It’s Switzerland which receives the most kudos in watchmaking. At Baselworld, it’s the traditional marques which, with every big reveal, secures the most rapturous applause and from there, space on the wrists of the rich and richer. But horology is far from a one-party state, and Switzerland – much as it might like to – can’t monopolise the market entirely. Not while brands like Seiko exist, at least.
The Japanese manufacturer started out in 1881, when founder Kintaro Hattori opened a watch and clock store in central Tokyo. The name Seikosha (roughly translated, ‘House of Exquisite Workmanship’), though, came 11 years later before eventually being abbreviated to Seiko in 1924. And things ticked along nicely until 1969, when Hattori developed the world’s first quartz movement – the Astron – triggering the so-called Quartz Crisis (crisis for Switzerland that is, not so much Japan). As a more accurate, much less expensive alternative to traditional mechanisms, Seiko skyrocketed to leading watch manufacturer status almost overnight.
And it didn’t stop there – the brand went on to clock up many more world firsts, including the quartz chronograph, the GPS solar watch and the kinetic watch.
Despite a 135-year history, Seiko’s innovative streak refuses to wane. Take, for example, the Premier collection. Just when we’d acclimatised to Seiko’s signature, the brand released something else extraordinary: a dress watch. Which hardly sounds groundbreaking on paper, but the Premier collection is a clever move from a brand renowned for everyday, sports-inspired watches. And a good-looking one at that.
Comprised of several models, ranging from classic dials to complex perpetual calendar movements (the proper name for watches that track day, date and year), the Premier collection ties together all three of Seiko’s strengths: versatility, engineering, and a clear design thread.
The 2016 Seiko Premier Watch
Seiko’s 2016 entry to the Premier collection is quite possibly the best yet. As a culmination of all three principles, the SKP391P1 has been endorsed by none other than tennis ace Novak Djokovic. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is typical grand slam fodder. With its refined design and slimline proportions, it’s more tailored to eveningwear than tennis gear.
As for the dial itself, it bears all the hallmarks of a classic dress watch, including Roman numeral indices and sleek midnight blue hands. It wouldn’t be Seiko, though, if there wasn’t a touch of modernity: every other index is marked by a raised iron bar that corresponds with the SKP391P1’s solid steel bracelet – a sharp way to tie the design together.
There’s an understated thread running through Seiko’s Premier collection, and that’s because the watches speak for themselves without the usual excess of haute horlogerie. No diamonds. No peacocking. Just solid craftsmanship. Your move, Switzerland.
The Seiko Premier SKP391P1 Watch is available now at Ernest Jones, priced £299.