Our new column, Design Excellence showcases unique timepieces that break free from the conventional archetypal watch design. The focus is solely on aesthetics, case design, comfort and how it compares to the design of other watches of the time period.
The featured timepiece today is the 1969 Seiko Lord-Matic reference 5601—7000. This Seiko watch combines both concepts of rectangular and spherical watch design and as a result presents itself as one of the more unusual pieces designed by Seiko.
The Lord-Matic watches were part of the 5600 family of Seiko watches that housed the 5600 series watch movements and is graded below the superior King Seiko and Grand Seiko models, produced between the years 1968 to 1975. The late 1960s in particular, we see a variety of Seiko Lord-Matic spherical watches with an array of reference numbers sporting dial and colour scheme variations. Seiko also designed a fewer range of rectangular Lord-Matic models with either black or white dial variations. The models of the 5600 series, King Seiko and Grand Seiko were all designed according to conventional Seiko design in the 1960s, the King Seiko sporting a time only, time and date, and day date variation, both with a thicker stainless steel case design and applied indices. Variations were also noted with models ranging from 16000 bph with the flagship King Seiko model topping at 27000 bph. The Grand Seikos of the 60’s was also designed to a similar design standpoint; with the addition of the large crown and higher quality finishing to the case and applied indices. The Seiko Lord-Matic reference 5601-7000 is indeed a unique watch that strays away from the conventional designs of the above mentioned watches in the 5600 family. While not technically superior to the King Seiko and Grand Seiko due to the lower grade movement, the 5601-7000 no doubt deserves respect for its design merits that pushed the boundaries in the 60’s and retains unique qualities not seen today in modern watches.
The Seiko LM 5601-7000 features a curved, brushed stainless steel rectangular case that surrounds the spherical dial. The spherical dial features a champagne coloured dial that has a subtle sunburst effect when exposed to light. As unusual as it looks at first glance, the combination really grows on you. I found that the rectangular case adds a layer of sleekness to the watch; found in rectangular dress watches such as the infamous Cartier Tank. On the other hand, the spherical dial contrasts the formality of a rectangular dress watch and provides for a more casual style for the watch overall. The darkened applied indices work well in providing contrast against the light, champagne dial for improved legibility. The stainless steel crown is very small in diameter and almost seamlessly blends into the case without too much obstruction, on a design point of view, the small crown and the absence of a date function improves the symmetry and footprint of the watch in a way improves its standing as a dress watch. The watch has a slim profile, with a case thickness of around 5cm which tapers well to the wrist. Compared to the spherical Grand Seiko and King Seiko watches, the LM 5601-7000 feels larger in size thanks to the rectangular case; despite having a smaller diameter spherical dial.
On the Wrist
The watch sits comfortably and in place on the wrist despite the large, rectangular case design. This is thanks to the curved case back that wraps around the wrist. I found the lug size of 20mm a perfect size for leather straps. However, as mentioned before, the small crown gains merits on a design perspective but I found winding and adjusting the watch difficult due to the size. However, having a smaller crown is beneficial on a daily basis as I have found watches with larger crowns tend to dig uncomfortably into the hand.
While not a horological or historical icon, I believe that the Seiko Lord-Matic 5601-7000 deserves respect for its unusual case design and style combination that differentiates from other watches of its time and remains unique in the current watch context. This watch pairs well with an aged leather strap versatile for both casual and formal occasions.