There are good reasons why this watch might seem familiar at first glance. Indeed, many elements of its dial and overall design have already been used by the brand. The dial, for instance, is a classic for Seiko, and so is the charmingly unbalanced display. But let’s not get distracted by that, as the new Presage SPB401 is a watch that has a story to tell and some pleasure to deliver. Released in the frame of the 110th anniversary of Seiko’s first-ever wristwatch, the so-called Laurel, this new model not only takes inspiration from this historical model but also presents a dial made from one of the most traditional materials.
Probably one of the most important watches ever created by Seiko, the 1913 Laurel was the brand’s and Japan’s first wristwatch. At a time when the norm was still to produce pocket watches, Kintaro Hattori made a bold move by releasing his first watch meant to be worn on the wrist. The concept wasn’t entirely new since Europe was already manufacturing some purpose-built wristwatches (in very limited numbers), and the military had converted pocket watches into wristwatches. However, Seiko’s model of 1913 was among the pioneers of the wristwatch… which is easy to tell when looking at this Laurel watch, a rudimentary evolution with some evident pocket watch credentials.
In the frame of a commemorative collection for the 110th anniversary of this significant model, Seiko has already released a variety of watches, including a faithful reproduction (which was equipped with the same movement as today’s watch) that you can see above. Not only does this limited edition have a rather quirky case design but as we speak, it might well be sold out. The new Presage Enamel SPB401 is basically a toned-down, slightly more contemporary and traditional take on an identical concept. Same overall design for the dial, a far more classic case and, best of all, a relatively lower price.
This SPB401 relies on the updated case that was introduced in the quartet of Seiko Presage Craftsmanship presented earlier this year. Slightly more angular, with straighter lugs, the proportions have been redefined too, with a dual-curved sapphire crystal that sits closer to the dial. The case, which is 40.2mm in diameter, remains fairly long with a 48mm length but is now thinner than before at 12.8mm (the Arita SPB267, with the same movement, was 14.1mm). Still not as thin as we’d want, but we salute the effort nevertheless. Importantly, the steel case is offered with the brand’s protective super-hard coating.
Compared to the true Laurel reproduction SPB359, this new Presage Enamel SPB401 has a more contemporary case but retains a classic, historically inspired dial. First, it is made from enamel – executed by master craftsman Mitsuru Yokosawa and his team – and features blue hands. Much like the Laurel, the numerals have a so-called Breguet font and the 12 marker is picked out in red. There are some charming elements to this dial, starting with the display and its date-by-hand and power reserve sub-indications. Another handsome feature is the surface of the dial, which has this classic milky white effect of enamel but also some depth with a sunken middle section.
No surprises regarding the movement, as we’re looking at the calibre 6R27. Used in many other watches, this automatic engine runs at a 4Hz frequency and stores up to 45h of power reserve. The watch is worn on a leather strap closed by a three-fold clasp with push-button release.
Available from October 2023, the Seiko Presage Craftsmanship Series Enamel SPB401 will be a limited edition of 1,500 pieces. It will be priced at EUR 1,400, which makes it a rather attractive option compared to the SPB359 (priced at EUR 1,900) or the Arita Porcelain SPB171 (priced at EUR 2,100), both using the same movement. For more details, please visit seikowatches.com.