Seiko Presage Automatic Watch 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Chronograph

The Seiko Presage Automatic Watch 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Chronograph was unveiled at Baselworld 2016. The Presage collection blends value and virtue to magnificent effect. The limited edition chronograph is available in two versions, both harnessing sublime craftsmanship.

Carl Eady attended the launch of this new collection and has chosen to review the impressive Seiko Presage Automatic Watch 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Chronograph SRQ021J1, sporting a sumptuous black lacquered dial.

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Introduction

Seiko introduced its first wristwatch, the ‘Laurel’, back in 1913 during Japan’s Taisho era. In the century since, Seiko has proven, many times over, to be a manufacture of exceptional timepieces, punctuating the decades with superb collections across all the watch making disciplines, including quartz, mechanical, Kinetic and Spring Drive.

The company launched its first automatic watch in 1956 and this year celebrates the 60th anniversary of this feat. Seiko used Baselworld 2016 as a platform to announce the global launch of its elite ‘Presage’ collection. Until now, Presage has been limited to the Japanese domestic market along with just a handful of selected international arenas. Dictionary definitions of the word Presage include a forewarning of something of which to be wary, or an ‘omen’. Presage has received much acclaim and significant retailer interest and one senses the unleashing of the collection could indeed be an omen to many a competitor brand.

Seiko_Presage_60th_Anniversary_Chronograph_SRQ019_white_enamel_dial - ESCAPEMENT magazine - watch review website by Angus Davies

Seiko Automatic Watch 60th Anniversary Limited Edtion Chronograph – white enamel dial (SRQ019J1)

The 2016 Presage collection spans 60 pieces across three different calibres (4R, 6R and 8R) and brings together years of refinement and innovation, showcasing Seiko’s expertise in fine mechanical watchmaking. The collection is spearheaded by two beautiful limited editions, one featuring a black ‘Urushi’ lacquered dial and the other a pure white enamelled dial. Both are exceptional examples of Japanese craftsmanship, coupled with an extremely impressive mechanical chronograph movement.

The case

Fans of ‘Grand Seiko’, will be well aware of the expert levels of finishing ubiquitously present throughout this prestigious collection. Whilst attending the launch of the Presage collection, I noted the expressions of delight on many faces, impressed by the exalted execution of the Seiko Presage Automatic Watch 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Chronograph SRQ021J1.

At 42mm in diameter, the stainless steel case is extremely well proportioned. The lugs are finely brushed, contrasting well with the highly polished outer case, adorned with simple yet elegant curves. To the right, flanking the crown, are the chronograph pushers at 2 o’clock and 4 o’clock. They standing slightly proud from the case ensuring that, in true Seiko fashion, the chronograph proves simple to operate.

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The bold crown is reassuringly stamped with the Seiko ‘S’ and is easily accessible, for manual winding or time adjustment, despite the prominence of the chronograph pushers.

The bezel is uncluttered and unobtrusive, forming a tiered aesthetic to house the anti-reflective sapphire crystal, thereby ensuring the wearers view of the Urushi craftsmanship is uncompromised.

The dial

In 2014, British scientists developed the world’s deepest ever black hue named ‘Vantablack’ – formed from a coating of carbon nanotubes so dark they absorb 99.96% of surface light. In 3D form Vantablack is almost imperceptible to the human eye. There are currently many uses for this deep colour. For example, it is used in space telescopes to absorb stray light. In the future it would not be outlandish to predict such ultra-low reflecting material gracing watch dials for the more futuristic and scientific of watchmakers – Seiko included.

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Pilgrims on the journey to develop such a deep black finish included Japanese craftsmen harking back to the Jomon period (circa 10000 – 300 BC). They utilised the sap extracted from Urushi trees to produce Urushi lacquering, that was likely the ‘Vantablack’ of its day. The dial of the Seiko Presage Automatic Watch 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Chronograph SRQ021J1 honours this traditional method to create a mysteriously rich black lustred finish.

Isshu Tamura, a master Urushi craftsman like his father before him, is the man entrusted with personally overseeing this extremely time consuming process at his studio in Kanazawa, the capital city of the Ishikawa Prefecture. Firstly, a brass base plate is polished using Suruga charcoal, selected for its fine linear grain and hardened properties. This roughens the surface and enables the adherence of a thin undercoat of Urushi. The plate is then heated in an oven and dried before being polished and roughened again with the charcoal. This process happens three times before the application of the ‘intermediate coating’ which is one of the key determinants in achieving the final quality of finish. The Urushi lacquer used in this step contributes to the deep rich black coating required. Further treatment awaits the dial as it is smoothed and refined with both charcoal and whetstone powder. This creates the perfect texture before a clear ‘Suri Urushi’ (clear lacquer) can be applied. The final touch comes with a finishing polish of the dial to remove any fine scratches before a hand applied powder buffing completes the process.

The sheer depth of the lacquering is evident upon viewing the profundity of the sunken date window at the 4 o’clock position, a display of exceptional craftsmanship beyond horology.

Each dial takes an incredible three weeks for the studio to create, however the reward for this endeavour is a truly sumptuous dial and a perfect black canvas prepared for decoration. Large Arabic numerals adorn the perimeter of the dial and deliberately echo the 1913 Laurel. Silvering of the numerals, the Seiko logo and the chronograph dials accentuate the classical appearance of the watch, completing a rich and refined dial estate.

The hands

The hour and minute hands are long with a classically elegant spade shape. Their pure white finish contrasts against the midnight black dial, ensuring exceptional legibility.

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The silvered chronograph hands are both simple and functional, extending precisely to the edges of the three subdials. Aligning perfectly with the centre of the 12-hour chronograph register, the second hand has a crescent shaped counterweight, whilst the tip is finished in vibrant red. A corresponding red marker sits at 12 o’clock, completing a pleasing aesthetic and providing a sporty hint of colour.

The movement

The beautiful form of the Seiko Presage Automatic Watch 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Chronograph SRQ021J1 is deserving of an excellent movement. The 8R48 is an 8-beat (4Hz) chronograph movement of some 311 parts and includes some exceptional creative elements developed over many years of mechanical watchmaking at Seiko. The collective term ‘Trimatic’ captures three of Seiko’s inventions used in its movements, which collectively enrich the accuracy, efficiency and durability of each Presage watch.

‘Diashock’ is a shock resistance system introduced in 1958 – a simple concept which, in the event of a sudden impact, protects the balance wheel. The jewel which anchors the balance staff is held by a spring, the elasticity of which ensures absorption of the shock impact.

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In 1959, during an intensely creative period for Seiko’s mechanical engineers, the revolutionary ‘Magic Lever’ was introduced. This improved the efficiency and durability of automatic movements by enabling the mainspring to be wound, irrespective of the oscillating weight’s direction of travel. This very simple concept had a dramatic impact on efficiency and is now widely adopted by many brands.

Seiko’s founder Kintaro Hattori had a vision that Seiko would become a genuine manufacture and would truly be a master of its own destiny. The fruits of his vision are many and, in the notoriously difficult art of spring making, they are particularly prevalent.

The balance spring and mainspring in the Seiko Presage Automatic Watch 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Chronograph SRQ021J1 are made with Seiko’s proprietary alloy named ‘Spron’ (the name being derived from Spring Micron). First utilised in 1957, following a development program with the Tohuku University Metal Materials Lab, Spron is highly heat resistant, anti-corrosive, antimagnetic and has a particularly high elasticity. It has several derivatives depending on the task required and, in this movement, the Spron in the mainspring delivers a very respectable 45-hour power reserve.

The chronograph function utilises the innovative vertical clutch and column wheel system, refined over the years since first being introduced in 1969. Instant resetting of the 12-hour chronograph register is satisfyingly rapid and the result of  another Seiko invention, the 3-point hammer; yet more evidence of the quality present in this very modestly priced timepiece.

Visible through a sapphire exhibition caseback, the 8R48 movement has a handsomely finished gold rotor which dominates the window and adds further sophistication to this quality chronograph.

The strap

The classic looks of the Seiko Presage Automatic Watch 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Chronograph SRQ021J1 extend to a 3-fold clasp with push button release. It instantly instils a reassuring confidence to the owner and, with its soft black crocodile leather strap, heightens the sense of luxury and reinforces the air of sophistication evident with this timepiece.

Closing remarks

The quality conferred with the Seiko Presage Automatic Watch 60th Anniversary Limited Edition Chronograph SRQ021J1 warrants a sum far beyond the suggested retail price of €2800. Owners can relish in the fact that they are buying a very fine mechanical watch with a precise movement, complemented by stunning centuries-old Japanese lacquering craftsmanship. With only 1000 examples available, early signs indicate these watches will be readily acquired by discerning buyers who appreciate the compelling blend of attributes this timepiece proffers.

Technical specification

  • Seiko Automatic Watch 60th Anniversary Limited Edition SRQ021J1
  • Calibre – 8R48, Automatic, 28,800 vibrations per hour (8 beats per second or 4Hz)
  • Chronograph – Column wheel and vertical clutch systems and up to 12hr timing capability
  • Power reserve: approximately 45 hours
  • Case – Stainless steel
  • Case size – Width 42mm / Thickness 15.2mm
  • Dial – Urushi lacquer
  • Glass – Anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal
  • Water resistance: 10 bar
  • Magnetic resistance: 4,800 A/m
  • Band – Three fold ‘deployant’ clasp with push button release / crocodile leather strap
  • Limited edition – 1,000 pieces worldwide
  • Price – 2,800 Euro (RRP at 12.7.2016)

 

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