At Seiko, the range of watches goes from extremely affordable options to ultra-high-end (really ultra) timepieces for the most meticulous collectors. Seiko Watches includes collections such as Seiko 5, Prospex, Grand Seiko or Credor. This year, the brand expanded one of its sub-collection, Presage, entirely dedicated to mechanical marvel and heritage. And while previously only reserved to Japan, it will now be offered to all markets. After we had an in-depth look at that star of this new collection, the Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph, it’s time to now to focus on the rest of the range, including this Seiko Presage SSA303J1 we’ll show you today, a value proposition, with mechanical movement, which screams quality.
What exactly is Seiko Presage?
At Seiko, the segmentation of products, and thus the differentiation between the different collections, is done on several levels. Price is not the only concern, but final use and inspirations are also taken into account. For instance, the entry-level proposition is named Seiko 5 – simple, basic but reliable pieces. Then you have Prospex, with watches entirely dedicated to a professional use – divers, pilots or explorers. Then you can find Astron, with watches equipped with a GPS device and mostly dedicated to travelers. On the top of the range, you’ll find two superb collections: Grand Seiko, as the luxury brand of the group, and Credor, as the high-end proposition. See, the segmentation is not only a matter of price. In the middle of these multiple ranges, one other stayed rather quiet for a while, Presage… and simply because it used to be restricted to Japan Domestic Market (JDM), but not anymore. Presage is, since this edition of Baselworld, available on all markets.
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 – see the Presage 60th Anniversary Chronograph and its dial inspired by 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. Overall, you could expect Presage to be on the higher side of the collection, however the best comes from the price, positioned in-between the regular collections and Grand Seiko, meaning that some affordable options are available, such as the Seiko Presage SSA303J1 we have today.
The Seiko Presage SSA303J1
With the Seiko Presage SSA303J1, we must nuance slightly what we said previously about the vintage-inspiration and the reminiscence of ancient techniques of the Presage collection. This watch is actually more on the modern side of the collection and does not pay tribute to an antique watch of the Seiko Watch Corporation. However, it must be regarded as a Presage watch for other reasons, including the devotion to mechanical and the interesting design clues. The first thing to notice is how this Presage SSA303J1 feels inspired by Grand-Seiko watch – and in all honesty, that’s a freaking good compliment here. Overall, we find the same kind of angular case and some common design clues on the dial, such as the hands or the indexes. But, the best point comes from the price point… and that’s clearly far below what you can imagine – but you’ll have to wait the end of the article to know.
The Seiko Presage SSA303J1 is a modern watch, which could be easily called a casual timepiece. Like some watches from the “Crown“, it has a certain mix of sportiness and elegance, something quite indefinable but which creates a watch wearable in all situation. Yes, it could almost be a sports watch, with its 42mm stainless steel case, the combination of brushed and polished surfaces (perfectly executed by the way, with clear distinction between the surfaces and sharp angles), a stainless steel bracelet, with 3-link construction and 21mm width, and finally a 100m water resistance, which can set it into the sports category. However, there’s another side in this watch, more discreet, more refined, as exposed in its silver dial, its hands or its display. That’s why we call it a casual watch: a watch you can were everyday, with every outfit, in every situation, at work, on the beach, at a barbecue or simply on a Sunday afternoon next to the fire.
As you can see on the wrist, it is a balanced watch. Of course, like always with Seiko, there’s a rather bulky feel, with this straight case and not real separation between the central barrel and the lugs. However, and take into account the small diameter of my wrist, the shape helps to place the watch perfectly on top of the wrist and to have comfort, even for the thinnest of us. 42mm is large, yes, but can be worn easily too. As usual with Seiko, even for lower-end or middle-end collections, the quality of the construction and the assembly are impressive and entirely justify the investment.
The pièce de resistance with the Seiko Presage SSA303J1 definitely is the dial and the display that goes along. On the central axis, you’ll find the hours, minutes and sweep second (automatic movement obliged), indicated with sharp and pointy blued hands (with a shape inspired by Grand Seiko watches, of course not with the same exquisite finishing, but still quite impressive). At 6 is a display of the date, with sub-dial and hand pointed a circular track – once again, a feature that feels more refined than a traditional date window and which gives more elegance. The main feature is the power reserve, indicated by a large central hand pointing an equally large track running from 11 to 4:30 – something not usual and which gives a unique attitude to the dial. The rest is classical and well executed: sliver colour, sun-ray pattern with nice reflections, applied and faceted indexes in polished metal. Clean, modern, elegance and somehow unique in the current production.
The Seiko Presage SSA303J1 has a see-through case back that allows to have a view on the calibre 4R57 – excuse us for the lack of movement photo, that was still a prototype at the time we shoot it. The 4R57 is a well known movement, based on the 4Rxx series. Reliable, precise, in-house manufactured… A good old movement that will never fail. It comprises 29 jewels and beats at 3Hz / 21,600vph. It boasts 41 hours of power reserve.
Overall, the package offered by this Presage SSA303J1 is quite impressive: superior quality, nice features, automatic movement, a rather unique display… And the best comes from the retail price of 519 Euros (inc. taxes, European price). Now, even if you look closely, it will be quite difficult to find another automatic watch with this quality, produced entirely in-house by a renowned brand and with such features at that price.
Reminder – Last Call – You can still win that exact same watch with Monochrome, in our Give-Away here. You have only a few days left to participate here. A few questions to answer and this Seiko Presage SSA303J1 could be yours.