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Seiko Introduces the Prospex SRQ029 & Presage SRQ031 Chronographs

Marking two milestones in history.

Nineteen-sixty nine was a watershed year in watchmaking – the culmination of the race for the world’s first automatic chronograph. It was a three-way contest between two Swiss watchmakers and one from Japan.

Both Swiss movements – the Zenith El Primero and the Heuer-Breitling-Buren-Dubois-Depraz Caliber 11 – have enjoyed a following to this day, but the third – the Seiko 6139 Speedtimer – remains relatively obscure as it went out of production in 1979.

The 6139 was a single-register chronograph with a 30-minute totaliser at six o’clock and a quickset day-date display. Crucially, it had a column wheel and vertical clutch.

And an even lesser known fact is that Seiko produced its first chronograph – the “Crown” with a column-wheel and mono-pusher – just five years before, in 1964 to coincide with that year’s Tokyo Olympic Games. In short, the 1960s were a major decade for Seiko in terms of chronographs.

Seiko Crown Chrono 1964

The Seiko “Crown” chronograph of 1964 with its characteristic black plastic bezel

Hence, to mark the 50th anniversary of its first automatic chronograph, as well as the 55th anniversary of its first chronograph, Seiko has unveiled a pair of limited editions, both chronographs, naturally. The two editions are each limited to 1000 pieces and powered by the same calibre, the in-house cal. 8R48 that was introduced in 2014.


The first and the more modern looking of the two, is the Prospex 50th Anniversary Automatic Chronograph ref. SRQ029.

It is substantial in size, measuring 41mm wide and 16mm in height, and topped by a box-type sapphire crystal.

Seiko Prospex Chronograph 50th Anniversary Limited Edition ref. SRQ029

The edges of the case has been polished using the Zaratsu technique, a method of mirror polishing more commonly applied to pricier Grand Seiko and Credor watches, while the case band and the top of the lugs are brushed.

Seiko Prospex Automatic Chronograph 50th Anniversary SRQ029

Inspired by a 1970 Seiko chronograph with a “panda” dial, this has a “bi-compax” layout with the chronograph registers in black, and the constant seconds in silver to easily tell it apart. The clever use of black-on-white and the inverse ensures excellent legibility. The main hands are blackened, while the central chronograph hand is orange-tipped for a spot of colour.

seiko 6138 panda chronograph

The 6138 “panda” chronograph of 1970

But it’s important to point out the design of the new Prospex 50th anniversary is a bit lazy, because it is almost identical to the Brightz SDGZ013 of 2014 – made to mark the 50th anniversary of the first Seiko chronograph – with only minor differences like the shape of the hands and pushers to separate the two.


The second commemorative edition is arguably the more unusual and also more attractive of the duo – and it costs less.

The Presage 55th Anniversary Automatic Chronograph ref. SRQ031 is characterised by a distinctive, black 60-minute bezel modelled on the Crown chronograph of 1964. The dial and hands are similarly inspired by the 1964 original, right down to the chapter ring for the hours and oblong “lume” plots.

Seiko Presage Chronograph 55th Anniversary Limited Edition ref. SRQ031

At 42.3mm in diameter, it is larger in size than the Prospex, but slimmer at 15.3mm. The lugs are mirror polished with the Zaratsu technique.

Seiko_Presage Chronograph 50th Anniversary Limited Edition ref. SRQ031

Visible through the sapphire case backs of both watches is the superb cal. 8R48 that boasts a column wheel and vertical clutch, a system usually found in higher-end movements that facilitates smoother operation. It runs at a frequency of 4Hz and has a 45-hour power reserve.


Key facts

Diameter: 41mm (SRQ029), 42.3mm (SRQ031)
Height: 16mm (SRQ029), 15.3mm (SRQ031)
Material: Stainless steel with “super-hard” coating
Water resistance: 100m

Movement: 8R48
Functions: Hours, minutes seconds; date; chronograph
Frequency: 28,800bph, or 4Hz
Winding: Automatic
Power reserve: 45 hours

Strap: Stainless steel bracelet (SRQ029), Cordovan leather (SRQ031)

Price and availability

Both watches are limited to 1000 pieces each.

The Prospex Automatic Chronograph 50th Anniversary Limited Edition SRQ029 (SBEC005 in Japan) is priced at €3,700.

And the Presage Chronograph 55th Anniversary Limited Edition SRQ031 (SARK015 in Japan) is priced at €3,400.

They’ll be available in early December 2019. For more, visit Seikowatches.com.


 

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Jaeger-LeCoultre Introduces the Gyrotourbillon 3 Meteorite

Decorated complications.

When Jaeger-LeCoultre first introduced the Gyrotourbillon in 2004, it was an incredibly exciting watch, and arguably marked the high water mark of Jaeger-LeCoultre as a maker of contemporary complications.

Fifteen years on, the Gyrotourbillon has cycled through many iterations, most more complex or sophisticated than the original but none quite as revelatory. Variants include the compact and slightly more affordable Reverso Tribute Gyrotourbillon and the more recent Gyrotourbillon Westminster Perpetuel.

The latest to join the line-up is the Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Meteorite, which is a third generation model dressed up with fired enamel, meteorite and aventurine.

jaeger lecoultre Gyrotourbillon 3 Meteorite 2

The chronograph sub-dial and digital counter are at nine o’clock, with the day-night display at three

One of the most complicated versions of the Gyrotourbillon, the Gyrotourbillon 3 combines the double-axis tourbillon with a single-button chronograph with digital, instantaneous 60-minute counter as well as a day and night display.

The tourbillon features two spherical , aluminium cages containing a cylindrical hairspring in the centre. The cages rotate in opposing directions and at a different rates, working to eliminate the gravitational errors caused by the changing position of the wearer’s wrist. And more importantly, it’s a compelling visual spectacle on the idea.

jaeger lecoultre Gyrotourbillon 3 Meteorite 3

Space rock and artisanal craft

The sub-dial for the time at 12 o’clock features a meteorite centre ringed by an aventurine glass chapter ring, while the chronograph register has an aventurine centre ring by white vitreous enamel. And the day-night display is no less elaborate – it is finished with hand-engraving and hand guilloche, with both the Sun and crescent Moon made of solid pink gold.

jaeger lecoultre Gyrotourbillon 3 Meteorite 1

Additional meteorite panels are inlaid on the movement bridges on the front, as well as on the back. Like many other watches, the meteorite is taken from the 26-tonne Gibeon that landed in Namibia in prehistoric times, creating a near endless supply of the stone.

It’s iron meteorite, with the nickel-iron crystals within creating the distinctive, streaky Widmanstätten pattern that is accentuated by polishing and etching with acid.

jaeger lecoultre Gyrotourbillon 3 Meteorite movement


Key facts

Diameter: 43.5mm
Height: 15.8mm
Material: 18k pink gold
Water-resistance: 50m

Movement: Calibre 176
Functions: Mono-pusher chronograph with digital minute counter, hours and minutes, day-night indicator
Winding: Manual-wind
Frequency: 28,800, or 4Hz
Power reserve: 45 hours

Strap: Blue alligator

Price and availability

The Master Grande Tradition Gyrotourbillon 3 Meteorite (ref. Q5032441) is a limited edition of eight watches, priced at 765,000 Singapore dollars, equivalent to US$550,000. Visit jaeger-lecoultre.com for more.


 

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Hands-On: Tudor Black Bay Ceramic One “Only Watch”

The only ceramic diver (so far).

Tudor is taking part in Only Watch for the third time, but the watchmaker has arguably created its most unique timepiece to date for the biennial charity auction. While Tudor’s earlier Only Watch were variants of existing models, first the Heritage Black Bay One and then the Black Bay Bronze One, the Black Bay Ceramic One is wholly different from all current (and past) watches, it is a piece unique.

Announced just a few weeks before the similarly all-black Black Bay Chrono Dark limited edition, the Black Bay Ceramic One is essentially Tudor’s signature dive watch, but with a black ceramic case. Though Tudor does have ceramic watches in the line-up, namely the usually forgotten Fastrider Black Shield, the material has not been used for the bestselling Black Bay, until now.

Though the watch is entirely unique, the look is a fairly common one – all-black, everywhere. That being said, it’s an attractive one, especially for a dive watch like this.

The dial is done in different textures and shades of black for legibility. So the markings on the dial are printed in glossy black lacquer to distinguish them from the matte black dial surface.

And the Super-Luminova is also black, or more specifically standard Super-Luminova with pigments added for colour, which diminishes the green night-time glow substantially. While that’s not a practical look for an actual dive watch, it is a cool look for a “desk diver”.

The bezel continues the shades-of-black colour scheme: the bezel itself is black-coated titanium, while the bezel insert is black ceramic. All the bezel markings are engraved on the ceramic insert, which has a radial, brushed finish. Surprisingly for a dive watch, the ceramic insert is especially refined up close; the brushed surface is finely done, as are the engravings.

The case is identical in shape and size as that found in the standard Black Bay, with a 41mm diameter and the same lengthwise bevel along the lugs. It’s made entirely of matte black ceramic, but with a metal inner case to accommodate the screw-down back.

Because ceramic’s hard and brittle nature means the back cannot be screwed into the case, or be used for the case back, the case back is black-coated steel. It has the trademark fluted edges of the Rolex Oyster case back, and screws into the metal inner case.

Also unusual is the sapphire window in the case back. The only other Tudor model with a display back is the North Flag, a well executed watch that looks very different from any other Tudor, but perhaps for that very reason is not a strong seller.

Though the back one can see the MT5602 movement, probably the highest spec movement – free-sprung balance with silicon hairspring, 70-hour power reserve – in Tudor’s native price range of below US$5000; at least for the standard models, the Ceramic One will finish well into six figures.

Concluding thoughts

I love Tudor watches for being excellent value for money, but they are mostly quite chunky (with the exception of the smaller Black Bay Fifty-Eight, which is my pick of the lot).

The Ceramic One alleviates that because the dark colour makes it look significantly smaller than the identically sized, standard Black Bay in steel. And the fact that it is slightly lighter than the steel model helps, as does the fact that the Ceramic One has a “hybrid” rubber strap covered in alligator skin, similar to that on the Black Bay P01, which leaves it feeling less cumbersome.

tudor Black Bay Ceramic One Only Watch 12

But all of that is a moot point since the Ceramic One will probably finish past 300,000 Swiss francs, going by results for each of the past Tudor Only Watch timepieces – the Black Bay One and Bronze One sold for 375,000 and 350,000 Swiss francs respectively.

Instead one can hope that Tudor unveils something similar eventually, which will not only be a lot of watch for a money, but also a lot more unusual than Tudor’s current classic dive watch designs.

tudor black bay bronze one only watch

The Black Bay Bronze One that sold for 350,000 francs in 2017


Key facts

Diameter: 41mm
Height: 14.8mm
Material: Black ceramic case, titanium bezel, steel back
Water-resistance: 200m

Movement: MT5602
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds
Winding: Automatic

Frequency: 28,800bph, or 4Hz
Power reserve: 70 hours

Strap: Rubber strap with alligator top lining

Price and availability

The Tudor Black Bay Ceramic One (ref. M7921/001CN) has an estimate of 4,500-5,500 Swiss francs, and will be sold by Christie’s in Geneva on November 19. The rest of the catalogue can be seen on onlywatch.com.


Update November 5, 2019: Images replaced with fresh set of photographs.

Update November 11, 2019: the Tudor Black Bay Ceramic One sold for 350,000 Swiss francs, with no fees since it was a charity auction.

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Smaller and more affordable, the Heritage Black Bay 36 is the new entry-level watch is Tudor's line-up of sports watches.

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Tudor's first ceramic diver.

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