Seiko Presage Arita SPB093 with porcelain dial
At Baselworld 2019, Seiko unveiled two timepieces equipped with porcelain dials, marketed under its Presage banner. Carl Eady reviews the Seiko Presage Arita SPB093 and salutes the union of historical artisanal endeavour with Seiko’s mechanical watchmaking prowess.
When Shinji Hattori (Seiko’s Chairman & Group CEO and the great grandson of the original founder) took to the stage at Basel 2016, he proudly announced the launch of a new line of mechanical watches under the moniker ‘Presage’.
In a clearly defined strategy, Presage would offer quality mechanical watchmaking in the ‘mid-price’ zone. Since then, true to Mr Hattori’s word, the Japanese giant has relentlessly impressed the market with timepieces which have not only delighted Seiko’s loyal fanbase but also attracted a whole new band of admirers.
Scintillating ‘cocktail’ inspired dials have playfully populated the ‘Basic’ line, while in the ‘Prestige’ collections, dials have paid homage to centuries-old craftsmanship including enamelling and lacquering. Baselworld 2019 saw the release of two exquisite watches inspired by the town of Arita in the western part of Saga Prefecture on the island of Kyushu.
Early in the 17th century, ‘kaolin’, the clay suitable for fine porcelain production, was discovered in Arita’s Mount Izumiyama. Before long, the quality of Arita porcelain was revered throughout the elite households of Japan. Under the guise of ‘Imari ware’ (named after the regions principle shipping port), brightly coloured Arita porcelain was exported to Europe and became highly prized by the nobility of the period.
For the latest Presage releases, Seiko enlisted Arita based master craftsman Hiroyuki Hashiguchi and his team ‘Shanigama’ to produce the dials. In order to create a porcelain hard enough to meet the standard required by the Presage team, a new multi-stage technique has been developed.
Firstly, the dial shape is moulded and then fired for the first time at 1,300 degrees. Hand applied glazing and another firing in the kiln follows to cement the dial before lasering produces the required holes for the hands. One last glaze is applied before a final firing, by which time each dial has acquired the necessary strength, texture and lustrous finish. The blue tinge within the white Arita porcelain is a subtle but prized characteristic, which, after the final printing of the dial has taken place, complements the other dial elements. Traditional Roman numerals adorn the perimeter of the dial in a rich dark blue, save for the ‘pillar box’ red 12 o’clock marker which acts as a respectful nod to Seiko’s early ‘Laurel’ wristwatches.
The pairing of a circular date indicator at the 6 o’clock position and a fan shaped power reserve indicator at 9 o’clock add a degree of modernity and further showcase the sumptuous depth of the porcelain dial.
Each of the five hands are heated to a cerulean blue hue and contrast the milky Arita canvas. The hour and minute hands are presented in a luxurious leaf style, incorporating finely pointed tips which are shaped by hand to maximise legibility. In contrast, the superfine, elongated seconds hand extends to the minute track gracing the dial’s perimeter. The hand is also equipped with a crescent shaped counterweight, a recurring signature in Presage’s ‘Prestige’ pieces.
At 40.6mm, the case width is very inclusive and will sit well on most wrist sizes. Some individuals with a more critical disposition may question the depth of the watch, coming in at 14.1mm. In contrast, those who appreciate the artistry within will consider the depth a small price to pay.
The highly polished stainless-steel case is nicely proportioned with satin brushed, curved lugs. At the 3 o’clock position, a large regal-shaped crown features elegant fluting and is adorned with a bold Seiko ‘S’. The crystal is dual curved and sapphire, with an anti-reflective coating providing a clear view of the dial estate. On the reverse, a sapphire exhibition caseback gives owners the opportunity to admire the 6R automatic movement within.
For the SPB093, Seiko has utilised the 4Hz 6R27 Caliber featuring 29 jewels. Like all Seiko Presage movements, it is a ‘Trimatic’, a term the brand uses to encapsulate its three watchmaking technologies which give them an edge over many competitors. Proprietary alloy ‘Spron’ is used to create the mainsprings and hairsprings. As well as excellent elasticity, it is resistant to heat and corrosion, ensuring optimal performance for many years. ‘Diashock’, as the name suggests, counters the effects of shock, chiefly to the balance wheel, while Seiko’s 1959 invention the ‘Magic Lever’ increases the winding efficiency of the movement.
A degree of decoration is also evident, with some ‘Tokyo’ striping and gilded markings on the oscillating weight and linear brushing on the bridges. With a power reserve quoted at 45 hours, hand winding option and hacking feature, there is much to be admired, especially given the model’s price point.
Despite the Presage Arita coming in at well below £2000, it still manages to convey many luxury credentials, including the strap. The watch’s classic characteristics are perfectly complemented by a sumptuous brown alligator band, secured with a stainless-steel three-fold clasp.
Without question this is one of Seiko’s finest releases under the Presage banner. In just three years, it has built a stellar reputation for producing exquisite dials and this Arita porcelain execution is amongst the brand’s very best. The depth of the case will be down to potential owners to ‘cuff test’ for themselves, though once on the wrist, the allure of the Arita dial will likely be the ‘deal clincher’.
Given the previous Presage releases which honoured fine Japanese craftsmanship, it is surprising that this was not released as a limited edition. Perhaps this provides an insight into Japanese brand’s confidence in its Seiko Presage Arita SPB093 and an expectation that this could be a long-term favourite with fans, much as the Snowflake has become revered by Grand Seiko fans – only time will tell. What is evident with Presage is that when the Japanese giant makes a promise, it stays true to its word.
- Model: Seiko Presage Arita SPB093
- Reference: SPB093
- Case: Stainless Steel (40.6mm wide, 14.1mm depth)
- Functions: Hours, Minutes, Seconds, Date and Power Reserve
- Movement: Seiko 6R27, 27 jewel, 28,800 vibrations per hour
- Strap: Brown Crocodile with 3-fold stainless-steel clasp
- Water resistance: 10 Bar
- Price: £1740 (RRP as at 1.9.2019)