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

Johnny Davis
·2-min read
Photo credit: Seiko
Photo credit: Seiko

From Esquire

Seiko has produced watches with dials inspired by the green moss of winter, the red leaves of autumn and the white snow of the Hotaka mountains. It has released a model whose dial colour 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 say “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 and have their own individual festivals, produce and rituals, as well as their own seasonal plants, weather and crops.

Nowhere else 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 celebrated because its beauty peaks after about a fortnight, then it begins to fall – reminding everyone: 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 was called, appropriately, The Nature of Time.

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

Photo credit: yoshimitsuTAKANO
Photo credit: yoshimitsuTAKANO

As you would expect, Seiko has already released a number of commemorative models, including 60th anniversary limited editions in gold and steel of its Grand Seiko Hi-Beat.

Those releases are now joined by a Grand Seiko Hi-Beat “White Birch”. The 40mm watch features a unique dial covered in an irregular vertical patten 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 northernmost province of Iwate.

As you would also expert, the folksy stylings are contrasted with some hardcore engineering. The Heritage Hi-Beat “White Bitch” is powered by Seiko’s new caliber 9SA5, which gives it a power reserve of 80 hours.

Leaving you more time, presumably, to bask in nature.

Around £6,500; seikowatches.com

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