by Hours and Minutes Australia

Every time Seiko releases a watch from their Presage collection, it never fails to impress. Combining traditional crafts with the very best in Japanese mechanical watchmaking, Seiko has unveiled, the new Presage Urushi Byakudan-nuri SPB085, a 2000 piece limited edition, at an extremely impressive price point. Here, it’s all about the dial.

The new SPB085, takes its inspiration from Japan’s everlasting fascination with the moon and uses one of the most elaborate lacquer techniques of all, Byakudan-nuri, as well as traditional Urushi, to portray the rich tones of the sky and moon just before dawn. Byakudan-nuri is a technique that has been used for centuries to decorate Urushi lacquer and, because of the complexity of the craftsmanship involved, was reserved exclusively for use in places and on objects of high status, including temples, shrines and on the armor of Shogun warlords.

The dial is something Seiko has paid extremely careful attention to. To achieve that effect of the moon against the night sky, Seiko’s artisans have combined three traditional techniques – Urushi, Byakudan-nuri and Maki-e. The dials are made with the traditional Urushi technique in which jet black lacquer is painted by hand onto the metal base of the dial, dried and then polished. These processes are repeated several times until the craftsman has achieved the exact depth of black that he desires.

Step 2: This is where the Byakudan-nuri technique comes in. Using a new layer of Urushi as the binding agent, the sub-dials are then sprinkled with a layer of very fine metallic powder. The whole dial is then repeatedly painted with a red-tinged semi-transparent Urushi lacquer and then each new layer is dried and polished for as many times as the craftsman deems necessary. The effect is subtle but deeply satisfying. While the red of the sub-dials is deep, these two dials catch the light and shine when the ambient light grows brighter, just as parts of the sky catch the dawn light before others.

Urushi lacquer being carefully applied by hand

The final step is to add the moon in the form of the crescent shaped power reserve indicator, using the Maki-e technique. The crescent is first coated with a layer of Urushi lacquer that acts as the adhesive to the fine, gilt-colored powder that is then applied to it. Once the powder is on the dial, the craftsman gently taps it to disperse the powder evenly across the surface and then uses his own specially chosen material to perfect the surface. The result is an indicator that not only reflects the shape of the crescent moon but has the moon’s shimmering, granular texture and contrasts with the smoothness of the sky against which it stands out.

Craftsman finishing the Maki-e surface

The Byakudan-nuri technique is more complex than it sounds and there’s a lot more involved than a simple urushi dial. It requires weeks of handwork, patience and specific skills to achieve the final result.

Every step of these three complex processes, Urushi, Byakudan-nuri and Maki-e, is completed by hand by the craftsmen and women in the studio of Urushi master Isshu Tamura in the Hokuriku region of Honshu, Japan’s main island. Tamura has been responsible for all the Urushi dials in the Presage collection but, because of the combination of crafts involved and the time, patience and skills required, this Byakudan-nuri dial created by Tamura and his team takes Presage into a new realm of watchmaking achievement.

Urushi master Isshu Tamura

Other details on the dial include white printed Roman numerals and hand-coloured leaf hands for the hours and minutes. There is a power reserve indicator at 9 o clock, a day of the week indicator at 3 o clock and a date indicator at 6 o clock. Following on from the SB069 Blue Enamel Dial Model, is the golden crescent moon on the counterweight of the second hand.

Housed inside the 40.5mm polished stainless steel case, is a self-winding calibre 6R21 with a power reserve of 45 hours. This the same base movement used in all other Presage watches. The exhibition case-back reveals the fine finishing of the 6R movement and the watch offers 10 bar water resistance.

Available in selected Seiko outlets worldwide, each watch is offered with its own serial number and in a specially designed Paulownia wood box.

This 2,000-piece limited edition, is the ultimate symbol of an inspiring story and the definite watch of the year.

Australian RRP: AUD $3,400 Dollars

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