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Let it snow once again: the Baby Snowflake Story
Watch Review

Let it snow once again: the Baby Snowflake Story

We go in-depth with the Seiko Presage SARX055.
May 15, 2020

Introduction

The Seiko Presage Ref. SARX055 is better known now to Seiko fans as the “Baby Snowflake.” Its introduction in 2017, its moniker, was sealed and not by any coincident. The SARX055 “Snowflake” spirit uplifted as it held a unique “frosted snow” texture dial that brings an all-time Seiko grail piece to mind: the one that started all with its coveted “snowflake” aesthetic - the original Grand Seiko Spring Drive Ref. SBGA011/211. Although one’s name reminds of the other, in truth, they stand out to be different, as it's going to be our main topic here, the “baby” brother that gets a frosty appeal to boot. The baby brother was set out to show Seiko’s prowess in watchmaking, implementing much of the top-end GS core aesthetic, as well as a new notion that has taken everyone by surprise in the Presage line, even until today.


(The Seiko Presage Ref. SARX055 A.K.A. the “Baby GS Snowflake”)

Some might ask, how so? Therefore, we are about to find out as we dive into it at a macro level. We will touch on how it came about as an elegant, yet fabricated from a material that puts it further to be a perfect daily-beater. Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, the all-rounder SARX055 changes the perspective for the once-upon-the-dress-watch “Presage” stable. After spending much time with it since its launch, let us take an in-depth look at this unequaled SARX055 - the “Baby GS Snowflake.”



Aesthetic Overview

First thing first, it is readily apparent that the Baby Snowflake is a mechanical daily-beater:

1. 40.8mm in diameter, 46.2mm lug to lug, 11mm thick.

2. Entirely done in titanium material from case to bracelet.

3. Multi-finished in satin-brushed and high polished, coated in Seiko's proprietary Diashield.

4. Runs on the 6R15 automatic caliber - 23 jewels, 21,600BPH, power reserve of 50 hours.

5. Silver-ish white "snowflake" with applied indexes.



(The impeccably executed titanium “ Baby Snowflake”)

Made out of titanium material, it weighs half the weight of its steel counterpart, yet it exudes a confident, solid feel when strapped on. Titanium is often used for sports watches due to its highest strength-to-weight ratio of all known metals. However, Seiko took us by surprise by crafting out a Presage model, both case and bracelet, from this material. The details on the Baby Snowflake are certainly there for us to admire with that elusive finishing, that interplay harmoniously between all the different surfaces on the case, bracelet and dial.


(The frosty textured dial)



Baby, yet done Classically

The Baby Snowflake stands out with an elaborate case and bracelet construction. Much like its “Grand” brethren, a combination of Zaratsu polishing (distortion-free mirror polishing), contrasted with fine brushed surfaces, only to be separated by its precise polished bevel that runs along the entire case. Further, it appears ever-so-unique from the rest of the Presage models, evolving the collection from a standard dressy case design into a modern sturdy robust one. All that through its additional twisted angled-lugs, extended flawlessly on each side, while adjoininh with the bevel lines. In this regard, the lugs further finished in satin-brushed that flows seamlessly with the top surfaces.


(Check out that angled lug)

Further details seem evident with the titanium bracelet. The Baby Snowflake is equipped with a GS-style “five-link” bracelet, that consist of three satin-finished links, alternated by polished flanks from the center. It only differs so slightly, due to the missing high polished outer edges found on its GS counterparts.

I will digress a little to touch on Seiko’s DiaShield treatment applied to the titanium case and bracelet of the Baby Snowflake. DiaShield is a hardening process done in-house by Seiko (what isn’t done there?). Unlike majority scratch-resistant coating like PVD and DLC, which always have visible colors of the coating, Seiko’s hardening treatment is transparent tone, allowing one to view the natural titanium finishing like found on the Baby Snowflake. Further, one might ask just how durable is the coating? DiaShield is approximately 2-3 times harder than the standard 316L stainless steel, which measures about 300Hv to 700Hv, while titanium and steel material are about 150/200Hv in hardness, respectively.


(Multi-finished titanium bracelet)

Although the links seem flat, they do mimic very well with the angular lugs. The sense of angularity in both further accentuates the case profile with much informality, compelling an all-rounder aesthetic.

Concluding on the bracelet aspect, the clasp is of a GS styling with push-button release, and a center signed “Seiko” relief logo instead. With that said, Seiko has shown its prowess here by going full titanium even with its clasp and folding parts, which in the case is quite uncommon in the slightly-below-$1000USD ballpark.


(Yeah, titanium stated it all right on its clasp)



Seiko VS GS

Since this article focuses slightly in-depth on the SARX055 Baby Snowflake, I have compared it side by side with my own Grand Seiko Quartz Ref. SBGX259, with the sole purpose of showcasing its differential in aesthetic quality and execution, and the results might surprise all of us.


(Similar case profiles)

As I get some personal experience of handling both for some time, the quality of the Baby Snowflake sits right below its Grand Seiko by a slight margin. For instance, although the SBGX259 is done in steel, the finishing-work on the even-more-painstakingly-done titanium Baby Snowflake gets approximately 85% of the SBGX259’s meticulous execution. For the price point of Sub $1000USD, I dare say, the SARX055 Baby Snowflake arrives with an almost same glowing appearance as its premium GS counterpart.


(Almost the same quality in the finishing)

I will further break down their different levels when we take a closer inspection. The polishing finishes on the GS are significant with more intricate execution, which results in holding much allure of the premium sector in Grand Seiko, which entices buyers with the best of what Seiko entity can offer out there.

Another aspect that one differs from another would be their fit and finishing. The SBGX259 feels a little more substantial (excluding the weight) mainly due to the best execution GS always provides. It is hard to justify this particular point unless one tries both on the wrist and even when holding them side by side. The physical factor here will be distinct. However, with that said, the Baby Snowflake has a close affinity with its appeal and execution that it in no way lacks when it heads straight on with its “Grand” brother.


(The best execution found in all Grand Seiko)


(Applied markers of SBGX259)

When the pricing is taken into consideration, things get more comprehendible. The entry price of this GS Quartz sits well into the $2000USD category, and yet the slightly below-a-thousand-bucks SARX055 feels fitting in the “GS” realm. The Baby Snowflake gets superior execution that punches way higher than its very own price category.

The comparison between these two JDM beauties is insightful in this particularity, that illustrated the close affection in terms of quality, and which, might entice potential buyers or watch enthusiasts who are sitting on the fence waiting for a close comparison like this.



The “Snowflake” Story

Moving on, we need to acknowledge the unique “snowflake” texture that reflects the Seiko spirit and dial works as a whole. The impetus of the moniker came about in early 2000, where the very first Spring Drive technology made its debut, and the Seiko development team wanted to launch a never been done before dial. Consequently, inspired by the snowy peaks around Shiojiri, which is home to Seiko’s Shinshu Watch Studio, the Grand Seiko Spring Drive Ref. SBGA011 (or current SBGA211) was born in 2005.


(SBGA011/211, the OG) (Photo Credit: moneyinc.com)

However, the “Snowflake” texture does not only stick to the SBGA011. The reason is simple: Seiko got its archetype from their precedent model. The “snowflake” texture reiterated from one of their 1970s 56GS line, the Ref.5645-5000 to be exact: an 18K yellow gold, rectangular shape dress watch with the OG “snowflake” dial.


(The “Snowflake” 56GS) (Photo Credit: Pinterest)

The 56GS was also not the only one with this particular texture. Watches in the same period like the Seiko Lord Matic Deluxe Ref.5626-8140; a similar 56GS, the ref. 5646-7030, and previous vintage “starlight dial” variants, held similar texture that reflects the “snowflake” title.

In particular, the texture on the Lord Matic Deluxe Ref. 5626-8140 does seem to mirror the SARX055 closer than any other. That is due to their “frostier snow” textures as compared to the others.


(Lord Matic Deluxe Ref. 5626-8140)



The Frosty Look

The SARX055 clad a classic GS styling case and bracelet that conforms to a spectacular restrained opulence, it does serve a purpose to premier its dial as the primary focus. Seiko knows the frosted snowflake dial is the main stage here. Thus it is seen through a flat anti-reflective flat sapphire crystal to enthrall its wearer with its full glory.

The livery of the dial comes from the multi-stage process- it starts with stamping the pattern onto its dial blank in brass, followed by additional layers of coating to create the subtle frosty, variegated look on its surface. That said, The SARX055 dial work bears the same amount of effort to craft some other Presage models with enamel dials or such.


(Stay Frosty with its multi-processed dial)

Its textured dial does not spook one for being over-dramatic in its display, as its not the conservative doing of Seiko when it comes to designing this particular one. The frosted snowflake dial behaves rather blissfully, balancing between classiness and practicality. In a natural light condition, the dial appears in a cream white tone while carrying the “frost” texture. In this condition, the watch looks more elegant than its spiritual being. However, in a darker environment, it presents a more sober icy blue, metallic face, resulting in a contemporary feel instead.

The entire dial is elegant and subtle in detail, done so evidently with the markers and handset. The same amount of effort seems apparent with the hands and markers that go into the dial. Like for instance, the majority hour stripes done with a total of 8 facets each. Except for the double stripes 12’o clock marker, and a shortened one at 3, to accommodate to the date display.


(Details even found on its date window)

Speaking of date display, Seiko went with the extra step to apply a full convex metallic window frame for its date window that mirrors the craftsmanship found on Grand Seiko. The matte inner edge serves as a prevention for reflections around the date numeral, while having the outer edge polished like the rest, is to highlight the date display. Therefore, the effort placed here has shown the side of Seiko’s prowess in capturing the thought that goes into their design, where others usually might find it less valuable.

All the markers and hands are mirror polished on every side, something that found as quintessential on the higher end Grand Seiko.
All the faceted hands and markers are designed to reflect even the smallest ray of light to create a crisp and precise aesthetic. Even without luminous material on the hands or markers, they remain readable under low light conditions, kudos to the various surfaces that capture and reflect even the slightest amount of ambient illumination.


(Faceted hour indices)

In addition to that, Seiko heat-treated its second hand into an attractive blue hue, that sets a balanced contrast with the dauphine hands, giving the complete definitive look. Moreover, the blue second-hand mimics the execution done on the GS Snowflake model. All of the hands do stretch out entirely to the markers with precision.


(Impressive handset)



The 6R15 is that good

As we all know, the highest-end models in the Presage collection run on the 6R15 caliber. It is a hardy, practical and robust movement that operates at 21,600 BPH (3 Hertz) with hacking and hand-winding capabilities. It has 23 jewels with a power reserve of 50 hours through a Spron 510 mainspring.

Despite the fact that some of us have doubted the reasons why Seiko used a “pedestrian” movement into their aristocratic family where you can find it along with their entry watches, I would beg to differ.



(The sexy back of the SARX055 with its 6R15 caliber)

Firstly, we should know Seiko’s doing when it comes to movement. We have to acknowledge they often do think alike with the German counterpart on having the “why do you change something just for the sake of changing when its already that good?” mentality. Yes, the 6R15 has proven its ruggedness and accuracy that serves us, wearers, well for so many years. Therefore this is an excellent choice for the Baby Snowflake- an in-house movement that you do not have to worry about having it on your wrist daily.

Secondly, the 6R family is probably the best time-only movement you can get for Seiko’s sub-$1000USD category. Period. Its also commonly recognized by enthusiasts that the 6R movement is Seiko’s answer to the Swiss workhorse - the ETA 2824/SW200, etc.… I firmly do believe that Seiko's approach to their movement built punches a tad higher. They are further exemplified with attributes like the use of its mainspring material and proven reliability, for instance. Therefore, the 6R15 caliber is a qualified movement for the Baby Snowflake in this case.



The missing Link

Now, I would like to explain why the Baby Snowflake is like a missing link in the top-tier aspect of Seiko Presage collection. As we mention earlier, mechanical titanium watches are uncommon and mainly found in the professional tool watch category. Let say you want a titanium-built automatic watch in the $1000USD price point, the higher end of Seiko’s craft, one can only think of the Seiko Prospex “Shogun” titanium diver Ref. SBDC029. There haven’t been many choices out there, especially for a practical daily watch. This is until the SARX collection came along in 2017.


(A perfect all-rounder)

They have taken their “perfect” all-rounder design from their Grand Seiko stable and introduced the SARX055 Baby Snowflake along with the few others (including the SARW041). Aside from the premium price tag of GS but still treated with lavish finishings, the Baby Snowflake is no slouch as it gets all the GS traits- a style of simplicity, purity, and affirmed practicality, reflecting the essential characteristics.

Since the GS Snowflake SBGA011/211 sets out as the perfect example of the “ultimate practical” watch according to Grand Seiko, the SARX055 Baby Snowflake resembles closely to that in Seiko’s stable. It gets refined execution like any top-tier Seiko JDMs and holds on to GS's “perfect practical” watch” spirit, through its faithful aesthetic of both form and function in one harmony. With its existence, Seiko lovers are now able to enjoy a value proposition from Seiko with these noteworthy SARX models with the Baby Snowflake, opening a whole new realm of us that are highly executed daily-beater.



The Outlier

In terms of design and manufacturing values, the Presage series paddles along with two traits as a whole- they have to be fully mechanical, while hooded in a dressy outfit. From the first mechanical that it draws inspiration from - the 1913 Laurel, an enamel pocket-watch-turned-into-wrist-watch; to the current enamel models like Presage Enamel Refs.SARX049,051 and then some. Even the dressy Seiko Cocktail time joins the family with the same traits.


(1913 Seiko Laurel) (Photo Credit: watchtime.com)

We can see that all of them cater to the evergreen dress-watch code with mechanical movements; however, the Baby Snowflake only acquired the latter. It is not Seiko’s motive to build yet another dress watch just for a formal occasion. Therefore, with the introduction of the Baby Snowflake (along with the SARXs that were made with the same ethos that year on), Seiko has open a broader appeal for the Presage collection. It packs versatility with a mixture of certain casualness and elegance into one bag now. As a result, the Baby Snowflake also became all the more “extra special” in the collection of the Presage’s paradigm of “mechanical watchmaking” for Seiko.


(The missing link and the outlier)



Final Thoughts

Bearing all that in mind, we can conclude that the Seiko Presage Automatic “Baby Snowflake” checks all of the boxes for a perfect everyday watch. A watch groomed in an atypical titanium material that usually reserved for sports watches; and hooded a reliable timekeeping machine within thanks to the 6R15 caliber. It expresses nothing but of quality through and through, from its intricate work on its case, bracelet, and dial. The Baby Snowflake demonstrates the Japanese brand’s philosophy of building the perennial practical watch for all Seiko lovers and those who seek pure savor faire horology.


(Seiko’s watchmaking exemplified right here)

Does it wears and feels like a Grand Seiko Snowflake? Well kind of, in terms of the execution, but its unique dial sets it apart with a frostier look. It does not possess the level of finishing of its “grand” brethren, but it comes close. It fills the void between Seiko's dress watches and Sports variants while still being outstanding on its own. And hey, for the sub $1000USD all-rounder category, I actively can’t find much that holds a similar value of the Baby Snowflake. It is as good as it gets.

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