While most of our readers are familiar with the robust Prospex range of divers, Seiko’s Presage collection was a well-kept Japanese secret until 2016, when it hit the international scene. Combining the best Japanese craftsmanship with Seiko’s unquestionable technical expertise and exceptional value for money, the Presage Sharp Edged Series is a sporty dress watch with a sharp, angular case construction that seems closer in spirit to the more pronounced forms of a Grand Seiko. The Sharp Edged series was introduced in 2020 with sharp-dressed 39.3mm time-and-date models and interesting textured dials. In February 2021, the Sharp Edged collection welcomed this family of GMT models that retain the dynamic angular lines of the time-and-date models, as well as the hemp leaf pattern (Asanoha) on the dial but incorporate a useful GMT function that travellers will appreciate. We were fortunate enough to have four dial variants of the Sharp Edged GMT models for our hands-on review, including the elusive and limited SPB223J1 model with a white dial launched as part of a quartet to celebrate the 140th anniversary of Seiko and only went on sale last month.
I have to admit that when I first glanced at the Sharp Edged GMT, I thought I was looking at a Grand Seiko Sport GMT Spring Drive. The strong lines, the angular surfaces, the sharp facets, the robust lugs, the colourful textured dials and the alternating brushed and polished surfaces are so similar that a preliminary glance can be misleading. And no doubt Seiko intentionally promoted this similarity to attract a wider audience that couldn’t fork out EUR 6,400 for a Grand Seiko GMT but would happily put down EUR 1,500 for a well-built Seiko GMT.
Formidable angular case
There’s no getting around the fact that the Seiko Shard Edged GMT is a large watch. The diameter is 42.2mm, the lug-to-lug length 49.2mm and the thickness 13.7mm. However, because the large lugs have a prominent slope, the watch sits comfortably on larger wrists. The stainless steel case and bracelet are reinforced with Seiko’s proprietary super-hard coating that protects the surfaces from scratches and retains the bright polishing. The finishings, as you can imagine, are not as exquisite as those on a Grand Seiko but are extremely well executed. The surface of the lugs is vertically brushed (hairline) and contrast with the brightly polished case flanks that reflect the light. Although the crown is bead-blasted in deep relief and signed with an ‘S’ logo, it is not a screw-in crown; nevertheless, the water-resistance is a comfortable 100m.
The integrated steel bracelet is also vertically brushed with a central link with polished borders. The brightly polished surfaces are obviously not the mirror-polished Zaratsu style of a Grand Seiko, but pretty close. The overall finishings display an impressive level of detailing at this price level. The 24-hour GMT scale – in either black or blue depending on the model – is located on the slightly sloping bezel with Arabic numerals picked out in a lighter silvery colour. The bezel is not ceramic or aluminium; it is a steel bezel with Seiko’s DiaShield protective coating that will prevent it from fading over time.
Asanoha pattern dial
Like many Grand Seiko creations, the dials of Presage models often turn to motifs inspired by Japanese culture. All the Sharp Edged GMT models flaunt lovely hemp leaf-patterned dials, like their siblings, the Seiko Presage time-and-date models. Known as Asanoha, the hemp leaf motif on the dial has been in use for over a thousand years since the Heian period. Originally, the Asanoha leaf was used on fabrics and architecture and, like the plant, symbolises rapid, strong growth. The rich texture of the geometric pattern creates an infinite variety of shadows and light and a subtle colour gradation. The four models we have photographed are the Aitetsu, or indigo iron (Ref. SPB217), the Tokiwa, the colour of evergreen trees (SPB219), the Sumiiro, the tone of black Japanese ink (SPB221) and the unbleached silky white Shironeri (Ref.SPB223).
Analysing the other elements on the dial, you can appreciate the impressive level of detail and finishings that make it so special. The applied elongated rectangular indices are faceted and feature a brushed top surface and brightly polished sides with a touch of LumiBrite at their tips. The sharp-tipped hour and minute hands are also faceted and polished and have a strip of LumiBrite down their spine. The sub-dial at 6 o’clock is a pointer date, and there is a power reserve indicator between 9 and 10 o’clock, which I’m not sure was entirely essential in this context.
The arrow-shaped GMT hand is picked out in a contrasting colour and indicates the reference (or home) time against the 24-hour scale on the bezel and the two-tone day and night flange on the dial. A detail you might have noticed is that the colour of the GMT hand is echoed by the GMT inscription on the dial at 3 o’clock. The GMT hand on the Seiko Presage Sharp Edged GMT can be set individually via the crown. This means that without tampering with the minutes or seconds, the central hour hand can be moved backward or forwards in one-hour increments.
Automatic Seiko calibre 6R64
Launched several years ago, but a novelty in Western markets, Seiko’s automatic 6R64 beats at 28,800vph and has a 45-hour power reserve for hours, minutes, seconds, date by pointer hand, GMT and power reserve indication.
The advantage of having not covered these watches in-depth until now is that my favourite model, the limited edition white dial SPB223, is now available. Launched as part of a quartet of Seiko 140th anniversary limited editions, the Shironeri or white GMT model is limited to 3,500 and went on sale last month. The blue dial would be my second choice because the green and black dials are at times hard to differentiate; in certain light conditions, the green dial looks black and the lovely Asanoha pattern is not as easy to see on the black dial.
Although the Sharp Edged GMT is not designed for small wrists, it looks fabulous on a large wrist with its bright surfaces and patterned dial catching the light. The finishings are excellent for this price range and the watch feels solid and well built. Coupled with the compelling hemp leaf pattern on the dial and the Japanese taste for bold, angular Takara Transformer-style design, it really is a unique GMT watch. Perhaps the power reserve indicator is not vital and a little more lume would be beneficial and, in a final appeal to Seiko: would it be possible to see this watch in a smaller case size?
Availability & price
As mentioned, the Presage Sharp Edged GMT white model (SPB223J1) is limited to 3,500 and has been on sale since July 2021. The other three models covered in this article (the blue Ref. SPB217J1, the green SPB219J1 and the black SPB221J1) have been on the market since May and all four models retail for EUR 1,500.
For more information, please consult the official Seiko website in your country.