Seiko, long associated with the “5 series” and headlined by the high horology flagship Grand Seiko is seriously coming into its own with its mid range, exquisite yet priced lower than luxury entry series: Presage. Launched at the recent Baselworld, the Seiko Presage 2017 collection are about the finest and dressiest watches under $600 and they are seriously worth a deeper look.
Friday Fun Watch: Seiko Presage 2017 – The Dressiest Watches under $600
Back in 2010, the original Seiko Cocktail Time was the result of a collaboration with famed native bartender Shinobu Ishigaki. Designed specifically as a JDM or Japanese Domestic Model, the original Seiko Cocktail Time was a series of three distinct Cocktail Time models Cool, Sweet and Dry based on Ishigaki’s signature cocktails. Sweet and Dry were limited edition models while the Seiko SARB065 Mechanical x Shinobu “Cocktail Time Cool” went on to be a series production model with distinctive sunray guilloche dial and “2 part” hour indexes.
By Baselworld 2016, the once Japan Domestic Model Seiko Presage collection was launched internationally – widely touted to be the slippery slope into Japanese high horology, the Presage line cultivated a following with its diversity of designs, outstanding value for money and the wide range of calibers from the accessible 4R through 6R to the exclusive 8R.
Seiko Presage 2017 is not only the dressiest watches under $600 but also brings together several of Seiko’s most important advances in mechanical watchmaking, including the Magic Lever, the unique and highly durable Spron alloys used in the springs and the Diashock protection system, all made and assembled entirely in-house. It’s fine watchmaking at unassailable affordable prices.
Key differences between the original Cocktail Time and the new Seiko Presage 2017 cocktail
There are eight models in the collection, each with its own colour scheme, inspired by a different cocktail. Equipped with two key calibres, the slim, three hand editions utilise the 4R35 while the power reserve indicator models are driven by the 4R57. The design elements which made the original Cocktail Time such an elegant and popular choice have returned with subtle differences (arguably improvements) – the hour indexes are now a single faceted diamond rather than a two part index. The sunray dials revive the deep, pressed pattern with seven layers of gloss finish. The hands are delicately curved by skilled artisans a similar tradition to reduce parallax error found also in Swiss high horology.
Most importantly, the new Seiko Presage 2017 three hand models are 2mm than the original Cocktail Time models. (11.8mm vs 13.8mm) – the slimmer profile with larger knurled crown also makes winding and hand setting more convenient than the “stub” of the original models – sure, the original petite crown might have worked visually but functionality was a real issue – they were hard to grip and operate.
Criticisms and conclusion
That said, we would be remiss to understate a key collector’s criticism – the JDM Cocktail Time models used the superior 6R15 movement and the came with longer power reserves and tighter tolerances after adjustment. While the new Seiko Presage 2017 carries many same overall aesthetic, the price range is not entirely reflective of the use of using a 4R movement.
Based on the 7S26, the original 6R15 model was equipped with the Spron 510 mainspring and 50 hours power reserve. Comparatively, the 4R15 calibre basically removes hacking and hand winding functions from the 6R while keeping the Spron mainspring. Today, the 4R25 is the 6R15 simplified with poorer rate accuracy, being rated at +45/-35 vs the 6R15’s +25/-15. This is cost cutting by Seiko.
The use of Hardlex instead of sapphire is also disappointing, that said, this sort of detail wouldn’t deter the average consumer. It’s likely that owners of the original Cocktail Time might find their watches in better demand than previously as production ceases with the new models replacing the original series. The new Seiko Presage 2017 collection is an experience which approaches fine watchmaking (dial side, external finishing) without breaking the bank.
Available in June 2017, the power reserve model will likely retail for US$540 while the time only models will likely retail for US$410.