While Prospex is the definitive professional collection by Seiko, a range known for its accessible and high-performance models, the Japanese brand has also demonstrated recently that it is no stranger to the dress watch and to traditional craftsmanship. With this collection named ‘Presage’, Seiko offers elegant and exclusive materials for tasteful watch enthusiasts with a reasonable budget. The latest watch in the collection has been nicknamed the ‘Riki Enamel’ and displays attractive minimalism. Let’s take a closer look at the Seiko Presage Blue Enamel SPB163J1.
The Presage collection
Presage has remained a well-kept secret, only offered to the domestic Japanese market, until it was released internationally by Seiko in 2016. The official worldwide release was done in style with the introduction of a superb chronograph with a classic design, multiple references to Seiko’s first-ever wristwatch – the 1913 Laurel – and a hand-crafted milky white enamel dial or an Urushi lacquered dial.
Below, some examples of Presage watches with Arita porcelain, Urushi lacquer, Shippo enamel or white enamel dials:
Presage is a unique window into Seiko’s wide range of watches, often related to sports models. Presage is meant to be elegant, it is meant to please watch enthusiasts used to Swiss design and traditional features and, mostly, it is meant to display the best of Japan’s craftsmanship, with a focus on the artists that participate in the execution of these watches – lacquer masters, enamel artisans, porcelain craftsmen… And the result has been very convincing, yet always relatively accessible despite the high-end materials used in these models.
The Riki Watanabe connection
This new Presage collection is not a only a collaboration with a craftsman but it also includes the work of a designer in the process. The nickname ‘Riki Enamel’ comes from the inspiration behind the dial, which is a tribute to the work of Riki Watanabe (1911-2013). A pioneer of modern Japanese design, Riki Watanabe made great contributions to design and founded Japan’s first design office in 1949.
His designs, ranging from furniture to wall clocks and watches, were always underlined by elegant minimalism and created with a desire to introduce well-designed, functional objects into the lives and homes of people – it could somehow be seen as a modern, Japanese version of Bauhaus. The Riki Steel Clock of 1977 was a quartz wall clock with a simple yet well-studied design that allowed legibility even from a distance. One version of the Riki Steel Clock featured elongated stick indices arranged around ultra-slim hands, the hour hand with a spade-like tip and the central seconds hand matching the colour of the dial. The connection with the present Seiko SPB163J1 is easy to spot.
The Seiko Presage SPB163J1
The new Seiko Presage ‘Riki Enamel’ isn’t just a new version of an existing model, only differentiated by its dial. This watch marks a new step, a strong evolution compared to the classic models such as the SPB093 or the SPB171.
The first important thing to note with the SPB163J1 comes from the case. Previously, Presage watches were housed in rounded cases with twisted lugs and straight casebands, with diameters ranging from 40 to 41mm. This new Riki model introduces a different case, slimmer, smaller, differently shaped, which was first seen in the Seiko Presage Prestige Line with Spring Drive movements (yet in a higher price range).
The case of the SPB163J1 measures a very reasonable 39.9mm diameter and 12.4mm in height – if not per se thin, it is quite an improvement compared to the 14mm of an SPB171. The shape also promotes this more compact design. The round central case with straight lugs is attached to the case and not integrated into the design. If the diameter remains in 40mm territory, the feeling on the wrist is different, the case is less present and the dial benefits from a larger opening. The watch feels lighter and, coincidentally, more elegant, more restrained. The stainless steel surfaces are polished and satin finished.
Another element that gives a fresher and cleaner look to this watch is the strap. Instead of more traditional crocodile leather, Seiko has opted for a smooth brown Cordovan leather strap. More modern, no less elegant but adding some personality to the whole package.
The pièce de résistance, as often in Presage watches, is the dial. Seiko once again partners with Mitsuru Yokosawa, a veteran enamel craftsman who has been working with enamel since the early 1970s and has succeeded in reproducing the highest-quality enamelling techniques, like Grand Feu enamel. The dial of the Seiko Presage Riki Enamel SPB163J1 has a glossy, dark blue colour – almost black in certain light conditions – with smooth recessed areas around the sub-indications. As you can see in the image below, there’s a very pleasant ‘wave’ effect on the dial that adds depths and reflections.
Following the design of the Riki Steel Clock, the SPB163J1 has a minimalist design, far cleaner and more modern than the usual Roman or stylized Arabic numerals found in most Presage watches. The dial is surrounded by elongated, graphic hour markers and smaller minute indexes in white, providing a good contrast with the dark blue background. The spade-shaped hours hand and elongated leaf minutes hand are elegant and contrast with the simple design of the dial. If the Riki Enamel collection also comprises time-and-date models, we chose to look at the attractive power reserve and date version, with its pleasantly unbalanced display comprising a pointer date at 6 o’clock and a power reserve at 9 o’clock – two useful indications that adds to the horological pleasure.
No surprise under the hood as Seiko relies on its in-house calibre 6R27, the base movement for most Presage watches. This modern engine beats at 4Hz and stores up to 45h of power reserve. Accuracy is posted at +25/-15 seconds/day, which we know to be a pessimistic range. The movement is visible under a sapphire caseback and features Geneva stripes on the central rotor.
Price and availability
The Seiko Presage ‘Riki Enamel’ Blue SPB163J1 is now part of the permanent collection and is available from retailers as well as official Seiko boutiques (including online boutiques). It is priced at EUR 1,400. Another edition is available with a white dial and blue accents, reference SPB161J1, for the same price.
More details at seikowatches.com.