A well-kept Japanese secret, Seiko’s Presage collection was not shared with the rest of the world until 2016. With its winning formula of traditional Japanese craftsmanship, resilient mechanical technology and an unbeatable price, the Presage collection is almost too good to be true. The new Presage Shippo Enamel models, with their eye-catching blue dials, seduce at first sight and are proof positive that you don’t have to shell out a fortune for a beautifully handcrafted Grand Feu enamel dial. Two mechanical references, one with a date function and the second with a calendar and power reserve indicator, stand out from the crowd of ubiquitous blue dials flooding the market with their exquisite handcrafted Shippo enamel dials.
Masters of Shippo Enamel
Just before we take a closer look at the watches, a brief word about Shippo enamelling is in order. Geneva’s predominant role in the art of enamelling is well established, and many watch buyers are happy to pay a premium for a Grand Feu enamel dial knowing that the lustre and intensity of its colours will not fade over the years – in other words, this means a minimum price of EUR 8,000 (for such a watch). In the land of the rising sun, the art of enamelling was introduced in the 17th century and was given the name Shippo, in reference to the Seven Treasures mentioned in the Buddhist texts. Such was the skill of the Japanese enamellers in recreating the vibrant colours of the gemstones and precious metals representing the Seven Treasures, that the name Shippo stuck.
The Pursuit of Perfection
A Japanese ambassador of the highest order, when it comes to incorporating traditional artisanal skills at Seiko, only the very best will do. The gorgeous blue enamel dial with its undulating guilloché pattern has been crafted specially for Seiko by Ando Cloisonne, one of the few traditional enamel companies left in Japan and a specialist manufacturer in Nagoya since 1880. Master craftsman Wataru Totani supervises the entire process and paints the lead-free glaze by hand on the surface of the dial, which is then fired at 800ºC.
The process is repeated over and over again until an even surface and the desired colour saturation are achieved. After the firing process, the wafer-thin 1mm disc is polished until it meets the master’s approval. The particular shade of blue chosen for the dial of these Presage Shippo models was inspired by the colour of the sea around Hiroshima and the engraved scalloped pattern emanating from the centre of the dial evokes the continuous motion of the waves, a recurrent theme in Japanese art.
The 3-Hand Seiko Presage Shippo Enamel SPB075
The heir apparent to the Seiko Presage Enamel SPB047 with a white enamel dial and the SPB069 of 2017 (a limited edition model with a blue enamel dial), the Presage Shippo SPB075 makes a greater impact with its even more elaborate and refined blue enamel dial. Like its next of kin, the Presage Shippo flaunts the same elongated Roman numerals and minute track that pay homage to Seiko’s first pocket watch, the 1895 Time Keeper.
In order to incorporate the date function at 3 o’clock, and not interfere with the symmetry of the dial, the Roman numerals have been shrunk to accommodate the rectangular aperture. The 40mm stainless steel case with facetted lugs and polished and brushed surfaces has a thickness of 12.40 mm and houses Seiko’s robust calibre 6R15, an automatic 3Hz movement with a 50-hour power reserve.
The Seiko Presage Shippo Enamel Multi-Hand SPB073
With more action on deck, the Seiko Presage Shippo SPB073 combines a classic three-hander with a calendar sub-dial at 6 o’clock and a power reserve indicator between 8 and 10 o’clock. Once again, the white lacquered Roman numerals are partially eclipsed to accommodate the functions. Despite the amount of information on the dial, the wonderful wavy blue enamel dial dominates the scenery. The 40.60mm steel case is fitted with an in-house automatic movement – calibre 6R27 – and the frequency is a modern 4Hz with a 45-hour power reserve.
A winning price
The Seiko Presage Shippo Enamel Dial is going to be a tough act to follow price-wise. Limited to 2,500 pieces each, the SPB075 three-hand model will retail for EUR 1,450 and the SPB073 with calendar and power reserve functions for EUR 1,650. More details on www.seikowatches.com.