The Perfect Christmas Watch

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The Laurel, Seiko’s first wristwatch introduced in 1912

Here’s an impressive little watch that effortlessly delivers all kinds of value – history, design, performance and value. The Seiko Presage (SPB039J1) is an homage to Seiko’s first wristwatch, the “Laurel” from 1912. The Laurel was designed by Seiko founder Kintaro Hattori and produced almost entirely from in-house components. The new Presage incorporates the Laurel’s DNA very nicely and it’s really cool to see this style still looking good after more than a century (I promise not to use the word “timeless” here).

Like a lot of Seiko models, the Presage is a very affordable entry point into mechanical watches. Not quite as affordable as a 007, but it’s a slightly different value proposition. I found this model online for less than $500, which I think is an incredible value for everything that it offers. Let’s take a look.

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The Seiko Presage SPB039J1 — at the top of the range in Bang for Buck

The Dial   Lots of cool elements here, all in perfect balance. The face is a faded white color, almost pearly in certain light, with a herringbone guilloche that gives it a fine texture and a kinetic quality. The “Breguet” numbers are gorgeous – sarif style with beautiful detail, capped by a red “12.” The hour and minute hands are long and extremely tapered with points that seem to vanish. Very elegant. The second hand is also long and tapered, anchored with a “new moon” filigree. All the hands are a deep blue color that changes shades depending on how the light is falling. The date window is nicely finished with a steel frame and raised steel letters are used for the Seiko mark. I’m not a fan of “Automatic” lines in general on the face of a watch, but the script style here adds to the vintage feel – and in a brand generally considered as a quartz watch, I understand if they want to make the point here.

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The Case   It’s classic and understated. Like the 007, it has a liquid metal feel to it. At 40.5MM, it has a nice heft to it, but the curved lugs help it to sit comfortably on the wrist. It’s got a simple finish – polished on the sides, with a brush finish on the top of the lugs. The onion crown is aggressive for a watch this size, but easy to grab and wind. It’s finished with an “S” – again, a nice detail for a watch at this price point. The strap deserves to be called out. It’s a soft, brown croc with a sturdy, brushed deployant clasp that wouldn’t be out of place on a watch that cost 5 times as much.

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The Movement   I think this is where Seiko shines. Across the company’s portfolio are a variety of in-house movements that range from the simple 7s26 to the much more finished movements of the Grand Seiko line. In between, they have some highly affordable work horses, like the 6r15 that powers the Presage. With hacking and winding capabilities, it also features Seiko’s Trimatic technology – the “Magic Lever” for efficient winding; use of a Spron alloy for stronger and more durable springs, and Dia-Shock, a proprietary shock resistance technology. The exhibition back shows off a straightforward, industrial finish. It’s got a 50-hour power reserve, but it feels like it runs longer.

The only complaint with this piece is the crystal. I would have liked more of a dome to give more movement to the face, especially considering all the detail it has. But I’m quibbling. For its price point, this is a near-perfect example of watchmaking, combining history, elegant design and solid craftsmanship. Anyone who like watches would be thrilled to see this under the tree.

 

 

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