If you follow the actuality about watches on a regular basis, you’ve certainly noticed that Seiko – no the smallest company around, to say the least – is moving quite fast these days. The brand has evolved considerably, introducing watches in all categories of price and expanding the higher-end collections, including Grand Seiko of course, but Presage too. We already showed you earlier this week, with the Presage SSA303J1, that value for money and horological content were the motto of the collection. And this is not about to change with this other novelty in the collection, a more luxurious, more refined and more vintage-oriented watch named Seiko Presage SPB041J1… and again, you’ll have a hell of a watch for your money.
As we said when introducing the Seiko SSA303J1, the Presage collection is not new but has been massively refreshed and pushed under the spotlights this year. First, this collection that used to be Japan Domestic Market (JDM) only is now available on every markets, including Old Europe and North America – and yes, this should make you happy. Then, Seiko introduced this year several new watches, including the accessible SSA303J1 and superb Chronographs with Urushi lacquer or enamel dials, the Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph (and those really are proper bargains, as for the price of a simple 3-hand Swiss watch with basic movement, you’ll get an in-house chronograph with column-wheel and high-end dials… beat that Switzerland).
What exactly is Presage, a collection rather apart in Seiko’s production? Presage is a collection entirely devoted to mechanical movements – no quartz, no Spring-Drive – of course in-house manufactured (that’s the norm at Seiko). It’s also a sort of vintage-inspired collection, with watches that look at the rich past of the brand. Finally, it is a collection that pays tribute to the ancestral savoir-faire techniques of Japan, such as Urushi lacquer or enameling. So to say, proper Monochrome material.
Today, we look at the Seiko Presage SPB041J1, a watch that looks rather vintage and not that Japanese – this watch could almost be Swiss. Here, you can feel the wish of Seiko to become even more international and to gain popularity, not only amongst normal customers, but in the heart of real watch collectors. While the Seiko Presage SSA303J1 felt rather in line with the rest of Seiko’s production, especially with Grand Seiko watches (see the inspiration in the case design and in the dial and hands), the upper-end watches from the Presage collection (the Prestige line) are completely different and dig into the rich past of the brand to find inspiration. And with the Seiko Presage SPB041J1, the inspiration comes straight from the brand’s very first watch, the 1913 Laurel.
Seiko’s first ever watch, the 1913 Laurel
As you can see, the Laurel was still a very Swiss watch in terms of design and could easily be thought to be made in this region of the world. The Breguet numerals and blued hollowed hands, the small second at 6, the onion crown, the wired lugs… Everything brings back to military watches from the early 20th century made in Switzerland. However, believe us, this watch is pure Japanese. And Seiko has an immense proudness in this watch, which serves as an inspirational piece for the new Seiko Presage SPB041J1.
The 1913 Laurel is certainly visible here, mainly because of the combination of a white dial, with blued hands (yet not Breguet-style but style rather vintage), the sub-dial at 6 (however not a small second…) and, of course, the Breguet Arabic numerals, so classical in watchmaking. The other inspirational element is the red 12 numeral, which can be find here too. However, all is not about vintage here, and this Presage watch will also look familiar for its display. While not unique to Seiko, the combination of a power reserve and date in a sub-dial feels very Seiko indeed and aficionados of the brand won’t feel lost here.
Another pleasing detail is the dial on its own. What we have here is a white dial that doesn’t feel plain and boring. First, its color is rich, deep and slightly milky, with a pearlescent effect. Under certain conditions, there’s a slight sheen and almost pearly feel, which clearly brings a quality flair to the watch. Then, there’s the texture, a fine and detailed herringbone pattern. While not overly present when looked at normal distances, it becomes quite interesting when look under the loupe, as the texture becomes richer.
The display of the Seiko Presage SPB041J1 will be, as we said, familiar to some collectors, as already used in several other watches of the brand. It features central hours, minutes and seconds, as well as a date indicated by a hand in a sub-dial at 6 and a power reserve at 9. Slightly unbalanced at first, this display however gives a rather unique look to the watch, and will please those in a need for a bit of complications. The Seiko Presage SPB041J1 is powered by the in-house calibre 6R27. Unlike other basic movements of the brand, we enter here the world of real Seiko savoir-faire. it features the Trimatic technology, Seiko’s Dia-Shock anti-shock system, the efficient Magic Lever Winding system and use of the advanced Spron 510 alloy in the springs. In terms specifications, we have a modern 4Hz frequency and 45 hours of power reserve. This well known movement will bring accuracy and reliability for the coming decades. Finishing is rather industrial, but through the sapphire crystal, you’ll enjoy a nicely done rotor.
The case of the Seiko Presage SPB041J1 is like the rest of the watch; much more vintage-oriented, less sharp, less Japanese… Less Seiko in a way. Again, we can see here the wish to please another group of customers: more educated to watches, more into dress watches, more into collecting, more used to Swiss watches, less into Seiko. The stainless steel case has a reasonable 40.5mm diameter – which makes it quite on the refined side, however not too small to keep a decent presence on the wrist. The shape is quite classical and perfectly executed, with polished (casebands, bezel) and brushed surfaces (top of the lugs). The lugs are slightly curved and with a polished internal surface, which again are classical but bring elegance. The watch is secured to the wrist with a brown crocodile strap. Classy again.
Overall, we have here a great watch, with reliable and efficient movement, nicely finished and designed case / dial combo and an overall look that is quite surprising for Seiko but not for us, collectors from outside Japan. And while there are some undeniable links with vintage Seiko watches, these resolutely different looks could well be the reason of the success for Seiko Presage in Europe and North America. And its price could also be a very good argument: 899 Euros. More details on www.seiko-presage.com.
Specifications of the Seiko Presage SPB041J1
- Case: 40.5mm diameter – stainless steel – sapphire crystal on both sides – 100m water resistant
- Movement: in-house calibre 6R27 – Automatic – 4Hz frequency – 45 hours power reserve – hours, minutes, seconds – date by hand and power reserve indicator
- Strap: brown crocodile leather on steel folding buckle