60 years ago, in 1956, Seiko produced their first automatic watch, of course with an in-house produced movement; however, the history of the brand goes back much further. The first wristwatch manufactured by the well-respected Japanese brand was the 1913 Laurel, which also happens to be the first Japanese wristwatch. Later, in 1969, Seiko produced their first automatic chronograph (which was also one of the very first of its kind). This year, at Baselworld 2016, Seiko unveiled two watches that are a tribute to all these great timepieces that Seiko made: the limited edition Seiko Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph. And it is packed with great content: an in-house, automatic, column-wheel chronograph with fire enamel or urushi lacquer dial inspired by the Laurel, for less than € 3,000 Euros… and for once it won’t be restricted to Japan Domestic Market (JDM), but it will be available all around the globe!
With this simple description of a tribute watch, with enamel or urushi lacquer dial and in-house chronograph movement by Seiko, we can already see collectors starting to drool. However, we can already hear the muttering of flaws: it will be expensive it will only be available in very low numbers, only for the Japanese market. But you’d be wrong. Indeed, the Seiko Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph has many “wow-effect” attributes but it is not over-priced and even if the production will remain rather exclusive, it will be available all around the globe – and this will be the case for the entire production of the brand. This Seiko Presage is not a proper re-issue, it is more a tribute watch that mixes elements of several milestone watches of the brand – and we can ensure you that the cocktail is extremely tasty.
The enamel or urushi lacquer dials of the Seiko Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph
The Seiko Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph is available in two editions: a white dial ref. SRQ019 and a black dial ref. SRQ021, both exhibiting ancient and delicate techniques. The white dial edition features what the industry calls a grand feu enamel dial, a dial that is painted with a fine powder and then fired in an oven. Production of fire enamel dial is complex and can be affected by all sorts of external elements, like humidity and weather, resulting in bubbles or cracks after being fired. Not all the dials produced pass the quality control and many have to be simply trashed, resulting in rather expensive dials. On the other hand, a grand feu enamel dial will last for decades without discoloration.
Even if made in rather large quantities (1,000 dials), each enamel dial is produced in-house by a team of skilled craftsmen, led by Mitsuru Yokozawa. The result in the case of the Seiko Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph is a vitreous plate, with the typical milky white color of enamel. The dial of this ref. SRQ019 is printed with stylized Arabic numerals (closed to Breguet numerals), with a distinctive red colour for the index at 12, just like the 1913 Seiko Laurel. It features contrasting blued hands. As a proof of the “hand-made” character of this dial is a slight darker rim around the date aperture, a result of the firing process.
The second edition of the Seiko Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph, the ref. SRQ021, features a black dial, but this time obtained by Urushi lacquer, another ancient technique applied by hand. You won’t see here a simple painting applied by a machine. Urushi is an antique technique that requires highly-skilled hands to be properly executed. The dials are made in the studio of master craftsman Isshu Tamura in Kanazawa, on the western side of Honshu, Japan’s main island. Urushi is a natural lacquer obtained from the sap of the Japanese lacquer tree. The dials are painted with this lacquer and polished by hand several times, in order to obtain this deep, silky black colour.
As enamel, Urushi is a time-consuming process that requires trained craftsmen. Its use in watchmaking is usually limited to “métiers d’art” collection but here again, Seiko democratized this delicate art. To contrast with this pitch black plate, the hands are white (hours / minutes / sub-counters) or polished and the Arabic Breguet numerals printed in silver. Like enamel, Urushi lacquer has unparalleled longevity and is a living finishing, which will get harder and stronger as the years pass.
A modern case and 8R48 calibre for the Seiko Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph
Both editions of the Seiko Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph will come in a nicely designed stainless case, with modern proportions: 42mm in diameter and 15.2mm in height (water resistant to 100m). The case alternates between polished surfaces (bezel and flanks) and brushed areas (top of the lugs). The design is elegant, with twisted lugs that are reminiscent of 1960s watches of the brand. Besides the rather large diameter, this Seiko Presage remains pleasant and easy on the wrist and the quality of the case is above the expectations (and the price required). It is precise, very well adjusted and sharp.
To power the chronograph functions, the Seiko Presage 60th Anniversary features the Calibre 8R48, a modern integrated, automatic chronograph movement. Even if not the most appealing movement of the brand (finishing is rather industrial and most chronograph parts are hidden under the dial), it remains a technically advanced engine. It indeed features a column-wheel and vertical clutch – so-to-say, the best possible combination for a chronograph. It also incorporates Seiko’s unique three-pointed hammer to ensure the perfect synchronization of the hands’ fly-back. This Calibre 8R48 might not be finished like high-end movements, it nevertheless features all the technical solutions of haute-horlogerie and it is functionally impressive. It ticks at 28,800 vibrations per hour and boats 45 hours of power reserve. As a distinctive mark of this limited edition, the rotor is here golden.
There’s a lot to applaud here. The Seiko Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph has impressive dials, made with ancient traditional techniques, done by hand with the help of skilled craftsmen. Its case is nicely designed, with an undeniable elegance that matches the look of the dial. Finally, it features an excellent movement, with outstanding technical features. The best part comes from the required price. With such a package, you could expect a hefty price. You’d be wrong. The approximate recommended retail prices in Europe are 2,500 Euro for the SRQ019 (white enamel) and 2,800 Euro for the SRQ021 (black Urushi lacquer). Both editions are limited to 1,000 pieces, available all around the world – and certainly for a very short period. Deliveries will start in early September 2016. You’d better be fast… more details on www.seikowatches.com and on the dedicated page www.seiko-presage.com.