Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Diver (SLGA015) Review

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ezcheese
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Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Diver (SLGA015) Review

Post by ezcheese » Sat Jan 21, 2023 1:04 pm

I'm cross-posting this review to the Seiko forum as well as the main forum

Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Diver (SLGA015)

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It has been over a decade since I’ve done a watch review. Hell, it’s been over a decade since I bought a watch other than 2 recent G-Shock purchases! But I thought I would do an in-depth review of my new Grand Seiko.

Spring Drive

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I have always thought the Spring Drive movement was something special. I did a presentation in business school about the spring drive movement and I will actually do another quick presentation at work for my group soon on the subject of innovation using the Spring Drive as an example.

Sure, there are improvements being made to traditional mechanical watch movements every year, with manufacturers adding new interesting complications or using newly devised materials for certain parts to help the longevity or time-keeping accuracy of the movement, but nothing comes close to the Spring Drive when it comes to harnessing a mechanical mainspring and using direct gears to drive the hands of a watch while enabling quartz-level accuracy. Enter: Spring Drive.

So, how is the Spring Drive movement different from a mechanical movement or a quartz movement? It’s kind of a hybrid. From Seiko:

What controls the accuracy of a mechanical watch is the balance spring, a part of the speed-regulating unit, called the balance.
This part influences the accuracy to some extent because it is made of metal which expands and contracts with changes in temperature.
 
 
The Spring Drive is completely different from a mechanical watch in this speed-regulating unit.
The Spring Drive is powered by a mainspring, but adopts an electronic speed-regulating unit comprising a generator, IC, and crystal oscillator.
 
 
In a little more detail, at the end of the train wheel that moves the hands, a series of speed increasing wheels with a glide wheel are provided.
The unwinding power of the mainspring rotates the glide wheel, generating electricity in the coil to drive the crystal oscillator and IC.
The IC controls the spinning speed of the glide wheel by applying and releasing the electromagnetic brake, while comparing the accuracy of the electric signals generated by the crystal oscillator and the spinning speed of the glide wheel.
 
 
In addition, by making the energy transfer of the train wheel efficient and adopting an IC that drives with low power consumption, power reserve far exceeding normal mechanical watches is realized.
An unprecedented drive system which offers quartz accuracy.
This is the Spring Drive.

Of course we know that some manufacturers are working with different types of materials for the balance such as silicone in order to reduce some of the variability that comes with changes in temperature.

Let’s look at the particular Spring Drive movement found in this Grand Seiko, the Caliber 9RA5. It’s Seiko’s latest iteration of the Spring Drive movement, and with it comes the longest power reserve for an automatically winding Spring Drive to date; 120 hours to be exact. From the Grand Seiko site:

Caliber 9RA5 has an accuracy rate of ±10 seconds per month and utilizes the Offset Magic Lever to reduce the movement’s thickness by 0.8mm. By moving the position of the crown further back, the watch’s center of gravity is lowered and a perfect fit on the wrist results. The Dual-size Barrels are of differing sizes and arranged to allow for expanded capacity while conserving space. This achieves a 120 hour power reserve. The One-piece Center Bridge guarantees the movement’s strength, durability and shock resistance. Together, these innovative technologies define the next-generation Spring Drive movement, Caliber 9RA5.

Besides the increase in power reserve for the automatic winding version, this iteration brings an increased strength and shock resistance, and supposedly some new thermo compensation tech, which I haven’t read about definitively from Seiko, but has been mentioned in some discussions about this movement on the internet.

I don’t think I want to test the shock resistance, so this watch won’t be coming along to the shooting range or be adorning my wrist as I work out.

Grand Seiko

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I have been a fan of Grand Seiko for a long time. Having never owned one before (the closest I’ve been was the Seiko Marine Master 300 SBDX001, which is powered by an undecorated Grand Seiko movement, the venerable 8L35) I had pretty high expectations, and I haven’t been disappointed in regards to quality. There’s an overall presence with modern Grand Seikos that conveys a “big league” presence.

Evolution 9

Evolution 9 is Seiko’s new Grand Seiko design language. It gets pretty convoluted, with 3 guiding design principles and subsequently 9 design elements based on those 3 principles.

The 3 guiding principles are:
Evolution in aesthetics
Evolution in legibility
And evolution in wearing comfort.

In sticking with these 3 higher level principles, you can see that Seiko has made a lot of small changes that add to pretty significant differences.

An example I noticed when watching a YouTube review of this watch, the presenter compares the E9 to one of the other titanium Spring Drive powered Grand Seiko divers and with the watches placed side by side, you can clearly see some of the new changes. From the font and size of the numbers on the bezel to the overall layout of the dial and hands, to the crown position, it’s apparent that this is definitely an evolution (not a revolution) that helps it to stand out as the next generation of Grand Seiko divers.

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The Dial

In recent years, there have been several Grand Seikos with exceptionally stunning dials. Examples are the Snowflake, Spring, Whirlpool, Iwate, Kira-zuri, Shadow and White Birch (just to name a few). The dial on the Evolution 9 diver is referred to as the black stream and it is yet another beautiful dial to add to the list.

The black stream, otherwise knows as the Kuroshio Current, is one of the largest ocean streams in the world and flows north of Japan to the Arctic North Pacific. This provides the theme for the Evolution 9 diver. Subtle in its nature, you only get a glimpse of the texture when the light hits the dial just right. In other circumstances, the dial appears to just be black and the texture disappears.

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Moving on from the texture of the dial, we see evidence of the Evolution 9 design language as is probably best depicted in the side by side picture above. The orientation of the power reserve on the E9 has been flipped compared to previous generations of GS divers and it indicates 5 days rather than 3 on older models.

The hands are very easy to read at a glance and consist of brushed surfaces with plenty of that long-lasting Seiko lume. The minute and second hands also reach all the way to the minute markers, which I very much appreciate.The second hand has the lume pip on the back side, which is blacked to provide more contrast as it glides around the dial. The longer part of the second hand appears to be polished.

The hour markers are all polished around the edges and give off a nice shimmer when the light hits them. Interestingly, even with the date window placed in the 3:00 position, Seiko added a lume pip to the right on the chapter ring.

The Bezel

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Seiko is now happy enough with their ceramic solution to provide the bezel on the E9 in ceramic. The operation of the unidirectional bezel is nice and smooth, providing a satisfying and accurate 120 clicks.

I haven’t mentioned Zaratsu polishing yet, but it’s Seiko’s hand polishing technique that requires a good amount of skill to execute. This watch is chock full of zaratsu polishing, including the teeth of the bezel.

The Case

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Speaking of Zaratsu polishing, the case itself is full of alternating brushed and zaratsu polished surfaces. The drilled lugs are quite svelte for a 43.8mm case and contain both brushed and polished surfaces. The caseback is nothing to write home about, but at least you get the little GS lion!

The signed screw down crown is easy to operate and sits pretty snuggly into the case, which is another difference I noticed between it and the other GS diver in the comparison pic up above. The crown on that other one sticks out quite a bit more. I believe that the use of the magic lever in the 9RA5 movement enables this.

The Bracelet

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I’m not a bracelet guy, but I’m giving this a shot. It’s nicely done and offers a lot of flexibility with the sliding micro-adjustment. For my ~7.65 inch wrist, I found that keeping it one click from fully engaged is pretty much perfect for me, so there was no need to remove any links to get a good fit. But most people with smaller wrists would need to remove a link or 2. The clasp is signed with a GS stamp. I will be looking for a good alternative strap for this one in the future though.

Overall Impressions

Overall, I am pretty enthralled with this watch. It’s got a lot of presence on the wrist and one of the big reasons I went after this rather than something with more name recognition *cough* is so that I can enjoy it without letting on to “normal” people just how much it cost. Only a watch enthusiast would have an idea. Very similar reasons why we got a Land Cruiser I guess! Car people know what you have, but Joe shmo on the street just thinks its another Toyota. Anyway, if you have the $11,600 needed to play, I would say go for it, you won’t be disappointed!

Specs:

Exterior: High-intensity titanium
Case back: Screw case back
Glass Material: Sapphire crystal
Glass Coating: Anti-reflective coating on inner surface
LumiBrite: LumiBrite on hands, index(es) and bezel
Case size: Diameter 43.8mm Lug-to-lug 51.5mm Thickness 13.8mm
Band width: 23mm
Clasp type: Three-fold clasp with secure lock & push button release, solid & slide adjuster

Caliber no.: 9RA5
Movement Type: Spring Drive
Accuracy: ±10 seconds per month (±0.5 second per day)

Magnetic resistance: 4,800 A/m
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Djf1978
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Re: Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Diver (SLGA015) Review

Post by Djf1978 » Sat Jan 21, 2023 8:47 pm

Great review of a great watch. My grail for sure.

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bedlam
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Re: Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Diver (SLGA015) Review

Post by bedlam » Sat Jan 21, 2023 8:55 pm

Fantastic watch. I'm a big fan of the GS Diver :-)

ezcheese
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Re: Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Diver (SLGA015) Review

Post by ezcheese » Sun Jan 22, 2023 2:31 pm

Thanks guys!
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Maddog1970
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Re: Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Diver (SLGA015) Review

Post by Maddog1970 » Sun Jan 22, 2023 3:32 pm

Mine says hi - just a great watch
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ezcheese
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Re: Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Diver (SLGA015) Review

Post by ezcheese » Sun Jan 22, 2023 5:43 pm

Maddog1970 wrote:
Sun Jan 22, 2023 3:32 pm
Mine says hi - just a great watch
Hell yeah!
¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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