Seiko Presage Urushi Byakudan-nuri Limited Edition SPB085
The Seiko Presage Urushi Byakudan-nuri Limited Edition SPB085 is endowed with an exquisite lacquered dial. It encompasses the artisanal crafts of Urushi, Byakudan-nuri and Maki-e to deliver a horological canvas which artistically captures the beauty of the sky and moon just before dawn.
This detailed review of the Seiko Presage Urushi Byakudan-nuri Limited Edition SPB085 includes live images, specification details and pricing.
Japan has a long history of creating products employing artisanal crafts. A good example of this is the making of a kimono.
The creation of a kimono is a long and protracted process involving many artisans. A piece of silk is selected, its length predetermined by the type of pattern to be made and the fabric is then starched by the ‘Starcher’ using seaweed powder. Thereafter, the ‘Binder’ creates a pattern. He will bind parts of the thread tightly to ensure it remains white after it is subject to a mud dyeing process. The ‘Mud Dyer’ obtains dyes from tree bark and repeatedly dips the cloth in an appropriate tannin-rich liquid to achieve the desired shade. The cloth is then treated with iron-rich mud that reacts with the bark dye, causing the fabric to darken. This aforementioned process takes a year, after which the fabric passes to a highly skilled weaver and, ultimately, a tailor to complete the kimono.
My reason for describing the drawn-out process behind making a kimono is that it perfectly illustrates the no-compromise approach taken by some Japanese artisans. Similar examples of elevated craftsmanship can be found with the creation of Samurai swords, Shoji sliding doors and traditional Japanese pottery. Skills are passed from one generation to the next. Traditions are respected. Perfection is absolute.
In 2017, Seiko, a quintessentially Japanese company, embraced artisanal crafts with the creation of a Presage model endowed with a Shippo enamel dial. The deep blue surface was said to emulate the night sky, highlighting another Japanese trait, namely, a profound sensitivity for the environment and nature.
This year, Seiko has unveiled a new Presage model featuring a dial which encompasses ‘one of the most elaborate lacquer techniques of all, Byakudan-nuri, as well Urushi to portray the rich tones of the sky and moon just before dawn’.
To realise this dial, the Japanese watch company turned to the studio of Urushi master Isshu Tamura in the Hokuriku region of Honshu. ‘Tamura has been responsible for all the Urushi dials in the Presage collection’, albeit the combination of techniques employed with this dial has made them, to date, the most challenging to produce.
The dial of the Seiko Presage Urushi Byakudan-nuri Limited Edition SPB085 evinces a rich blackness. A jet black lacquer is applied by hand to a metal dial disc, allowed to dry and then polished. This process is repeated several times, on each occasion the time-served artisan deftly applies the lacquer with a brush. Only when the craftsman is satisfied with the ‘exact depth of black’ is this step considered complete.
An additional layer of Urushi is applied to the epidermis of the dial, acting as a binding agent. The subdials are sprinkled with a very fine metallic powder. The whole of the dial is repeatedly painted with a ‘red-tinged semi-transparent Urushi lacquer’. Again, each layer is dried and polished until such point the craftsman is happy with the finish.
A power-reserve indicator, located on the left side of the dial, is designed to replicate a crescent-shaped moon. In this instance, the golden toned moon is created using the Maki-e technique. Initially, the crescent is coated with a layer of Urushi lacquer which acts like an adhesive. Thereafter, gilt-coloured powder is applied to the treated area. Once the powder is affixed to the dial, the craftsman carefully taps the surface to disperse the powder evenly. The craftsman then uses ‘his own specially chosen material to perfect the surface’.
This painstaking endeavour confers a spectacular horological vista. The jet black dial has a richness which superbly replicates the nocturnal sky. The contrasting subdials exhibit an incredible profundity. As they engage with light, they shine resplendently and morph from a deep maroon to a bright red, almost orange hue. The crescent-shaped power reserve indicator has a granular texture, conferring contrast with the smooth jet black dial area.
The hour and minute hands are sinuous with narrow tips. The hands converse with Roman numerals, articulating the time with notable clarity. A minute track encircles the dial, combining crisp, cream strokes with highly legible Arabic numerals.
The running seconds are proclaimed with a lithe central seconds hand, sporting a golden crescent-shaped counterweight. A pointer-day display is positioned adjacent the crown while a pointer-date display is located at 6 o’clock. Both of these subdials prove simple to read. The aforementioned power-reserve indicator resides at 9 o’clock. It employs a lone hand which arcs downwards as the mainspring is tensioned and the stored energy increases.
The Seiko Presage Urushi Byakudan-nuri Limited Edition SPB085 is not only an object of beauty, but also a highly practical ownership proposition, delivering peerless levels of readability.
The case is formed of stainless steel and measures 40.5mm in diameter. It successfully blends brushed and polished surfaces. A discriminating index finger will discover incredibly smooth, silken surfaces, the product of much polishing expertise.
There is a fluidity to the case design, with curvaceous lines enveloping the dial area. Each caseband narrows near the lugs, conferring an elegant curving line. The crown features a fluted motif which proffers eye-appeal and grants ease of adjustment.
Similar to many Grand Seiko models, the Seiko Presage Urushi Byakudan-nuri Limited Edition SPB085 is fitted with a dual-curved sapphire crystal. This clear pane of crystal, treated with anti-reflective coating, heightens readability.
Note – Photographed by Tobi Jenkins at BTS Talent
To the rear of the watch, an additional pane of sapphire crystal affords views of the self-winding movement. In addition the crystal sports a crescent shaped motif, once again, referencing the moon.
The watch is supplied with a sumptuous crocodile strap and three-fold clasp with push button release. Each element of the strap and clasp proffers tactile delight.
The Caliber 6R21 is an automatic movement. The frequency of the balance is 28,800 VpH (4Hz or 8 beats per second). The movement contains 29 jewels and the power reserve is sufficient for 45 hours of autonomous operation.
The oscillating weight is adorned with a striped motif, similar in concept to Geneva waves or Glashütte ribbing. This embellishment imbues the rotor with a becoming vibrancy. The bridges are brushed with gleaming bevelled edges.
The Seiko Presage Urushi Byakudan-nuri Limited Edition SPB085 features an impressive magnetic resistance of 4,800 A/m. Furthermore, the watch has a maximum water resistance of 10 ATM (100 metres).
The dial surface enjoys a wonderful reciprocity with light. Each hue exhibits an intensity. While the power-reserve indicator and subdials have a granular appearance, the black lacquered dial areas exude a lushness, courtesy of their deep, rich tones.
However, despite its pulchritudinous appearance, the Seiko Presage Urushi Byakudan-nuri Limited Edition SPB085 remains eminently practical. Each indication is simple to interpret and the presence of a day and date display prove very useful. Practicality extends to the 100 metre water resistance of the watch and its magnetic resistance of 4,800 A/m.
Seiko Presage models have always represented superb value for money and the Seiko Presage Urushi Byakudan-nuri Limited Edition SPB085 proves to be no exception, costing £2200 (RRP as at 30.11.2018). This keen pricing is remarkable, considering its labour-intensive dial, the refined case finishing and the impressively appointed movement.
Note – Photographed by Tobi Jenkins at BTS Talent
Returning to the creation of a kimono. The Weaver has to treat the work of the Starcher, Binder and Mud Dyer with due reverence. If the Weaver damages the fabric, all of the work previously undertaken is rendered pointless. Needless to say, artisans learn to be respectful of fellow artisans.
Likewise, it would be sacrilege to create a peerless dial only to pair it with an inferior sapphire crystal, hands, case or movement. Clearly, Seiko understands this responsibility and has ensured each component of the Seiko Presage Urushi Byakudan-nuri Limited Edition SPB085 befits a dial of this stature. Once again, Seiko has demonstrated its respect for artisans and Japanese culture.
- Model: Seiko Presage Urushi Byakudan-nuri Limited Edition SPB08
- Case: Stainless steel; diameter 40.5mm; height 12.8mm; sapphire crystal to front and caseback; water resistant to 10ATM (100 metres).
- Functions: Hours, minutes, central sweep seconds; date; day
- Movement: Caliber 6R21; automatic movement; frequency 28,800 VpH (4Hz); 29 jewels; power reserve = 45 hours
- Strap: Crocodile strap with three-fold clasp
- Price: £2200 excluding VAT (RRP as at 30.11.2018)
- Limited Edition: 2000 pieces