Japanese watchmaker Seiko has commanded serious attention in recent years for its growing roster of vintage-inspired watches. From the GPHG-Winning Prospex 1968 Diver’s Re-Creation SLA025J1, to the Re-Creation of King Seiko KSK, to the Prospex SRQ029 Limited Edition — to name just a few among many — the brand has demonstrated admirable expertise in creating modern watches that are intrinsically tied to its past.
Last week — as part of a host of new product launches for both itself and its more luxury-focused sister company, Grand Seiko — Seiko showcased its skill in this space once more, revisiting a circa-1959 field watch with the new Prospex 1959 Alpinist Re-creation Ref. SJE085. The new model, which comes alongside three other Re-interpretation watches (Refs. SPB241, SPB243, and SPB245), takes its inspiration from the brand’s first dedicated “sports watch” design, the Seiko Laurel Alpinist, launched in its namesake year of 1959 (pictured below).
This vintage watch was, according to Seiko, the trailblazer for all of the brand’s sports-focused models since, including its many popular dive watches, its iconic Seiko 5 series, and, of course, the modern Alpinist line. The modern watches strive to channel that history in two formats, with the Re-creation model serving as a mostly faithful re-issue, and the Re-interpretation models bringing the vintage style into a more contemporary realm.
Prospex 1959 Alpinist Re-Creation
The Prospex 1959 Alpinist Re-Creation SJE085 accordingly uses a period-appropriate 36.6-mm by 11.1-mm steel case, with primarily polished finishing throughout, but with brushed accents to add contrast. The case is overall quite similar to that of the vintage model that inspired it, complete with slim tapered lugs, a rounded, larger bezel to provide sturdiness, and a slightly conical, signed crown.
Interestingly, the watch comes standard on a two-part bund-style leather calf strap, connecting to a leather cuff band. This style was the same as that used for the original 1959 model, and was at the time used to shield the watch, which had somewhat lackluster water resistance, from wrist perspiration. The modern watch, with its 100-meter water resistance, does not suffer the same issue, but nonetheless the style remains the same.
Underneath the box-shaped sapphire crystal is a black dial highlighted with various vintage features. Along its outer edge, we find applied hour markers, with split triangles for each of the quarter hour positions, and rectangles for each of the intra-hour spots. Connecting all the markers is a simple white minute ring that touches each of their tips, the flow broken up only at the 4:30 position where a subtle black date window occupies the same spot as it did on the vintage watch.
The vintage-style Seiko logo sits near 12 o’clock, balanced by a script “Automatic” toward the bottom of the final. At the center of the face are two vintage-style dauphine hands for the hours and minutes, and a simple but slightly tapered hand to count the seconds. The hands of the watch, like all of the hour markers, are filled with a light green lume.
Powering the re-issue, and hidden behind a solid caseback is the. This automatic movement was first introduced in 2018, and has gone on to become one of the movements most frequently employed by Seiko in its historically inspired limited-edition releases. The automatic movement has a frequency of 28,800 vph, is magnetic-resistant to 4,800 A/m, hosts 26 jewels, and holds a 45-hour power reserve.
Overall, the modern Alpinist re-issue provides a solid mix of vintage traits and modern upgrades, offering enthusiasts of the style much of what they love about the 1959 original, but with the added benefits of one of Seiko’s best automatic movements, a hardy sports-focused case ready to take a beating, and a high-grade finishing throughout.
Prospex 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-interpretation
Turning to the Re-interpretation models, we discover the steel cases are slightly larger, at 38-mm in diameter and 12.9 mm thick, with what looks like mostly brushed finishing throughout, except for a slight use of polishing on the edge of the flat-faced bezel. The difference in finishing and the use of a flat as compared to a round bezel are both traits more in line with preferences for modern field watches: the brushed surface is better able to hide scratches, and the flat shapes are more resistant to hard, focused impacts. The crown appears to be slightly thicker crown, and closer to the case, and two of the three models opt for a satin finished metal bracelet, while the third uses a black leather strap; none are outfitted with the bund strap of the Re-creation model.
The curved sapphire crystal of the Re-interpretation models differs from the more old-school box crystal on the re-issue. It covers a dial available in three different color options: the silver SPB241, the smoky gray SPB243, and the green SPB245. On each of the dials, we see the applied triangular and rectangular hour markers once again put to use, albeit with the breakup of the outer ring more prominent, with a date window at the 3 o’clock position. The dial is also slightly sectored by the use of an inner minute ring, its smooth finish contrasting with the sunburst texture used on the rest of the surface.
The Seiko logo at the top of the dial is more modern and enlarged, and the watch’s various descriptors and Prospex emblem sits above the 6 o’clock position. The sizing of the dauphine hands is more in keeping with modern proportions used by the brand, while a yellow colored, rectangular-tipped hand is used to count the seconds.
Inside each Re-interpretation watch is the Caliber 6R35, one of many workhorse movements used by Seiko, and one we frequently see deployed in its time-and-date dive watches. The automatic caliber is capable of a 70-hour power reserve, beats at 21,600 vph, and boasts an antimagnetic resistance of 4,800 A/M. It is also protected behind a solid caseback that helps ensure the watch’s 200-meter water resistance. The increased water resistance and power reserve (compared to those of the Re-creation model) may make these versions the more appealing field watch for many potential wearers.
Each of the four Alpinist models will be available starting August 2021, with the Re-creation limited to 1,959 total editions and the Re-interpretation models set for a non-limited release. The Re-creation Ref. SJE085 will retail for $2,900; the bracelet-mounted Re-interpretation SPB241 and SPB243 will sell for $750 and the strap-mounted SPB245 for $725.