In the eastern part of Shinshu, at the foot of the North Yatsugatake Mountains, lies an expansive forest of white birch trees. In the nearby town of Shiojiri, the elite watchmakers of the Micro Artist Studio create watches of stunning beauty and unparalleled technology, drawing on their impressive skill inspired by the local scenery. This year at Watches & Wonders, Grand Seiko presents the third masterpiece with a fully engraved case powered by a manually wound Spring Drive movement from the Micro Artist Studio. Its dial and case express the natural beauty of the majestic white birch forest in Nagano Prefecture.
By far, the most arresting feature of this watch is its Platinum 950 case, fully engraved by hand in the jewelry workshop of the Shinshu Watch Studio, which is in the same Shiojiri facility as the Micro Artist Studio. Before the difficult process of engraving the platinum case can even commence, it is first Zaratsu polished to create a clean, mirror-polished surface upon which the white birch forest will emerge, one slender groove at a time.
The 38.5mm x 9.8mm case is a hand-made extension of the popular white birch dial, which has become a cornerstone of the Grand Seiko collection in relatively short order, gracing several models in the new Evolution 9 collection, both Spring Drive and mechanical. This majestic white birch dial features the celebrated birch pattern specific to Spring Drive, yet it has a slightly different tone and more metallic texture, causing it to shine subtly under light.
The hour and minute hands, as well as each of the diamond-cut markers, are made of 14k white gold, providing a sharp and brilliant finish. The seconds hand is tempered grey rather than the customary blue to harmonize with the overall design. The perfect grey is difficult to create and is achieved by subjecting the hand to heat for a longer period of time. The minute track, the lettering, and the mark at six o’clock – which denotes solid gold for the markers – are all carved directly into the textured dial.
At the heart of this wristwatch is the Caliber 9R02, a manually wound Spring Drive movement with 84 hours of power reserve thanks to the use of the Dual Spring Barrel and Torque Return System. The Dual Spring Barrel features two mainsprings set in parallel within a single barrel. And rather than allow excess energy to be wasted, the Torque Return System reclaims excess energy when the torque of the mainspring is high, for approximately the first 48 hours of operation, in order to rewind the barrel and extend the power reserve from 72 hours to 84 hours.
Like the case and dial, the Caliber 9R02 reveals its heritage through its design and detail. The symbol of Shiojiri, the bellflower, decorates the barrel. The hand-finished bridges have high-polished edges to contrast with the fine hairline finishing of their other visible surfaces. An 18k gold plaque on one of the bridges comes engraved with the words “Micro Artist,” but this can be customized to the client’s request up to approximately 10 characters.
Inside and out, from design to execution, the SBGZ009 is a masterpiece that pays fitting homage to its sylvan inspiration and to the spirit of the watchmakers who were inspired to create it. The hand-engraved Manual-winding Spring Drive Limited Edition SBGZ009 will be available as a limited edition of 50 pieces at Grand Seiko boutiques beginning in June 2023 for a retail price of $79,000.