Since the beginning of the 17th century, the small town of Arita in Kyushu, Japan has been renowned as one of the world’s great centers for porcelain production. Growing over the centuries from creating high-quality export copies of Chinese porcelain designs to creating a distinctive style and manufacturing process all its own, Arita has become a symbol of Japanese artistry and craftsmanship. Japanese giant Seiko has long prided itself on shining a light on its home country’s craftsmanship, including several Arita porcelain dial designs, but for 2022 the brand returns to this traditional Japanese art form with a newly balanced, pared-back presentation focused on showcasing the beauty of the material itself. The new Seiko Presage Craftsmanship Series Arita Porcelain Dial line, including the Seiko Presage SPB293J1 and the Seiko Presage SPB319J1, offer some of the brand’s most attractive and simple Arita porcelain options to date, with rich visual depth and classical styling.
Both the Seiko Presage SPB293J1 and the Presage SPB319J1 begin with identical 40.5mm-wide stainless steel cases. This case design is a familiar sight in the upper echelons of the Presage family, and offers a handful of attractively nuanced visual touches in images. The lightly twisted lugs, with their flowing polished inner surfaces and contrasting vertically brushed top sides, are the most visually striking elements here, but Seiko elevates the rest of the design with subtle effects as well. The 3 o’clock crown is gently flared for a more outsize presence, while the polished case sides should help to slightly mask the 12.4mm overall thickness on the wrist. Despite these models’ dressy designs, Seiko rates both the Presage SPB293J1 and the Presage SPB319J1 for a respectable 100 meters of water resistance.
Naturally, the Arita porcelain dials of the Seiko Presage SPB293J1 and the Presage SPB319J1 are the real centerpieces of both designs. Although the material itself maintains the rich, faintly translucent luster of traditional porcelain in images, this is far from standard material. Seiko has worked closely with master Arita porcelain craftsman Hiroyuki Hashiguchi to create a material four times stronger than normal porcelain to withstand the rigors of usage on the wrist. The dial surface itself is over a millimeter thick, and undergoes a multi-step process of repeated casting, glazing, and firing at over 1,300 degrees Celsius to achiever the final look. Both models share the same handsomely classical layout, with elegantly slim printed Roman numerals in deep blue flanked by a matching printed minutes track. Seiko’s use of blued leaf hands continues this timeless look in images, while also paying tribute to the traditional color palette of Arita porcelain. The most dramatic feature of this dial design, however, is its gently curved surface. The center of each dial is lightly recessed, creating a smooth, rolling slope from the hours track to the central portion of the dial that creates a dynamic shadow and emphasizes the almost liquid visual depth of the porcelain material in images. Unlike some previous Arita porcelain offerings, Seiko wisely opts to keep this dial surface fully intact and visually balanced with a no-date layout. The Presage SPB293J1 offers the simpler and more classical look of the pair, coupling its blued dial hardware with an equally traditional bone white dial surface. For the Presage SPB319J1, Seiko instead adds a touch of unique Arita porcelain character to the mix with a process known as ruri zome. This artisanal multi-stage dyeing technique imbues the dial surface with a pale powder blue hue, inspired by Arita’s prized porcelain tripod dishes.
Seiko powers both the Presage SPB293J1 and the Presage SPB319J1 with its in-house 6R31 automatic movement. The 6R31 is a relatively recent addition to the brand’s movement stable, and is a no-date variant of the 6R35 powerplant used across many of Seiko’s mid-range offerings. Like its date-equipped counterpart, the 6R31 is a solidly modern design with innovations like the brand’s proprietary Magic Lever winding system. However, its (largely conservative) factory accuracy rating of +25/-15 seconds per day may underwhelm purists. By contrast, its 70 hour power reserve at a 21,600 bph beat rate is far more robust and competitive when matched up to comparable Swiss powerplants. Seiko finishes the Presage SPB293J1 and the Presage SPB319J1 with unique strap options. For the Presage SPB293J1, the brand uses a classic three-link oyster-style bracelet in stainless steel, featuring polished accents on the center links. The SPB319J1 instead uses a simple glossy black leather strap, with muted blue contrast stitching that visually harmonizes with the dial in images.
With classically handsome aesthetics and stunningly executed traditional Japanese porcelain work, the Seiko Presage Craftsmanship Series Arita Porcelain Dial line delivers perhaps the brand’s purest and most refined Arita porcelain offerings to date. Both the Seiko Presage SPB293J1 and the Seiko Presage SPB319J1 will be available through authorized dealers in June 2022. MSRP for Seiko Presage SPB293J1 and the Seiko Presage SPB319J1 stands at $1,700 each, as of press time. For more information, please visit the brand’s website.