Automatic, for the People: The FIVE:45 take on the Seiko Presage Style60 SSA447J

 This is a confusing watch, until it isn’t.

The prima facie suggests that the Presage SSA447J (aka “Style 60 Centre Seconds”) is an “almost” watch. At 50 m, it is (almost) an everyday sport watch. With that gorgeous yet non-rotating bezel it is (almost) dual purpose. With a period correct box-dome crystal it’s perfect - except it’s Hardlex. Want another tease? It has a 20 mm lug width AND drilled lugs. Almost perfect.  


I’m going to wager that none of the above is accidental. Lest we forget, there is no market segment Seiko hasn't planned for. 

 Seiko Presage Automatic 50M SSA447J

I know who this is NOT for: the grizzled veteran who daily-drives a CWC SBS diver. That watch is all about the business. This one’s all about the business shirt. I am not suggesting you can’t wear the SBS diver with formal wear. That piece is a bona fide champion, and rules be damned. But doing so would be a conscious act of toying with the norms, and the mismatch would be part of the charm.


The Style60 is for his friend.

The one who wants something more individual than an Apple Watch, or to evolve from the Fossil/Eco-Drive/Seiko Quartz dress piece they’ve had for 9 years. They’re ready for the whimsy of mechanical, but want something more refined than the Kamasus, SRPDs and DressKXs. To them, lower-end Swiss dress pieces are too bland, and the Arabics on the Hamilton Khaki Mechanicals are too plain and functional. They want the X-factor. 


The backstory of the Style60 range certainly helps. The SSA447J is one of multiple releases that re-interpret the Crown Chronograph, Seiko’s timing device of choice for the Tokyo ‘64 Olympics. That was a 38 mm piece. With a diameter of 40.8 mm and a lug-to-lug of 48.9 mm, its step-grandson comes in a very modern package and may even fit women who prefer a larger watch. 

 original seiko crown chronograph

 

(Pictured above, the original Seiko Crown Chronograph, 1964)


During any review period, I ask civilians (what do you call them?) what they think of the piece on my wrist. For this, answers ranged from “oh, that’s pretty” to “that looks, what’s the word, timeless?” Two people used that word, “timeless”. One is a design teacher, the other is a physicist. Female. Male. Twenties. Fifties. I asked my twenty 17-year-old Economics students how much they thought the watch was worth, and the lowest I got was $1,200. No cap, as they would say. 

 

The timelessness comes from the dressy, polished case.

The effect is compounded with a bezel that has a smaller diameter than the midcase. The box-domed crystal features prominently and makes up a large part of that 14.3 mm thickness. For me, this is the one potential weakness of the piece. That it’s not a sapphire isn’t an issue per se, but can be, since the crystal protrudes considerably. But this protrusion also gives it charming viewing angles. At this price point, there will be tradeoffs. One thing I do know is that I much prefer the box dome on this to a standard single dome: fewer reflections off the crystal and far more legible.

 
laurel alpinist modern reinterpretation

Stylistically, as a whole it reminded me of the Laurel Alpinist Modern Re-interpretation series (pictured above) in that the sides are quite uncomplicated and slab-ish, which would make sense since the OG Alpinist was released in 1959. 


The Presage weighs 148 gm on the included bracelet. The bracelet is fine, without being spectacular. The clasp is a tad small but honestly, I spent the entire review period with it on my brown leather strap, and I think most people will opt for that option as well. 

 

But the real star - as with all Seiko watches from the 5 SNXS all the way up to almost all Grand Seikos - is the dial. 

First, there’s the strong foundation in the form of a lightly sunburst champagne base. Depth is added via the faceted indices and applied Seiko wordmark. In my head I assumed this would make the lightplay off-the-charts, something I don’t always enjoy. In practice, you see it reflected on some, but not all indices at once. Definitely more “mature” than “bling”. Also, brownie points to Seiko for adding a fourth section to the 12 o’clock index. 


The hands, also like the Laurel Alpinist, are dauphine cut and filled with faux Lumibrite. Normally beige hands on a champagne dial would mean poor legibility, but Seiko has given them black outlines, thus turning a potential bug into a definite feature. When you transition from well-lit to dimly-lit scenarios they glow more than enough to get a read of the time. 


Cleverly, the little hourly lume rectangles are inboard rather than out. On a watch with dauphine hands this is essential. With outboard lume plots, in complete darkness the watch can present as too wide, dinner-plate like, and far away from the centre of the watch. With lume plots brought in, the watch presents as compact, with the hour hand almost touching all the plots and the minute hand going far past them. It is a very cool look. 


For me though, the most clever bit about this dial involves three things all working in unison:

... the movement, the fourth hand, and the ⅓ second outer track on the dial. 


The movement is the 4R57, a tough workhorse with a fancy trick: a 6 o’clock date (see it?) and the power reserve indicator. Yes. A power reserve indicator at this price point. Now PR indicators can be quite divisive, and for the record, yes, I love the ones on the Snowflake. I think they are unapologetic and make the watch instantly recognisable, the one act of outward rebellion in a very esoteric piece. But I know a lot of people who do not, or would not, like such a clearly defined break to the texture of a Seiko dial. I get that. 


Seiko’s choices here should appease both form and function junkies. The PR arc runs from the 11 o’clock position to just past the 4, with 10-hour increments from E (Empty) to 40, and then some, to indicate the stated 41 hours or so PR. 


What this means in day to day use is this: you can wear the watch to work, and put it down after coming back home. If you want the 4R57 in that 80%-wound-and-up sweet spot for best accuracy, whenever you see the indicator approach the 30, you can just give it a wind. For once, having a push-pull crown might even be a virtue. 


The PR hand itself is high-polished, and presents as black when looking directly down. In length it is perhaps as long as the hour hand but is arrow thin. 

 seiko presage automatic 50m

Look closely and you will notice how every minute marker is separated by two smaller lines. This is relevant because the 4R57 is a 21,600 bph movement, which means it ticks 6 times per second. That means the second hand should hit each of those smaller indicies every two ticks. 


Does it matter? Yes, because this would have been a feature in the original chronograph. Credit to Seiko for not being lazy and reproducing the ⅕ of a second markings of the original, and instead taking the time to make one fit for the movement of the modern reinterpretation.  


Let’s now address the two aspects of this watch that lean very much in the “form” direction over “function”. 

First, the bezel. Appearance-wise, the typeface and layout Seiko went with will remind many a seasoned diver fan of the Seamaster 300 Heritage (pictured left, courtesy of Fratello Watches). Am I disappointed that it does not turn? Yes, I am. But would I have been four years ago before I knew what bezels did? No. What even seasoned watch geeks will appreciate though is the consistency of the typeface between the bezel, date dial and PR indicator, and the mature black-gold colour tone of the bezel and the retro slope of it.


The date-dial execution presents as extremely light champagne-to-almost-silver, it is designed to hide. If you want the date, you may have to squint. And if you want to have this as a collection watch, and hate setting dates, well, you’re in luck.


Flip the watch over, and the 4R57 rotor is a more upmarket, skeletonised experience than the 4Rs in the SRP series of Seiko 5 Sports, which is to say that for someone who is used to an Apple Watch, this will be a treat. Between that and the signed “S” on the crown, I think it is exactly this kind of visual hook that Seiko hopes will tie this person down to the brand. 


And who knows, maybe, just maybe, this person plumps for a 9F Quartz at some point, and then a Hi-Beat LX, and then a Spring Drive somewhere down the line over a Longines Spirit, an Omega Aqua Terra and, whisper it quietly, a Rolex Datejust. 


It doesn’t make sense, until it does. 

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