Seiko came to Baselworld 2017 with a very refreshing surprise (among all the superb watches which they launched …). Although some of us had thought that the Seiko Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph would forever remain an unattainable dream – due to its limited production numbers, which sold out quickly – the Japanese brand this year unveiled a full range of watches for their Seiko Presage Enamel Collection. These new models comprise of not just one but four watches, all mechanically powered, each with the added luxury of hand-made enamel dials, and they include the comeback of the superb chronograph… better still these pieces will not be limited in production!
What is Presage?
While most of us are familiar with the Seiko 5 (entry-level watches), the Prospex collection (professional sports watches) or Grand Seiko (high-end watches, now a brand on its own), Presage has a slightly different image. This collection, which has some “heritage” DNA and which is powered by only mechanical movements, has remained rather quiet for some years, especially for collectors located outside of Japan. Indeed, it was once restricted to the Japanese domestic market in. However, in 2016, Seiko opened this collection to the rest of the world, and to announce this, they launched an impressive watch, the Seiko Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph available in two 1,000 piece limited editions, which sold out immediately.
The 2016 Presage Chronograph 60th Anniversary Limited Edition
The Presage collection features no quartz or Spring-Drive movements, instead it is entirely devoted to mechanical calibres, each of which is manufactured in-house as is a tradition of Seiko. Vintage inspiration is a strong feature of the collection, with watches styled to represent the brand’s rich heritage – see the Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph whose dial is inspired by that of the first ever Seiko watch, the Laurel. Finally, it is a collection that pays tribute to the ancestral savoir-faire techniques of Japan, such as Urushi lacquer or enameling. With features such as hand-made enamel dials, you might expect the selling price of Presage pieces to reflect this level of luxury, however they remain very affordable, with some watches priced at well below 1,000 Euros.
The New, Unlimited Seiko Presage Enamel Collection
Due to the enthusiasm which greeted their Limited Edition Chronograph, Seiko has have taken some of the features which made that particular model so successful, and have incorporated them into the design of the 2017 Presage Collection. Therefore the new models have the same cases, similar dials, the same vintage flair and the same incredible quality / price ratio. Instead of relaunching only the chronograph, Seiko will now have four watches in this collection: two 3-hand watches (one round and one tonneau, the latter won’t be featured in this article, as not available at the time of the shooting), one multi-hand automatic and the comeback of the chronograph, albeit with some slight visual differences.
The Presage Collection is based on vintage watches made by Seiko. While the first Presage collection was based mainly on the 1913 Laurel (the brand’s first wristwatch), with a white enamel dial and Arabic numerals (including the red 12), this second and unlimited collection has different inspirations. It still relies on this noble material but it also takes styling references from a 1895 pocket watch, the “Time Keeper”, for the Roman indexes and overall style of the dials.
The 3-hand Seiko Presage Enamel Automatic SPB047
So, let’s begin with least expensive model in the collection and work our way up. Amongst the four watches that Seiko introduces in the Presage Enamel collection, the new Seiko Presage Enamel Automatic SPB047 might well be the best deal of the lot, a proper “value for the money” watch. While Switzerland tends to propose enamel dials in watches with 4 or 5-figure price tags, what you see here is an automatic watch, with in-house movement and hand-crafted enamel dial for just above EUR 1,000. The watch is quite simple of course but this doesn’t detract at all from its appeal.
This SPB047 is a slightly formal watch with its 40.5mm case, in steel. The shape and style is the same as the 2016 chronograph, with facetted lugs and polished and brushed surfaces. The overall design of the case is pleasant, elegant and much more understated than the usual sporty production of Seiko. Clearly here, the watch was intended to please Europe and US collectors, who are more familiar with, and used to buying Swiss watches. Inside the case is the Calibre 6R15, an automatic, 3Hz movement with 50h power reserve and rather basic finishing – which is precisely what’s required for a proper workhorse, best known for its accuracy and reliability.
The main interest of this Seiko Presage Enamel Automatic SPB047 is of course its dial. If at first glance nothing seems unusual – classical Roman indexes, white color, date window at 3 – on a closer inspection the beauty of hand-made enamel dial becomes apparent. This means several things. First of all, enamel is just unique in the color and reflections it brings. Because of the manual intervention, the dial is not perfect, but these little flaws really only add to its character. Yes, there are some small imperfections, such as the edging around the date window which might seem to be quite rough in its finishing, but these are overshadowed by its unique shine, and the milky white effect of enamel. At its price point, the manual crafting of the dial implies such flaws – which have to be accepted as part of the package.
This “entry-level” edition Seiko Presage Enamel Automatic SPB047 is not limited in production and will be priced at an extremely competitive EUR 1,100. A great price for an elegant, refined and partially hand-made watch.
The Seiko Presage Multi-Hand Automatic SPB045
Next up, the Presage Automatic Multi-Hand, is a piece that we’ve already explored on Monochrome, however that was in its “standard” edition, with textured dial. On this latest variation, the dial has a classical white lacquer on top of a plate with fine herringbone pattern. Just like the original version (ref. SPB041J1), this SPB045 Enamel dialled edition features the quite complex display that we enjoyed previously, meaning H/M/S on the central axis, date-by-hand at 6 (a classical and usually quite luxurious display) and a power reserve indicator at 9 (not that useful on an automatic watch, though it is still pleasant to have as a watch lover).
Once again in this Seiko Presage Multi-Hand Automatic SPB045, we have a mid-range, in-house, self-winding movement by Seiko, the Calibre 6R27. This movement is more advanced than the 3-hand version above, as it features the Trimatic technology, Seiko’s Dia-Shock anti-shock system, the efficient Magic Lever Winding system and the use of advanced Spron 510 alloy in the springs. In terms specifications, we have a modern 4Hz frequency and 45 hours of power reserve. All-in-all, it is accurate and highly reliable, as well as being nicely decorated – which is as much as one could expect in its price segment.
The case is the same as above, with twisted lugs, satined and polished surfaces that alternate, and overall, it’s a nicely designed case. It measures the same reasonable yet modern 40.5mm and comes with a crocodile strap. Again, the most unusual factor here is the dial, hand-made in white enamel. The beauty comes from its complexity, comprising of several layers. The subdials are slightly recessed, but not in a “brutal” way but gently. The printed dial markings in black are well executed, and it is combined with equally elegant blued hands. For those who feel a bit bored by a simple 3-hand display, this Presage Multi-Hand Automatic will give more than expected.
The Seiko Presage Multi-Hand Automatic SPB045 is again not limited in production, and priced at EUR 1,300 (compared to EUR 899 for the standard, non-enamel version). That’s quite a step up for sure, compared to the SPB041J1, however this watch still combines complexity and high-end materials for a very reasonable price.
The Seiko Presage Enamel Chronograph SRQ023
Last but not least – emphatically not least. This is the one! When, at Baselworld 2016, Seiko showed the Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph, all of us – collectors and journalists – knew that it would become an instant success – and it hasn’t disappointed. This watch, which at that time was available in two versions (one with white enamel dial, one with hand-made black Japanese lacquer), had it all: the classic look, the in-house chronograph movement, the elegance, the exclusivity and the price. However there was a problem: only 1,000 examples of each version were produced, and as expected, it was sold out almost straight away.
Thus, imagine our surprise, when prior to Baselworld 2017, we received the news that the Presage Chronograph was about to stage a come back, but this time with a slightly different white enamel dial, and also in a non-limited production. Sort of a dream come true. Jokes apart, many collectors were slightly frustrated, finding there was little chance of them getting their hands on the 2016 version. Seiko was certainly testing the market but now, they’re pretty aware that this watch was a perfect recipe. So here we are, with the Seiko Presage Enamel Chronograph SRQ023.
Compared to the limited 2016 version, the changes are minimal. In fact, with the exception of the Breguet Arabic numerals – inspired by the 1913 Laurel – now replaced by elongated Roman numerals, a different hour hand and slight evolutions of the literature on the dial, this is exactly the same watch. Meaning that the elegant case still retains the 42mm diameter and 15.2mm height (water resistant to 100m), the mushroom pushers, the conical crown, the twisted lugs, the satined and polished surfaces, the large dial opening and the same presence on the wrist. Of course, if Seiko was not printed on the dial, it might be a surprise to discover that this was actually a Japanese watch, however this was the raison d’être of the Presage collection: attracting European and American high-end collectors.
As said, the main evolutions concern the dial, with Roman numerals, to be consistent with the rest of the Presage Enamel collection, the redesigned logo at 12 (and the addition of ‘Presage Automatic’) and a leaf hand for the hours, instead of a Pike-shaped hand. If it loses a bit of its exuberance, the new indexes offer more discretion and more elegance, with a certain timeless appeal. Again, the milky white enamel dial is greatly executed considering the price of the watch, with the slight imperfections that denote the manual manufacturing process.
Inside the case is the Calibre 8R48, a modern integrated, automatic chronograph movement, 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. It ticks at 28,800 vibrations per hour and boasts 45 hours of power reserve.
The best news is that this Seiko Presage Enamel Chronograph SRQ023 is not limited in production. However, this does not mean that it will be easy to obtain one. Some dealers already have a waiting list, and the production won’t be on the same level as a SKX007 for instance. It will remain a quite exclusive piece, however, if you are patient, one day sooner or later, you’ll be able to enjoy this superb watch. Price is EUR 2,650, again quite impressive for such a package.