Seiko Introduces the Presage Arita Porcelain Dial “Suigetsu”

Inspired by the moon on the water.

Having gained a big following for its tremendous value proposition, the Seiko Presage collection often features dials in artisanal finishes such as fired enamel and urushi, combined with solid movements and affordable prices. The latest to join the collection is the Presage Arita Porcelain Dial “Suigetsu”, which has a pure-white porcelain dial matched with dark blue hands and markers.

The colours of the watch take inspiration from Suigetsu (水月) – literally as “water moon” – which describes a subtle, ethereal beauty that might be an illusion. It is also a nod to Tsukimi, which translates as “viewing the moon”, the Japanese autumn moon festival where the moon’s reflection on water is admired.

Initial thoughts

The Presage collection does democratise the artisanal methods used for dial making, the fairly large limited-edition runs dampen the appeal of each release. Even though the dials are made in large numbers, the dial-making process is complex and artisanal. But the new Presage is priced at only US$2,050, which makes it pretty much a bargain, just like many of the other Presage limited editions.

I have always found porcelain dials to have a richer and more profound depth and texture when compared with enamel dials, although both have a similar glossy, smooth appearance. The Arita porcelain dials are exceptional for the price, boasting a silky and creamy finish that’s one of the most appealing dials found on a watch in this price range.

Because of the 6R27 movement used in the Presage, the dial layout is peculiar, with a date sub-dial at six and a power reserve indicator at nine. The presence of the power reserve indicator bugs me; it has no visual counterweight and thus throws off the balance of the dial. And it isn’t really even necessary in the first place, as the movement has an industry-norm power reserve of 45 hours. I would have done away with the power reserve to create a time-only watch.

And also because of the thick movement, the Presage case is often a point of contention for many, including myself. The case is 40.6 mm wide and 14.1 mm tall – too large and thick for a dress(y) watch. A solution would be the slimmer 6L35 movement introduced in the Presage SJE073.

Arita porcelain

Named after the town where porcelain was first made in Japan, Arita porcelain dials were introduced in the Presage last year, also in white with blue hands. While the Arita porcelain dials of last year’s edition had a subtle blue undertone due to the glaze used, the dials on the latest model are a brighter and purer shade of white, thanks to a transparent glaze.

Known as Hakuji, the glazed, stark-white porcelain dial is meant to evoke the moon reflected on water, and leaves the blue hands and markings even more striking and vivid. The look is crisp and pleasing.

Hiroyuki Hashiguchi

But despite the delicate looks, the dials are far more durable than the moon’s reflection on a lake. As traditional porcelain is too fragile to be used for a watch dial, the formula for the Arita porcelain dials in the Presage was tweaked to make it four times stronger.

The dials are produced by Hiroyuki Hashiguchi, a craftsman who’s a director of Shingama, a porcelain maker in the town of Arita. First formed in a mould to ensure the precise dimensions required for a dial to fit correctly and flatly, the porcelain dials are then fired and glazed several times until the ideal finish is achieved.


Key Facts and Price

Seiko Presage Arita Porcelain Dial Limited Edition “Suigetsu”
Ref. SPB171

Diameter: 40.6 mm
Height: 14.1 mm
Material: Steel
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 100 m

Movement: Cal. 6R27
Functions: Hours, minutes, seconds, date and power reserve indicator
Winding: Automatic
Frequency: 28,800 beats per hour (4 Hz)
Power reserve: 45 hours

Strap: Blue alligator

Limited edition: 2,000 pieces
Availability:
Now at boutiques and authorised retailers
Price
: US$2,050

For more information, visit Seikowatches.com.


 

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Kees Engelbarts Introduces the Argentium Tourbillon Skeleton

Truly hand-made skeleton movement.

Born in Holland but now based in Geneva, Kees Engelbarts is one of the most prominent and established engravers in Swiss watchmaking. He moved to Geneva in 1994, and began a career as an independent engraving not long after. Amongst the brands he has worked for are major names like Jaeger-LeCoultre and Hublot, but also independent watchmakers like Philippe Dufour and Svend Andersen.

Mr Engelbarts also makes watches under his own name, focusing on elaborately engraved or open-worked movements. His latest creation is the Argentium Tourbillon, an incredibly airy yet organic tourbillon that’s been skeletonised entirely by hand.

Initial thoughts

Mr Engelbarts is one of the oldest names in movement skeletonisation, so whether or not you like the aesthetic, the work is always excellent. His engraved creations are mostly figurative, often depicting a mythological creature, while his skeletonisation is usually organic and extremely striking.

Though the look of the Argentium Tourbillon is too alien for me, the work is impressive. The bridges are refined and organic, and looking almost soft, but they are metal. Going from a full bridge made of German silver to an extraterrestrial life form is tedious work made up of cutting and filing. The craft is both delicate and physical, and similar to the craft of a high-end jeweller.

A reductive process

The Argentium Tourbillon starts with a CH016 movement made by Le Cercle des Horlogers, a movement specialist in Neuchatel that specialises in complicated movements. Amongst its creations is the movement in the Jacob & Co. Twin Turbo Furious that is equipped with twin, triple-axis tourbillons, a minute repeater, as well as a chronograph.

Delivered to Mr Engelbarts as a complete movement with conventional, full bridges and plates made of German silver, the CH016 is slowly worked over by hand using the most traditional of methods. The bridges and base plate are first marked out freehand with the desired open-worked motif, and then drilled, sawn, and filed by hand to create the skeletonised plates that resemble something extraterrestrial.

Mr Engelbarts doesn’t work according to formal plans, instead relying on his experience and judgement to refine the skeletonisation along the way. But his work is not merely removing material – because the bridges are structural components, he has to preserve enough rigidity to keep the moving parts properly aligned so the movement functions properly.

Planning the skeletonisation

Open working in progress

The finished bridges for the barrel and tourbillon

The barrel and tourbillon bridges after oxidisation that results in a dark surface finish

The hands are produced with similar techniques. Made of different alloys to distinguish the two – the minute hand is white gold, while the hour hand in red gold – the hands are fabricated from a thick gold wire that is hammered and filed into shape.

After the open working is complete, Mr Engelbarts also does hand finishing for the movement parts. The gear wheels have circular grained faces, while the parts of the tourbillon are polished and bevelled.

Notice how the wheels of the going train seemingly float

93.5% silver

Though Mr Engelbarts has produced similar-looking watches in the past, every watch he makes is unique in both style and material. The Argentium Tourbillon gets its name from the case metal, a 935 silver alloy containing with Germanium, which prevents it from tarnishing like ordinary sterling silver.

First tempered to increase its surface hardness, the case is then given a granular, frosted finish. According to Mr Engelbarts, his cases usually have a matte finish of one sort of another, because “I don’t like polishing my cases since polished surfaces don’t stay polished very long”.


Key facts and price

Kees Engelbarts Argentium Tourbillon

Case diameter: 39.5 mm
Case height: 9.5 mm
Material: Argentium (silver alloy)
Crystal: Sapphire
Water resistance: 30 m

Movement: Le Cercle des Horlogers CH016
Features: Hours and minutes; tourbillon regulator
Frequency: 21,600 beats per hour (3 Hz)
Winding: Hand-wound
Power reserve: 72 hours

Strap: Alligator

Limited edition: Unique piece
Availability: Direct from Kees Engelbarts
Price: 120,000 Swiss francs before taxes

For more, visit Kees.ch.


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