In early 2021, Grand Seiko presented a watch that will become, without a doubt, one of the brand’s most talked-about models in many years. And rightfully so, since the White Birch SLGH005 is an impressively beautiful watch, with advanced movement and superior execution. It also somehow became the cornerstone of the newly developed Evolution 9 collection. Earlier this year, GS launched another version, almost identical at first yet fairly different, the Spring Drive White Birch SLGA009. And to make it even better, there’s been a new model in the making, and that is the truly attractive Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Green Birch SLGH011 we’ll be exploring today.
The White Birch SLGH005 is a watch that we’ve already extensively reviewed here, and also filmed here. We’ve also reviewed its Spring Drive counterpart here, the SLGA009, which feels at first sight to be just a movement update but actually shows multiple differences on the dial and case compared to the classic White Birch. You can read all these articles first, just for your own culture, but nevertheless, we’ll move back a bit on the topic for you to understand where the Green Birch SLGH011 comes from.
Behind all of these watches is something named Evolution 9, which is the brand’s latest interpretation of the Grammar of Design. In 1967, the still-young GS brand decided to put on paper its design language with a series of rules named Grammar of Design, defined by a certain Taro Tanaka, designer of the brand for many years. Expressed on the 44GS model, these rules will be the base for most subsequent creations. Yet, Grand Seiko had to evolve and make its watches more contemporary, more in line with the current expectations. Hence the creation of a new design language expressed under the name Evolution 9 – more refined, more ergonomic, better centre of gravity, more legible dials…
The watch that will make Evolution 9 famous to the world is, without a doubt, the White Birch SLGH005. The main topic of discussion with this model has been the dial, its pronounced silvered colour and its impressive detailed texture. But there’s more to the White Birch, including a new case shape, an overall more modern look and feel, and finally an impressively technical movement with innovative escapement. This watch will later be derived with a new dial, still with the same kind of texture, but now with a deep green colour that gave the SLGH011 its name; the Green Birch.
The Green Birch SLGH011
The SLGH011 is basically a different colour applied to the White Birch SLGH005. While the Spring Drive edition, the SLGA009, was fairly different regarding the texture of the dial, but also some of the case’s proportions, the Green Birch is almost entirely identical to the Hi-Beat White Birch. And in all fairness, there’s nothing wrong with that (at all). What truly changes is the colour of the dial, making this Green Birch a bit more classic, a bit easier to wear, and a bit less striking.
First of all, the case. The Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Hi-Beat Green Birch SLGH011 is using exactly the same case as its silver counterpart, which means stainless steel and 40mm in diameter. Proportions are the same too, with an 11.7mm height – not the thinnest watch, but still an effort compared to previous releases of the brand under the 44GS or 62GS collections – and a relatively compact lug-to-lug measurement of 47mm, making it suitable for most masculine wrists. You can see the SLGH011 here photographed on my 16.5cm wrist and on Robin’s 18cm wrist, and it feels adequate in both situations.
The case relies on the new Evolution 9 codes, meaning a profile that has more curves, for a better ergonomy. Basically, the watch draws a curved line from one lug to another, thus following the natural curvature of the wrist. Also, the combination of a reduced thickness and a centre of gravity that has been moved closer to the back of the watch makes for a highly comfortable and balanced case. New design elements also concern the bezel, thinner than before, offering a better view of the dial. The watch is topped by a box-shaped sapphire crystal, itself participating in the visual slenderness of the SLGH011. Yet, with its screw-down crown and caseback, the Green Birch remains week-compliant, with its 100m water-resistance.
The finishing of the case is, just like with the White Birch, pretty impressive. The flanks have a refine satin-brushed surface and a long, quite thin polished bevel runs from one lug to the other, resulting in a dynamic look. The same combination of finishing is used on the bezel, with a polished periphery and an upper surface that is flat and vertically brushed. It’s modern, detailed, sporty yet not overly present, making the Green Birch a watch to be worn at the office or during weekends. On its complete bracelet, the SLGH011 is given for 178 grams, which is in line with most steel watches, but the fairly large bracelet makes it balanced and the weight becomes neglectable.
The main evolution to be seen on the Green Birch SLGH011 is the dial, which is inspired by the birch tree forests surrounding the Shizukuishi studio where the watch is manufactured, but now in summertime (the White Birch was all about wintertime). The colour is fairly discreet and offers its lush reflections only after a closer inspection. From a distance, the dial will appear dark and almost black – which, for the sake of daily wearability, is a positive aspect. Just like the White Birch, there’s a strong embossed texture on the dial, with a certain roughness to the decor. Apart from the colour, there’s a notable difference with the silver edition, and that is the way the dial plays with the light.
On the White Birch, the silver colour was highly pronounced (almost too present for some) and the dial highly luminous, reinforcing the effect of the pattern. On this watch, the darker colour makes the relief less obvious. Also, what was barely visible on the silver model, the dial is actually covered in transparent lacquer to give it a flat surface (a necessity in order to print the logos and apply the markers). Here, with the dark green colour, this effect is far more visible, but certainly not unpleasant to the eye.
Other elements of the dial on this Green Birch SLGH011 have not changed compared to the White Birch SLGH005. The markers, bolder and more present than before, are part of the new design language of the Evolution 9 collection, alongside the larger hands. The level of execution on all elements is, as you’ve come to expect from Grand Seiko, simply stunning. All elements are bevelled, faceted, textured and highly decorated. The date window is framed by a metallic element, creating a counterpoint to the 9 o’clock marker.
No surprises either for the bracelet. The Green Birch comes equipped with a 3-link stainless steel bracelet closed by a folding clasp with safety push-pieces – and no micro-adjustment. The bracelet measures 22mm at the lugs and about 20mm at the clasp. This relative width somehow participates in the visual appeal of the watch, at least in my books, and makes the SLGH011 a comfortable piece. We’ve heard comments regarding the fact that the bracelet should taper more to the clasp, and even if I see the reason for this complaint, I’ve never felt this to be an issue.
Mechanically speaking, the Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Hi-Beat Green Birch SLGH011 relies on the modern and innovative in-house calibre 9SA5. There’s a lot to be said about this movement, which can be read in this in-depth article. Basically, the 9SA5 has a new high-frequency escapement geometry named Dual Impulse Escapement, working in conjunction with a free-sprung balance. The benefits are more precision, better shock resistance and more efficiency. The overall architecture of the movement has always been reworked, with a thinner profile and two barrels for an 80h power reserve. The movement is rated for +5 to -3 seconds per day. Finally, the decoration is more refined than in the past, more charming too with beautifully designed bridges, thin stripes, bevelled edges…
Availability & Price
The Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Hi-Beat Green Birch SLGH011 will be available for orders in Autumn 2022, exclusively from Grand Seiko’s online boutiques (Europe or USA). The price will be EUR 9,500 (incl. taxes) or USD 9,100 (excl. taxes). For more details, please visit www.grand-seiko.com.