Grand Seiko's New Hi Beat Watch Is Inspired by Japan's Birch Trees

Branching out in style.

Seiko has produced watches with dials inspired by the green moss of winter, the red leaves of autumn, and the white peaks of Mount Hotaka. It has released a model whose dial color mimics the mangrove swamps on Iriomote, an island in the Okinawa Prefecture, another said to evoke the dawn light over Tokyo and still another that “captures the beauty of cherry blossom at night”.

Ask someone from Japan what's unique about their country and there’s a fair chance they’ll reply “it has four seasons”. That’s not as mad as it sounds: Japan’s seasons don’t slide into one another the way they do in the UK or Europe, they are separate and distinct, with their own individual festivals, produce and rituals, as well as seasonal plants, weather, and crops.

No other place in the world puts such an emphasis on nature and the relationship between living things and objects. Cherry blossom, the symbolic flower of spring, is so celebrated because it appears in a brief two-week burst, then starts to fall. Bong! Your annual reminder: life is short.

In producing watches inspired by the natural world, then, Seiko’s designs aren’t just there to look pretty (though they’re certainly that), they make explicit the connection between life and time.

A 2020 exhibition in honor of Seiko's premium sibling line, Grand Seiko, was called, appropriately, The Nature of Time.

It coincided with a number of important anniversaries for the watchmaker. They include the 160th anniversary of the birth of Kintaro Hattori, the man who founded Seiko aged just 21, the 140th anniversary of the company, and the 60th anniversary of the first Grand Seiko.



As you'd expect, Seiko has already released a number of commemorative watches, including 60th-anniversary limited editions in gold and steel of its Grand Seiko Hi-Beat model, so called for its unusually fast movement, something that gives it greater accuracy and a smoother sweeping second hand.

Those releases are now joined by the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat “White Birch”.

The 40mm watch features a unique dial covered in an irregular vertical pattern and a granular surface, said to reproduce the texture found on the trunk of white birch trees that grow around the brand’s recently-opened workshop in Shizukuishi, located in the northern Japanese province of Iwate.

As you would also expert, the folksy stylings are contrasted with some serious engineering, including Seiko’s new Caliber "9SA5", developed for these Grand Seiko anniversary watches. It guarantees a precision rate of +5 to -3 seconds a day, and a power reserve of 80 hours.

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Leaving you more time, presumably, to ponder nature.

This story originally appeared on edits have been made by the editors.

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