As a brand born in 1881, you can easily imagine that there are some important watches in Seiko’s history. The very first one was a pocket watch named “Time Keeper”, made in 1895 in the newly opened Seikosha factory; the brand’s first diver was the 1965 62Mas; the brand’s and Japan’s first wrist chronograph was the 1964 Crown; and the 1969 Speedtimer had one of the earliest automatic chronograph movements. However, Seiko’s most significant watch might well be the 1913 Laurel, the brand’s and Japan’s first wristwatch. And next year, it’ll celebrate its 110th anniversary, and Seiko is releasing a surprisingly faithful re-edition, the new Presage SPB359.
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. Nevertheless, this watch opened the door to a multitude of other models, starting with the direct descendant of the Laurel, built in 1924 and the first with “Seiko” printed on its dial.
In 2023, Seiko will celebrate the 110th anniversary of its first wristwatch with the release of a series of commemorative timepieces – indeed, expect more to come next year. However, the festivities start early, with the presentation of this new limited edition, part of the Presage collection, known as the reference SPB359. And it draws immediate inspiration from the 1913 Seiko Laurel… In a way that we would have not expected the Japanese brand to do.
It all starts with a compact case, which has been created specifically for this limited edition. Made of polished stainless steel, the case of this Laurel Re-Edition SPB359 has obviously grown compared to the original model of 1913; however, it measures a restrained 37.5mm in diameter. Furthermore, this sensation of a small, retro-styled watch will be reinforced by the presence of an onion-shaped crown and very short articulated lugs. I must applaud Seiko for going out of its usual Presage comfort zone and creating a case that is entirely different from the usual production. We’ve seen inspiration from the Laurel in the past, with watches such as the Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph SRQ019, but never to this point yet.
This very original take on the vintage-styled watch continues with the strap. Once again, Seiko could have done things easier, but no, they’ve gone for the real deal with a strap that looks back at the thin and rather complex band that was found on the original Laurel. It’s a complex 2-piece pull-through strap made of deer leather and closed by a steel pin buckle. The rest of the specifications of this SPB359 are quite standard, with a box-shaped sapphire crystal and a screwed caseback with 50m water-resistance.
The dial of this Presage/Laurel Reinterpretation watch also looks back at the past, not only in terms of design but also regarding materials. The SPB359 features a white enamel dial, just like the Laurel, with black-painted Arabic numerals, a red 12 marker and a very distinctive 4 o’clock numeral. A discreet touch that again pays tribute to the original Laurel. It is made by master craftsman Mitsuru Yokosawa and his colleagues at a workshop specialising in enamel production.
You’ll notice some evolutions regarding the display. The original Laurel was a 3-hand watch with small seconds. Its descendant, the Presage Laurel Re-Edition SPB359, has more modern mechanics under the hood. Seiko has tried, however, to retain some faithfulness with a sub-dial at 6 o’clock, except this time, it displays the date. Time is indicated centrally, and a discreet unobtrusive power reserve indicator is found at 9 o’clock. The retro-styled hands are blued.
Inside the case is the automatic calibre 6R27, a well-known movement often found in the Presage line. It beats at 4Hz and stores up to 45 hours of power reserve when fully wound. It is hidden under a solid steel back.
Availability & Price
The new Seiko Presage Laurel Re-Edition SPB359 will be a limited edition of 2,500 pieces and available from January 2023 at Seiko Boutiques and select retail partners worldwide. It will be priced at EUR 1,900. For more details, please visit seikowatches.com.