Few diver’s watches have the kind of street cred that Seiko commands. The Japanese brand’s divers command a cult following among watch aficionados who love them for being such great value propositions. You can rarely use the world ‘affordable’ and ‘capable in the same sentence while describing diver’s watches, but Seiko has consistently ticked these two boxes over the last four decades.
This year Seiko has re-issued a diver’s watch that it produced for a limited time between 2004 and 2008, a watch that was nicknamed Samurai by fans because of its distinct sword-shaped hands. It’s a testament to Seiko’s popularity that most of its diver’s watches end up with nicknames. Produced in steel and titanium, the original Samurai featured a masculine 42 mm case with distinctly angular lines hitherto unseen in the Seiko diver’s portfolio.
After nearly a decade’s absence, the Samurai has now been resurrected in the Prospex diver’s range with a bright blue colorway. Prospex, for the uninitiated is short for Professional Specifications and is the collection that houses Seiko’s famed tool watches. The new Prospex Diver Ref. SRPB09 ‘Samurai’ is part of a limited edition ‘Blue Lagoon’ series that also includes the Ref. SRPB11 ‘Turtle’, an iconic watch that was first produced 40 years ago. Both models are limited to 6,000 pieces each.
While the new Samurai retains the angular design DNA of the original, it is very much a new watch right down to the movement that powers it. The brushed stainless steel case is now a more imposing 43.8 mm instead of 42 mm. But the sloping lugs ensure that it wears smaller than it looks and sit comfortably on the wrist. Crown guards appear on the steel case for the first time, only the titanium version (Ref. SBDA003) featured crown guards (see above) in the original. This being a Prospex diver, the watch has a depth rating of 200 meters.
The unidirectional bezel and the screwed-in crown have knurled edges making it easy to operate. The navy blue aluminum bezel bezel insert has a teal-colored scale for the first 15 minutes. The Blue Lagoon edition’s dial features a bright blue sunburst pattern that resembles the eponymous summer cocktail that may have inspired the name. The little yellow accents on the quarter hour markers and the tip of the seconds needle provide a welcome contrast on the dial.
The new hands seems to have been donated from the Marine Master or Monster what with the short arrow-shaped hour hand. It is ironic that the one feature of the watch that actually spawned the nickname has been changed in the resurrected model. A date window sits at 3 o’ clock and the presence of LumiBrite, Seiko’s proprietary lume paint on the hands and indices ensures excellent legibility in the dark.
Seiko uses Hardlex, another proprietary mineral crystal, and not sapphire on the case. While there’s been plenty of debate about whether Hardlex compares to sapphire crystal, it is generally believed that the Hardlex crystal used in the Prospex diver’s is more impact resistant than sapphire but is not as scratch-resistant. One thing we did notice though is that Hardlex smudges easily, so you’ll be wiping down the crystal every now and then but this isn’t a deal breaker.
The steel caseback has the classic Seiko 'tsunami' logo engraving along with the Limited Edition marking. The watch is paired with a brushed steel three-link bracelet that’s comfortable and wraps around even skinny wrists like mine easily. Although come summer and I can see myself swapping the bracelet for a sturdy 22 mm Nato strap.
While the original was powered by Caliber 7S35 movement, the re-issue uses a more updated self-winding Caliber 4R35 that can also be wound manually. This is a 3 Hz (21, 600 vph) movement with hacking seconds and a relatively short power reserve of 41 hours. The 4R3X series was introduced in 2011 and includes 4R36, 4R37, 4R38, and 4R39.
What could have been better? Personally, I don’t think the dial required a date window but I understand most modern watches are presented with this indication now. The power reserve of 41 hours could have been better too and I wish Seiko had used the 6R15 movement (51 hour power reserve) instead but be advised that a Tudor Black Bay with an ETA movement (before it moved to the in-house calibers last year) ran only for 42 hours once fully wound.
The new Samurai marks a striking return from a model that had a relatively short run in its first outing. It looks good, feels like a solid, upmarket diver’s watch and given the fact that it is a limited edition, the AED2,075 ($565) price tag doesn’t seem unreasonable.