(Seiko) Laurel 1913-2020
Seiko's Laurel, well actually Laurel's Seiko, is considered by collectors to be the ultimate vintage product line from this horology house. The Laurel, then with its signature red 12 hour marker, was after all Seiko’s very first wristwatch.
In 1913 when the first Laurel was produced the name Seiko was not even conceived yet. For modern collectors it is an interesting tidbit of knowledge that the first Alpinist was launched under the then Laurel sub-brand in 1961 as a manual wind only model.
The Laurel sub-brand comes out of hibernation from time to time, in the mid 1990s one could see them in Japan (JDM only of course) and also recently in 2013, in the form of the more widely available Presage model SRP385J.
In the nineties however, Laurel was the ultimate high-end automatic line, on offer only at special distributors designated by Seiko (like the current GS Master Shops). One should not forget that mechanical watches were not as popular as they are now, and thus the re-emergence would be short-lived. Also, as a result of the arrival of the full-scale mechanical watch boom, product lines such as "Grand Seiko" and "Credor" were to be rebuilt. The long shadow cast by the historical Laurel would mostly disappear from Seiko’s horological spectrum. Ironically, after this the refined design and careful construction of the Laurel were reviewed and appreciated by watch enthusiasts, and the discontinued models became sought after.
The movements Seiko installed in their Laurel editons could differ widely in every aspect, there is the 4S15 caliber movement (rated at -15/+25spd) as a refinement of the King Seiko chronometer grade 5246 movement, introduced in the early 1970’s or there is the 6M quartz - much more accurate of course. Clearly the Laurel on the dial signifies more than the movement inside.
As Seiko released Laurels powered by various calibers one should not be surprised that when later on in 1998, when the modern Grand Seiko was released with the quartz caliber 9581, the Laurel was still right up there with caliber 9587 (date).
One might suppose therefore that the Laurels were high end mechanical and quartz watches, just below the Credor family (where now Grand Seiko is listed). This certainly makes sense for it is easily noticeable that Laurel has more in common with the Credor design philosophy than Grand Seiko's angular esthetics. They are all a bit quircky, flatter and have the bracelet much more dominantly integrated into the design.