March 5, 2024

When it comes to value, it’s hard to beat Seiko, and this Presage is no exception.

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If you ask any watch lover worth their salt to describe Seiko in five words or less, we’re willing to bet you’ll hear a phrase that’s a variant of ‘great value!’ This is true from the brand’s more accessible offerings – such as their famously indestructible divers – all the way up to the Grand Seiko and Credor lines. The Presage collection is no different, but until now, the well priced, 100 per cent mechanical line was only available only in the Japanese market. 2016 is the year Presage goes global, offering a great alternative to the usual suspects in the competitive $1-2K price point. And while the 60th anniversary chronograph has hogged the limelight, the entire collection is strong, with the slightly complicated SPB041J1 hitting the sweet spot in terms value and quality.

The dial

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The first thing you’ll notice about the Presage SPB041J1, or indeed any of the models in the Presage Prestige (try saying that fast 10 times) collection is that they look quite vintage, and far more Swiss than we’re used to seeing from Seiko. I mean, the watch could say Longines or Tissot on the dial and not raise any eyebrows. But there’s a good reason for the blued hands, Breguet style numerals and that distinctive red 12. They’re all design elements that are directly inspired by Seiko’s first ever watch – the 1913 Laurel.

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The Laurel, from 1913.

But, it’s not entirely backward facing in its design, there are several elements to this dial that will be familiar to fans of Seiko’s more recent work. First of all there’s the off-centre power reserve – while not being unique to Seiko, the Japanese watchmaker does seem to have a penchant for asymmetrical dial design. And then there’s the dial texture itself. For starters, the dial has a pearlescent sheen, accented by a detailed herringbone motif. It’s rich and wonderful and adds the perfect amount of zing to an otherwise straight-down-the-line design. The downside of this detailed pattern is that the texture appears uneven at the edges of the subdial. If I were in charge of designing this watch I’d give these edges a smooth bevelled finish. And while it’s only noticeable under magnification, it’s here that the difference between this and a higher-priced watch is most apparent.

The case

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The steel case is 40.5mm across, a good size for a modern dress piece such as this. The lugs and case profile have a pleasing, flowing form and the polished finish adds to its dressy nature. The heavily knurled crown is a nice touch, as, like many of the dial elements, it directly references the original Laurel.

The movement

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Turn the watch over and you get a nice view of the Calibre 6R27 – nicely finished, with a striped rotor which has gold engraving. The movement also delivers on the technical front – if you’re familiar with the automatic movements found in Seiko 5s or entry-level divers then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the 6R27. It features what Seiko call Trimatic technology, their Dia-Shock anti-shock system, the efficient Magic Lever Winding system and use of the advanced Spron 510 alloy in the springs. All this adds up to a 28,800 BPH movement that hacks and hand-winds, with around 45 hours of power reserve. All told it’s a reliable workhorse of a movement, that’s as pretty as anything else you’ll find at this level.

The strap

The SPB041J1 comes standard on a soft, slightly padded brown alligator strap. It’s clearly not an area where Seiko has scrimped, as it looks and feels premium. The single fold deployant is firm and feels secure, adding to the overall feeling of quality. One thing worth noting is that the strap on the model I reviewed was quite long. If you’ve got more slender wrists it would be more strap than you need. Having said that there’s a good chance there are different sizes of strap available and they just defaulted to the largest for the model I was sent.

The verdict

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I speak to a lot of people who want to buy their first ‘good’ watch. People that don’t care about status or luxury symbols per se, but who nonetheless want a quality, reliable timepiece. Most of these people are looking to spend up to a couple of thousand dollars. This is the sort of person the Presage SPB041J1 is perfect for. I’d certainly recommend it.

Talking point

No, I didn’t have to travel to Japan to buy this model…

Who’s it for?

If you’re in the market for a quality mechanical watch, with a hint of vintage that will go with pretty much anything, this could be your guy.

What would we change?

I’d change the finishing around the subdial. As it is, it doesn’t detract, but I think a cleaner finish would make it even better.

Seiko Presage SPB041J1 Australian pricing

The Seiko Presage SPB041J1, steel on alligator, $1500.