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Seiko Presage: Collection of Affordable Enamel Dial Watches

by Jonathan Ho on February 11, 2017

At Basel 2016, Seiko introduced a limited edition Chronograph with enamel dial to its Presage collection. For Basel 2017, Seiko Presage now enjoys four series production models, making it a collection of affordable enamel dial watches.

As a general rule, ‘Real’ enamel dials, or grand feu enamel dials, are expensive to produce given the complexity of the process and the lack of artisans skilled to produce them. For a few years now, Stowa and Tourby had been serving this under-supplied segment with enamel coated dials and they’re not exactly “real” enamel dials now are they? Basel 2017 Seiko Presage collection of affordable enamel dial watches puts the skills and talents of lifelong enamel artist Mitsuru Yokozawa and his band of artisans within striking distance of the regular salaried employee and that can only mean cultivating the appetites of younger collectors.

Why Grand Feu Enamel Dials are so complicated to make (and expensive)

Left: Mr. Yokozawa. Top right: Dial base is first coated in oil to prevent oxidation and then removed in pre-treatment where the dial undergoes an acid wash, nickel treatment and a final neutralising coat. Bottom Right: complexity arises when making the enamel glaze of the dial as small changes in ratio can drastically alter final results. Experience and knowledge is key

According to Donze Cadrans SA – The “Grand Feu” enamel is a decorative watchmaking technique and is generally considered one of the most difficult techniques to master. The master artisan does not paint the motif directly on the watch but applies more oxides on the dial in gold. Then, the enameller moves the dial into fire (800-900° C) several times to allow motif and colors appear gradually. The “Grand Feu” enamel sets unalterable and refined decoration.

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For the Basel 2017 Seiko Presage collection of affordable enamel dial watches, the process is not all that different – the enamel coating is applied to a metal disc by firing enamel glaze with glass compounds resulting in that alluring sheen and warm aesthetic. Under guidance of veteran (over 40 years) artisan Mitsuru Yokozawa, his talents in increasing the reproducibility of this exquisite craft technique is put to good use in the Seiko Presage collection.

That is not to say that his skills have made the process easier because most small enamel products tend to measure in the 10cm square range. Seiko Presage enamel dials are smaller at 3cm, creating new technical challenges due to their thickness and evenness. Combined with his visual acuity of working with coated surfaces in fractions of a millimetre, Yokozawa is the only craftsmen in Japan able to apply the fragile and temperamental enamel to a fine Seiko Presage dial.

From left, once the enamel glaze has been produced, it is applied to the dial. In this phase, the glaze is susceptible to changes in environmental temperature and humidity. Altering the composition to suit the weather that day is a manual process which Yokozawa manages; the enamel-coated dial is then fired in a kiln – the glass compounds in the glaze melt to give enamel’s beautiful sheen and texture; the final enamel dial is then inspected for pinhole imperfections and then shipped for use as enamel dials in Seiko Presage affordable enamel dial collection

Seiko Presage collection of affordable enamel dial watches

Enamel dials are usually a core focus for high end brands like Patek Philippe and Vacheron Constantin, and they are usually priced out of range for all but the wealthiest collectors, this Basel 2017 Seiko Presage collection of affordable enamel dial watches is beneficially in stoking desire and understanding of one of high horology’s most attractive techniques.

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Seiko Presage Enamel Automatic Chronograph

The new Seiko Presage Enamel Automatic Chronograph recalls the familiar three-register layout of last year’s limited edition Urushi and Enamel dial collection.

The new Seiko Presage Enamel Automatic Chronograph recalls the familiar three-register layout of last year’s limited edition Urushi and Enamel dial collection. Gone are the Breguet numerals and in comes Roman numerals sans red 12 numeral.

The sub-registers or counters have painted Arabic numerals and while we would prefer watches with no date windows, the window aperture here tucked between 4 and 5 o’clock is small and subtle enough to blend with the gorgeous enamel dial without calling too much attention to it unless you’re specifically looking for it.

The new Seiko Presage Enamel Automatic Chronograph is 42mm but like it’s limited edition cousin, wears slimmer due to its gentlemanly aesthetics. A robust manufacture Seiko calibre 8R48 with column wheel and vertical clutch system drives the Seiko Presage Enamel Automatic Chronograph for 45 hours fully wound.

The Seiko Presage Enamel Automatic Chronograph is priced €2,650

Seiko Presage Enamel Multi-Hand Automatic

The Seiko Presage Enamel Multi-Hand Automatic displays the hours, minutes, and seconds with central hands, and makes an odd, slightly confusing decision to indicate the date with a sub-dial at 6 o’clock

Accompanying last year’s limited edition chronograph was a multi-function watch with power reserve. Once more, it returns in series production model for Basel 2017.

The Seiko Presage Enamel Multi-Hand Automatic displays the hours, minutes, and seconds with central hands, and makes an odd, slightly confusing decision to indicate the date with a sub-dial at 6 o’clock. Given the propensity for sub-seconds to usually occupy the same position on most traditional watches, the Seiko Presage Enamel Multi-Hand Automatic takes some getting used to. That said, the power reserve indicator at 9 o’clock doesn’t clutter but instead compliments the overall aesthetic.

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The 40.5mm Seiko Presage Enamel Multi-Hand Automatic is driven by the manufacture calibre 6R27 and runs for 45 hours fully wound.

The Seiko Presage Enamel Multi-Hand Automatic is priced €1,300

Seiko Presage Automatic: Available in Round and Tonneau case

Basel 2017 Seiko Presage collection of affordable enamel dial watches, the two core automatic models are thoroughly classic in either round of tonneau shapes.

For Basel 2017 Seiko Presage collection of affordable enamel dial watches, the two core automatic models are thoroughly classic in either round of tonneau shapes. Available in 40.5mm round case or tonneau case proportioned at 46mm x 35.9mm. Both Seiko Presage Automatic watches use the same manufacture calibre 6R15 but have different levels of water resistance.

Without getting into technical specifics, round cases are easier to waterproof and so the round Seiko Presage Automatic is resistant to 100m while the tonneau Seiko Presage Automatic is resistant to 50m.

Interestingly, while the base calibre is fairly standard, it comes boasts anti-magnetic properties of up to 4,800 A/m and 50 hours power reserve.

You can expect the round Seiko Presage Enamel Automatic is priced €1,100; while the tonneau Seiko Presage Enamel Automatic is priced €1,300.

The Seiko Presage collection of affordable enamel dial watches will be in stores in September 2017.


Also published on Medium.

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