Budget Watches: Seiko Presage Cocktail Time 'Starlight' SSA361 Limited Edition. At this Price Point, Years Ago a Dial Like this was Just Too Good to be True.

For our second installment ever of Budget Watches, we've decided to bring you a watch that we have been eyeing now for a few months. Introduced back in November 2017, the new Seiko Presage collection welcomed the addition of two new watches priced under $1,000 USD and inspired by cocktails created by Hisashi Kishi, the head bartender at Tokyo's 'Star Bar' located in the heart of the Ginza area.

Hisashi Kishi is the past winner of the International Bar Association World Championship and the dial on the Seiko Presage Cocktail Time Starlight SSA361 Limited Edition we have here, is inspired by the look of the blue cocktail named 'Starlight' and which is served in the Star Bar glass. Named after its brilliance and mystery evoking the night sky, this blue cocktail is true inspiration for one of the best dials we've ever seen, especially at this price point.

About the Watch

Fitted with a dial with a gloss finish that is applied no fewer than seven separate times, this painstaking process gives the depth and rich tone to the textured and patterned dial that behaves like a chameleon with different hues and undertones depending on lighting conditions.

With an overall deep blue tone, the dial on the Seiko Presage Cocktail Time 'Starlight' SSA361 Limited Edition is brought to life by the glow of starlight that radiates out from the center, just as the bubbles in the 'Starlight' cocktail reflect the light in the glass. As Mr. Kishi puts it: “The secret of a great Starlight is the bubbles. I shake the cocktail mixer in a special way that I call my ‘Infinity Shake’ to add tiny bubbles that sparkle in the glass and create a sense of starlight in the night sky.”

Available in two different versions, both watches are equipped with a 40.5 mm stainless steel case with box-shaped Hardlex crystal, display case back and automatic movement fitted with gold plated oscillating weight. While the power reserve model we are featuring here comes with a much thicker case measuring 14.4 mm in thickness, the date model is much thinner at 11.8 mm in thickness. The 29-jewel movement provides a power reserve of 41 hours while beating at a frequency of 21,600 vph. Limited to 3,500 pieces, the limitation serial number is etched on the case back.

The first reference SSA361 features a center power reserve with indication between 12 and 4 o'clock with hand shaped like the stem of a cocktail glass, while the second reference SRPC01 uses the 4R35 three-hand calendar calibre with date indication.

Featuring a highly polished case with a very classic construction, the winding crown takes the center stage with its capricious shape. Winding the watch or setting the time is pleasurable as the crown feels nice and solid with a tight torque typically found on more expensive watches.

Delivered on a blue calf leather strap matching the color of the dial, Seiko decided to give the strap a more upscale look by embossing it with an alligator pattern and fitting it with a nice stainless steel deployant buckle.

The Dial

After reviewing hundreds and hundreds of watches over the life of WCL, believe us when we say we know something about dials. And clearly because of its dial, the Seiko Presage Cocktail Time Starlight SSA361 Limited Edition is worthy of being featured on our website as its price point has nothing to do with the timepieces that we typically feature here at WCL.

This blue dial that could very well be the 'fumé' dial on an H. Moser & Cie. watch, has been coated with a gloss finish —no less than seven times— making it look just as good as any dial we've seen on watches costing thousands of dollars. Even the snailing on the multi-level date indicator has been executed with the utmost care and precision. Clearly no corners were cut here and this Seiko Presage could've been sold under the Grand Seiko brand name without a problem. Dauphine hands with sandblasted finish on one half complete the classic look of the dial.

While there's a little roughness around the edges of some of the applied markers —something we've also seen in watches from century old luxury brands—, at this price point, you are getting a lot of watch for the money and honestly, other than that, we really couldn't find more flaws on the finish of this dial. And for those of you in love with textures, it is worth mentioning that one of the most attractive elements of this dial is its texture underneath its glossy surface which resembles small brush strokes, minuscule feathers, or even very small fibers or pieces of hay laid on top of each other. A real treat for the eyes when looking under the loupe or just when that beam of light hits the dial at the right spot and the right angle.

On the Wrist & Pricing

On the wrist, we do have to say that the Seiko Presage Cocktail Time 'Starlight' SSA361 Limited Edition wears smaller than its actual size and more like a 38 or 39 mm watch. Regardless, wait to be mesmerized by its dial and the many hues of blue that emanate from it. For the money, it really doesn't get any better and this watch is a perfect example of fine Japanese craftsmanship and their constant quest for perfection. Sometimes we wonder why people rather spend thousands of dollars on those quartz watches from the marketing machine called Shinola or on those so-called micro-brands like Monta, Ming and Oak & Oscar instead of going with a reliable well made Seiko like this one. This watch is available in a limited edition of 3,500 pieces and not sold in the U.S.

Sticker Price €550 Euros —approximately $700 USD. For more info on Seiko click here.