triple-folding clasp
Movement 9SA5, in-house, high-beat automatic
Power Reserve 80 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Availability June 2024, limited to 1,000 pieces
Price US$10,400