Seiko Laurel

The Laurel is certainly a model that most vintage Seiko fans would have heard about. The Laurel with the distinctive red 12 hour marker was Seiko’s very first wristwatch.

Looking carefully at the dial, it can be seen that the Laurel is a brand in itself, since the word Seiko have not even been conceived yet in 1913.  Therefore this also makes it Seiko’s longest running sub-brand, with the “Alpinist” being the second longest. It is also worth noting that the first Alpinist was launched under the Laurel sub-brand in 1961, a hand winding only model.

1913 Laurel

The Laurel sub-brand re-surface some time in the mid 1990s and also recently in 2013, in the form of a Presage model (SRP385J), which can be seen with its 1913 name sake below.

Note the differences:

1) Seiko branding vs Laurel Branding

2) Central seconds hand vs subsidiary second hand

3) Automatic vs handwinding

4) Lack of day/date vs day/date display which personally I feel breaks up the symmetry of the watch face.

5) Hour and minute hands design also differ

Similarities:

1) Font type, especially the distinctive red 12 hour marker.

image

Another nod by Seiko to the 1913 Seiko can be seen in the Limited Edition SARW005 also released in 2013, where the 12 hour marker is also in red, but this time it is expressed in the Roman characters. This limited edition is powered by the 6R27 movement, which is a huge step up from the 4R movement found in the Presage edition above. A worthy point to note is that this LE has a enamel dial, which is amazing at its price point.

The price differs accordingly.

SARW005I digress. I wanted to talk about a lesser known Laurel release in the mid 1990s, which I first came to know about while researching on the 4s family of movement. Apparently in 1995/1996, Seiko re-release a family of watches, branded Laurel, powered by various 4s calibers. Now it is important to note that at this point, the modern Grand Seiko were not yet released (official release was in 1998). As such, it’s very likely that the Laurels were mid-high end mechanical watches, just below the Credor family. However I do not have access to any marketing materials pertaining to that decade, and hence this is just my supposition.

Nevertheless, I shall bring across some information which led me to come to this conclusion.

Movement:

The watches released in this family were powered by the 4S15, 4S24 and 4S28. The 4S family as mentioned in my earlier posts was a re-release of the 52 family of movements. The 4S15 was an automatic, 3 hander with center second hand. The 4S24 was a handwinding only, 3 hander with center second hand. Lastly the 4S28 was a handwinding only and comes with a subsidiary second hand.

The 4s family is a high beat, 28800 bph movement with a 42 hr power reserve.

Case/dial material:

Some of the watches in the Laurel mid 1990s issue came with sterling silver case, enamel dials and blued hands, like the one illustrated below which sold for the princely sum of USD 1200 recently, compared to its RRP of Yen 55,000.

4s24 Laurel (LJAL601)

I recently came into possession of a Laurel from the same mid 90s issue. This one came with the 4S15 movement and an integrated metal bracelet. Its RRP was only 5000 Yen less than the model stated above, but I bought it at a significant lower price, primarily because it doesnt have a sterling silver case, blued hands and enamel dial. This basically means that the above model was a great buy at its RRP when first launched!

wpid-CAM01175.jpg

This model came with gold indices and matching gold hands and a warm white dial. It has no lume on neither the hands nor hour markers. The dial is signed Laurel – Seiko, and also has the words “twenty-five jewels”, “automatic” and “diashock”. The date window is conveniently located in lieu of the 3 o’clock hour marker position.

It comes with a small onion crown, which I feel can be better improved as it makes hand winding very tough.

LHAM601Interesting, it comes with a polished snap – on caseback that is 10Bar WR.

The bracelet as you can clearly see in the picture before is integrated. This means that I cannot switch this to an aftermarket leather strap, without first cutting notches in the leather strap to fit with the case lugs. Thankfully, all the links are just sufficient for my wrist size.

It comes with a domed mineral crystal (not HARDLEX), which gives it a warm look. The stainless steel case itself is also nicely curved on the sides and feels smooth everywhere with no sharp edges. It is a very comfortable and thin watch to wear among my collection and feels like a smooth, hard pebble when handling it.

All in all, I’m very pleased with this purchase as it allowed me to learn more about the Laurel reissue family.

Please visit this link to find advertisement scans of the Laurel reissue in the mid 1990s.

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4 thoughts on “Seiko Laurel

  1. Pingback: Seiko Historical Collection The Year 2000 | musingsofawatchaddict

  2. An interesting read, particularly loved the link to the 1990’s advertising. I recently acquired a wonderful Laurel ref. LJAK600, only to find out an even more desirable version exists – the holy grail LJAR600 with the power reserve. Hope to get my hands on one of those, some day…

      • Just sent some photos to your email… by the way, regarding your remark on the modern Grand Seiko release in 1998. indeed 1998 saw a new caliber introduced, but it was an evolution I believe, not an entire change of course. Pre-1998 GS watches were not very different in style – all displaying that very clean, concise Japanese design philosophy. The 1995-96 Laurels were very different in style, I think – almost Swiss in their presentation – and I believe they simply could not fit in the GS line. By the way, even today one might occasionally encounter regular Seikos, like some Presage models and even a select few Brightz, that come “dangerously close” to the level of finish on entry-level Grand Seikos.

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