OPINION: I am simultaneously fawning over, yet frustrated with, the new Grand Seiko SLGA021 OPINION: I am simultaneously fawning over, yet frustrated with, the new Grand Seiko SLGA021

OPINION: I am simultaneously fawning over, yet frustrated with, the new Grand Seiko SLGA021

Zach Blass
  • Grand Seiko has issued a standard production Lake Suwa sequel to the limited edition SLGA007, the new SLGA021
  • Includes an Evolution 9 case and bracelet, 9RA2 5-day Spring Drive calibre, Lake Suwa textured dial.
  • The SLGA021 dial is darker than the previous SLGA007, and also does not use a golden-toned hand and logo like the SLGA007.

Grand Seiko and DJ Khaled should team up. Jokes aside, Khaled’s “anotha one” catchphrase is the perfect way to describe Grand Seiko’s novelty debuts. The Evolution 9 collection is growing exponentially, last year’s Watches & Wonders really emphasising the focus this new terrain for the brand has. But I can’t help but see a bit of irony that the Evolution 9 collection, meant to usher in the next era of Grand Seiko watchmaking, is largely turning into a greatest hits package for its dials. We have already seen plenty of birch and Mt. Iwate iterations, and now we have a second Lake Suwa that offers a standard production sequel to the SLGA007.

The new Grand Seiko SLGA021

Grand Seiko SLGA021

As I previously mentioned, The Grand Seiko SLGA021 uses the Evolution 9 case and bracelet format. The geometry of its stainless-steel case is one of the most faceted and complex in Grand Seiko’s arsenal, utilising the most alternations of hairline brushed and distortion-free mirror polishing of any of their cases. Clocking in at 40mm in diameter, 11.8mm thick, and 47.6mm lug-to-lug, it carries a sporty yet wrist-friendly size most will find more than accommodating in fit.

Grand Seiko SLGA021

Its Lake Suwa dial is a deep, navy blue, a darker shade than was found on the SLGA007. We also have rhodium-plated hands and indices, rather than gold-toned, which I feel makes this watch more versatile. After all, it is important that your “daily wearer” fits with the clothes you typically wear each day. As expected, you have the beautifully razor-sharp central hours and minutes hands with a rich hairline brush on their top facet to ensure they remain brighter against the darker dial backdrop. Faceted diamond-cut applied indices surround the dial, but the outer minutes track is situated within the sloped inner bezel to ensure the dial is afforded as much purity as possible.

Grand Seiko SLGA021

The only major interruption to the Lake Suwa aesthetic is the 3 o’clock date complication that has not been colour matched to the dial. The trade-off is the date is very legible thanks to its contrasting appearance. But, while legibility is a pillar of Grand Seiko design, I think fans of the brand are pushing for colour-matched date wheels more and more. And, as one of the few vertically integrated watch manufacturers in the world, Grand Seiko surely has the capability and know-how to make this happen.

Grand Seiko SLGA021

Considering the light and shadow dynamic on the case and dial, I am still not entirely sold on the Evolution 9 bracelet’s full hairline brush. Were it a three-piece link bracelet, rather than a five-piece link bracelet, maybe it would work better for me. But, while I understand the sporty direction Grand Seiko is working towards, having a case with the most alternating finishes paired with a bracelet largely brushed seems like a bit of a mismatch for me. I would also be interested in seeing a taper introduced to the Evolution 9 bracelet.

Exhibited inside the watch is their in-house 9RA2 five-day automatic Spring Drive calibre. The movement-side power reserve indication removes cause for dial purists to complain. It is a very clean-looking calibre, largely hairline brushed across the full bridge with perimeter edges mirror-bevelled. Considering it is a 120-hour power reserve calibre that is accurate within a second per day – likely more in my own personal experience – it is definitely one of the most rock-solid calibres you can find in a watch today.

Mixed finishes and feelings

Grand Seiko just will not quit. Every month they release new novelties to explore, and I am all for it. It keeps things exciting. But I must confess that while I appreciate the complexity of the Evolution 9 design, and the new generation of movements used within this segment of the collection, I think we need to see new ground broken on the dial front. This Lake Suwa dial is gorgeous, and the fact it is darker in tone than the SLGA007 leads me to the conclusion it does not step on its predecessor’s toes and its limited-edition status.

That being said, we do seem to be getting the greatest hits for Evolution 9 9RA2 and 9SA5 watches. As mentioned, we already have had a ton of birch dials, and this marks the second Lake Suwa dial. But with so much ground broken on the case and movement front, I think it’s time we see the next evolution of dials as well. I know nature-inspired dials have been a winning formula for Grand Seiko, and become a core piece of their brand identity, but is anyone else game to see some openworking enter the fold? For now though, the new Grand Seiko SLGA021 Lake Suwa will do just fine and I imagine I will spot quite a few in the wild very soon.

Grand Seiko SLGA021 pricing and availability:

The Grand Seiko SLGA021 is available now for purchase. Price: US$9,100

Brand Grand Seiko
Model SLGA021
Case Dimensions 40mm (D) x 11.8mm (T) x 47.6mm (L2L)
Case Material Stainless steel
Water Resistance 100m (screw-down crown)
Dial Dark blue with Lake Suwa texture
Crystal Sapphire crystal and exhibition caseback
Strap Stainless steel bracelet
Lug width 22mm
Movement In-house automatic Spring Drive calibre 9RA2
Power Reserve 120 hours
Functions Hours, minutes, seconds, date, power reserve indicator (movement side)
Availability Now
Price US$9,100