Grand Seiko Introduces the SLGW002 and SLGW003 “Birch Bark”

A slimmer Evolution 9 with an all-new calibre.

Grand Seiko has introduced the Evolution 9 “Birch Bark” SLGW002 and SLGW003, in rose gold and “brilliant hard titanium” respectively. Named after the dial pattern, the “Birch Bark” is powered by a new manually-wound, high-beat caliber that features the brand’s proprietary dual-impulse escapement.

The only completely new model introduced by Grand Seiko at Watches & Wonder this year, the new references introduce a new, notably slimmer aesthetic to the brand’s Evolution 9 collection. 

Initial thoughts

Grand Seiko has earned a devoted following in recent years, but collectors have been asking for slimmer options for some time; this release proves the brand is listening. While there’s nothing revolutionary about it, the watch has been nipped and tucked in all the right areas, getting the case down to 38.6 mm in diameter and just under 10 mm in thickness. 

Compared to the most similar existing watch in the catalog, the Spring Drive SLGA009 “White Birch” launched two years ago, the new Evolution 9 feature a new movement, a thinner case, slimmer dial markers, and a horizontal interpretation of the brand’s signature white birch-inspired dial texture.

The slimmer profile is made possible thanks to the new 9SA4 movement, which is essentially a 9SA5 without automatic winding. This makes it the first manually wound caliber from Grand Seiko’s latest generation of mechanical movements, and also the first to be available without a date function. Perhaps the only drawback is the reduction in water resistance from 100 m in the thicker automatic models to just 30 m.

Pricing has increased along with these changes, but the titanium SLGW003 still offers reasonably good value at US$10,700 thanks to its interesting movement and high level of execution throughout.

However, the pricing of the rose gold SLGW002 is much harder to justify at nearly US$45,000. Limited to 80 pieces, the gold model also features a solid gold “Special” dial, denoted by a star at the six o’clock position.

A new caliber

While the new 9SA4 movement features the same 5 Hz beat rate and 80-hour power reserve of its automatic sibling, the removal of the automatic system gets the movement down to just 4.15 mm in thickness, which is about 1 mm thinner than the 9SA5.

If that doesn’t seem like much, it’s because the 9SA5 was designed to be quite wide and thin, with the automatic winding train in the same plane as the twin barrels. As a result, eliminating these components does not reduce the thickness, so it really just comes down to the removal of the rotor and the date mechanism on the dial side.

In place of the automatic train, the brand has installed a power reserve indicator which is visible through the sapphire case back. Other changes include a new winding click that has been developed to enhance the winding feel, which feels both pleasant and robust.

Otherwise, the movement largely mirrors the 9SA5 and features the brand’s proprietary dual-impulse escapement powering a free-sprung balance with overcoil hairspring. The finishing is industrially applied, but is nonetheless bright and attractive, with machined anglage and countersinks for the jewels and screw heads.

Key facts and price

Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Manual-Winding Hi-Beat 36000 “Birch Bark”
Ref. SLGW002 (rose gold)
Ref. SLGW003 (titanium)

Diameter: 38.6 mm
Height: 9.95 mm
Material: Titanium or rose gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: 9SA4
Functions: Hours, minutes, and seconds
Winding: Manual
Frequency: 36,000 beats per hour (5 Hz)
Power reserve: 80 hours

Strap: Alligator strap with folding clasp

Limited edition: 80 pieces for SLGW002, regular production for SLGW003
Availability: At Grand Seiko boutiques and retailers starting August 2024
Price: US$10,700 (SLGW003); US$45,000 (SLGW002)

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Patek Philippe Introduces the World Time with Date Ref. 5330G-001

A clever bidirectional date.

Amongst Patek Philippe’s best known complications is the travel watch, most notably the traditional world time with its mechanism inspired by the Louis Cottier system. Continuing with that tradition, the Patek Philippe World Time with Date ref. 5330G-001 features a thoughtful date complication that has been smartly implemented to allow it to go backwards and forwards in sync with the world time display. This is the regular production version of a model first introduced last year at the Watch Art Grand Exhibition Tokyo as a limited edition.

Initial thoughts

Patek Philippe World Time watches have mostly abided by the same 24 city indication style since the 2000’s. The Cottier system is a very convenient way of showing the time simultaneously across 24 timezones by using a 24 hour disk in conjunction with a cities’ disk.

The new World Time adds a novel date indication linked to the local time. Though simple on its face, the date display is a sophisticated, two-finger mechanism that allows the date to automatically go backwards or forwards as the time display changes. Travelling from Tokyo to Hawaii, for instance, sends the date backwards.

The timepiece gains in utility, as it shows more information to the prospective globetrotter, all while keeping the additional indication discreet. 

A practical addition

The dial may seem cluttered at first, but when taken separately the indications are reasonably legible. The innermost dial with traditional dauphine-shaped hands shows local time.

Local time can be quickly adjusted in one hour increments through the case pusher at 10 o’clock. The 24-hour disk displays the time simultaneously across the world. A clear glass pointer indicates the date, discretely camouflaging the additional complication.

The unusual choice of a glass hand is unexpected for the conservative brand, but it blends in comfortably with the watch face design.

The dial features complementing blue and grey hues, with the inner local time sector decorated with a stamped carbon-like pattern. The gilded accents are a welcome addition and the numerals for the date and 24 hour disk come in a stylised yet elegant font.

The cal. 240 HU C inside is based on cal. 240, the brand’s quintessential micro-rotor movement that has equipped its timepieces since the 1980s, but heavily upgraded since.

Amongst the upgrades is the trademark Patek Philippe yromax free sprung-balance gains a Spiromax hairspring in silicon, which beats at 3 Hz. The 22k solid gold micro rotor winds uni-directionally the mainspring, which stores a 48 hours’ worth of power reserve.

The movement is finished to high standards – and hallmarked with the Patek Philippe Seal like all of the brand’s movements – and features a classical architecture. In order to accommodate the date indication, the base caliber was reworked with a special differential gear set and two star wheels. The date can be set both forwards and backwards and has safety measures implemented for when the local time is set.

The polished case is 18k white gold with a compact 40mm diameter. It shares the vintage-inspired design with fluted lugs also seen on last year’s Calatrava 24-Hour Travel Time ref. 5224R.

The hour pusher is polished as well and the crown is signed with the Calatrava cross. There’s a recessed pusher in the case at eight o’clock for setting the date, as the calendar module can’t be linked to the existing keyless works. 

Key facts and price

Patek Philippe World Time with Date
Ref. 5330G-001

Diameter: 40 mm
Height: 11.57 mm
Material: 18K white gold
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: Cal. 240 HU C
Functions: Local hours and minutes, universal time, and pointer date
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Power reserve: 48 hours

Strap: Denim-motif calfskin with 18K white gold folding clasp

Limited edition: No
Availability: At Patek Philippe boutiques and retailers
Price: US$76,590

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