News: A Rival To The Beloved Snowflake? - The Grand Seiko SLGH005 “White Birch”
Back in 2010, Grand Seiko released the SBGA011—a watch more commonly referred to as the “Snowflake”. The watch gained enormous traction with fans of the Japanese watchmaker—and still to this day remains one of the most popular watches Grand Seiko has to offer. Fast forward some eleven years—past a number of upgrades to the Snowflake—and it's here in 2021 that we find the newest of Grand Seiko’s releases: the SLGH005 “White Birch”. Is this a watch to rival the legendary Snowflake?
Grand Seiko watches are made in Iwate, Japan
As my good friend Dita Von Teese used to say: “You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be somebody who hates peaches”. A quote I think perfectly describes the Snowflake. Even the most die-hard fans have their gripes with the watch. The first of which is the case. On the newest model of the Snowflake—the SBGA211—the case is 41mm and titanium. Bigger and lighter than what enthusiasts would like the watch to be. The new White Birch? Well, that is 40mm and stainless steel—smaller, but more substantial.
The next problem with the snowflake? You guessed it, the power reserve. While we all know how handy it is to have a power reserve on our watch, fans would like to see that magnificent “Snowflake” dial with as few obstructions as possible. “How does the White Birch address that?” I hear you ask. Well, that’s simple. It doesn’t have one. Instead, you are left to admire the bark-like “Shirakaba”—White Birch—dial in its entirety.
Manufacturing at Grand Seiko is split between two studios. The Shizukuishi Watch Studio which makes all of Grand Seiko's mechanical watches and the Shinshu Watch Studio that makes all of its Spring Drive and quartz-powered watches
The last issue a few people had with the Snowflake was its Spring Drive movement. The quartz/mechanical hybrid not only allowed the movement to be super accurate but also meant that the second hand could sweep smoothly across the dial—a pretty satisfying thing to watch I might add. So, what’s the problem with that? You might be thinking. Quartz haters, that’s what.
“I don’t want my watch to be powered by a battery” you hear them say—and again, it’s to the White Birch we go in order to solve this “problem”. To the delight of mechanical watch purists near and far, the Caliber 9SA5 found in the White Birch is solely mechanical—a Hi-Beat movement that runs at 36,000 vph with 80-hours of power to be exact.
The Shinshu Watch Studio made the world's first quartz watch, the Seiko Astron, released in December 1969
But that’s not all. Allow me to introduce you to the new Dual Impulse escapement. Remember the Co-Axial escapement? First created by George Daniels in 1976 and Omega's favourite adopted child? Well, this is Grand Seiko’s answer to that. Simply put, the Dual Impulse escapement allows locking and impulse functions to be separate. This results in less friction, which makes the movement more efficient and less prone to wear—impressive stuff.
So, while the new White Birch addresses some of the “shortcomings” of the Snowflake—its case, movement and power reserve—will it be enough to dethrone the King-Seiko? Well, that’s for you to decide.
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