In 2020, Grand Seiko unveiled SLGH002, a limited-edition timepiece debuting the next-generation 9SA5 calibre, as well as a new design language now known as the Evolution 9 Style. In the two years since, Grand Seiko has grown the number of references in the Evolution 9 Collection, among them the popular White Birch models. In 2022, Grand Seiko introduced the Evolution 9 Style into the realm of sport watches to great acclaim, showing the extreme versatility of this new design framework. Today, we explore the Evolution 9 Style.
The goal of Evolution 9 was to take the best elements of Grand Seiko design and improve on them in ways that pay respect to the brand’s history and embrace its future. In 2017, designer Kiyotaka Sakai, the individual behind Evolution 9, began his work to develop this new design code. Aiming to stay true to the foundations of Grand Seiko, Mr. Sakai turned the clock back to 1967 and to the original 44GS—as well as the design ethos that birthed that design—for inspiration.
The Grand Seiko Style, as it was called, was a seminal framework for Grand Seiko’s uniquely Japanese aesthetic. It was developed by famed designer Taro Tanaka and unveiled in 1967 in the form of the 44GS, a watch that wholly embodied this design language. The design code adopted for the Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Collection is an updated version of the Grand Seiko Style, preserving its fundamentals but adapting them for a new generation by resetting standards for beauty, legibility, and ease of use.
Three new design principles are at the core of the Evolution 9 Style.
Evolution in Aesthetics
The goal of Evolution 9 is to further bring out the Japanese sense of beauty and nature that lies at the centre of the Grand Seiko Style and every single Grand Seiko watch that has been produced since. It keenly focuses on the delicate balance between light and shadow, and the subtle gradations between the two. Sakai explains, “for this new model, I wanted to create a case that feels substantial but looks light.”
The flat, polished mirror surfaces of the case create distortion-free reflections and allow for deep blacks and bright whites to emerge, while the use of a hairline finish brings out the many subtle shades of light and dark between these two ends of the spectrum. To give the watches a more versatile look, Sakai intentionally reduced the use of mirror finishing, and instead increased the use of hairline finishing throughout. The heavier use of hairline surfaces, by contrast, enhance the mirror surfaces between them.
The case form is composed of planes and flat surfaces arranged three-dimensionally, with minimal use of curved areas. Furthermore, sharp lugs cut off at the tips nod to a sculptural influence, and a hairline-finished bezel gives the watches an overall grander impression.
Evolution in Legibility
With Evolution 9, the hands and indexes are now even more distinctive, improving the ease with which they can be differentiated—even at a quick glance. Sakai recalls, “In the course of delving into the functions demanded of Grand Seiko, I thought about what constituted truly excellent legibility.” Sakai turned to the first Grand Seiko from 1960, and he built his ideas from there.
The result is an hour hand, with its broad base and truncated tip, that is clearly distinguished from the minute hand, which reaches all the way to the minute track. The three-dimensional, multi-faceted indexes all have deep grooves at their centres to catch any light that hits them, making it possible to read the time with an even greater degree of accuracy at several different viewing angles. This ensures that the hands and indexes are not lost against complex textured dials, which then allows for greater flexibility of design. To make the watches easier to read from an angle, the minute and seconds hands have been bent toward the dial.
Evolution in Wearing Comfort
Sakai gave on-the-wrist comfort special consideration when developing the Evolution 9 Style. To further improve its feel on the wrist, the case was designed to have a lower centre of gravity. Just like a car, the lower the centre of gravity, the less the watch is likely to shake when worn. Additionally, by using a box-shaped sapphire crystal or a dual-curved sapphire crystal, the height of the bezel can be significantly diminished, making the case look thinner.
The bracelet is 50 to 55% the diameter of the watch, widened to disperse the weight of the watch and to ensure that it sits comfortably and securely on the wrist. While the bracelet looks like a three-link design, it has five links with two thin links between the wider ones.
In summary, Evolution 9 Style has nine design elements that arise from the three aforementioned design principles.
Evolution 9 Style in Sport
In 2022, Grand Seiko brought the Evolution 9 Style to a number of exciting new sport watches. Sakai explains the approach behind the expansion:
“As long as the essence of the Evolution 9 Style is rock solid, it is possible to divert it to models that house different movements and to sport models. I saw no reason why we could not use the Evolution 9 Style methodology, namely the approach to the indexes and hands and the lowering of the centre of gravity, in a sport watch as well.”
With a solid framework in place, Sakai focused on other ways he could enhance the Evolution 9 Style in watches meant for more active use.
Just as the Grand Seiko Style served as the brand’s north star for nearly six decades, the new Evolution 9 Style will be a guiding force for Grand Seiko for many years to come. Its distinct design language, rooted in Grand Seiko’s heritage, continues the firm’s forward-thinking trajectory, resulting in timepieces that are visually stunning, highly practical, and extremely comfortable. Discover the Evolution 9 Collection below.