Last year Seiko unveiled a Presage model with a deep blue enamel dial inspired by the night sky and Japan’s fascination with the moon. The follow-up model this year employs elaborate lacquer techniques to portray the rich tones of the sky and the moon just before dawn.

The subdials catch the light differently at different times of the day

Say hello to the Presage Urushi Byakudan-nuri Limited Edition Ref. SPB085, the latest in a line of cracking limited edition watches from the Japanese brand. Two traditional lacquer techniques - Byakudan-nuri and Urushi – are used in the creation of the dial. Byakudannuri is a technique that has been used for centuries to decorate Urushi lacquer. Owing to the complexity of the craftsmanship involved, it was reserved exclusively for use in places and on objects of high status, including temples, and on the armor of Shogun warlords.

The watch uses the familiar 40.5 mm stainless steel case, typical of the ones used in the Presage line and features a mix of brushed and polished surfaces. It is fitted with a dual-curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating and a sapphire crystal caseback. The watch is 12.8 mm thick and has a water resistance of 100 meters.

Urushi lacquer being applied by hand on the dial

As mentioned earlier, the dial’s color scheme is meant to invoke the scene of the moon against the night sky as dawn approaches. To achieve this, the dials are first coated 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 desired. Bring on the Byakundannuri technique now - 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 many times for the desired effect.  

The crescent moon uses the Maki-e technique

While the red of the sub-dials – the one at 6 o’ clock indicates the date while the sub-dial at 3 indicates the day of the week - is deep, they catch the light and shine when the ambient light grows brighter, just as parts of the sky catch the dawn light before others. To add the crescent of the moon to the dial which appears as the curve of the power reserve indicator, craftsmen use the Maki-e technique. As with the Byakudan-nuri, 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 before polishing the dial again. 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.

The watch is powered by Caliber 6R21

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. It is powered by Caliber 6R21 – a 4 Hz movement with a power reserve of 45 hours and fitted with 29 jewels – used in earlier Presage calendar watches like Ref. SARW021. Paired with a black alligator leather strap with a three-fold clasp and push button release, the watch is limited to 2,000 pieces and is priced at $2,500 (AED10,450).