Occasionally, after a long day of walking the halls of Baselworld, nothing hits the spot like a chilled, dry, dirty martini. Unfortunately — Switzerland being more of a wine-and-beer country than a cocktail one — a good one can be hard to come by unless you’re at a high-end, international-style hotel, where the bartenders are fluent in classic American mixology. Fortunately, at this year’s Baselworld back in March, Seiko provided a haven for weary (and thirsty) watch journalists and retailers right in its booth — an honest-to-gosh cocktail bar with a Japanese bartender, mixing three specialty drinks for guests. The bar setting — and the chosen drinks — were not random, but inspired by new models in Seiko’s recently introduced and already extraordinarily successful Presage collection, whose dazzling dial colors, Seiko says, are inspired by classic cocktails.
Of the eight new “Cocktail Time” Presage watches, which also include a mocha-brown “Manhattan” dial and a cream-colored “Margarita” dial, I had a chance to spend several weeks with the “Martini” model, aka Ref. SRPB43, the one with the shimmering, silvery blue, sunray-textured dial — which does, I must admit, evoke the sensation of gazing straight down into a full martini glass — sans olive or lemon peel, of course. According to Seiko, each dial receives seven layers of a gloss finish to achieve its attractively light-reflecting surface. The watch has an elegantly simple three-hand design (other Presage models among the eight offer a power-reserve indicator as well), but with subtle layers of haute horlogerie in both its aesthetics and its technology that one would otherwise be hard-pressed to find in this price range.
The stainless steel case measures 40.5 mm in diameter and sports a gleaming, polished finish. The thin, sloped bezel appears to flow seamlessly into the slightly domed, box-type crystal over the dial. The crystal, incidentally, is made of a substance called Hardlex — a toughened mineral glass, developed by Seiko, that is more scratch-resistant than standard mineral or acrylic crystal while also being more impact-resistant (albeit not as scratch-resistant) as the more expensive sapphire. The grooved crown, which pulls out to two positions — one for setting the hour and minute hands, the other for a quick-change of the date — is large enough to be easily gripped but small enough to be unobtrusive. An engraved Seiko “S” adorns its top surface.
The hours are marked by diamond-shaped, applied indices that add sparkle to the dial and evoke, just a bit, tiny tinkling ice cubes in a cocktail glass. Around them is a very thin minute track in black that blends appealingly into the radiating lines of the sunray motif. At 3 o’clock, a rectangular window with a soft-edged, shiny frame displays the date. An applied, silvery “SEIKO” logo appears below the 12 o’clock index. The hands are also diamond-shaped and both beveled and delicately curved to follow the contours of the dial and crystal, helping the watch maintain its relatively slim profile (just 11.8 mm). The blued, central seconds hand repeats the diamond motif in its openworked counterweight.
The Seiko Presage collection is notable for being the Japanese brand’s first line of watches to use solely mechanical movements; even the more prestigious Grand Seiko collection — which in any case is now independent of the parent Seiko brand — includes some models with quartz-mechanical-hybrid Spring Drive movements and even some fully quartz movements. This leaves Presage as, arguably, “original” Seiko’s most luxurious line, and the movements used to power the watches are well chosen. The movement in the SRPB43, on display through a sapphire window in the caseback, is Seiko’s in-house-made automatic Caliber 4R35.
The eye is immediately drawn to the big, partially skeletonized rotor, then to the balance wheel oscillating at 21,600 vph, or six beats per second. The rotor, emblazoned with “SEIKO” and “SEIKO TIME CORP” among other verbiage, has a brushed, golden finish that gives the back of the watch a look as suitably elegant as the front’s. Coiled inside the mainspring barrel is enough power for 41 hours of running autonomy. The movement, Seiko says, also boasts magnetic resistance up to 4,800 A/m. Seiko’s mechanical movements are well-known for their precision, and this one did not disappoint, keeping the time as reliably as my smartphone for the few weeks I had it.
The shiny calfskin strap is definitely tuxedo-worthy, though I usually prefer a more matte finish. Depending on the lighting, the strap looks either straight black (with dark blue stitching) or a really dark navy blue. The deployant three-fold clasp, made of polished steel like the case, has a safety push-button release and a Seiko logo etched into the buckle.
Finally, as much as I enjoy a well-timed cocktail, I also appreciate a luxurious mechanical watch at an extremely reasonable price point, and this one delivers big-time. The Presage “Cocktail Time” models (a nickname bestowed by the brand’s fans, apparently, rather than the brand itself, much like “Tuna”) carry a retail price of just $425, a deal that is enough to make one raise one’s glass in a toast to Seiko’s sincere effort to bring its distinctive style of mechanical luxury to as many watch fans, at as many income levels, as possible. So, Cheers — or, as the Japanese say, “Kampai!”