Seiko hardly ever disappoint when they decide to add to their popular Presage and Prospex families. The Presage line was immediately admired upon its inception about 7 years ago. All watches included an in-house Trimatic® movement with Diashock®, Magic Lever® and Spron® innovations. These proprietary inventions are all beneficial to a movement. The Diashock® system prevents misalignment of the balance wheel under extreme shocks. The Magic Lever® system allows the self-winding system to recharge the main spring in both directions making it the most efficient at this price point. Finally, the Spron® spring technology allows for more coils within the mainspring per given area than a standard spring. All this in-house technology is available at price points that beggar belief. Most brands in the world cannot claim to be a manufacture. There are no other manufacture movements available in luxury wrist watches at this price point. The Presage range is full of beautifully classic timepieces that epitomise the humble nature of the Japanese.
The Prospex line is the antithesis of this, but only within the styling, and not the attitude. The very same attention to detail is focused upon all Prospex watches, but the emphasis is on utilitarian, sports watches with incredible specifications at the price point. All have excellent water resistance and magnetic resistance. These watches are designed to offer peace-of-mind in any given situation. Diver watches prevail but, as will be highlighted below, this isn’t necessarily always the case.
As we enter Spring, this year has already witnessed additions to both lines. These are my favourite five thus far.
Presage Riki Enamel
This years Presage RIKI Enamel Automatics reference SPB113J1 and SPB115J1
Following on from the highest of high-end Presage RIKI Spring Drive enamel dial watches introduced in 2019, the SNR037J1 and SNR039J1 seen below, Seiko have announced a further two enamel dial timepieces with similar aesthetics but different movements and contrasting price points. The SPB113J1 and SPB115J1 seen above are also inspired by the RIKI Steel Clock.
The SNR037J1 and SNR039J1 RIKI Spring Drive Enamels released in 2019. Rrp £4100.
Riki Watanabe RIKI Steel Clock was the inspiration
Riki Watanabe was a pioneer for modern Japanese design. His most famous creation was the RIKI clock but he has also worked alongside architect Kiyoshi Seike on the interior designs of the Japanese hotel chains, Prince Hotel, which can be visited both in Japan and around the world. He also benefitted Japan’s art society by establishing the Japan Industrial Designer’s Association. Throughout his career he received many awards including the Milan Triennale Exhibition Gold Award, the Mainichi Design Award and the Japanese Medal of Honour with purple ribbon awarded by the Government of Japan.
The Presage team worked alongside Watanabe San’s team to create the dials that reflects the designer’s philosophy of simple aesthetics to create a balance of beauty and clarity.
The minimalist dial design conjoins perfectly with the elegant case, with diameter 39.9mm and thickness 12.4mm to ensure wearer comfort.
This case is, remarkably, still water resistant to 100m and hermetically seals the 24 jewel, 70 hour power reserve 6R35 movement, described elsewhere in this article.
The in-house 6R35 movement can be seen through the exhibition caseback
The creation of the enamel dials is entrusted to Mitsuru Yokosawa from Seiko’s Micro Artists Studio, who also creates the dials for the Credor timepieces. With over 40 years experience of this delicate skill, Yokosawa San is the ideal craftsman to form these miniature artforms. Each dial is pre-treated before the enamel glaze, produced in house, is applied by hand before being cured in the kiln. Both the enamel glaze production and the firing process are so sensitive to change Mitsuru has to adapt both for variations in temperature and humidity throughout the year.
Controversially for some, perhaps, is the choice of horse leather for the strap. Black to compliment the white enamel dial or chestnut brown for the chocolate brown enamel dial.
The Presage RIKI Enamel Automatics pay honour to the late Japanese designer Riki Watanabe in impeccably sympathetic style, which we would expect no less from Seiko. The combination of elegance, craftmanship, provenance, sensible price point and day-to-day practicality has resulted in one of the most alluring timepieces from Seiko I have ever seen.
The only problem foreseen is the choice of the monochromatic and pertinent white enamel dial or the warmth of the unique chocolate enamel dial.
Prospex King Turtle
The 6309 was present in the Seiko catalogue until 1988. After nearly three decades Seiko succumbed to fan pressure in 2014 and released a new Turtle. This was an instant success. Other well-received Turtles followed, like my own PADI SRPA21.
The entry level price point never allowed for high-end materials when we consider the Turtle was a capable professional spec. dive watch. That is until now with the release of the King Turtle. At last Seiko recognises that the name Turtle is part of their folklore and will reap much better rewards as potential customers put “Seiko Turtle” into their chosen search engine.
The King Turtle, despite its name, shares the same dimensions as previous offerings, with a diameter of 45mm and a thickness of 13.2mm. However, the price means that the upgraded King Turtle maintains the incredible value for money of its siblings. This amount of specification should not be available for between £520 and £550, depending on whether you choose one of the rubber strap or bracelet clad examples. The King Turtle now has a sapphire glass, with double day-date magnifier, whereas the original used hardlex crystal. The King Turtle also has a ceramic inlay to the bezel, whereas the original’s was aluminium. Both of these materials are as high-end as you can get and are normally associated with professional spec. dive watches costing at least four times the price.
Other enhancements include a more refined and defined edge grip to the bezel and a hobnail effect on the dial of the black and green examples, that is reminiscent of the £15000 Patek Philippe Aquanaut and £20000 Audemars Piguet Royal Oak.
I love the subtle use of colour with the aquatic inspired bronze second hand and script on the black dial King Turtle.
The blue example receives a wave and shark motif in the Save The Ocean mould. The off-white Lumibrite® material works particularly well with this stunning blue dial.
All-in-all the King Turtle is the dive watch that Seiko fans have been yearning for. It maintains the famous profile, that is as triumphant now as it was 43 years ago, but adds luxury, refinement and longevity with some nicely thought out additions. The King Turtle is a true luxury diver’s watch and has a respected position in that most bloated of categories in the industry. It can hold its head way above most with its incredible specification and exceptionally attractive price point.
Presage Crown Chronograph Homage Limited Edition.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: This is an homage to a chronograph, but it isn’t a chronograph. This is a valid observation, but all is not as it seems. The Crown Chronograph, introduced by Seiko in 1964, was not only the brand’s first chronograph but also Japan’s first ever wrist worn stopwatch and the aesthetics were similar to that of a standard three hand timepiece.
As can be seen below it wasn’t your typical style chronograph, with a mono-pusher and no subdials. The pusher was used to start, stop and reset, as is usual with a mono-pusher. The elapsed time was read using a central seconds hand and by moving the bi-directional bezel to the minute hand upon starting the stopwatch. Therefore, allowing the timing of an event up to 1 hour. The brand new SPB127J1 is an aesthetic homage to a very important timepiece in Seiko’s illustrious history.
The original Crown Chronograph was powered by the 5719 movement that was designed to allow timekeepers at the 1964 Olympics, for which Seiko were the official timekeeper, to have wrist worn stopwatches. The new models are powered by the Trimatic® 6R36 in-house movement with an impressive 70 hours power reserve.
The original silver dial is joined by monochromatic black and stunning jade variants.
Each example comes with sapphire glass with Seiko’s proprietary high-definition anti-reflective coating. Surgical grade stainless steel is used throughout for the 41.3mm case and bracelet. Both of which are polished and satin finished to a very high standard.
The black coated bezel is a practical bi-directional example, because this is not meant to be a diver’s watch. Even still, the case has a useful 100m water resistance. In reality, the bezel can be used in exactly the same way as the original Crown Chronograph.
The three dial options will combine to make a total number of 1964 pieces, to commemorate the unveiling of the Crown Chronograph 56 years ago.
Each example comes in a special presentation box.
This particular homage watch may not capture the original functionality of its 1964 inspiration, but it does capture those wonderful aesthetics. I am still waiting patiently for a monopusher re-edition of the historically important Crown Chronograph. Until that event arrives, I am delighted with the design and quality of this new group of Limited Edition watches that captures the essence of a very historically significant model.
|The Seiko Alpinist SARB017 used to be the bane of the UK Seiko retailer because we would often receive enquiries about it, but it was strictly JDM (Japanese Domestic Market). It is clear to see why this watch was so popular. It looked fantastic, with its unique blend of sunburst green dial and gold accents. The case was a nice size and the compressor style offered practicality and something unique for Seiko collectors. However, many do not realise that there have been a large number of Alpinist models and variations from Seiko, dating all the way back to 1961 when the brand introduced the very first model to carry the famous name, in a watch they had aspirations of being used by Japanese mountain climbers. There are, reportedly, 18023 mountains in Japan and the 1960’s saw in increase in people wanting to explore and conquer these natural landforms. Seiko soon recognised the demand for a wristwatch that would accompany these aspirational climbers.
A far cry from the original 1959 version. (image courtesy of Seikowatches.com)
Every single one of these was JDM. Thankfully, Seiko have released three new worldwide additions (reference numbers SPB121J1, SPB117J1 and SPB119J1). Costing slightly more than the original you do get so much more, including, an upgraded movement, sapphire glass with cyclops date magnifier, exhibition caseback and, of course, a full UK warranty and the backing of an authorised dealer.
The green dial Alpinist, that has come to almost single-handedly represent the name, is joined by black dialled and silver dialled versions. Both of which also pay homage to previous JDM models. My personal favourite is the silver dial which still maintains that all-important character whilst creating a slightly more elegant style. The black example has gained a lot of positive appraisals since it release, and the bracelet is exceptionally well made and finished, but the Alpinist looks better with Arabic numbers, in my opinion.
The case of the new Prospex Alpinist is meticulously and beautifully polished throughout to give a true high-end feel. It is also, remarkably, 200m water resistant, which is more than some diver’s watches on the market. You do get that rare amalgamation of robust tool watch feel coupled with a beautiful timepiece. With this in mind, I challenge anyone to name a truly beautiful, fit-for-purpose tool watch. The second crown at the 4 O’clock position operates the internal bi-directional rotating bezel with compass bearings. With a bit of poetic license this internal bezel could still be used as a timing or time-stamp function.
The diameter of the new Prospex Alpinist has been slightly increased from 38mm to 39.5mm, which is a better size in my opinion.
As mentioned above the Prospex Alpinist is powered by the tried and tested in-house 6R35 movement, which is similar to the 6R15 of the original Alpinist but is enhanced by an impressive 70 hours power reserve. This can be viewed through the exhibition caseback, which is a further upgrade.
When you get to hold the new Alpinist you’re presented with a very special watch that is more luxurious, robust and practical than its forebear. With the new range of Alpinist timepieces, Seiko have taken a collectable classic from their line up and perfected it.
Presage STAR BAR Limited Edition.
Seiko are notorious for creating desirable and covetable timepieces that are 1) beautiful to behold, 2) have extraordinary refinement and technology for the money and 3) have a wonderful anecdotal background. The Presage STAR BAR Limited Edition exemplifies this.
- First of all, the beauty: Just look at that dial. The STAR BAR is the latest in a select line of Cocktail inspired dress watches from Seiko. This is my personal favourite. I love the combination of the open heart and honeycomb dial, along with the story it has to tell (see below). The dial is, at the same time, both whimsical and pertinent. Honey has a natural golden warmth to it that has been utilised to perfection in the stunning and unique dial. The highly polished faceted hands and hand applied hour markers aligns with Seiko’s attitude of offering exceptional value for money.
The case is classical in style and has been finely polished to a very high standard throughout.
The Gent’s version of the Presage STAR BAR
I am delighted to see that Seiko have released a female version of the STAR BAR. The gent’s, reference SSA409J1, has a diameter of 40.5mm, and the lady’s, reference SSA781J1, has a diameter of 33.8mm. The lady’s version is bordering on as large as you would want for an elegant female wristwatch but this is governed by the movement and it does allow for better legibility, not only of the time but of the incredible dial and the in-house movement through it.
The Lady’s version of the Presage STAR BAR
- Speaking of which, secondly, unlike other watches at this price point with a dial side aperture to view certain aspects of the movement, usually the animated escapement, the Presage STAR BAR has an in-house movement to view. Both watches benefit from the Trimatic® 4R38 movement with Diashock®, Magic Lever® and Spron® patented technologies. The 4R38 has 24 jewels, 42 hours power reserve and hacking seconds. This can be viewed in full through the exhibition caseback.
- Finally, this new member of the family has a great story to tell. Seiko’s headquarters and the STAR BAR (no need to shout, it is simply written that way) are located in the Ginza region of Japan. This Limited Edition is inspired by the “Honeycomb” cocktail that was created by Hisashi Kishi, head barman at the STAR BAR and past winner of the International Bar Associations World Championship, using honey from the beehives of the Ginza Honey Bee Project. Sweet!
Both examples come on a chestnut patent leather strap, with a further white leather strap included. Each strap has its own polished steel folding clasp unit. A clever system is employed to allow quick and easy strap swaps when you desire to do so. This will result in, effectively, creating two different watches from the comfort of your own home.
This slide piece will release the spring bar from the case lugs allowing instant and safe removal of the strap.
The STAR BAR is an absolute delight to wear and view. The combination of wonderfully unique aesthetics, limited edition status, aesthetic transforming spare strap, excellent comfort from the correct case size and class leading in-house Trimatic® movement make this a very desirable addition to this classy family of Seiko timepieces.
There will only ever be 6000 pieces of the gent’s model and 3000 pieces of the lady’s. Each example will be engraved with its individual Limited Edition number on the caseback. The glass is hardlex crystal and the water resistance is 50m, both adding to the day-to-day wearability.
The Gent’s STAR BAR, reference SSA409J1, retails for £550 and the lady’s version, reference SSA781J1, retails for £530. I’ll drink to that.