June 11, 2020
by Ariel Adams
For 2020, Seiko introduces its long-standing JDM (Japanese domestic market) Lukia women’s watch collection as a globally available product — though with a new form. Today, aBlogtoWatch looks at the Seiko Lukia references SPB133 (white on white strap), SPB135 (red on red strap), SPB137 (blue on blue strap), SPB138 (two-tone on green strap), and the SPB140 (gold-tone on purple strap). There are more versions available, such as those with and without diamond decoration on the bezels. While in Japan, the Seiko Lukia timepiece collection has ranged from entry-level models to those squarely in the luxury space, the 2020 Seiko Lukia women’s watches available in the United States and other parts of the world are certainly skewed toward the luxury segment.
Beautiful and practical, Lukia Collection watches are ideal for women seeking a decorative daily wear — powered by an in-house-made automatic movement. There are still very few watches of this type, at this price range, that are available in any mainstream manner. That makes the Seiko Lukia part of a still-rare breed, and the watch industry has high hopes that this segment will grow. What segment is that, exactly? Good question. For years now, the watch industry has faced market growth stagnation with men’s mechanical watch products. While there are still plenty of men’s luxury timepiece markets and price points still to exploit, it would be wrong to suggest that the luxury watch industry didn’t entirely over-saturate most markets with far more products than consumers are willing (or able) to purchase. Thus, the dream is that at least some of the success of selling higher-end mechanical watches to men could be replicated in the women’s market.
While women can covet a timepiece as much as men can, the psychology of women wodesiring and purchase a watch has proven to be a different enough animal that the same techniques used to get men excited about watches don’t always work for women. The result has been that women wearers of luxury watches typically spend less than men per watch and also tend to be interested in a far narrower breadth of brands. A big reason for this is that unlike the relatively few wearable luxury accessory categories men can wear in a socially acceptable manner, women have far more options, including product categories such as handbags, many forms of jewelry, clothing, shoes, makeup, and more. Men are usually limited to perhaps shoes, sometimes a wallet, clothing, and their watches. Thus, interest in luxury accessories for men is much more consolidated in the watch category than it is for women.
Not taking into consideration important factors such as marketing and advertising, the watch industry has regularly asked the question, “What does a woman want in a luxury timepiece if she is interested in the segment beyond the most known, popular brands such as Rolex, Cartier, and Chanel?” Some women prefer the practicality of quartz watches, and others appreciate the romance and timelessness of mechanical watches. Some women actually prefer wearing noticeably men’s watches on their wrists, and other women demand original designs that are more than just sized-down, dressed-up men’s watches. Where do these roughly $1,300 Seiko Lukia watches fit in the mix?
At first glance, the Lukia watches benefit from not looking like any of Seiko’s popular men’s watches. The cases and dials are original, even if they embody a series of “design codes” that seasoned timepiece fans will recognize from other Seiko products. The round cases (in steel, with some of them being coated in gold tone) have curved delicate feminine lugs, and a 12-sided angular bezel that plays nicely with the geometric designs of the dial and hour markers. While these watches are elegant in their coloring (inspired by various places in the Ginza, a ritzy shopping district in Tokyo), they are actually quite sporty in their durability featuring a sapphire crystal and 100 meters of water resistance for the case.
The cases are each 34.8mm-wide, which is about as large as you’d want to go for a watch that is still inherently feminine in its proportions. The watch is relatively thin, but given the mechanical automatic movement on the inside, it isn’t going to be as thin as Seiko’s most svelte quartz-based timepiece. On the average woman’s wrist, this nearly 35mm-wide case size is large enough to be bold, but not so large as to be visually overpowering or mistaken for something masculine.
Seiko did a beautiful job with the dials of the SPB1XX Lukia watches, which are all mother-of-pearl. The base mother-of-pearl dial is printed on, giving the dials the look of complex artistic marquetry (whose geometry, along with diamond-set hour markers) and is what I earlier referred to as being harmonious with the case design. It is very interesting to see how the printed (and colored) mother-of-pearl Lukia watches look in red, white, blue, gold, and pink. They look very attractive in person, in my opinion.
Eight of the 12-hour markers are applied with a small set diamond. One hour marker is missing to make room for a date window, and the other three hour markers are applied and stylized Roman numerals. With the angular, strong hands, the Lukia faces have an interesting mixture of bold (almost masculine) lines contrasted with colors, textures, and decoration that feel inherently feminine. Legibility is strong, and the powerful look of the colored mother-of-pearl helps the watches to be eye-catching and attractive — something all high-end watches should be.
Attached to the cases are very nice crocodile straps that use a favorite technique of mine that hides and of the stitching. I believe this is called a “rolled edge” technique and pulls the crocodile skin over the side edges of the strap and attaches it to the padding on the underside of the strap. I really can’t see anyone being disappointed by these straps, but a bracelet option would have been nice. I will, however, guess that not everyone wants the fold-over locking deployant clasps that are attached. While these deployants help prolong the life of the strap (and retailers believe consumers feel they are more high-end and thus more easily command higher prices), these deployant clasps are inherently bulky and can add unnecessary fuss to the strap-wearing experience. I also lament that, in California, none of the crocodile straps will be available. The state I live in recently passed a law outlawing the sale of many animal skins in order to reduce the market for illegally sourced exotic skins. Given that alligators and crocodiles are mostly farmed and, to my knowledge, not hunted in nature, I personally don’t understand the wide breadth of the law. I also am curious what straps these Lukia watches will have on them for those pieces that are sold in California’s large timepiece market.
Inside the Seiko Lukia watches is the in-house-made Seiko caliber 6R35 automatic movement, which is also visible through a sapphire crystal window on the rear of the case. The mechanical movement operates at 3Hz (21,600 bph) and has a longish power reserve of 70 hours. This is a decent-grade mechanical movement that will serve its wearer well at this price point. I am actually not very familiar with women’s automatic Seiko timepieces, so I am not sure of the full breadth of movement choices Seiko offers in this smaller diameter size. While some Swiss Made automatic movements inside women’s watches can be better decorated and slimmer, I don’t think most of them would be able to compete with Seiko in terms of pricing.
The Seiko of 2020 and beyond is less and less about being a discount alternative to luxury Swiss watches given that Seiko is upping its value propositions (and prices) over time. That said, the vast majority of Seiko watches still offer more bang for your buck than most comparable Swiss-made watches. Popular brands such as Rolex, Omega, TAG Heuer, Chanel, Hermes, Cartier, and others that produce mechanical (or otherwise) women’s watches offer nothing or very little at this price point. Seiko is increasingly able to hold its own in a fight, which is why even if pricing isn’t as aggressive as some people remember it, these days the brand is making very clear moves to give consumers a lot more for their money.
The Seiko Lukia automatic watches for 2020 will, for many women (outside of Japan), be the first time they have been romanced by a decorative, mechanical watch from the historic company. Having seen similar pieces sold in Japan-only, I know how popular these “daily decorative” women’s timepieces can be in the market. Seiko will have to take some steps toward educating a more global women’s audience about why mechanical timepieces are interesting, but once they do, I think there is a lot to love (as well as appreciable value) in the Seiko Lukia automatic SPB133, SPB135, SPB137, SPB138, and SPB140 (along with the rest of the collection’s SKUs). Price for the Seiko Lukia watches (without diamonds on the bezel but rather only on the dial) ranges from $1,300 – $1,400 USD, depending on the steel case tone. Learn more at the Seiko website here.