Grand Seiko’s family tree grows with their new SLGH011 “Green Birch”

Grand Seiko’s family tree grows with their new SLGH011 “Green Birch”

Zach Blass

When the original Grand Seiko SLGH005 “White Birch” was first unveiled, I was overjoyed that their 9SA5 hi-beat caliber had made its way into the standard production caliber. It is a personal goal of mine to own a watch powered by this movement, which represents the pinnacle of their mechanical movement technology. But, as I have confessed before, I couldn’t bring myself to purchase one – which is no issue for Grand Seiko considering it remains a highly in-demand model to this day. With the SBGA211 Snowflake in my collection, I just could not justify acquiring another whiteish dial from Grand Seiko as much as I desired a 9SA5-powered watch. Recently Grand Seiko introduced the SLGH009, a 44GS-cased stainless-steel watch, powered by the 9SA5 with a blue growth rings dial. Again, I was faced with the situation of liking its design. But with the colour blue already well covered in my collection, again I just couldn’t justify taking the plunge. I even told Grand Seiko this sentiment, writing in my personal correspondence with them if only it had a green dial then I’d be super-keen. Well, lo and behold, the latest in a continuing streak of new 2022 novelties has just that. Most of you are likely familiar with the “White Birch” watches, but now it is time to get acquainted with the first coloured dial in the Birch family: the Grand Seiko SLGH011 “Green Birch”.

Grand Seiko SLGH011

To be frank, and this is not a bad thing, a lot about this offering remains the same as the “White Birch” aside from its new dial colour. The Grand Seiko SLGH011 “Green Birch” utilises the same Evolution 9 case design as its predecessors, a stainless-steel case, 100 metres water-resistant with a screw-down crown, that measures 40mm in diameter, 11.6mm thick, and a wrist-friendly 47mm lug-to-lug across the wrist. For those less familiar, the Evolution 9 case geometry is considered to be the most faceted within the lineup – in turn having the most alternating finishes. Its design really conveys the Zaratsu hand-finishing the brand has built its name on, with alternating distortion-free mirror polished surfaces that go black under direct light and richly hairline brushed surfaces that remain bright under direct light (creating the mandatory “light” and “shadow” aesthetic each Grand Seiko watch requires).

Grand Seiko SLGH011

Of course the real headline here is its new green dial, and here is where both subtle and not so subtle differences come into play. While the “White Birch” is the winter expression of the birch trees found in the forests of Shizukuishi, the new “Green Birch” is Grand Seiko’s summer expression of the picturesque nature that surrounds their manufacture. For those wondering just how green the dial really appears, in darker settings Grand Seiko explains that the dial can appear almost black, but under sunlight the green shade will become much more prominent. This means you can expect green tones ranging from near-black, to deep forest green, to a near teal color depending on the amount of light and the angle you are looking at the dial. Each hour marker is formed by diamond cutting, giving a perfectly flat mirror finish that gleams in even the smallest amount of light, enhancing its legibility.

Aside from its colour, much of the remaining elements remain consistent. You have the broader channelled hour hand found on previous Birch and Evolution 9 cased models. You have the diamond cut and faceted hour indices, with perfectly flat mirror-polished surfaces. The stepped inner bezel still serves as an outer minute track, allowing for less interruption to the dial pattern. And, lastly, you have a framed calendar complication at 3′ with a black on white disc – which I can’t help but wonder if it would have better rendered in white on black due to the darker nature of the dial. Nonetheless, black on white is, of course, the most legible option and legibility is a pillar of Grand Seiko design.

But, as I mentioned before, there are some subtle differences that are worth noting as well. On the “Green Birch” each of the diamond-cut hour indices is horizontally grooved on their flat top surfaces, instead of mirror-finished, in order to remain brighter against the darker dial. This also explains why the central hours and minutes hands have been brushed in favour of distortion-free mirror polished. By utilising a brushed surface on the top sides of the hands, each hand will remain bright under direct light instead of going black – maintaining legibility against the darker backdrop. Continuing the theme of legibility, and considering the teal tone this green dial can achieve, it makes sense Grand Seiko has elected not to blue the central seconds hand as they had on the “White Birch”. Had they done so, it could have gotten lost against the “Green Birch” dial.

Its bracelet remains 1:1 the same as what we have seen before, a 22mm wide bracelet entirely brushed on top of each of the five link pieces – the outer shoulders treated with a polished bevel. I still wonder what it would look like with polished intermediary links, the two narrow links framing the broader piece in the center, but, to be fair, no design choices made by Grand Seiko are random in nature. The full-brush aesthetic does work to maintain the sporty nature Evolution 9 designs are meant to carry.

Flip the watch over, and you can enjoy the in-house 9SA5 calibre in full-view via its exhibition caseback. The calibre is decorated very well, with diamond-cut bevels to the bridges and rotor, circular graining to the main plate, and striping across the top of the curvaceous bridges which are meant to evoke the forms of Mt Iwate and Shizukuishi river. Technically speaking, notable features include an entirely new dual-impulse escapement designed in-house, twin barrels with 80 hours of power reserve, a hi-beat frequency of 36,000 vph, a new free-sprung balance, full balance bridge, and new Grand Seiko overcoil hairspring distinct to the brand and perfected through over 80,000 simulations. The calibre really displays the technical pinnacle of the brand (aside from their more expensive Masterpiece models) and the nature aesthetic that are core dimensions of their brand.

Grand Seiko SLGH011 “Green Birch” Online Boutique Exclusive pricing and availability:

Grand Seiko SLGH011

The Grand Seiko SLGH011 “Green Birch”, a Grand Seiko Boutique Online Exclusive, is available now for pre-order with shipments beginning September 15th, 2022. Price: $9,100 USD

Brand Grand Seiko
Model Green Birch
Ref. no SLGH011
Case Material Stainless Steel
Case Dimensions 40mm x 11.6mm x 47mm
Water-Resistance 120m, screw-down crown
Dials Green dial with ‘birch’ texture
Straps Stainless steel bracelet with folding clasp
Lug-width 22mm
Movement In-house 9SA5 hi-beat
Power Reserve 80 hours
Complications Hours, minutes, seconds, date
Availability Boutique Online Exclusive
Price $9,100 USD