Seiko’s cult-like following with watch enthusiasts was built on its ability to consistently churn out the hits when it came to sturdy and affordable diver’s watches. Many collectors will count the SKX007 or (even SKX013) as the watch that lead them down the rabbit hole and into the world of mechanical diver’s watches. This year, Seiko celebrated the 55th anniversary of its first diver’s watch with the re-introduction of two new models that riff on popular timepieces from their archives. The first is a Prospex diver that reinterprets the Ref. 6105-8110/9 ‘Willard’ from 1970 and the second is a fresh reissue of Seiko’s first diver’s watch, the 62MAS from 1965.
In 2017, Seiko introduced the SLA017 – a modern remake of the 62MAS diver. To design this watch, Seiko turned to Nobuhiro Kosugi, a recipient of the Japan’s prestigious Medal with Yellow Ribbon and Contemporary Master Craftsman awards. While staying faithful to the original design codes, some concessions - like a box-shaped sapphire crystal on the 39.9-mm-wide case - were made to modernity. It was also depth-rated to 200 meters (as opposed to 150 meters on the original). More importantly, the watch was powered by Caliber 8L35, produced at the famed Shizuku-ishi Watch Studio in Morioka. Caliber 8L35 is essentially a pared down version of the Grand Seiko Caliber 9S55; it does not have the same level of decoration and is not regulated to the same exacting standards as a Grand Seiko movement.
However, the SLA017 was not an easily accessible watch and was priced at almost AED15,000 ($4,100). Seiko also introduced two “modern reinterpretations” of the 62MAS as more affordable Prospex options. The two references – SPB051 and SPB053 – both had 42.6 mm cases and ran the Caliber 6R15 movement. For a vintage-inspired diver, the modern reinterpretations did not quite hit the spot – at almost 43 mm, it was a touch too chunky for most people’s taste.
The reissues introduced this year that we got a closer look at – SPB147J1 and SPB143J1 – are both smaller than the ones from 2017. Not just in terms of size, the design and proportions of the case seem better resolved too. The case is now a modest 40.5 mm and 13.2 mm in height and is fitted with a domed sapphire crystal as opposed to the Hardlex crystal used on the entry-level and SRP Turtle/ Samurai models.
The steel case features Seiko’s Diashield coating (also referred to as super hard coating) which makes it more durable and better resistant to scratches. The case has drilled lugs and a unidirectional bezel with a black brushed steel insert with a super hard coating to prevent scratches and dents. The case is fitted with a stainless steel caseback and is depth-rated to 200 meters. A polished bevel runs from lug to lug breaking up the matte finished surfaces of the lugs and case band. There is a real sense of quality here, the watch sits well on the wrist and both the steel bracelet and the silicone strap are comfortable to wear.
Although the reissue has four dial variants, the SPB147J1 stands out with its dark brown sunburst dial and gilt indices and accents while the SPB143J1 with its gray sunburst dial and black bezel is a more sober option. While the former has a Black Bay-esque vibe to it, the latter is more like its tool watch ancestor and is paired with a stainless steel bracelet.
The SPB147J1’s brown sunburst dial features prominent gilt-framed luminous indexes. The cream lume complements the brown tones of the dial and adds a touch of warmth to the dial, the SPB143’s gray dial has rhodiumed indices with white lume. Legibility is excellent – the hours and minutes hands have generous application of lume and the central seconds has a square luminous tip.
The upgraded Caliber 6R35 is the engine powering this watch. A self-winding movement that can also be manually wound, Caliber 6R35 now has a power reserve of at least 70 hours and Seiko promises an accuracy of “+25 to -15 seconds per day” under normal conditions. A chronometer-grade movement it is not, but 6R35 is sturdy and dependable and has powered many of Seiko’s mid-tier models. So are these watches value propositions? At AED3,900 for the SPB147J1 and AED4,600 for the bracelet-equipped SPB143J1, I would definitely say yes. The SPB line sits above the entry-level diver’s and the SRP series but well below the SLA or the Spring Drive-powered LX series. Undeniably good looking and with a cool retro feel about them, these two models offer a lot of bang for the buck.