2021 is a big year for Japan’s Seiko given that it is the 140th anniversary of the major watchmaker. The color theme of the year is horizon blues, meant to mimic the tones of the sky as they meet the ocean or another large body of water. In one of the five versions of this new Seiko Presage Sharp-Edged GMT watch (the reference SPB223), you can see these color tones, which will be reflected on a number of other limited- and non-limited-edition Seiko products this year.
As one of many Seiko 2021 watches launched today, GMT fans will no doubt be excited by this “Grand Presage,” which takes inspiration both from some of the sportier Grand Seiko GMT watches and the older Seiko Ananta collection. The watches are known as the Seiko Presage Sharp-Edged GMT models, and at the outset of 2021, they are being debuted in five different color styles.
I was in Japan back in 2009 when the Seiko Ananta collection was launched. It was a big deal because it represented the first modern high-end Seiko products for sale both inside and outside of Japan. The Ananta watches not only had cases inspired by traditional Japanese katana blades but were also designed to show off Seiko’s increasingly sophisticated case polishing practices. Even though the Ananta watch family is no longer with us, so much of the creative ethos in those watches endures today — not only sharply angled, well-polished cases, but the particular look and feel of the also sharply cut watch dial features and hands, two areas in which the Presage Sharp-Edged watches certainly excel and why I like to think of Seiko as the “king of the diamond-cut dials.”
It isn’t a secret that the success of Grand Seiko is prompting Seiko proper to introduce “look-alike” models at lower price points that have a lot of the same flavor. Part of this has been to bring over to Seiko the concept of having richly textured, often brightly colored dials. The Presage Sharp-Edge GMT watches feature Asanoha-pattern dials in an interesting three-dimensional fashion. Asanoha or “hemp leaves” patterns are usually printed in 2D on fabrics and other materials, so it is interesting to see it stamped on the dials and set with highly legible applied hour markers and hands.
The dials themselves offer a distinctive layout, which, in addition to the centrally mounted 24-hour GMT hand, includes an eccentric power-reserve indicator as well as a date display dial (versus window). The dial, which indicates the date, is admittedly less legible than a date window, but it makes for a nice effect and is actually interesting to see what onlookers believe the complication to be since it does not mimic the look of too many other date displays out there.
This is part of the in-house-made Seiko caliber 6R64 automatic mechanical movement, which operates at 4Hz with 45 hours of power reserve. The GMT 24-hour scale is off the main dial on the fixed bezel, which is IP-coated for color. The Presage Sharp-Edged GMT watch cases themselves are in steel with matching steel bracelets and sized at 42.2mm-wide and 13.7mm-thick with 100 meters of water resistance. If this size is larger than you’d like, the three-hand versions of the Presage Sharp-Edged watch are just under 40mm in width.
Seiko promises a superlative level of case finishing and an upgraded bracelet experience — even if this bracelet design has been used on more than its fair share of Seiko and Grand Seiko timepieces. I actually find it rather interesting that, despite the wonderful variety in cases, dials, hands, and hour markers used across various Seiko products, you really need to select from one of the brand’s most elevated products to sport a truly original bracelet design (and hence, why I still love the now discontinued Seiko Galante collection bracelet). I think it is also important to add that the Presage Sharp-Edges Series steel case and bracelet are “hard-coated” with a material that very noticeably (especially over time) protects against scuffs and scratches.
The Seiko Presage collection, in general, is growing to include a lot more variety of designs than just a few years ago. It seems to include pretty much all the nicer Seiko watches right now that don’t fall into a “professional use” category that is the domain of Seiko Prospex. Like Prospex, Seiko Presage has its more mainstream collection products as well as “luxe” models sold exclusively via traditional fine jewelers (and not currently on the Seiko website), as well as at the several Seiko mono-brand boutiques around the world. Also similar to the Prospex collection, the Presage collection includes both modern-looking watches, such as the Presage Sharp-Edged Series, and vintage-inspired models (which we will also see some of from Seiko Presage in 2021).
I’m personally a bit more into purely symmetrical dials, but I think that when Seiko plays with dial asymmetry, its heart is always in the right place. The unique layout of the 6R64 automatic movement is part of what calls attention to it. Seiko not only has a set of complications unlike other movements out there, but it also has one that is laid in a way that really draws your eyes to the dial in order to “check out what is going on here.” I’d say the most impressive thing Seiko has done in he last decade is to keep designing watch faces that really capture your mental attention, even after just a glance.
With larger-sized cases, bold and lume-painted dials, and sporty styling, the Presage Sharp-Edged GMT watches are dangerously close to Prospex (if Prospex were as dedicated to global travel as to diving, flying, and trekking. The initial Presage Sharp-Edged GMT dial colors include the reference SPB217 in dark blue (or rather “Aitetsu” – indigo iron), SPB219 in forest green (“Tokima” or evergreen trees), the SPB221 in black (“Sumi-iro,” or Japanese black ink), the SPB223 in light blue for the Seiko 140th anniversary and limited to 3,500 pieces, and finally, the SPB225 in tree bark brown (“Hihada-iro” from the Japanese cypress tree). aBlogtoWatch will have a hands-on look at the Seiko Presage Sharp-Edge GMT watches soon. Price for each is $1,400 USD. Learn more at the Seiko Luxe watch website here.