It is no secret that re-editions of vintage dive watches tend to perform well commercially, especially when they are limited and from a brand with a huge fan base. Seiko has been at it since 2000 when it introduced the SBDX003, a 500-piece limited edition of the Marinemaster, which was a modern take of the brand’s first 300-meter dive watch from 1967. The re-edition of that watch now is SLA021J1 introduced in 2018 after Seiko discontinued the Marinemaster.
After a string of annual re-editions in the premium category that began with the SLA017K1 in 2017, Seiko introduced the long awaited “1970 Diver’s Re-creation” SLA033J1 in 2019. A limited edition of 2,500 pieces powered by Caliber 8L35, this was based on the much-loved Seiko 6105-8110/9, nicknamed the “Captain Willard” after it was worn by Martin Sheen’s character in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 epic Apocalypse Now (a perfect choice, since the watch was highly popular among divers and members of the armed forces in the 1970s).
Interestingly, Seiko chose to not simultaneously release a modern reinterpretation like it did with the earlier models, but instead to wait another year to launch an equally faithful “1970 Diver’s Re-interpretation”. So this year we got two unlimited variations (SPB151J1 with black dial and bezel, and the SPB153J1 with olive green dial and bezel), starting at AED4,250 (the SLA033J1 was almost four times the price). While the two watch generations do not share a single part (or remotely similar pricing), and therefore cannot be objectively compared, they are still based on the same original design.
While the more exclusive SLA033J1 from 2019 was an ideal choice for watch collectors, the new “Captain Willard” is essentially returning to what the model has always represented: an accessible tool watch with an almost indestructible crown at 4 o’clock (since the original locking mechanism didn’t offer real added value, it has now been replaced with a standard screw-down crown). Japanese adventurer Naomi Uemura, for example, relied on a 6105 when he undertook a solo dog sled run from Greenland to Alaska, a journey of 12,000 kilometers that took 18 months, from 1974 to 1976.
The steel case features Seiko’s “super hard coating” to better prevent scratches and has a slightly different sheen than previous Prospex models. Unlike earlier Prospex models, the case is fitted with a sapphire crystal and although slightly smaller in width than the original at 42.7 mm (the 6105 was at 44 mm, the SLA033J1 was 45 mm), it is undoubtedly a faithful adaptation of Seiko’s original model. The screw-down crown is located at 4 o’clock and is protected by the unmistakably chunky crown guard. Water resistance has been increased from 150 meters to a solid 200 meters and the bezel has a coin edge texture (and as with most Seikos, the unidirectional, 120-click bezel turns pleasantly smoothly). With a length of 46.6 mm from lug to lug, the watch sits well on the wrist (the smaller 1965 Re-edition is 47.6 mm long).
The green SPB153J1 is certainly a more refreshing and modern choice, since this color was never available for the 6105 or its successors, and has become extremely popular in the last few years. The SPB151J1 is a more conservative choice. The good news, however, is that you could always opt for more than one watch, since the SPB153J1 is priced at AED4,250. The SPB151J1 comes with a price tag of AED5,050; which means the metal bracelet adds a rather hefty AED800 to the bill.
The same movement, the in-house Caliber 6R35, powers both watches. When introduced in 2006, this automatic movement featured hand winding, hacking function, a power reserve of at least 70 hours and an escapement that oscillates at 21,600 vph. Thirteen years later, the upgraded 6R35 brought a 20-hour increase in power reserve, combined with an accuracy of “+25 to -15 seconds per day” in normal temperature conditions.
In conclusion, with these two re-issues and the new reinterpretations of the 1965 62MAS models, Seiko has once again demonstrated why its dive watches have been so popular for the last 55 years.