Hands-On with the Seiko Presage Shippo Enamel SPB073J1 and SPB075J1

Guilloche enamel dials for less.

Seiko’s latest Presage continues what earlier editions did, offer dials decorated with artisanal techniques, at far more affordable prices than typical. While earlier models did that for glossy white and then blue grand feu enamel, the Presage Shippo Enamel utilises translucent blue enamel over an guilloche dial.

Shippo, or 七宝, is the Japanese term for cloisonné, though the dials on the new Presage would probably be labelled guilloche enamel if the watches were Swiss (and more expensive).

The dials start as blanks with a engraved radial pattern, which are then painted with enamel glaze by Wataru Totani, an artisan at Ando Cloisonné, a Nagoya enamel workshop founded in 1880.

Seiko Presage Shippo Enamel SPB073J1

Described by London’s Victoria and Albert Museum as “only manufacturer with its roots in the Golden Age still producing high quality cloisonné enamels”, Ando is one of Japan’s most important enamel workshops, retaining its status as a supplier of enamelled objects to the Japanese Imperial Household, which makes the affordability of the watch all the more notable.

After several layers of enamel glaze are applied, the dials are fired at 800 degrees in an oven (done in batches with several dials at once). Each fired dial is then inspected and if it passes, the dial is polished to a smooth, glassy finish. The dial markings are then printed.

The result is a tremendous dial for the money. Richly coloured with a consistent finish, the dials are as good as on watches that cost multiples, even if the rest of the Presage is fairly basic.

Seiko Presage Shippo Enamel SPB075J1

Two Presage Shippo Enamel models are available – a three-hander with date window (ref. SPB075J1), and the other with a power reserve and date indicator in a sub-dial (ref. SPB073J1). Both have similar steel cases that have a simple polished finish on all surfaces and sapphire crystals.

Seiko Presage Shippo Enamel blue 6

The simpler of the two is 40mm wide by 12.35mm high, a moderate size though thicker than most watches with similar dimensions. It’s powered by the 6R15 automatic movement that has a 50-hour power reserve.

Seiko Presage Shippo Enamel blue 4

The power reserve version is slightly, but indistinguishably, larger, at 40.58mm in diameter and 14.12mm high. That’s mostly due to the 6R27 movement and its additional complications. The 6R27 movement is marginally fancier, with gilded engraving on the rotor, but otherwise visually identical.

Seiko Presage Shippo Enamel blue 5

Both are strong value buys, but the simpler model feels more pure and unadulterated. The one with the power reserve feels busy, and the date sub-dial feels misleadingly like a seconds counter.

Price and availability 

The Presage Shippo Enamel SPB073J1 with power reserve is priced at US$1600, while the Presage Shippo Enamel SPB075J1 is US$1400. Both will be available starting September 2018.


 

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Introducing the Stefan Kudoke Free KudOktopus

Engraved with an octopus, front and back, inside and out.

Located in a small town an hour’s east of Dresden, Stefan Kudoke is a watchmaker who specialises in engraved and skeletonised timepieces – though he recently debuted a proprietary calibre developed with the help of Richard Habring.

Mr Kudoke’s latest, however, is a return to form. The Free KudOktopus continues a theme found in earlier watches. But while earlier octopus watches had the movement open-worked to form the tentacled creature, the Free KudOktopus liberates the octopus.

Stefan Kudoke Free Kudoktopus 2

The base plate and bridges of the movement have been skeletonised into an octopus, with the octopus parts white rhodium-plated for contrast. On the front the tentacles continue out from the movement to the bezel, case band and lugs.

Stefan Kudoke Free Kudoktopus 3

Beyond the engraving, the movement has also been dressed up finishing like bevelled spokes on the barrel ratchet wheel and blued steel screws. Like many of Mr Kudoke’s other skeleton watches, the Free KudOktopus uses the hand-wound Unitas 6498 as the base movement, while the case is steel and 42mm in diameter.

Stefan Kudoke Free Kudoktopus 1

Price and availability 

The Free Kudoktopus is priced at €10,100 before taxes, or about US$11,00.


 

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Introducing the Clockwright KL1, a Monumental Wall Clock in Exotic Wood

Featuring a single-pivot grasshopper escapement.

Self-taught clockmaker Rick Hale has just completed the extraordinary KL1, a massive, wall-mounted clock that’s 5ft tall and 3ft wide and incorporates his first single-pivot grasshopper escapement.

A bespoke commission by a client, the KL1 has all of its moving parts like rollers and bushings made of lignum vitae, a hard, dense and self-lubricating wood. The massive frame is carved from jointed hard maple and finished with a copper leaf patina.

Rick Hale Clockwright KL1 5

Based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Mr Hale takes inspiration from the work of John Harrison, the 18th century British clockmaker who perfected the invention of the marine chronometer, thus revolutionising maritime navigation. Notably, Harrison also used lignum vitae for the moving parts of his clocks.

Another of Harrison’s innovations that left a mark in history was the grasshopper escapement, which he developed from the conventional anchor escapement and implemented it in his first three marine timekeepers.

Getting its name from the motion of the pallets, which resemble the legs of a grasshopper, the escapement generates low enough friction that most of it could be made from wood while working without lubrication.

Mr Hale’s single-pivot grasshopper escapement is based on Harrison’s original, but unfortunately unclear, drawing. A large version of the plan was provided to him by Mr. Peter Hastings, a British horologist who’s written several papers on the escapement.

Unlike a twin-pivot grasshopper escapement used in Rick’s previous work, a single pivot escapement permits independent, free rotation of the pallets and composers about a common, single pivot pin. To ensure that the captivating motion of the escapement can be observed, it is suspended between two narrow bridges of carved maple, leaving it visible from the front and sides. See the escapement in action here:

 

Rick Hale Clockwright KL1 4

VAGUE Photography

These pallets and composers are hand-carved from quilted maple. But, interestingly, each pallet is crafted from two pieces of wood so as to ensure that the direction of the woodgrain is optimised for structural strength. They are then riveted together before the final shaping.

Historically, conventional grasshopper escapements are susceptible to tripping, whereby the pallets are completely detached from the escape wheel, and in more severe cases, a “runaway” escapement, the high-speed free wheeling of an escape wheel. To prevent this, the nib of the exit pallet was lengthened so that it would never miss the tooth of a speeding wheel. Mr Hale tested this construction at “runaway” speed, and both the teeth and pallets proved strong enough to absorb the impact.

Rick Hale Clockwright KL1 3

VAGUE Photography

The pendulum assembly can be poised by sliding the quilted maple and brass weight at the upper left along its pin to ensure even weight distribution.

Rick Hale Clockwright KL1 2

VAGUE Photography

Mr Hale designed his own maintaining power, from which long hardwood springs extend to several pins at the back of the centre wheel. The gears of this piece are also based on a distinct type of gearing developed by Harrison known as the chordal pitch.

Rick Hale Clockwright KL1 8

VAGUE Photography

In addition, the KL1 incorporates a smaller version of the daisy wheel motion work used in his previous clocks, which offers greater efficiency. The daisy wheel is an 18th century invention that consists of 11 “petals” and achieves a 12:1 reduction.

Rick Hale Clockwright KL1 Daisy Wheel

VAGUE Photography

Rick Hale Clockwright KL1 6

VAGUE Photography

Rick is currently working on his most complex piece yet, the L1 which incorporates a grasshopper escapement, a remontoire, and a lunar complication – all in his signature hardwood construction.

Price and Availability

All custom clocks, such as the KL1, start at US$30,000, while the stock L1 starts at US$25,600.


 

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A Rolex Round-Up from Phillips’ Hong Kong Auction

Six highlights, including the most valuable lot in the whole sale.

The upcoming Phillips Hong Kong watch auction is heavy on vintage watches, with about half the 230 lots being vintage.

While vintage Rolex features prominently, as is de rigueur for an international watch auction, the selection is watch nerd-inclined with an emphasis on technical details and professional watches, perhaps reflecting the interest of department head Thomas Perazzi.

So rather than historical provenance (like a celebrity-owned watch) or elegant watches (like a triple calendar ref. 6062 or Day-Date), the crucial highlights are a left-handed GMT-Master ref. 6542, and a Sea-Dweller ref. 1665 with no helium escape valve that’s the most expensive watch in catalogue.

Here’s a look at a half dozen top picks, including some watches for more modest budgets. The complete catalogue and online bidding can be accessed here.


Lot 817 – Rolex Submariner ref. 5513 with glossy dial

The ref. 5513 is a quintessential Submariner, having been produced for an extended period, meaning it is relatively common as a reference, with enough variants to make it interesting. And it helps that Roger Moore wore one in his outings as James Bond.

Rolex Submariner 5513 glossy dial 2

Rolex Submariner 5513 glossy dial 5

Rolex Submariner 5513 glossy dial 3

This ref. 5513 is an excellent example with a glossy dial, dating from 1966. The case is in strong condition, showing wear but retaining its original form, particularly the bevels along the lugs and flat bottoms on the ends of the lugs. The dial is also well preserved, though the hands show aging.

Rolex Submariner 5513 glossy dial 1

Rolex Submariner 5513 glossy dial 4

More notably, it is complete with the original box and guarantee that’s dated September 9, 1966, which helps boost its value relative to an example without. This is estimated at HK$240,000 to HK$480,000, or US$30,000 to US$60,000.


Lot 907 – Rolex Submariner ref. 5513 “underline”

In vintage Rolex the minor details matter and this ref. 5513 is three years earlier than the example above, with two elements that set it apart.

Rolex Submariner 5513 underline 2

The first are the pointed crown guards, nicknamed “PCG” for short, while the other is the horizontal line beneath the lettering at 12 o’clock, hence the “underline” moniker.

Rolex Submariner 5513 underline 5

Rolex Submariner 5513 underline 3

The watch is in good condition, and shows its age evenly and honestly. The surface of the dial also has slight bubbling.

Rolex Submariner 5513 underline 1

Rolex Submariner 5513 underline 4

The estimate is HK$120,000 to HK$200,000, or US$15,000 to US$25,000.


Lot 948 – Rolex Datejust ref. 6605 “Serpico y Laino”

An early 1955 Datejust in uncommon pink gold with a matching Jubilee bracelet, this watch has the bonus of the “Serpico y Laino” signature on the dial.

Rolex Datejust 6605 Serpico Laino 2

Rolex Datejust 6605 Serpico Laino 4

Serpico today is still a Rolex retailer in Venezuela, but the name on vintage watches carries with it echoes of the oil boom of the 1950s, which made the country one of the wealthiest in the world. That explains why a noticeable number of vintage luxury watches from the period carry the “S&L” name.

Rolex Datejust 6605 Serpico Laino 1

The watch is in strong condition, with the dial showing age but still looking good, which is also the case for the case (no pun intended).

Rolex Datejust 6605 Serpico Laino 5

Rolex Datejust 6605 Serpico Laino 3

The Datejust is estimated at HK$120,000 to HK$200,000, or US$15,000 to US$25,000.


Lot 952 – Rolex GMT-Master ref. 6542 left-handed

One of the most unusual and historically significant Rolex watches in the sale: a first generation GMT-Master with its original Bakelite bezel – and the crown on the left side of the case.

Rolex GMT-Master 6542 left-handed 3

Rolex GMT-Master 6542 left-handed 4

The only example of a left-handed GMT-Master known, this watch has its reference number engraved between the lugs at 12 o’clock, and the case serial number at six o’clock, which is the norm for Rolex watches. If it were an ordinary watch with the movement rotated, the position of the numbers would be reversed.

Rolex GMT-Master 6542 left-handed 6

Rolex GMT-Master 6542 left-handed 2

This dates from 1959, a few years after the dual time zone GMT-Master ref. 6542 was launched in 1954, reputedly for the pilots of Pan Am, then the largest airline in the world. The ref. 6542 was originally fitted with a bezel made of Bakelite, then still a relatively advanced material. But the early plastic was fragile and few have survived.

Rolex GMT-Master 6542 left-handed 5

Rolex GMT-Master 6542 left-handed 1

While this is the first left-handed GMT-Master known, other Rolex models in this configuration have come to market in the past, including a Sea-Dweller COMEX and a Day-Date ref. 1803 in white gold.

The left-handed GMT-Master has an estimate of HK$640,000 to HK$960,000, or US$80,000 to US$120,000.


Lot 953 – Rolex “Double Red” Sea-Dweller ref. 1665 with no escape valve

Most unusual the watch with the highest estimate in the auction (starting at US$500,000) is a Rolex that’s almost an oxymoron, specifically a Sea-Dweller ref. 1665 with no escape valve.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665 no escape valve 1

Introduced in 1967, the Sea-Dweller was a deep sea diver’s watch, conceived for professional saturation divers living in diving chambers that allowed them to work far underwater for extended periods.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665 no escape valve 3

Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665 no escape valve 4

The helium escape valve was invented to allow helium, which has molecules tiny enough to enter the watch case, to escape the case during decompression, preventing the crystal from popping out due to the pressure buildup inside. It’s a simple but effect concept that Rolex still uses today in its top of the line dive watches.

A valveless Sea-Dweller is thus exceptionally peculiar and rare. According to Phillips, they were most likely produced for the Tektite programs, set up by the US government to have scientists live and conduct research in a diving chamber underwater. Because the Tektite habitat was only 15m deep, the atmosphere inside was not saturated, meaning no valve was needed.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665 no escape valve 5

Less than 10 Tektite watches are known, with most being “Single Red” Sea-Dwellers with one line of red lettering on the dial. This example is one of the few “Double Red” models, which is why it is so rare.

Rolex Sea-Dweller 1665 no escape valve 2

The estimate is HK$4.0m to HK$8.0m, or US$500,000 to US$1.0m.


Lot 956 – Rolex Submariner ref. 1680 “Red Khanjar”

This is a watch gifted by the Sultan of Oman, hence the emblem of Oman in red. It’s centred on a sheathed khanjar, a curved dagger unique to the Sultanate.

Rolex Submariner gold 1680 red khanjar 2

The emblems come in three different flavours – red, green or gold – and can be located at six, nine or 12 o’clock. This particular “nipple dial” Submariner has it in red at six o’clock, which combined with the 18k gold case, makes it the only known example in this combination.

Another element that marks it out as a watch destined fo the Sultanate is the case serial number engraved on the inside of the case back, in addition to its usual place between the lugs.

Rolex Submariner gold 1680 red khanjar 5

Rolex Submariner gold 1680 red khanjar 3

This example has an extremely well preserved dial, with the red “khanjar” being notably striking against the black dial with gold indices and hands; rarity aside, it is a good looking watch. The case has been slightly rounded over time, as is often the case with gold watches.

Rolex Submariner gold 1680 red khanjar 1

Rolex Submariner gold 1680 red khanjar 4

The estimate is HK$1.2m to HK$2.4m, or US$150,000 to US$300,000.


Auction and exhibition

The lots will be on show from May 24 to 28 at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong. All the lots can also be seen online here.

The auction takes place on May 29 at 1pm at the same venue.


This was brought to you in collaboration with Phillips.

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