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6. 7. 2022

What is the Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Style?

In 2020, Grand Seiko unveiled SLGH002, a limited-edition timepiece debuting the next-generation 9SA5 caliber, 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 designer behind the Evolution 9 Style, Kiyotaka Sakai.

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.

“ The character of Grand Seiko is its seriousness, simplicity, and robustness in functional terms. Added to that, the new movement, the Caliber 9SA5, is revolutionary, so I wanted to bring a new interpretation to the design.
Kiyotaka Sakai

Three new design principles are at the core of the Evolution 9 Style.

Principle 1

Evolution in Aesthetics

The goal of Evolution 9 is to further bring out the Japanese sense of beauty and nature that lies at the center 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.

Principle 2

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 centers 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.

“ By making the index wider, I wanted to make it obvious at a glance that this was a new Grand Seiko.
Kiyotaka Sakai

Principle 3

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 center of gravity. Just like a car, the lower the center 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 center 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.

Lumibrite on the hands and indexes (SBGC249).
High-Intensity Titanium cases for sturdiness and wearing comfort (SBGC251).
Improved wearing comfort along the backside of the lugs. They are curved and have been polished so that they feel nice against the skin (SBGC249).
A structured, integrated crown guard protects a vital case component and reduces the chance of it catching on the wearer's sleeve(SBGE283).
A crown featuring deep grooves with smoothed corners so that it is easy to grip without being uncomfortable to operate(SLGA015).
Focusing on legibility, an original font was created during the development of the Evolution 9 Collection's sport watches (SBGE285).

The Future

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.

Evolution 9 Collection

Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Collection
Hi-Beat 36000 80 Hours SLGH005
Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Collection
Spring Drive 5 Days SLGA009
Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Collection
Spring Drive GMT SBGE283
Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Collection
Spring Drive GMT SBGE285
Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Collection
Spring Drive 5 Days SLGA015
Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Collection
Spring Drive Chronograph SBGC249
Grand Seiko Evolution 9 Collection
Spring Drive Chronograph SBGC251
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