Absolutely no one:
Seiko: HEY GUYS HERE’S A LAUREL REISSUE ON A BUND!
So, I’m sure by the time you come across this piece, you would have read all about the 2021 releases from both Seiko and Grand Seiko, right? If you have not, here are a couple of publications that have written extensively on the Prospex SLA049, SLA051, Presage GMTs, the aforementioned Laurel (with its BUND) and Seiko’s 140th anniversary collection. Oh, and not forgetting Grand Seiko’s limited edition SLGH007 and not-so-limited ‘Seasons Collection‘.
As usual, it’s an onslaught of new models that are bound to amaze and/or raise a few eyebrows. Frankly, some of the new releases are a tad questionable but I’m sure Seiko knows the market better than anyone else. With that said, there are one or two new ones that genuinely caught me off guard. In the best way possible.
“I like big bunds and I cannot lie.”
Actually, I can. Spoiler alert, I’m not a fan of bund straps. I mean, I can see the aesthetic and maybe even functional appeal to it but I highly doubt you would every catch me with one on my wrist. The Seiko Prospex SJE085J1 changes that. By just a tiny bit. How? It’s got nothing to do with the bund strap but with a watch this charismatic in tow? You (nearly) have me smitten.
The SJE085J1 is a pretty accurate representation of the original 1959 Seiko Laurel Alpinist in that the case measures just 36.6 mm across. Yes, the reissue is a mere 1.6 mm larger over the original’s *brings out a calculator* 35 mm. I’m sure we’ve come across reissues where the modern interpretation of an original ends up with more than 2-3 mm added across its diameter.
The dial of this reissue does a decent job at replicating the near-perfect symmetry of the original too. You still get those triangular hour markers at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock that help set it apart from the baton-like markers elsewhere. Look closer and you’ll spot the slightly different design on the 12 o’clock marker as well.
According to Seiko, that slight difference further adds to the readability of the watch. Plus, it’s said to mimic the ‘Northern’ hand of a compass. Beneath that box-shaped sapphire crystal and gloss black dials beats the 6L35 movement. The 26-jeweled movement beats at a rate of 4 Hz and carries a power reserve of 45 hours. Water resistance is quoted at 100 m.
Now, if you’re a fan of symmetry… here’s the catch.
*stares at the 4:30 mark* [emotional music plays]
The new movement means that there is a pesky date window nestled at the 4:30 mark and it… drives… me… nuts. As practical as it may be, I can’t help feeling that the dial would look so much better without it. In any case, there’s no use complaining on and on because at around $2,900 (RM11,714.55), I highly doubt I’m the target audience. Even if I was, it’ll probably be too late for me. The Seiko Prospex SJE085J1 is limited to only 1,959 units worldwide.
“Fret not, folks. Here’s another limited edition Seiko that you can actually buy!”
I’m not joking one bit, guys. The Seiko 5 Sports SRPG47K1 is part of the ‘140th Anniversary’ series and is limited to 11,000 units worldwide. No, that is not a typo. While the other models in this collection are limited to a “mere” four-figure production run, this rather fetching icy-blue 5 Sports turns the knob all the way up to 11 (thousand).
Putting that aside, I reckon this is actually one of my favourite new releases by Seiko for 2021. From a design point of view, it’s got that tried-and-tested 5 Sports/SKX shape but this time, it’s coupled to a rather fetching blue-white colour scheme. The result is a fun, cool and even slightly playful watch that would make for a great daily. According to Seiko, it’s also the first time that white is featured on the dial of a 5 Sports model. Thankfully, no bund straps to be found here, only a steel bracelet.
Looking at the spec sheet, it’s nothing new here and to be honest, that’s perfectly fine with me. Within the 42.5 mm case (which wears a lot smaller than the numbers suggests), beats the familiar 4R36 calibre with 41 hours of power reserve. You get a Hardlex crystal up front and an exhibition caseback at the rear. Price? A mere $295 (RM1,191.65) is all you need to pony up for a (technically) limited edition Seiko. Well played, guys. Well played indeed.
“… and we move on to a Grand Seiko that I can never buy.” #woeisme
Let’s just get the big numbers out of the way first, okay? The Grand Seiko SLGH007 ‘140th Anniversary Limited Edition’ retails for $58,000 (RM234,291)!
And even if you had the financial means, you better pick up the pace. It’s limited to just 140 units worldwide. So, with that said, what’s the deal with the SLGH007? For starters, we’ve got a 40 mm x 11.7 mm case fashioned out of 950 platinum. On top of that, the small, eight-pointed star at 6 o’clock means that the hour markers, GS lettering and date window frame are made of white gold. A classic black alligator strap comes as standard (no bund straps…).
Despite all those goodies, the real highlight of the watch (and with most Grand Seikos, to be honest) is the dial. The ‘Tree Rings’ motif gives the dial a unique sense of visual depth and is meant to conjure relations to actual rings in cedar trees that are found within the vicinity of Grand Seiko’s Studio Shizukuishi.
The other highlight is, of course, the new 9SA5 movement. It’s a hi-beat (5 Hz) calibre that provides an 80-hour power reserve and will undoubtedly be accurate AF. But that’s not the real talking point, though. The 9SA5 is Grand Seiko’s latest masterpiece and brings to the table an all-new escapement design. Dubbed the ‘Dual Impulse Escapement’, it’s not (categorically-speaking) superior to the basic lever or even the Co-Axial setup. It’s an all-new design and within the horological realm, new escapements don’t come along very often.
If you’re eager to geek out on the 9SA5, I highly suggest looking up this article on Time+Tide here.
“So, all in all, did Seiko do enough to kick start 2021?”
Long story short, yes. Now, I understand if at this point you’re probably wondering if I’m on Seiko’s payroll.
It’s just that the brand has been doing a splendid job at listening to its customers. Heck, they probably even prowl various watch forums to dig up feedback from the public. The cherry on top lies in the fact that they’re also extremely active in diving into their rich history and sprinkling a bit of that heritage all over their current line-up.
It’s not rainbows and butterflies all the way, though. I’m not sure about you but I’m still struggling to wrap my head around the new Presage GMT models. C’mon Seiko, I’m sure you’re well aware that people love the Presage for its simple, unassuming but handsome design.
2020 was bad enough and you seem to be making 2021 work for you. Don’t let it all go to waste in 2022, okay? *whispers ‘no-date, three-hander Presage’*