It’s tempting to look at the newest timepiece from Grand Seiko as the horological equivalent of shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” a Japanese wellness practice centered on spending time in nature. Believed to reduce stress and promote well-being, the tradition is one example of how Japanese culture venerates trees.
So it should come as no surprise that the delicately textured dial of the new SLGH005, a mechanical hi-beat 36,000 watch housed in a 40 mm stainless steel case, is patterned to resemble the Shirakaba, the white birch tree of northern Japan, which thrives in the region surrounding the Grand Seiko Studio in Shizukuishi. The small town is located in the mountains of Iwate Prefecture, more than two hours north of Tokyo by bullet train.
For newcomers to Grand Seiko, it’s important to understand that Shizukuishi is to Japan what Le Locle, or any number of villages in the Jura Mountains, are to Switzerland: a cradle of mechanical watchmaking.
The watchmaker’s reverence for the land where its timepieces are produced is built into the watch itself, as explained in a press release that waxes delightfully poetic:
“In summer and winter alike, the tall, slender trunks and the white bark of the birch trees present a shimmering vista that is at once beautiful and mysterious. To look closely at the dial is to experience the exact same feeling that visitors to these forests enjoy and to be brought closer than ever to the true and eternal nature of time.”
The aesthetics of the SLGH005 are broadly known as the Series 9 Design, a signature of the Grand Seiko Heritage Collection derived from a style defined in 1967 with the introduction of the celebrated 44GS, but refined with more contemporary details. The hallmarks include a distortion-free, mirror-like polish accomplished through a technique called zaratsu, and cases designed to feature wide lugs and a low center of gravity to maximize comfort on the wrist.
Beneath the frosted white face of the SLGH005 ticks Caliber 9SA5, which offers 80 hours of power reserve. Introduced last year, the hi-beat movement features three innovations that promise to deliver advanced functionality in a slimmer package: a new Dual Impulse Escapement, a proprietary free-sprung balance, and a horizontal gear train.
The model, which retails for $9,100, will be available next month at Grand Seiko Boutiques and selected retail stores worldwide.