There was not a lot of new Ananta action this year from super Seiko. I really like the Ananta collection (see the first Ananta automatics here and the first Ananta Spring Drive watches here) and would like to see Seiko continue to develop the range. One new model in the Automatic range was this limited edition version for 2011 meant to help celebrate 130 years of the Seiko brand.
This is a unique concept for a watch. I will first freely say that I don't think all elements of it work out perfectly. Overall it is a really nice timepiece with a lot of value and good features, but I would like to give Seiko a bit of constructive feedback on doing models like this in the future.
Hands-down the coolest aspect of the watch is the fact that the dial is hand-done in Urushi lacquer. Urushi is a natural sap-like substance from special trees in Japan that has been used for a long, long time as a lacquer. Urushi products are common in Japan and using the technique is considered a national tradition. The color ranges from almost black to a warm earthy red. This aspect is really cool in my opinion, and I am a big fan of not only traditional Japanese artisinal techniques, but also Urushi itself. The issue in my opinion is one of visibility. To know the dial is made with Urushi, you need to be told - it basically looks like a standard lacquer dial. For me, I want to be reminded each time I look at the watch that it uses this special technique. Seiko perhaps applied it too well, making the Urushi blend in to look like a regular black diver's dial with a very smooth finish.
Having a dive watch with an Urushi dial is a cool idea by the way. I love the melding of traditional artistic techniques with functional timepieces. 2011 also marks the beginning of the Seiko Ananta Diver. This limited edition model joins a regular production model that comes in a polished steel case. The limited edition model has a slightly flatter dial as they wanted the chronograph subdials to be part of the Urushi construction. Aside from the larger diver watch hands, hour indicators, and chronograph - Seiko wanted to minimize features on the dial that would distract from the Urushi (sort of ironic with a dial like this, I know).
The limited edition also has a neat looking black case with gold trim. I have been very open on how much I think black and gold go nicely together, so the overall presence of the watch is impressive. Unlike the more tool-like and serious Ananta Automatic Diver in polished steel, the limited edition version is more dress, formal, and overall just plain fancy. The 44mm wide is steel with ion plating (IP) for black as well as gold. A little issue I have with Seiko is their use of IP plating on some of their higher-end pieces. They probably do IP better than anyone else around, but for watches in this price range I started to want PVD, DLC, or otherwise. Why am I being nit-picky? Well it really has more to do with the type of person who buys a watch like this. They are discriminating watch lovers and know what to expect in a watch that costs several thousand dollars. Why PVD and DLC over IP? Well it is a matter of strength and wear resistance. When Seiko uses IP and everyone else used PVD or DLC, questions start to be asked. At the same time, I am open to the fact that I might be wrong. If Seiko tells me their IP coating process is hard enough to justify its use, I am totally cool with that. I don't mean any of these as a complaint, but more as info Seiko can use when designing watches like this in the future. The majority of the time I am incredibly impressed by their high-end pieces.
As a diver, the case is water resistant to 200 meters (pretty standard for a diving chronograph). The crystal is AR coated sapphire, and it has a nice looking rotating diver's bezel. I have to say that the Ananta case incorporates a diver's bezel quite nicely.
Inside the watch is Seiko's in-house made Caliber 8R39 automatic chronograph movement. It is a nicely decorated workhorse in fancy clothing with some nice features such as a column-wheel and vertical clutch for the chronograph. As it is a diver, the caseback is solid, but you get a nice little engraving (which is actually like a wave breaking over water). It also says "Air Diver's" on the back and I am not sure what that means. Maybe some of the more hardcore Seiko dive watch fans can explain that to me.
Seiko will produce only 700 Ananta Automatic Chronograph Ref. SRQ013 (the reference number might be different in Japan) limited edition watches. Maybe a few dozen will come to the US in total. Price is $4,700.
Tech specs from Seiko:
Automatic Chronograph Diver’s - SEIKO 130th Anniversary Commemorative Edition
Automatic with manual winding capability
Hour, minute and small second hands
Chronograph hour, 30-minute and second counter
Chronograph measurement up to 12 hours
28,800 vibrations per hour
Power reserve: 45 hours
Movement diameter: 28.6 mm, thickness: 7.5 mm
Case: Stainless steel with black and rose-tone gold hard coating
44.0 mm in diameter
Band: Stainless steel with black hard coating
Buckle: Adjustable three-fold clasp with secure lock and push button release
Glass: Sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating
Water resistance: 200 meters
Magnetic resistance: 4,800 A/m
Limited edition of 700 pieces