July 13, 2016
by Ariel Adams
Seiko has been on a real kick celebrating their own history over the last few years. Perhaps I’m just starting to notice it, but they seem to be taking playbook cues from the Swiss a bit too enthusiastically. Our beloved Seiko should never forget that so many watch lovers enjoy the brand and their many good products often very specifically because they aren’t European. My complaining aside, all this has thus far been good news for consumers because it means a lot of cool watches like these limited edition Seiko Presage Automatic Chronograph reference SRQ019 and SRQ021 watches that honor very (very) early Seiko timepieces.
I like these watches quite a bit, but I want to take a moment and discuss that above situation as we see it. Over the last few years, Seiko has been releasing more and more of their high-end watches to an adoring public around the world that has been more than happy to have more access to Grand Seiko and other higher-end, $1,000-plus Seiko watches previously sold only in Japan. In just a few years, Seiko has quickly developed much more distribution as well as products for “watch collectors.” I more or less define these consumers as people who want nicely made watches for purposes a bit more than mere functionality or basic style.
High-end and limited edition Seiko watches continue, nevertheless, to represent only a small percentage of their overall production, but in watch enthusiast circles (and watch trade shows) it is the high-end models that get all the noise (mostly because it is what we watch writers like to cover). In the process of making more of their high-end watches available, Seiko has been understandably pushed to create new models, and lots of them, to satisfy the larger distribution of their high-end timepiece products. Seiko, as a Japanese watch maker, can scale production like the best of them, and continue to offer rock-solid quality and consistency. With that said, from a “why does this product exist” perspective, in my opinion, they are looking to celebrate a few too many anniversaries and historical occasions in a way that I feel may tire out collectors sooner rather than later. Again, it isn’t an issue with the products – because so many of them are cool – but I feel that they need to be careful of “crying wolf” when it comes to the “reason for the season,” or else collectors might take the brand’s communication efforts progressively less seriously as time goes by. Just some helpful feedback to a brand we clearly love.
As I mentioned above, the result at this time of offering generous servings of new limited editions is a great plethora of interesting watches coming out all the time. One of the (many) limited edition watches for 2016 in honor of the 60th anniversary of Seiko’s first automatic mechanical watch in 1956 are these two chronograph models with dials inspired by a Seiko watch from 1913, all under the Seiko Presage family of products that, starting in 2016, will finally “officially” see its way out of Japan to global Seiko markets.
Seiko Presage includes a rather impressive range of more classically inspired watch designs. Aside from these chronograph models is the also new Presage Multi-hand Automatic SPB041 which has a power reserve indicator and is pretty neat. For now, let’s look at the two enamel-dialed SRQ019 and SRQ021 watches.
As the dial color of each is different, so are the techniques used to produce the dials themselves. With that said, which one you choose is a matter of taste since the prices are the same. In 1913, Seiko came out with its first collection of watches that used the “Laurel” brand name. I’ve seen a few of these at Seiko and they are really cool – especially given that they are over 100 years old. The original Laurel dials were white with a red 12 o’clock indicator that is emulated in the Seiko Presage SRQ019.
That white dial is actually enamel, which means it is oven-baked. You can see the interesting contours of the dial which are common of the enamel look, and these contours do not really exist on the black-dialed version. This white enamel Seiko Presage SRQ019 model is perhaps the most “historically significant” of the two, even though Seiko decided to include a chronograph complication to the theme. It’s a lovely-looking watch and one of the benefits of enamel is that the color remains true for a very, very long time. Seiko points out that they have assigned the production and oversight of the Seiko Presage enamel dials to the skilled enamel craftsman Mr. Mitsuru Yokozawa.
The other of the two limited edition models is the Seiko Presage SRQ021. The dial looks black but is actually a deep reddish purple that you’ll recognize as traditional Japanese urushi lacquering. This is a different technique than enamel baking, and of course, more culturally Japanese (which is fitting for a pretty nice Japanese watch). These dials are produced for Seiko by master craftsman Mr. Issu Tamura in the city of Kanazawa. They point out that each dial is painted and polished by hand a few times. Seiko has offered a series of urushi dials over the years, most of them being modern in style. This is one of the few “traditional-looking” urushi-dial Seiko watches which I think will make it a winner for many people.
I happen to like this dark urushi face a lot because of how nicely the solid white hands and Arabic numeral hour markers visually pop from the dial, resulting in a great look and excellent legibility. Also, the white enamel-dial Seiko unfortunately uses coated blue hands as opposed to flame-blued hands. The latter forms an actual blue color on the base metal where the former, which Seiko uses, essentially paints the underlying hand blue. This doesn’t offer as crisp a look, and when looking very closely at the hands, you see the bleed of the underlying hand color in the edges were the paint material is thinner. The urushi dial uses white hands which, in my opinion, make for a better quality look.
The Seiko Presage Automatic Chronograph limited edition watches come in polished steel cases that are 42mm wide and 15.2mm thick. A bit on the large side for a dressy watch, but they are worth it, and of course, they are automatic chronographs… The case is water-resistant to 100 meters and is topped with a domed sapphire crystal. You can see the movement through a sapphire exhibition caseback window.
Inside the watches is the in-house-made Seiko caliber 8R48 movement. A very popular high-mid-range automatic chronograph movement, it operates at 4Hz (28,800bph) with a power reserve of 45 hours. Chronograph complication enthusiasts will enjoy that the chronograph is both column-wheel-based and has a vertical clutch transmission system (tends to make operating the chronograph more precise). These all add thickness to the movement which is why the case is a bit over 15mm thick. The movements offer the time, date, and 12-hour chronograph.
Attached to the Seiko Presage SRQ019 and SRQ021 watches are black alligator straps and each of the watches is limited to 1000 pieces. Price for each is 2,500 euros. seikowatches.com