It’s nobody’s fault that the watch industry sometimes teases the community with something so heart-wrenchingly desirable, only to produce it in such conservative quantities that by the time the news and images are released or leaked in defiance of press embargoes, everything’s been snapped up. A most unsatisfying state of ended-before-it-began affairs that is less likely to happen in this instance unless we choose to sit on our hands: in this 50th year of the automatic chronograph, Seiko is celebrating its history with this beloved complication by releasing two references inspired by milestone models in its past. Both the Prospex SRQ029 and Presage SRQ031 will be available in limited editions of 1,000 pieces each, from December 2019. Prices, below.

Prospex SRQ029: Rooted in 1969

A fabulous year; not only did mankind land on the moon, the watchmaking industry also pulled off the motorsport equivalent of a formation finish when three parties independently unveiled the self-winding chronograph: Zenith’s El Primero blitzing at 5Hz; the modular Chronomatic jointly developed by Heuer, Breitling, Buren and Dubois-Depraz; and Seiko’s Caliber 6139, the world’s first automatic chronograph with column wheel and vertical clutch.

Seiko “Panda” chronograph from 1970
Seiko “Panda” chronograph from 1970
Seiko Prospex SRQ029
Seiko Prospex SRQ029

To celebrate the cal. 6139, the Prospex SRQ029 borrows design elements from a “Panda” Seiko chronograph from 1970. This includes the high-contrast panda subdials, hairline finish of the dial, similar hour markers and tachymeter markings, and orange-tipped chronograph seconds. As a concession to present-day practicality, the Prospex SRQ029 adds a third subdial for running seconds. The dial is protected by box-shaped sapphire crystal to complete the vintage look, and its case and bracelet is steel with “super-hard coating” to weather life’s minor scuffs.

Inside, the Prospex SRQ029 utilises the thoroughly modern 8R48 chronograph movement which mirrors the 1969 original’s headline features: self-winding, column wheel, vertical clutch.

Seiko Prospex SRQ029

Presage SRQ031: It Began in 1964

As much as 1969 was very momentous for the entire planet (courtesy of NASA), 1964 was of no lesser significance for Japan. Just under two decades of good industrious behaviour after the madness of World War II, the leper (Axis) nation of Japan was being invited back into the tabernacle of peace-loving nations by hosting Asia’s first Olympic Games.

What did Japan have to show for its rehabilitation in 1964? Erm, the Shinkansen ran for the first time. Pilot’s Capless fountain pen is still a marvel today, renamed Vanishing Point. And Seiko’s manual-wind Crown 45899, Japan’s first chronograph watch.

The ref. 45899 is so quaint and clever that Seiko should seriously think about a re-issue. It’s a simple single-pusher chronograph, with manual-wind movement featuring column wheel and lateral coupling. The single pusher starts, stops and resets the central chronograph hand to measure elapsed seconds. To record events longer than a minute, just work the marked rotating bezel!

Seiko Crown Chronograph from 1964
Seiko Crown Chronograph from 1964
Seiko Presage SRQ031
Seiko Presage SRQ031

The Presage SRQ031 to commemorate the ref. 45899 is quite the different beast but at least approximates it via design. It features box-shaped sapphire crystal, narrow marked bezel and inwardly tilted case shape to sit snug on the wrist. Inside is the same automatic cal. 8R48 driving the Prospex.

Seiko Presage SRQ031

Technical Specifications (Prospex SRQ029)

Movement

Automatic cal. 8R48; 4Hz; column wheel and vertical clutch; 45 hours power reserve

Case

41mm stainless steel with super-hard coating; sapphire crystal; display back; water-resistant to 100m

Strap

Steel bracelet

Price

€3,700 / USD 4,077

Limited edition: 1,000 pieces

Seiko Prospex SRQ029

Technical Specifications (Presage SRQ031)

Movement

Automatic cal. 8R48; 4Hz; column wheel and vertical clutch; 45 hours power reserve

Case

42.3mm stainless steel with super-hard coating; sapphire crystal; display back; water-resistant to 100m

Strap

Cordovan strap

Price

€3,400 / USD 3,747

Limited edition: 1,000 pieces

Seiko Presage SRQ031