Seiko has announced a new small watch collections in their Presage line, and it’s directly inspired by the life and work of Riki Watanabe, one of the most important Japanese designers. Watanable passed away in 2013 at the age of 101, but in his life was responsible for creating much of what we now think of as the modern Japanese design language. Often called the “Charles Eames of Japan,” he became particularly well known for creating beautiful furniture from inexpensive materials in the years following World War II. His clock and watch designs produced later in his career (many of them for Seiko) became iconic – if you Google “Riki Clock” you’re sure to see a clock that reminds you of one in your own life, even if it’s not a true Watanabe design. These new watches from Seiko, dubbed the Enamel Dial Automatic, represent a direct link to that aesthetic.

Seiko Presage Enamel Dial Automatic

  • Case Material: Stainless steel
  • Dial: Black, maroon*
  • Dimensions: 39.9 x 12.4 x 47.2mm
  • Crystal: Sapphire***
  • Water Resistance: 10 bar
  • Crown: Push/pull**********
  • Movement: 6R35
  • Strap/bracelet: Leather**
  • Price: $1096
  • Reference Number: SPB113J1, SPB115J1
  • Expected Release: January 2020*

As the name would imply, this watch uses an enamel dial in one of two color variants: traditional and stark white, or a deep maroon. Enamel dials are incredibly difficult to make properly, and the tight tolerances around their craft means that, inevitably, many have to be thrown out. Enamel provides a sheen and depth that more common and less time consuming dial making methods can’t match. Because of the way enamel plays with light, these dials are notoriously difficult to photograph, but once you have a good enamel dial in hand, their unique qualities become obvious.*

The actual design of the dial is based on the “Riki Steel Clock” motif, and features a series of simple bold painted lines for hour markers, with thinner and shorter lines counting the minutes. The spade hour hand is a throwback to Seiko’s past, and is reminiscent of previous Watanabe designs. The Enamel Dial Automatic watches are powered by a 6R35 movement, sporting a 70 hour power reserve, and measure 39.9mm in diameter. While not super thin at 12.4mm in case height, these seem to be very wearable dimensions to me – the size of this watch is certainly in line with similar watches in the Presage range, which tend to have a nice wrist presence but aren’t uncomfortable or unwieldy by any means.*

The release of the Enamel Dial Automatic series comes on the heels of the similarly styled Enamel Dial Spring Drive collection, and the dials on the autos are made by Mitsuro Yokosawa, just as they are on the pricier Spring Drive models. This new release, then, represents a truly compelling value, and a chance to own an honest to goodness piece of Japanese hand-craft at a very enticing price. For design geeks and fans of Japanese horology in a general way, these watches are about as purely Japan as you’re going to get, at least within the Presage line. Seiko

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