For Seiko, the 1960s were a time of intense change with the introduction of their first dive watch, the creation of Grand Seiko and, ultimately, the release of the first modern quartz watch. This was also period during which Seiko developed their chronographs in record time. In 1969, Seiko released their 6139 automatic chronograph movement, a release which coincided with the Swiss Calibre 11 and Zenith El Primero. What makes this remarkable, though, is that where Swiss chronographs had existed from the early days of the 20th century, Seiko had only created Japan’s first in 1964, the ‘Crown’.
In the context of Seiko’s recent vintage recreations ranging from the original 62MAS to the 6105 as popularised by Apocalypse Now, a tasteful homage to this brand’s chronograph history was inevitable. Thus, as a celebration of its 55 years of chronographs and 50 years with automatic winding, Seiko has released two limited editions of 1,000 pieces to mark the date.
Before discussing each of the two pieces released, I would like to address the movements and internals of these watches; these are shared across both. Inside these watches is featured the 8R48 in-house automatic chronograph calibre. The purpose of this movement, when released in 2014, was to replace the company’s 6S family of chronographs. Unlike its predecessor, the 8R48 is modular and shares its base with the premium Seiko 6R20 movement: the 4Hz version of the well-known 6R15. This means that the movement features a 45-hour power reserve and automatic winding with Seiko’s magic lever system for quicker winding. On top of this, Seiko has added a module to give a tricompax chronograph with a more desirable horizontal subdial orientation. The 8R48 is also endowed with a column wheel, vertical clutch and even a system to synchronise the chronograph reset. In short, Seiko is offering a mechanically enticing alternative to existing Swiss options.
Prospex Chronograph – SRQ029
Returning to the watches released, the more conventional is the SRQ029. The design language used will, no doubt, be very familiar to existing Seiko owners as it fits into the Prospex collection. To fit this collection the case is 41mm and coated for scratch resistance. It features curved flanks with large and brilliantly Zaratsu polished bevels to cut through brushed elements. What is evident with this model is that it adheres to the finishing standards of top-end Seiko rather than the lesser standards of sub-£1000 models. Despite the resemblance to models such as the SLA021/023, the lugs and overall shape are more delicate. The dial takes its colours and radial font from the Seiko 6138-8000, but is otherwise a new design to fit the modern movement. Its asymmetrical dial gives a beautiful silver base and uses black to differentiate the chronograph subdials. Meanwhile, the date is tucked away at 4;30 and the tachymetre is housed under the crystal. Whilst not entirely faithful to the original, I must admit that I find this new model extremely attractive, especially with a 100m water resistance.
Presage Chronograph – SRQ031
The second model released (SRQ031) is a bit more of an oddball and pays homage to the first Seiko chronograph produced. In design, this model is much closer than the SRQ029 is to its predecessor and features a similar polished case and rotating black-coated bezel. Likewise, the dial incorporates the same off-white tone, grained ring, and applied markers. Aside from now featuring broader and more finely finished hands, the largest changes are mechanical. Where the original featured a monopusher manual chronograph which only displayed the seconds, the new version uses the aforementioned 8R48 automatic. In the spirit of the original, the subdials are small and the pushers are delicate which provide a pleasing halfway house between originality and more complete functionality. The only peculiar aspect of this watch is that it features a wider diameter than the SRQ029 of 42.3mm which seems out of place on a Presage series watch.
Conceptually, these watches offer a play on Seiko’s recent formula of offering near perfect reeditions. Where other Seikos are remastered vintage watches, these are covers of the originals. The same spirit, but a new interpretation. This is, in my estimation, an extremely wise choice considering that the somewhat dated appearance of the original models which may not enjoy as wide an appeal as these recreated versions.
The only aspect of these watches which seems misguided is the price. Whilst it is clear that Seiko is offering brilliant care in the dials and large portions of the cases of these watches, the details leave a bit to be desired. Due to the modular chronograph, the date wheel appears almost comically deeply recessed within the dial to the point of no longer being easily legible. Furthermore, the crown and pushers look alarmingly similar to those used on watches 1/5th the price and caseback is lacklustre with laser-etched markings. Even the movement features a profound lack of decoration despite being on display. I must be clear: if these were £1000 watches, I would overlook these issues. However, they are not sub-£1,000 but instead cost between €3,400 and €3,700 which is no small sum, especially considering what Tudor and Longines are offering for less.
Overall, these 1,000-piece limited editions definitely have a lot going for them, and mark an important milestone for Seiko; a milestone which ultimately allowed them to famously put a watch in space on the wrist of William Pogue of Skylab 4 in 1973 and 1974. However, as watches in the wider Seiko catalogue, they show the same troubling pricing and design issues as we have seen before.
Pricing: SRQ031: €3,400 (LE of 1,000 pieces) / SRQ029: €3,700 (LE of 1,000 pieces)
- Dimensions: SRQ031: 42.3mm x 15.3mm / SRQ029: 41mm x 16mm
- Material: Stainless Steel with super-hard coating
- Crystal: Box-shaped anti-reflective coated sapphire crystal
- Dial: Luminous with applied markers, tricompax chronograph layout, & date at 4:30
- Water Resistance: 10 ATM / 100m
- Movement: Calibre 8R48: automatic, modular 12 hour chronograph, column wheel, vertical clutch, 34 jewels, 45-hour power reserve, 4Hz
For further information, head over to the Seiko website.