The Seiko Speedtimer is an outrageously efficient and functional budget chronograph. The Japanese-made timepiece is easily the only true chronograph under $700 and a top contender for top watches within $1,500.
What makes the Speedtimer so valuable? Or is it just an exceptionally affordable Japanese watch with inferior features? Find out in this in-depth review of the Seiko Speedtimer collection.
The Seiko Prospex Speedtimer Collection
The Seiko Speedtimer line is a collection of chronographs with varying functions, prices, color schemes, and two movements.
Its premium models are the history-rich Mechanical Chronograph for watch enthusiasts who detest quartz. This collection includes four models with different dial colors but the same movement.
Meanwhile, the Seiko Speedtimer seven-watch Solar Chronograph lineup is for those who want a bang for their buck.
Every watch in the Speedtimer collection is the perfect blend of classic style and modern innovation. Each is carefully crafted to pay tribute to Seiko’s rich and continuing tradition of sports timing, with a new automatic chronograph movement to capture every detail.
And the Solar chronographs, despite being budget pieces, also inherit iconic designs for a fraction of the cost of mechanical classics.
Whether you’re looking for a statement piece or a complicated timepiece, you’ll find it on a budget in the Seiko Speedtimer collection.
It’s a Seiko thing: the Speedmaster 7A38 also carried the world’s first analog display quartz chronograph movement in the 1980s. And you can get this vintage piece for under $500.
Functionality, versatility, and affordability make the Speedtimer an anomaly.
Features and Specs Speedtimer Mechanical Editon (SRQ)
The first Speedtimer models rolled out in the 1960s before, during, and after Seiko were official timekeepers of the 64′ Olympics.
The official release of the Speedtimer in 1969 ushered in a landmark achievement for Seiko and the Japanese watchmaking industry. It was the first time the world saw an automatic movement chronograph – even the Swiss had yet to achieve this.
Seiko subtly reincarnated the Speedtimer in its modern line of Prospex sports watches.
The star of the collection is the limited edition model with a plain white dial and injection hands. This concept is inspired by the 1964 Seiko Stopwatch, built for sports timing.
All the Mechanical and Solar Speedtimer watches are also a nod to the past, with each collection sharing the same movement and specs but different dial designs.
All Speedtimer models resemble the iconic Rolex Daytona but are original in their lane. Besides, the subdials of Seiko’s Speedtimer and Speedmaster watches (also thought to have been a replica of Omega Speedmaster) are timeless racing watch designs.
But don’t get the illusion that it’s a cheap replica or an homage watch. Stay tuned to find out the Speedtimer’s originality.
Mechanical Edition Dial
Seiko produces four Speedmaster mechanical edition models:
SRQ035J1(Limited edition model).
They have varying dial and subdial colors, hands, and finish variations that draw inspiration from their original models of the 60s.
This charcoal-gray dialed mechanical watch design is inspired by the 1964 Crown Chronograph – Seiko and Japan’s first chronograph wristwatch.
While not identical, the beveled hour markers and sharp sword-like hour hands mirror the original model.
Small second hands curved slightly downward to rest on the tip of the subdial markers and parallel to the tachymeter. Although subtle, this improves accuracy and reading legibility for racers, so you should be fine with measuring your speed over a distance.
The main difference from the Prospex classics, as with other mechanical successors, is the inclusion of subdials, tachymeter, and push buttons.
Navy blue is an homage to the 1969 Speedtimer, but better. The dial has vertical hairline finishing, which changes from navy to vivid blue at varying angles. This helps when you don’t want to turn your wrist to read the time. The SRQ043 white subdials and outer ring further enhance readability.
If you asked, the SRQ039 is my favorite dial color from the collection because it looks like my favorite jean.
The SRQ039 has the same specifications as the angle-changing model 043, except for its blue and black dial. It’s an acknowledgment of Seiko’s time as the official timekeeper of the 1964 Olympic games in Tokyo.
This lovely Prospex Speedtimer is a spin-off of Seiko’s 1964 1/5th Stopwatch. That’s how it has a striking scale-like aesthetic with a plain white dial, needle hands, and 10-second progressive Arabic numerals.
The Solar powered Speedtimers have the most exciting color lineup, and the SSC813 “Panda” is the signature model. It’s a black and white color with a white dial and black subdials that look like the face of Panda.
The third subdial is a power reserve indicator. The solar editions also have a unique slanting date window at 4:20 that draws mixed feelings among fans.
Moreover, the SSC Speedtimer models have fixed external bezels with varying colors, unlike the mechanical editions with inner ring tachymeters. See the difference:
The SRQ Speedtimers (mechanical edition) use a round polished stainless steel case that’s a muse of the 1964 stopwatch. All the mechanical watches have a 42.5mm diameter case that’s 50mm from lug to lug.
That’s a fine men’s watch size, especially since the SSC is a tool watch. It can also fit perfectly on a lady’s wrists, but they may not fancy its weight or size, but the SSC will be more suitable. Finally, the cases sport two push buttons and a crown in the middle, like the 1964 Stopwatch.
Perfect-Sized Solar Chronograph
Seiko uses an entirely different case design for its SSC solar chronographs and I love their portability. I’m grinning from ear to ear as I write this wearing my 44m Diesel Armbar, wishing I could snatch the more comfortable Seiko SSC813.
The case is only 39mm across and 45mm from lug to lug, which is still an excellent fit for even small wrists. At this size, it’ll be a perfect chronograph gift for a woman who loves to wear men’s or instrument watches. The case is another example of how Seiko blends history with modern innovations.
In this case, the SSC case is a concept from the 1969 Speedtimer. However, its seemingly sophisticated look results from its tachymeter bezel synchronizing with the in-dial 60-second markers. But is an upgrade of the classics.
This design is another testament to the Japanese brand’s efforts to blend heritage with modern innovations.
One thing Seiko boasts about its Speeditimer bracelets is their low center of gravity. It’s a result of the curved lugs and thick case. You’ll find the same feature in the solar edition.
But a higher-quality bracelet-to-case finish makes the mechanical edition bracelets stand out from Solar Speedtimers. They have finely and evenly polished cases and bracelets compared to the Solar models.
However, it uses the pin and lock system for removing links, which is considered clumsy and old-fashioned by watch enthusiasts.
Seiko SSC813 (Solar)
The Seiko Speedtimer SSC813 has the same case and bracelet dimensions as the solar series. But stands out because of its black and white “Panda” dial.
The Solar Speedtimer has a stainless steel bracelet and is secured with a three-fold clasp with a push button mechanism. That makes it easy to wear, comfortable, and safe from accidentally falling off the wrist.
However, the SSC813 has roughly polished links that don’t match the case. We also saw this same issue decades ago in the Seiko Speedmaster.
Still, it’s not a terrible or noticeable issue, despite pointing it out to you. Only watch enthusiasts can tell the difference and may feel irked, so it doesn’t change the fact that it’s a durable, scratch-resistant bracelet.
Seiko curves the lugs down to give room for the push buttons. It creates an illusion that it’s taller than its actual 13mm height or the Speedmaster with a downward design.
Remember, the Speedtimer is a racing watch collection and, as such, sports a tachymeter. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s the inscription around the rim of watches used to measure distance traveled over time.
The Speedtimers have two tachymeter designs. First, the Seiko Speedtimer SSC813, for instance, has a circumferential tachymeter on a fixed black bezel. All the Solar Chronographs have the same type but with different color schemes.
Second, the SRQ mechanical series tachymeter is within the protective ring – a stationary, plain stainless steel bezel.
When it comes to the movement, there are two options. You can either splurge for the mechanical caliber or economize with the functional solar-powered (quartz) editions. The mechanical movements will shock you.
Top-Of-The-Line Caliber 8R46
The mechanical chronograph collection uses Seiko’s iconic Caliber 8R46. This movement is designed and hand-assembled in-house by Seiko’s finest engineers. It’s interesting because many watch lovers still think all Seiko watches are mass-produced and have inferior movements.
Well, not the SRQ Speedtimer, that’s for sure. With a vertical clutch and column wheel movement mechanism for generational durability and accuracy.
The vertical clutch slows down the wear and tear process while the column wheel controls the “start,” “stop,” and “zero” settings. The caliber 8R46 is ultimately Seiko’s most powerful automatic movement for mechanical watches.
Solar-Powered Caliber V192
If you underrated the SSC series because they’re quartz, sit down for a rethink. But if you fancy quartz movements, you’ll get a great deal.
The Caliber V192, as you know, is solar-powered and has an impressive six-month power reserve when fully charged. But that’s based on if you only use the chronograph feature for one hour daily.
What’s more, the V192-powered Seiko watches have an accuracy of +/-15 per month. Admittedly, that’s a better accuracy than most Japanese movements that offer an average +/- 25 accuracy per day but it is subpar at this price range.
In addition, it offers a power reserve indicator at 6 o’clock and a controversial date window at 4:20. The date window can be problematic to glance at without “breaking your neck” to get the right angle.
Seiko Speedtimer: Pricing and Value
The Seiko Speedtimer Mechanical Edition watches cost around $3,000 to $3,300, with the limited edition piece priced on the upper end.
For $3,000, you will find a few mechanical chronographs on Seiko’s craftmanship level. Well, not unless you opt for preowned watches, like the Omega Speedmaster or Longines Master chronograph.
Also, it’s packed with vintage appeal that pays homage to one of the most iconic watch releases in the Japanese watchmaking industry. And it’s only an homage, not a replica, as some people would have loved.
And it’s ahead of similarly priced competitors because of its premium movement with a column wheel and vertical clutch combination. Finally, the Seiko Prospex Speedtimer’s +25 to -15 seconds accuracy per day is decent, especially for a mechanical racing chronograph under $3000. But you’ll find higher precision watches for less.
Seiko Speedtimer SSC813 Solar: King Of Value
The Speedtimer Solar (priced below $700) has rocked the watch industry since its release. Even when it’s not compared to quartz movements, this work of art remains a top competitor for chronographs under $1,500.
The SSC813 (solar Speedtimer) guarantees a high value for your buck with its polished stainless steel finish and an enticing Panda dial.
Its solar charge is also a nice touch of functionality. You never worry about winding your watch and don’t have to sunbathe it to charge it. It charges in cloudy or sunny weather and under fluorescent light.
However, a few collectors think Seiko could’ve given a finer bracelet-to-case finish. And added a GMT instead of a power reserve subdial. But it couldn’t be any less good.
Pros and Cons Seiko Speedtimer Solar (Quartz) Edition 813
Pros of SSC 813
Budget-friendly – costs under $700
Easy wearing chronograph
Solar powered with sun and light
Power reserve subdial
Cons Of SSC 813
4:20 date window
Unsymmetrical bracelet-to-case finish
The Speedtimer is a worthy racing chronograph collection if you’re on a budget – both mechanical and quartz. This collection is perfect for watch lovers who want a piece of history on their hands but don’t want a relic.
With both Speedtimer versions, you can tell a story of the original models from the 60s-70s, and they inspired the making of your modern timepiece.
Shop the SRQ035 (only one-piece available), SSC813 for $3,200, and $675, respectively from Exquisite Timepieces. They’re trusted online and Florida-based new and pre-owned luxury watch dealers of the Speedtimer Chronographs.
Here at Exquisite Timepieces, we like the groovier things in life, like premium timepieces characterized by excellent craftsmanship. It’s no news that Seiko is among the world’s most prestigious and value-driven watch brands. Ask any watch lover, aficionado, collector, or even a diver to describe Seiko in two words, and your answer will certainly be a variant of the phrase; Terrific Value!
From the Prospex line (made up of sport/tool watches) to the Presage line (made up of dress/retro timepieces), the brand’s catalog is massive and modestly priced. This is especially true of the Seiko SRP series, a reinterpretation of the brand’s 6309-series divers, nicknamed Turtle by Seiko’s fandom.
A collection marked by highly functional tool watches for the commoner that hogged the limelight with its cushion-cased design. Though a massive hit upon its release, the SRP77x did not sit well with many collectors as most found the large case size too substantial for their wrists leading to the release of the Mini Turtle a year later.
About the Seiko Mini Turtle
Towards the end of 2017, Seiko officially announced the release of three small Turtle variants. They were the SRPC35K1, SRPC39K1, and SRPC41K1, all of which are divers. Most people leave the count at four (including the SRPC37K1), but the SRPC35K1 and SRPC37K1 are essentially indistinguishable, save for the fitted straps.
The SRPC35K1 features a stainless steel bracelet, while the SRPC37K1 comes mounted on a two-piece silicone band. Originally intended for the dreaded Japanese Domestic Market, Seiko took a turn and made these watches available across the globe as well due to the high interest.
The nickname “Mini Turtle” was given to the trio by Seikodom. This was because of their oval case that resembled a turtle’s shell – a stark similitude to watches in the SRP series. The SRP series was a reinterpretation of Seiko’s third generation of professional divers (the venerable Seiko 6309) and featured mid-level divers.
Enthralled by the resurgence of the Seiko Cult Classic, collectors and enthusiasts made a run for the Turtle. However, the comparatively large case diameter didn’t sit well with many people, leading to the peculiar Mini Turtle/SRPC model release.
The Mini Turtle, which lives in the Prospex (or Professional Specifications collection), is solidly built for use in the professional world. Being a dive watch, and a retro one at that, the Mini Turtles are great for regular people who loved the design of the regular Turtle models but balked at the size and longed for a scaled-down version. All variants are reliable watches best suited for casual or business-casual wear.
These stainless steel timepieces all run counter to their bulkier counterparts regarding size, dial design, and crown position at 3 o’clock. The case size is now 42.3mm (a 2mm drop from its predecessors), and the 4R36 automatic in-house caliber has now been replaced with the 4R35. In lieu of the day/date display at 3 o’clock is a date complication with a magnifying glass on the Hardlex crystal.
For their looks, the SRPC39K1 flaunts a matte blue dial and blue bezel. The SRPC35K1 (& SRPC37K1) has a black dial and bezel, while the SRPC41K1 (developed primarily for divers) is co-branded with PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and features a wavy black dial with Pepsi-style bezel and red minute hands.
In summary, when compared to Its predecessor, the five most notable changes that can be observed are: smaller dimensions, relocation of the crown, elimination of the day complication, addition of the magnifying glass, and use of the 4R35 caliber movement.
Seiko Mini Turtle History & Origin
Since the release of Seiko’s (and Japan’s) first dive watch (the 62MAS-010) in July 1965, the brand has continued to introduce divers that topple the Swiss watch industry earning itself a top spot in the world of watchmaking.
Seiko’s invasion of the world of divers has been innovative, and the SRP collection is one of such outstanding inventions. The line boasts a historic design that continues to charm collectors and enthusiasts alike with its warm retro vibes.
Coming as a reinterpretation of Seiko’s third generation of professional divers (the venerable 6309), the roots of the present-day Seiko Turtle stretch back to 1976 with the debut of the 6306 and 6309 models. The ref. 6306-7000/1 was released for the Japanese Domestic Market only, while the 6309-7040/9 was the worldwide version.
Modeled by Seiko’s master watch designer, Ikuo Tokunaga, the collection was a follow-up model to the ref. 6105, the very first cushion-shaped case watch from Seiko.
However, unlike the ref. 6105, the 6306, and 6309 models were dubbed ‘Seiko Turtle’ because they were considerably more globular and symmetrical. The timepieces came with a smooth-edged case that protruded on both sides of its crown, giving them the appearance of a turtle’s shell when viewed from above.
With a depth rating of 150 meters, the 6306 and 6309 references offered extraordinary durability that could satisfy any recreational diver’s demands and be used for decades without worrying about servicing. With a diameter of 45mm, the watch might have been overly big then, but the cushioned case and crown at 4 o’clock made it surprisingly comfortable on the wrist.
Even though the JDM models were more alluring (and expensive) since they featured more jewels, hacking movement, and an English/Kanji day-date wheel, the ref. 6309 largely ruled Seiko’s entry-level diver’s segment until 1988, when the line was discontinued.
To the ecstasy of vintage Seiko connoisseurs, the brand re-launched the SRP series in the Prospex line in 2016 after over 20 years of dormancy. The new Turtle models were nearly identical to the 6309 models and featured the historic trait of the Turtle line; a cushion-shaped oval case and a crown at the 4 o’clock position, but now had an upgraded water resistance rating of 200 meters.
With a case size of 44.3 mm (the “King Turtle” variants measure 45 mm), the new Turtles were a bit cumbersome for people with smaller wrists, leading to a downscale version/three smaller variants measuring 42.3 mm in diameter. The new variants were instantly dubbed Mini Turtle since they were smaller, more compact, sleek, and elegant, giving everyone a chance to strap on a piece of history.
Seiko Mini Turtle Review
Like its predecessors, the Mini Turtle sports a cushion-shaped, oval case. The 316L stainless steel case measures 42.3mm in diameter and has beautifully curved, polished sides with a very high mirror finish.
For the height, it is 13mm thick, with nice 22mm lugs that are detached from the flange revealing the attachment between the bezel and mid-case where the strap passes through.
Unlike its predecessors, all the versions of the Mini Turtle have unguarded crowns at 3 o’clock (rather than 4), which screw down firmly for excellent water resistance. Even though some dive watch enthusiasts consider the position of the crown a downside, it works great.
The top of the case features a consistent circular brushing giving it a sunburst sheen, while the case back has the standard Katsushika Great Wave by Hokusai etched in the middle. In addition, you’ll find the Prospex logo, Diver’s Watch 200m, Stainless Steel, and 4R35 inscribed around the edges of the case back.
The dial is everything you’d expect from Seiko; clean, ultra-legible, highly contrasting with precise execution of all the details.
The Turtle’s emblematic look, which has demonstrated its effectiveness for decades, can be recognized instantly. Even though the layout of the dial is relatively unchanged from earlier iterations of the Mini Turtle, the polished steel applied indices for the Mini-turtle are exclusive only to its variants.
Rather than the regular printed or applied circular indices with some form of a triangle at the 12 o’clock position, the Mini Turtles’ are somewhat rectangular with rounded ends and syringe extension markers at all the cardinal points (6,9, and 12 positions).
Like most Seiko divers, the dials feature a charmingly minimalistic and elegant look with well-executed lettering. SEIKO can be seen at the 12 o’clock position, and right down at 6 o’clock is the Prospex “X” logo, followed by the words AUTOMATIC and DIVER’S 200m beneath the logo.
Again the words ‘Made in Japan’ can be seen across the edge of the dial, flaunting the noble quality and superiority of the timepiece. The brilliantly new textured dials are all about legibility and feature an insane amount of Seiko’s famed proprietary LumiBrite lume, applied generously on the hands and indices.
Unlike its predecessor, the day/date display at three has been given up for a simple date display with circular cyclops for ease of reading.
Size and Proportions
The size and proportions of the Mini Turtles are where a major change from its predecessor has occurred. The core of the case design has not changed, but it has gained a more defined shape, with curves and flow, getting rid of the bulky feel the previous models had.
The diameter is now 42.3mm though it used to be 44mm to 45mm in the past generations; thus, a 2mm decrease compared to previous Turtles. The thickness has remained at the same level (13 mm), and the lug-to-lug measurement is at 43mm – which is thinner than its predecessor’s and very compact for its size, making the Mini Turtle suitable for most wrists.
It weighs approximately 154 grams, roughly 40 grams less than the weight of the Turtle SRP77x on a bracelet, so it can be worn for several hours without a bulky feel.
The Mini Turtle is equipped with the 4R35 caliber movement, a remarkable upgrade from the popular 7S26 movement, which did not offer the expedient hacking and hand-winding function. Beating at 21,600 vibrations per hour, the Seiko’s in-house caliber 4R35 automatic movement contains 23 jewels and features a power reserve of approximately 40 hours.
The elevated quality of the Mini Turtle transcends beyond aesthetics to mechanical properties, as the 4R35 boasts noteworthy robustness from Seiko’s Diashock anti-shock system. The proprietary Diashock technique entails a spring-loaded mounting system that supports the balance wheel and absorbs impact, keeping the timepiece highly accurate and reliable for decades. Overall the mid-tier movement is solid, has an accuracy rating of -35/+45 seconds per day, and should supply years of service-free usage.
You guessed it right! Protecting the dial is Seiko’s proprietary impact-resistant Hardlex crystal. The flat Hardlex crystal comes with a very thin magnifier (cyclops) over the date display at 3 o’clock. Despite being relatively affordable, the watch glass offers impressive resistance to scratches and cracks compared to mineral crystals.
No kidding, it will survive great impact – even smashing against a rock. Moving forward, the aluminum bezel insert of the Mini Turtle is spectacular. It is fully indexed, making it suitable underwater and for timing all sorts of activities.
The bezel is unidirectional and rotates at 120 clicks per round (anti-clockwise). It has thickset white numbering in intervals of 10 with white minute marks around, helping the wearer track time. A recessed luminous pip can be seen above the 12 o’clock position as a reversed triangle. Coloring for the bezel differs depending on the variant, but all are very well expressed and finished by Seiko.
The Mini Turtle is a dive watch, and depending on the model, you can choose any great strap that offers you a comfortable fit. Purists will tell you no other strap is ideal for a diver’s watch except metal, rubber, or nylon, but this is no rule.
The 42.3mm width of the case and a short lug-to-lug distance is precisely calculated to keep the Mini Turtle firmly proportioned on the wrist, so any curved end watch strap that can provide an ergonomically comfortable fit is ideal.
The use of color on the Mini Turtle is also well-balanced, which means you can choose any simple strap that is great for casual/ business casual environments depending on the model.
Bracelets, suede, perlon, NATO, and rubber straps are great options, but straps that are resistant to dust, odors, UV radiations, and sweat are highly recommended.
Top 3 Alternatives To The Seiko Mini Turtle
Seiko Prospex King Turtle SRPE03K1
Right up the top of the list is none other than the King Turtle SRPE03K1 with a similar bold design to the Mini Turtle. The cushion-shaped King Turtle is a particular gem in the SRP series, adored by many diving enthusiasts.
It has everything we loved in the original Turtle; 200 meters of water resistance, a screw-down crown, a day-date complication, a robust in-house movement, and a fully marked bezel. But it goes further to add almost everything the original Turtle left to be desired; a Sapphire crystal, hacking and hand-winding movement, and a bezel action that feels smoother and sturdier.
The watch is equipped with the in-house caliber 4R36 with 24 jewels and provides approximately 41 hours of power reserve. Though slightly bigger than the Mini Turtle at 45mm in diameter (hence the nickname), the King Turtle does not feel oversized on the wrist thanks to its relatively short lugs of approximately 22mm.
Expect to spend around 600 USD for a new piece, as seen on Amazon. It’s more expensive than the Mini Turtle, yes, but the Sapphire crystal upgrade is well worth the premium.
Hamilton Khaki Navy Scuba Auto H82335131
Popular for unique aviation-inspired watches, Hamilton stands out for constantly consolidating Swiss watchmaking traditions with classic American styles. Measuring 40mm in diameter, the Navy Scuba Auto from Hamilton is a perfect alternative to the Mini Turtle. From the case to the bracelet, bezel, and dial, this model is distinct and well-designed.
Just like the Mini Turtle, it features a clean dial with large hands — the minute hands even have an arrow shape at its tips that is distinguishable thanks to its striking red color. The dial is protected by Sapphire crystal and is water resistant up to 100m. It is equipped with Hamilton’s H-10 caliber, a three-hand movement with a power reserve of up to 80 hours.
You can get it here for 650 USD or around 400 USD for the quartz variation (ref: H82201131).
Dan Henry 1970
Notable in the vast watch world for creating vintage-inspired timepieces is Dan Henry, a watch brand that was created by an avid watch collector. If you absolutely want to replace the Mini Turtle with a great affordable alternative, the Dan Henry 1970 is the perfect compromise because of its vintage and sporty look.
The case measures 40mm with a lug-to-lug width of 22mm. The matte dial is all about legibility with a 60-min inner rotating bezel and a welcome addition of applied hours indices.
It is equipped with the caliber NH35 from Seiko, a reliable but affordable movement that offers a decent power reserve of approximately 41 hours. It is water resistant to a depth of 200 meters and goes for 290 USD on Dan Henry’s official website.
Once again, Seiko adheres to its proven recipe: maintaining the great points and never breaking the codes. While there are great alternatives to the Mini Turtle out there, you’ll hardly find an entry-level timepiece that offers such profound consistency in its design and quality.
The watch has been at the end of the accessible divers, and there are tangible reasons for this. The overall execution is superb, with outstanding consistency in the build and form. The accuracy of the assembly, the superiority of the parts used in all areas, robustness of the movement, comfort, and compactness of the bracelet and clasp…
There’s no denying that everything has been considered with much attention. As for the price, the Mini Turtles have been discontinued (so hold tight to yours if you got one), making them more expensive now. Expect to spend around 370 USD for a new piece on Amazon.
Today we take a horological dive into the most iconic and affordable legendary timepiece of all time; the Seiko SKX. Arguably the most popular watch that has introduced many enthusiasts to the intricate world of horology, the SKX line was a well-kept Japanese secret until its release in 1996.
Built as a beater watch that combines the Japanese appreciation of Haute horology and the technical mastery of Seiko, the Seiko SKX is a highly respected watch with a cult following. The two variants, the black SKX007, and the dark blue SKX009 received profound interest from divers worldwide. The Seiko SKX is highly reliable, sturdy, good-looking, and affordable.
However, Seiko has discontinued the production of the SKX diver. So what now? Is it still the go-to beater watch? Are there alternatives to the extremely popular SKX007 and SKX009? Will the discontinued Seiko SKX go up in value? Is it worth the hype in 2022?
Read on to find out answers to these questions and more as we quickly delve into the story behind the launch of the Seiko SKX, its evolution over the years, the most notable watches from the Seiko SKX line, and some excellent alternatives you should be checking out.
But first, the basic question…
What Is the Seiko SKX?
The Seiko SKX is a line that was introduced by Seiko in 1996. The watches in this series are fitted with the Seiko 7S26 caliber, a 21-jewel automatic movement with 40 hours of power reserve and a 21,600 vph frequency used to power numerous Seiko high-functioning divers with up to 200m water resistance.
Among the first models introduced at that time, the SKX007 and SKX009 were the two variants that stood out and became the best-selling diver’s watches at that time. The SKX series can trace its DNA back to the creation of Seiko’s (and Japan’s) first diver’s watch, the 150M Diver’s 6217, or 62MAS, as Seiko aficionados, call it.
Launched to contend with Swiss rivals and even beat them in terms of quality, reliability, and performance, the Diver’s 6217 was originally made for the 1964 Japanese Olympics with Seiko as the official timing partner.
The 150M Diver portrayed all the elements of a true diver’s watch. The hour makers and hands were luminescent, the bezel could rotate bi-directionally, and it was fitted with the cal. 6127, a 17-jewel automatic movement that guaranteed water resistance up to 150 meters deep.
The watch was largely successful due to its accessibility, reliability, and affordability. It received great responses and immediately placed Seiko in a strong position in the global market and marked the beginning of Seiko’s pursuit of the creation of reliable diver watches.
Following the success of the Diver’s 6217, Seiko made history again with the professional diver’s 600M, an impressive tool watch for exploring the deep crafted out of titanium. Fast forward to the 1980s, and several world firsts diving watches would be produced by the brand.
These include the world’s first Hybrid Diver’s 150M (the Seiko H558 Arnie), which came with an alarm and chronograph and was launched in 1982. And how could we forget the world’s first Diver’s 1000M (7C46-7009), which featured a ceramic outer case in 1986, and the world’s best-selling Quartz Diver’s 200 meters watch (7c43-6010) in 1985.
As production of the 6309 ended (it reigned from 1976 to 1988), Seiko replaced it with the very first non-prospex timepiece (Prospex means Professional Specifications, and the Prospex collection is lined with high-end Seiko tool watches) by way of the 7002.
A timepiece that was rugged on all levels and became the first true beater watch made by Seiko for extreme sports, manual labor, and everyday use.
It was loved immediately after it hit the market, achieving immense fame among personnel of various military forces and freedivers all over the globe. It is a predecessor to the modern-day SKX, which picks up where the 7002 left off.
So we have established that the Seiko SKX was introduced in 1996 and is a worthy descendant of the Seiko 7002. However, a few variants stand out, like the popular and loved black SKX007, one of the most highly recommended and affordable mechanical tool watches in recent history.
What Makes the Seiko SKX So Iconic?
Seiko SKX watches have all been discontinued by Seiko, but they remain widely available. Compared to other Seiko collections, the SKX line is the 3rd most popular, with an outstanding design, sturdy construction, reliable movement, and affordable price.
The SKX007 and SKX009 were two of the longest-running models by the brand, as they were produced in huge numbers for over twenty years. But, again, why… just why is the Seiko SKX so popular? Read on to find out.
1. The Movement
All the watches from the SKX line are fitted with Seiko’s 7S26 movement. A solid automatic movement was first released in 1996. It is built around four primary moving parts and has been reported to work perfectly well for five to twenty years without needing servicing.
The 7S26 is also a prized workhorse, thanks to Seiko’s proprietary diashock anti-shock system that makes it resistant to damage from falls. Beating at a rate of 21,600 bph, the 7S26 features 21 jewels, a quickset day/date display, an automatic bi-directional winding, and a power reserve of approximately 40 hours.
Its accuracy has been rated at approximately -20 to +40 seconds per day which is pretty large, although the movement can be adjusted to gain a higher accuracy. It is non-hand winding and non-hacking and can still be found in some entry-level Seiko 5 watches.
Overall, the movement is affordable, reliable, and doesn’t require much maintenance to keep it running smoothly. After its discontinuation, it was replaced with the upgraded 4R36, which features hacking and hand-winding.
2. The Accessible Price Point
The SKX line was never meant to be a luxury collection. It was just meant to continue the brand’s legacy of excellent affordable watches. That said, because it uses an inexpensive movement paired with some standard watch components, the price point is insanely accessible.
Before Seiko discontinued it, the Seiko SKX sold for $150 to $250 for a new piece. Three years after its discontinuation, the watches in the Seiko SKX collection can still be obtained below the $500 mark on the private sales market.
3. The Case and Dial
The case and dial of the Seiko SKX line take cues from its predecessor, the 7002, giving it a universal appeal. The case bears the unique Seiko design with Seiko’s trademark Tsunami logo at its back. There are claims that the Seiko Tsunami Logo is based on Japan’s Most Famous Artwork, The Great Wave (Kanagawa Oki Nami Ura).
The woodblock print by Hokusai Katsushika (1760-1849) depicts an imposing picture of a rogue wave with three boats and Mount Fuji in the background. Given the importance of the Hokusai woodcut in Japanese culture, it’s hard to imagine the Tsunami Logo has nothing to do with it.
Back to the Seiko SKX case, the diameter measures 42mm, while a compact lug-to-lug distance of 46mm, means it wears well on a variety of small to medium-sized wrists. The thickness measures 13.5mm, meaning it’s hefty but not too bulky for active work, while the crown at the 4 o’clock position won’t dig into the wearer’s wrist.
Overall, the case is clean and good-looking, with smooth finishings between the sections and a brushed surface finish on the top. The dial is super legible, with vivid colors that make it stand out clearly. It shines through a Hardlex crystal – which is fine considering the price – with Hardlex being more scratch-resistant than regular mineral crystal.
Apart from this, it is almost impossible to find a mid-priced Seiko timepiece fitted with a Sapphire Crystal. The hands and big, chunky, painted hour markers stand out prominently. They are generously filled with the legendary Seiko Lumibrite luminescent solution, making the watch stand out clearly in the dark.
Aesthetically, there’s nothing not to love about the SKX’s dial. It is extremely legible, as one would hope a Sports watch from Seiko would be, and gives you need and more; a day/date display at the 3 o’clock position. How cool is that?
Is the Seiko SKX Discontinued?
To the world’s dismay, in the 2nd half of 2019, Seiko officially announced the discontinuation of the Seiko SKX. Though you can still find new ones, the only place where you can obtain one is on the gray market with a significant value appreciation.
So the lack of availability has only increased the demand (and, of course, the price), which is normal, as discontinued timepieces are one of the most highly sought-after and coveted watches in the pre-owned market. The Seiko SKX has remained legendary as a rugged, capable, and affordable beater watch option and can still be obtained below the $500 mark in the gray market.
Should You Buy a New or Pre-owned SKX?
The watches in the Seiko SKX line were created to stand the test of time and can still be worn after decades with an assurance of their quality intact.
When it comes to choosing between a new or pre-owned SKX, it all boils down to personal preference, even though the most apparent reason why anyone would choose to buy a pre-owned SKX rather than the new one is the difference in price and availability.
Purchasing a new piece means you’re guaranteed to receive a complete box set with all the accessories, a full warranty from the manufacturer, and of course, the assurance of knowing the watch has never been worn.
On the other hand, if you’re buying pre-owned, you might not get some accessories or any warranty, and if it had not been serviced by a highly reputable source, it can be less reliable and incur problems over time.
Seiko SKX References & Current Prices
The design of the SKX bears a resemblance to the eye-catching original 1980s Seiko 7002 diver watch that was famous for its unique features. Signature translucent dials with distinctive rectangular hour markers showcase the day/date disc rotation with profound legibility that adds to the retro effect.
And though there might be slight differences between the variants in the Seiko SKX line, the watches here are known for durability, performance, and value.
Since the introduction of the SKX series in 1996, the collection has remained globally respected among collectors. Its flawless 42-mm case size, robust caliber 7S26, affordable price, and 200 meters of water resistance made it the gateway timepiece to the world of dive watches.
The Seiko SKX007 gets the most attention out of all the SKX watches due to its universal black dial design. Even though the SKX007 receives a lot of attention, the iconic ISO-rated dive watch is not the only legendary timepiece from the SKX line.
There’s also the SKX173 variation which was made specifically for the North American market. The watch bears the same resemblance with SKXs, but subtle differences can be noticed on the dial (such as rectangular hour makers, different seconds hands with a lumed circle at the head and not the tail, bolder triangles on the bezel, etc).
The second most popular SKX reference is the Seiko SKX009. It’s very similar to the 007 but features a deep blue dial with an iconic “Pepsi” bezel. Its American-market counterpart was the SKX175, although there weren’t any significant differences between the two pieces. Still, the navy blue dial with the contrasting red part of the bezel was adored by many watch collectors around the world.
Another famous SKX model is the SKX013. This is a smaller watch with a diameter of 38mm and a lug-to-lug of only 44mm. This compact size made it ideal for people with smaller wrists or those who prefer a smaller watch. The SKX013 featured the same dial and bezel combination as the SKX007 but with a different seconds hand.
The Seiko SKX011 was an underrated model in the SKX family that did not gather the fame and attention of its brothers. This mostly comes down to its polarizing color combination of an orange dial and black bezel with gold accents.
But these colors should be very familiar to fans of the Seiko Orange Monster models. Another issue with the SKX011 is that it’s a Japanese Domestic Market model that wasn’t officially released in the West, making it difficult to find.
Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) Seiko SKX
While Seiko is a Japanese watch brand that designs all its watches, most SKX watches were not actually manufactured in Japan. Instead, only a handful was built in Seiko’s Japanese factories, and they were primarily aimed at the Japanese market.
Most Seiko SKX watches were manufactured in Seiko factories in Malaysia or Singapore. These models are indicated by the K letter next to the model name (SKX007K1). Comparatively, the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) SKX watches are denoted by the letter J (SKX007J1).
Essentially, the two types of SKX watches are identical, besides a bit of writing on the dial. But, there’s the notion that JDM models have better construction, finishing, and quality control. While this hasn’t been proven, and Seiko hasn’t confirmed it, watch fans tend to go for the JDM vs the K models if they can find them.
Current Seiko SKX Prices
When it comes to pricing, it is difficult to put a pin on the price of these watches since Seiko has discontinued the SKX line. What’s worth mentioning is that on the gray market, the JDM models sell for approximately 20% more than the K models. The exotic nature of the JDM SKX watches (in addition to their limited availability) plays a vital role in their popularity and price.
Demand and supply shifts may largely affect the price point, but at the time of writing this article, brand-new JDM Seiko SKX watches can be obtained between $600 – $850. Comparatively, the K models demand between $450 – $600 (with the K1s/rubber strap variants being more affordable than the K2s/steel bracelet variants).
With supply becoming lower every day since the discontinuation of the SKX, more and more watch fans will eventually turn to the second-hand market to find SKX watches. Pricing on the used market can vary significantly and heavily depends on the condition of the watch. Always make sure to do your research before shopping for one though, as there are a lot of counterfeit SKX watches out there.
Seiko SKX Replacements
When Seiko discontinued the SKX line in the second half of 2019, they quickly followed up with a more elegant version of the sports watch to appeal to the next generation of consumers: the Seiko 5 Sports collection. Interestingly, all of Seiko’s diver’s watches are now Prospex logo-signed.
Seiko 5 What?
Originally released in the 1960s, Seiko 5 was meant to deliver highly durable beater watches with profound levels of reliability, durability, performance, and value at an affordable price. Its rebirth as a replacement for the revered SKX line is no surprise, as it is a proper replacement for any value-hungry collector or buyer.
Taking inspiration from its predecessor, the 5 Sports collection comes with the same values as the originals. But, it incorporates a fresh new look and the numeral ‘’5’’, representing the original five key features of every Seiko 5 timepiece present today: Automatic movement, Day-date display, Water Resistance, Recessed crown, and durable case and bracelet.
One of the major improvements in this replacement is the upgrade from the popular 7S36 movement to the Caliber 4R36, which was a very good move since the 7S36 caliber was outdated and couldn’t be wound by hand.
The new Caliber 4R36 now offers wearers the desirable hacking and hand-winding functionality in addition to all the features of the 7S36 movement; hours, minutes, central seconds, day/date calendar at 3 o’clock, an anti-shock system, 41 hours of power reserve and 21,600 bph.
The Seiko 5 Sports has a dial and case that resembles the SKX watches, but this time the lugs are drilled, and the case back is transparent to offer you a perfect view of the timekeeping mechanics in action.
Unlike the SKX, this line includes watches with a push-pull crown, not a screw-down one. The disadvantage of this is a lowered water resistance rating from 200m to 100m which is okay for swimming and snorkeling but not deep diving.
Different strap styles with more choices in various colors, including stainless steel, leather, rubber, silicone, and even interchangeable nylon bands that appeal to different sections of the market, have been vastly improved in 5 Sports.
The rubber straps are now softer and more pliable. A striking sunray or cool matte dial features the signature Seiko 5 Sports logo on all the watches, and luminous hand and indices with a day/date calendar keep the spirit of the SKX line alive on the wrist of the wearer.
Before we look at the Pros and Cons of both collections, here’s a quick rundown on a few models in the Seiko 5 Sports
The stainless steel case of the SRPD71 measures 42.5mm in diameter with a thickness of 13mm. The size of the casing bears a resemblance to the SKX. The SRPD71 “suit style” is a more elegant version of the 5 Sports line.
Its shape is round, and the bezel is unidirectional. However, it looks to be smaller, with the stainless steel crown resting between a crown guard elegantly positioned at 4 o’clock to prevent it from digging into the wrist, thereby increasing comfort.
The matte metallic blue dial goes well with cream-colored indices, and a sharp-looking mesh (Milanese style) steel bracelet gives it an overall crisp look without bordering on “bling bling”.
So it’s subtle but not distracting and the matte effect over the metallic dial, in addition to luminous arrow-styled hands and markers, offers an excellent level of legibility that is beautiful to behold.
A day-date window is positioned at three o’clock, and it is powered by Seiko’s own in-house automatic caliber 4R36 movement, which is viewable through the exhibition case back.
The SRPD91 “Sports Style” has all the design elements that define the SKX line but with an improved build quality and a higher price tag of around $300 compared to the SKX.
It comes in a stainless steel black PVD case that measures 42.5mm in diameter with a thickness of 13.4mm, which is a fantastic measurement considering that it is a sports watch and has a very straightforward design.
The grainy black dial with slight matte finishing has applied hour markers, one of the upgrades compared to the SKX line that came with printed ones, with a generous amount of Lumibrite applied to them to ensure a long-lasting glow.
Overall, the dial is clean, simple, and highly legible, with the classic Seiko 5-day and date window at 3 o’clock. It is presented in an olive green nylon NATO strap that offers versatility and a tactical military look. It is equipped with the in-house automatic caliber 4R36, which, unlike the SKX line, has hacking seconds and manual winding functions.
I found myself gravitating towards the SPRD77 “Sense Style” the most. For starters, it has a unique green dial with a lot more details and an interesting texture than other models in this price range. The case size and design are the same as the last generation SKXs, and it comes with a green nylon NATO strap with a gunmetal buckle and catchers.
There’s something about the orange seconds hand sweeping over tiny plateaus and valleys and breaking up the more or less monochromatic dial that is just appealing. Encompassing the edge of the dial is the chapter ring with silver-printed second markers.
In contrast, the color of the coin edge bezel is a deeper teal of gunmetal gray, which compliments the dial nicely. Inside, the 4R36, a 24-jewel automatic movement with hacking and hand-winding functionality, provides approximately 40 hours of power reserve.
Number one beater watch; easy to wear all day long for any kind of activity.
Great looks with a timeless design.
Exceptional value for money
Most accessible entry-level diver’s of all time
Discontinued line with Inflated prices.
Outdated 7S26 in-house movement with no hacking or hand-winding.
Unconventional crown position at four o’clock.
Tons of modern alternatives on the market
Seiko 5 Sports
Sturdy and robust movement with hacking and hand-winding.
Bright lume markers.
Lack of a screw-down crown.
Not ideal for diving as it lacks the 200m of water resistance.
Seiko SKX Alternatives
The Seiko SKX007 was indeed one of the most popular dive watches on the market, with a near cult following before the discontinuation of the SKX line in 2019.
Let’s be honest now. It’s 2022, and apart from the inflated prices of most SKX watches on the gray market, many of them lack a modern twist which can be found in alternatives, even from Seiko, as the brand has over thirty new Seiko 5 Sports models that are a great alternative to the discontinued SKX line.
Anyone who has always wanted to sport a Seiko SKX timepiece but balked at the inflated prices should definitely take a closer look at these alternatives. There are a few awesome alternatives to the Seiko SKX that come with a screw-down crown, 200+ meters of water resistance, and are under $500.
The Seiko Samurai SRPB51 has been one of the most popular watches from Seiko’s ”Prospex” and ”Samurai” collections for over five years. Like the SKX007, the watch boasts 200 meters of water resistance and luminous markings. Adding to that are a classic design and handy additional features, such as a hacking movement and manual winding.
Even if you’re already familiar with the Samurai, as many collectors are, here’s some background; Seiko Samurai was first introduced in 2004 and was well received by the audience because of its robustness and sleek design. It was called the Samurai because of its sword-shaped hands and was available in titanium and stainless steel.
The Samurai SRPB51 is an excellent alternative to the SKX because it’s an affordable yet well-built sporty dive watch that is really accurate, has amazing lume, and is easily read. It might be bulky at 43.8mm, and hefty with a case thickness of 13.5mm, but that’s exactly why it’s a robust sports watch.
The textured dial is stunning, clean, and legible, with polished second, hour, and minute hands that feature a generous amount of Lumibrite. Speaking of cleanliness, the dial features the Prospex logo, the word ‘Automatic’, the depth rating, and a discreet date window at 3 o’clock.
The Seiko Samurai SRPB51 is fitted with Seiko’s proprietary Hardlex crystal and the Seiko’s caliber 4R35, which offers a reasonable 41-hour power reserve. It also comes with a bracelet that has a three-fold clasp to keep it secure and in place.
The Seiko Prospex “Turtle” SRPC25K1
The Seiko Prospex “Turtle” comes with an oval case that resembles a turtle’s shell, hence the nickname by followers of the brand. The Turtle line first surfaced in 1976 under the name 6306, but it’s unclear if production continued when the SKX came on board.
It resurfaced in 2019 and has become a desired alternative to the discontinued SKX line. The Seiko Prospex “Turtle” is instantly recognizable due to its cushion-shaped, oval case and crown at the 4 o’clock position – a historic trait of the Turtle line, which is one feature that facilitates a comfortable fit. The case is large with a diameter of 44.3 mm but doesn’t feel oversized on the wrist, partly due to the short lugs and soft curves.
The dial is legible and Seiko, as always, uses its luminous material, LumiBrite, for the indices. The hour, minute, and seconds hands are also coated in LumiBrite, and the luminous material is only absent at 3 o’clock, where the day and date display sits.
Seiko’s Hardlex crystal, which is between the standard mineral glass and the sapphire crystal in terms of durability and scratch resistance, is used here with a stainless steel bracelet that has a practical diver’s extension.
Overall, the Seiko Prospex SRPC25K1 is a robust diving watch that is water-resistant to 200 meters (20 bar, 656 ft). The reliable automatic in-house caliber 4R36 offers a power reserve of 41 hours, hacking seconds, and a manual-winding function.
Prospex Special PADI Edition Samurai Black
The PADI collection is exclusive to Seiko and stands for Professional Association of Diving Instructors, which happens to be one of the world’s leading scuba diving training organizations that unifies divers who share a passion for adventure and love for the ocean around the globe.
Featuring an elegant ceramic bezel with light blue color highlights, the angular-shaped design has been nicknamed King Samurai by Seiko fans. That’s because the case looks as if it had been sliced by a Japanese Samurai sword, though it’s the concave curvature of the middle part of the case.
The Prospex special PADI edition has an impressive 200 meters water resistance, a 43.8mm case with 22mm lugs, which makes changing the bracelet easy, a 120-click unidirectional bezel, a date display, and a screw-down crown situated at three o’clock.
The watch uses a sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating on the inner surface and has an overall flat face and chamfered edge. On the inside of that is a well-executed dial that is superbly clean with a mind-blowing lume.
The back of the case is opaque – so unlike some watches in this collection, you won’t be able to see the movement beating inside – and screwed down with a recessed stamp of the Seiko Tsunami logo on the back.
Beneath it, Seiko’s manufactured Caliber 4R36 offers a power reserve of approximately 41 hours alongside the hacking seconds and a manual-winding function.
Other SKX Alternatives Aside From Seiko
There are several outstanding diving watches on the market with rock-solid specs and price tags that are hard to resist. And while they may look the same at a glance, they all have distinct looks and features to suit different tastes. Let’s take a look at some standout performers.
Orient Kamasu (Mako III)
The Orient Kamasu is one badass model that can make us forget the SKX and is also one of the most popular diving watches from Orient. Not only is the Kamasu an affordable quality timepiece, but it is also a valuable collectible for those just entering the realm of collecting, and every great entry-level dive watch list certainly has its name.
This is the most standard entry-level Orient diver’s. And guess what? It comes with Sapphire glass. Made entirely of 316L stainless steel, the size of this watch’s casing is 41.8mm wide with a thickness of 12.8mm and a lug-to-lug of 47mm. The timepiece is just right and will sit snugly on various wrists.
It weighs in at 154 grams (this figure varies slightly depending on the strap), making it more or less equal to the SKX. The shape is different, though. It uses a flat sapphire crystal and has no curvature or doming, so there’s no distortion of the indices when read from an angle. Also, the crown at the conventional 3 o’clock position is not SKX-like.
The bracelet is versatile, with links that mimic the finishing pattern of the case and a clasp double secured by two side-release buttons and a flip-lock. Orient and Seiko collaborated to present the caliber F6922, which powers the watch.
The caliber F6922 is an improved and robust movement that contains 22 jewels, beats at 21,600 vibrations per hour, offers both manual winding and hacking capabilities, and exhibits a power reserve of 40 hours.
Citizen Promaster Diver (BN0150-28E)
With an irresistible price tag, the Citizen Promaster Diver is one of Citizen’s most popular diving watches! It is definitely worth considering as an alternative to the discontinued SKX line as it is a solar-powered analog quartz watch with an insane power reserve of approximately six months.
Featuring a 44-millimeters-wide stainless-steel case with the crown and date at the 4 o’clock position, the Promaster Diver is a little smaller than the old Promaster Diver. Instead of a mechanical movement inside, there’s an Eco Drive caliber.
Yes, let’s talk about this stunning gloss black dial! One of the great strengths of the Promaster Automatic and many of the watches in this collection is how readable the hands are. The dial is pretty basic – no surprises at all.
The large white trapezoidal markers for the hours contrast perfectly against the black dial, with stylized hands that enable you to easily differentiate minutes and hours, joining forces to enhance legibility.
Both markers and hands are primarily covered in luminous material, while the brand’s logo can be seen below 12 o’clock, and a water resistance indicator stays above the 6 o’clock position. Overall the watch is solid, well-executed, and good-looking.
Like the SKX, it has a 200m water resistance, a screwed case back, a unidirectional bezel with a 60-minute scale printed on an aluminum insert, and a bright lume in the hands and time indices.
Seiko has been in the watchmaking business since 1881. The brand is recognized worldwide for Its technological innovation and accessibility. Seiko’s timepieces represent precision and ingenuity; anyone who keys in the words ‘best entry-level watch’ into any search engine would find the SKX littered across top suggestions.
The reason is simple. The SKX is possibly the choicest iteration of an affordable tool watch the vast world of watchmaking has unveiled for a very long time. The movement (7S26) is robust, reliable, and durable and proffers decades of carefree service. The watch itself is impressively accurate, with a flawless design and decent bezel action.
The case is rock solid, and the dial is a true reminiscence of the ’90s. If you are thinking of adding one to your collection, go right ahead!
Seiko is amongst the few watch manufacturers that will always exceed your expectations when it comes to churning out iconic timepieces. As befitting its name, the Alpinist collection from Seiko offers a plethora of robustly constructed sports watches that were originally crafted to serve as a reliable reference for Japanese mountain climbers and currently boast the same spirit as the people it was made for.
Kintaro Hattori, Seiko’s founder, had the vision to be one step ahead of the rest by creating accessible watches with great quality at prolific rates and launched the very first Alpinist in 1959, which turned out to be Seiko’s first real attempt at a sports watch. Little did he know that the robust timepiece would soon become one of the greatest legends among the Seika lovers’ community.
Since the Seiko Alpinist line was established with mountain climbing in mind, the construction is robust and bears a no-nonsense appeal of a tool watch. And if you’re thinking that since it was meant for mountain men in the 1960s it would look like a tank, you are absolutely wrong my friend, as Seiko has released a series of reinterpretations of the Alpinist with distinctive 21st century designs that add elegance and class, as well as historical appeal.
History & Origin Of The Seiko Alpinist: The First Alpinist
The story of the Seiko Alpinist starts way back in 1959 with the Laurel Alpinist; a watch that was built for Japanese mountaineers known as Yama-Otoko (which means mountain men). The Laurel Alpinist featured highly legible luminous hands, a waterproof screw-down case back with a display heavily protected by a domed acrylic glass that made it tough enough to withstand dust and specks of dirt.
Although it had a non-sporty look, it was powered by the robust Seikosha manual movement with Diashock shock protection and 17 jewels, that boasted great accuracy and shock resistance for its time. The launch of the Laurel Alpinist marked the entry of Seiko into the sports watch arena and blazed the trail for many iconic watches (including timing devices for sports, stopwatches, and diver’s watches) to follow.
Still desiring to meet the needs of the mountain climbers who traversed dangerous topographies for leisure and work, Seiko introduced a more rugged version of the Alpinist called the Alpinist Champion in 1963 which was a redesigned version of the Laurel Alpinist and sported a light-colored centered dial that had a darker surrounding in addition to square-shaped, applied hour markers.
The resurrection of the Seiko Alpinist in the 1990s
From 1963 to 1992 the Alpinist seemed to have been buried in the canals of time, but after 30 whole years, the Red Alpinist hit the Japanese market under the Prospex line and gained a lot of popularity thanks to its unique features. Unlike its predecessors, the watch had a new dial design with luminous cathedral hands in a display that was no longer covered with acrylic glass but with Sapphlex; which happens to be a mineral glass with a layer of sapphire.
It now featured a rotatable bezel with compass markings to help the mountain climbers with orientation in the open terrain (depending on your longitudinal hemisphere, you can easily determine the northern or southern part of the globe with any timepiece but Seiko goes further with the Alpinist and now enables wearers to read other approximate compass directions correctly on the dial), a date display neatly located under a magnifying lens at 3 o’clock and the highly regarded Seiko 4S15 Hi-Beat automatic movement which is hackable and also supports hand winding.
Nicknamed Red Alpinist by fans of Seiko because of the word “Alpinist” written in red just above 6 o’clock, the model was released with three dial color alternatives, namely black, cream, and emerald green. It remains well-loved to this day.
Seiko Alpinist SARB 2006 series
Again in 2003 the Alpinist 8F56 was introduced into the market and stands as one of the rarest models in the Alpinist collection that was fitted with the highly revered 8F56 super-accurate quartz movement. It was water resistant up to 100 meters, featuring a perpetual calendar and a 10-year lithium battery. After it, the SARB Alpinist came to the market in 2006.
It took its design cues from the Red Alpinist but was fitted with the caliber 6R15 Automatic Diashock 23 Jewel movement with a 50-hour power reserve and 200 meters of water resistance. The red “Alpinist” above 6 o’clock has now been replaced by the word “Automatic” written in white, the crystal is now Sapphire, and the date display is no longer magnified.
The SARB013 (cream dial), SARB015 (black dial), and SARB017 (green dial) became an instant success upon introduction and are the longest-running models. So while the core character of the Alpinist line has remained unchanged, the styles and designs have evolved over time, and it has continued to gain popularity to date because of its elegance and versatility.
Remakes and Reinterpretations
From the first generation of vintage Seiko Alpinist models that were released in 1959, all the way to the latest iteration of special editions from the iconic line in 2021, Seiko Alpinist keeps getting re-born in a re-creation that characterizes the spirit of the very first timepiece that has evolved over six decades, and now comes with a more current automatic movement as part of Seiko’s professional specifications “Prospex” line.
The Alpinist Re-Creation
On the occasion of the company’s 140th anniversary last year, the brand launched a modern recreation of the original ‘Alpinist’ with inspiration from the Seiko Laurel Alpinist. As with the 1959 original, the design is simple and practical though more recognizable, with Lumi Brite on the dial and hands and a full 100 meters of water resistance.
The Alpinist Re-Creation is now limited to only 1,959 pieces available globally and is now fitted with the ultramodern automatic Seiko slim cal. 6L35, a more accurate movement with 28,800 vph that offers 45 hours of power reserve. Since it was meant to be a reliable timepiece for Japanese ‘Yama-otoko’ mountain men, the Alpinist Re-Creation features a protective leather bracelet to protect the wearer from the effects of the cold case black metal on the skin when scaling high altitudes.
I’m no scaler of the Alps but I consider this very thoughtful. In addition to these added features, the case is slightly larger with a diameter measuring 36.6 mm (The Seiko Laurel Alpinist measured 35mm in diameter, 41mm Lug to Lug, 11mm Height, and 18mm Lug Width). The date display is now at the 4 o’clock position and the watch boasts a domed sapphire crystal.
The Re-Interpretation was simultaneously released with the Re-Creation by Seiko in 2021. Also marking a return to the simple 1959 Alpinist model, this model was introduced on the occasion of Seiko’s 140th anniversary under the name, ‘1959 Alpinist Re-Interpretation’ and comes in three variants; the creme (SPB241J1), green (SPB245J1), and gray (SPB243J1) dial.
The Alpinist Re-Creation and Re-Interpretation may look the same, but on closer inspection, you would find that the latter features a minute ring with a subtle sunburst effect, while the date display can be seen at 3 o’clock and not the 4 o’clock position like the former.
The case differs in measurement at a diameter of 38 mm, while a flat sapphire crystal (not domed) protects the dial that features stylized triangles resembling mountain peaks at 6, 9, and 12 o’clock, with dauphine-style hands, the Seiko Prospex logo, and the Automatic wordmark neatly displayed in a retro script typeface.
The cathedral shaped hands remained in all variants in addition to the presence of the cyclops. Visible beneath the see-through case back of the 1959 Alpinist Modern Re-interpretation, is the automatic caliber 6R35 with an accuracy of -15/+25 seconds per day and a power reserve of 70 hours.
What Makes The Seiko Alpinist So Special?
The Seiko Alpinist brand possesses a history. Ask most Seiko collectors and they’ll tell you they own an Alpinist. One amazing thing about the Alpinist line is that Seiko ensures that there is something for every collector. The robust timepiece is one of the favorite collectibles among Seiko fans and is known for its distinctive and sturdy design for adventure seekers in the water, in the sky, on land, and for businessmen.
It is popular because it is versatile and can literally be worn in just about any situation whether professional or casual outings. From the start, the Seiko Alpinist was well received and, over the next six decades, its reputation extended beyond the Japanese and Asian markets for which the collection was first intended with an unexpected cult forming around the model.
Interestingly in 1959, the Alpinist was the first Seiko watch ever produced with ‘sports’ in mind and it blazed a trail that led to the production of various iconic timepieces for sports. The Seiko Alpinist is far from being the perfect tool or sports watch but it is special and over the years it has retained its no-nonsense appeal and originality that exceeds the price tag the price it comes with.
Without swaying you further, here are some specs of the Seiko Alpinist brand that makes it spectacular.
Unquestionable quality and sturdiness.
Numerous rare collector’s pieces that come at a very affordable rate.
Great overall finishing.
Versatility tool watch that can be worn anywhere.
Compact with a wearable proportion that conforms to various wrist sizes.
Robust shock-protected in-house movement with updated automatic movements in the re-released editions.
Large selection of model variations
Crown guard & screw down movement crown with nice design
Affordable watch for connoisseurs.
Is the Seiko Alpinist the right watch for you?
The best reason to buy a Seiko Alpinist is that you want to use the function it comes with. One good thing about the Seiko Alpinist is that it has a personality and a story that dates back to the 1950s and there is one for everybody. Since it was originally designed with durability and strength in mind, it has remained very robust and versatile.
Apart from the Alpinist taking up an unusual spot in Seiko’s wide range of models, it comes with unique designs that are subtle and quirky so much that it is really difficult to find an alternative that can perfectly displace it.
The Alpinist is a timepiece with personality and a story, making it perfect for collectors and enthusiasts. It’s got an unusual place in Seiko’s wider range, with design elements not found in other models as well as historical appeal as the brand’s first sports watch line.
When it comes to functionality, the watch is waterproof and sturdy, the dial is legible and clear with bright indices and liberally applied luminous material, and features a rotating bezel which makes it useful underwater, on land, and in the skies.
Though it has been recreated into a more elegant and modern piece with borrowed features from contemporary dress and pilot watches that offers it modern vibes than that of a lackluster tool meant for scalers of the Alps, I’m not sure the Alpinist could ever quite be a formal dress watch, but apart from collectors and enthusiasts, the Alpinist would serve excellently as a day-in and day-out watch for casual or business outings.
At the core, it has remained an outdoor beater watch fitting for swimming/ diving (thanks to its water resistance rating of 200m), everyday activities (due to its small size and restrained design), and hiking, camping, or mountain climbing because of its compass bezel. Plus the new models feature an upgraded in-house movement that offers an impressive 70-hour power reserve with premium features like sapphire crystal.
Seiko Alpinist Models:
Seiko Laurel Alpinist
The Laurel Alpinist marked Seiko’s entry into the sports watch arena and dates back to 1959 (many sources conflict on the production date but according to Seiko, 1959 was the year). Since it was the first watch made for Japanese mountaineers, it was elegant, yet rugged and superbly functional. Offered with either a black or cream dial and a sturdy leather Bund strap, the Laurel Alpinist is now amongst the rarest and most sought after of the Alpinist watches among Japanese collectors.
The case measures 35mm (this might seem small by today’s standards but it was a decent size at that time), with a domed acrylic glass protecting the display. The dial features luminous dauphine-shaped hands and triangular index markers at 3,6,9 and 12 o’clock. It was powered by a manual movement, marked Seikosha that beats at a relaxed 18,000 BPH with Diashock shock protection and 17 jewels.
Seiko Champion Alpinist 850
The second generation Alpinists after the Laurel Alpinist, referred to as the Champion Alpinist 850, were launched in 1963. The core design remained the same but got a subtle makeover. The case still measures 35mm and comes in a chrome-plated or gold-plated stainless steel case, but the dial has the word “waterproof” in addition to Alpinist written on it with trapezoidal lumed indexes, narrow lines separate the face into five-minute segments, while the minute markers are moved to the outer periphery of the dial.
Under the Champion series the J13043, the J13049, and the J13079 were also released and though many models were created, some were immediately recognizable because of their sporty understated dial design with applied bar indices (such as the 85899 model that was released in 1964 which was just a gold version of the Champion series), and all 3 models were called Champion 850 Alpinists since they were powered by the caliber 850, rated at 18,000bph with Diashock protection. Later versions used the 851 movement.
After thirty years, the Red Alpinist was released under the Prospex line. It was originally designed for the Japanese and Southeast Asian markets and was nicknamed Red Alpinist by Seiko fans because of the word “Alpinist” written in red above 6 o’clock next to a mountain picture. Seiko’s long-time in-house designer Shigeo Sakai, Seiko’s famous in-house designer, fitted the Red Alpinist with a new dial design that changed the appearance of the timepiece fundamentally from the previous ones.
The display is now protected with Sapphlex crystal, a crown at 3 which is for setting the time and date, and a crown at 4 for rotating the compass ring, and the date display, located under a cyclops date window magnification lens at 3 o’clock, is new. Additionally, a unique inner bezel compass has markings meant to help the “men of the mountains” or “Yama-Otoko” with orientation in the open terrain.
The Red Alpinist uses the 4S15 caliber, which is hackable and also supports hand winding. Model numbers are SCVF005 (black variant with small triangles serving as indices), SCVF007 (cream dial with the hour markers alternating between Arabic numerals and pointed indices), and SCVF009 (a popular green variant that is highly sought after by collectors). It was discontinued after two years despite being a sought-after watch.
SSASS LIMITED EDITION ALPINIST
The SSASS or Seven Summits Actions for Sustainable Society Alpinist edition was released in 2003 and is a very very rare Seiko Alpinist model. Paying tribute to Japanese-American mountaineer, Ken Noguchi and his foundation (SSASS) that single-handedly collected tonnes (seven to eight tonnes precisely) of garbage from Everest left behind by other mountain climbers and their teams and disposed of them properly, the limited 2003 SSASS Alpinist is beautifully crafted with comes with a teal dial depicting the skies that remind collectors of respect, admiration and service to humanity. It is limited to just 500 pieces and is powered by an 8F56 high-accuracy quartz. It remains revered among collectors today.
In 2006, the SARB series was launched with three watches under it; the SARB013, SARB015, and SARB017. All three were an immediate success, especially the SARB017 (more on this later) which soon gained a cult following thanks to its luxurious design and impeccable elegance that continues to leave its wearers and on-lookers constantly mesmerized with its green dial.
All the watches in the SARB series are based on the in-house 6R15 caliber; a robust and reliable automatic movement equipped with a hacking function and manual winding with 23 Jewels, that runs at 21,600 beats per hour, and offers 50 hours of power reserve.
The first SARB watches appeared in Seiko’s 2006 catalog (second volume), and although it was predominantly aimed at the Japanese market, it became popular across numerous markets across the globe and even though the line was discontinued a few years ago, the SARB033, SARB035, the Alpinist SARB017, and the Cocktail Time SARB065, continues to be highly sought after by enthusiasts and collectors from the watch community.
In late February 2019, Seiko released the SPB089 to commemorate 60 years of the Brand’s sports watch production. Limited to just 1959 pieces, the SPB089 also known as Blue Alpinist heavily resembles the popular green SARB017, and would be perfect for people who loved the SARB017’s overall design but didn’t find the green attractive. The dial is sunburst blue, the stainless steel case measures 38mm with a sapphire crystal.
The watch size is a perfect measurement for small and medium-sized wrists, and the timepiece features a vintage-style leather strap. The cardinal directions are easily noticeable with the north being highlighted in red. The case back features the standard Seiko markings, in addition to the Alpinist logo, “Limited Edition,” and the individual piece number out of 1959 written in large print. Apart from the dial change and movement (which is the 6R15 automatic movement), it is a true reproduction of the SARB series.
Current Prospex Alpinist
The Prospex Alpinist is one of the most desirable Alpinist watches that have a flair of sophistication and elegance making it versatile and wearable for any situation at all. After the Red Alpinist model, all the Alpinist watches that followed have been sold as part of the Prospex collection and from 2020 the SPB series come with the Prospex logo on their dials. The designs are largely the same and date back to the 1959 model but the caliber 6R35 now offers a power reserve of 70 hours.
The cyclops lens that had disappeared for a while also makes a comeback. The case measures 39.5 mm in diameter and in addition to the dial colors from the previous generations, the 2020 SPB Alpinist comes in a variant that features a brown sunburst dial (SPB209J1), and one that features a glacier-blue dial (SPB199J1). Prices for standard models like the SPB209J1 with a brown sunburst dial fall around 850 USD. For limited models, however, the prices go up to a little over 1,000 USD.
The Baby Alpinist just happens to be another SPB model launched in the year 2020, but updated in 2021. In contrast to its other Seiko Alpinist models, it has a smaller case profile at 38mm and lacks an internal bezel which means it lacks the additional crown at 4 o’clock.
The dial design remains the same as the larger models but has a more delicate texture and an elegant gradient as can be seen in its four variants; SPB155/SBDC115 (green dial), SPB159/SBDC119 (black dial), SPB157/SBDC117 (blue dial), and SPB21 (two-toned dial), offering excellent versatility and value propositions for those seeking a sleek everyday watch from the Alpinist line.
The water resistance rating is 200 meters and the Baby Alpinist is fitted with the robust 6R35 movement which is reliable and easy to service. The movement that beats at 21,600 BPH (3Hz), has 24 jewels, and a generous power reserve of 70 hours (an upgrade from the 6R15 movement which had a 50-hour power reserve).
Alpinist in SKX Style
The Alpinist line has gone through various revisions over the years but has always stayed true to the original model from the 1960s. However, in 2009, Seiko released an Alpinist variation that differed significantly from the traditional Alpinist model. Available under the reference SARB059 that features a green dial and reference SARB061 with a black dial, the SKX-styled Alpinist model was introduced for the Japanese market.
Rated at 200m water resistance the case is the 42-mm case from the SKX diving watches and is finely polished with a crown at 4 o’clock as well as a rotating bezel that now has beveled edges, a 60-minute scale, and compass markings. The hands are not the cathedral-styled hands in the traditional Alpinist watches but sword hands, and all the variants have luminous silver-outlined hands, minute bars, and black-framed hands. The watch is powered by the 6R15; a 23 Jewel automatic movement that Seiko claims has an accuracy rating of -15/+25 seconds per day under normal temperature conditions ( 5 to 35 degrees C).
Seiko SARB017: The Iconic Alpinist Watch
To not write about an iconic timepiece that amassed a huge cult-like fan following despite being released alongside other timepieces, would be sacrilegious. The Seiko SARB017 is part of the Seiko SARB collection. Let’s take a quick look at some of its features.
The Seiko Alpinist features a strong case made of stainless steel that measures a wearable 38mm in diameter with two screw-down crowns. With a thickness of 12mm, lug-to-lug width of 46mm, and a perfect lug width of 20mm, the case is between graceful ( add to that an elegant combination of polished and brushed elements) and hefty, and though crafted as a field watch, it has turned out to be versatile enough for any situation at all, with a plethora of bracelets and leather straps dedicated to it by other brands.
The back of the timepiece features a solid stainless steel case back, screwed down to safeguard the movement inside. Protecting the display is a high-quality sapphire crystal glass; one of the hardest substances with a hardness of 9 on the Mohs scale, only second to diamond which rates the highest at 10, making the timepiece greatly optimized outdoor adventures from the peak of the mountains to the depths of the sea.
The Seiko SARB017 owes a lot to its mesmerizing emerald green dial for its popularity. The first thing anyone notices when they look at a watch is its dial and this one is an object of fascination that reveals the story of the Alpinist line each time the classy lumed cathedral type hands sweep across the green background. The dial is clean and doesn’t have a lot of inscriptions on it; only a gold Seiko logo at 12 o’clock, and ‘Automatic’, ‘DIASHOCK 23 JEWELS’, and ’20BAR’ at 6 o’clock, giving the wearer all the information needed about the timepiece.
The gold hands have a generous amount of luminous material, making them legible in the light as it is in the dark. There is a discreet date display at the 3 o’clock position, a useful detail – balanced by the gold-toned applied even hour Arabic numerals that alternate with odd hour triangle markers, giving the watch a peculiar look among many Seiko timepieces.
The Seiko SARB017 is fitted with the in-house Calibre 6R15, and this movement which was introduced by Seiko for the first time in 2006 is one of the points in favor of the Seiko Alpinist. Paired with a power reserve of approximately 50 hours, the self-winding movement with 23 jewels, an integrated Diashock system, and a Diaflex mainspring has an accuracy of +25/-15 seconds per day. The movement beats at a frequency of 21,600 BPH and is designed to be less susceptible to damage from shock or impact. Its manual winding and hacking capabilities allow the wearer to set the time more accurately.
The strap of the Seiko SARB017 seems to be the only issue among enthusiasts. It seems that the classic brown leather is stiffer than it ought to be and comes with a bit of a pseudo crocodile pattern that doesn’t sit well with a lot of people, but there are currently a bunch of elegant options out there that can perfectly compliment the wristwatch’s head and it’s universal 20mm lug width makes replacement easy so this isn’t much of a problem. That aside, the wide bracelet with a thickness of about 13mm is a major reason why the 38mm stainless steel case wears more prominently than it should, and it is bold, masculine, and instantly recognizable.
Seiko SARB017 Pros;
An extremely versatile timepiece with attributes of field and dress watch that can be used for any occasion.
Great value for money with impressive quality and build.
The Alpinist line is steeped in history which makes it very desirable and interesting.
200 meters of water resistance.
Beautiful timeless design from every angle with great overall finishing.
Mesmerizing green dial.
Seiko SARB017 Cons;
The leather strap is uncomfortable and stiff and has a plastic feel
Sapphire Crystal lacks an anti-reflective coating.
A case size of 38mm may not be suitable for people with large wrists.
Alternatives to the Seiko Alpinist
It is hard to find a good alternative to the Seiko Alpinist (though not impossible) since the Alpinist has its unique design language, and sings a song to the heart of collectors that no other watch can, but take a look at some watches that come close.
1. Seiko Prospex SRPA77J1
The Seiko Prospex SRPA77J1 is intentionally straightforward, simple, and no-nonsense, making it a tool watch in every sense. From the dial to the strap and buckle, it is honestly a durable timepiece coupled with practicality and an unmatched history written by Seiko over the years on the grounds of affordability.
With a case diameter of 42mm and a thickness of 13mm, the SRPA77J1 is a classic made especially for any person challenging the vast earth and is within reach of people with an interest in mechanical watches with a price tag of less than 500 USD.
It is handsome, straightforward, and legible with a green dial, luminous hands and markers, a date display, a see-through case back, and 100 meters of water resistance. Made to offer tremendous performance, the Caliber 4R35, a 23 Jewel movement beating at 21,600 BPH provides approximately 40 hours of power reserve.
2. Hamilton Khaki Field Mechanical
This quintessential field watch is rugged yet refined, and like the Seiko Alpinist was made to support the adventurer every step of the way. The case is 38mm wide in steel with a black dial, and the dial design is free from obscurity, giving it an appeal to adventurists who want a solid, traditional, and sturdy timepiece without any unnecessary decorative frills.
The highly legible matte black dial features silver-tone luminescent hands and crisply printed white Arabic hour markers and a 60-minute track around the periphery. The display is protected with the desired scratch-resistant sapphire crystal, and the watch comes with a standard olive green NATO strap and stainless steel buckle that secures it comfortably to the wrist. The H-50 in-house mechanical hand-winding movement provides an impressive 80 hours of power reserve.
3. BOLDR Venture Field
The Boldr venture field watches put Boldr in the spotlight and have become a desired timepiece for many collectors. Coming in a 38mm angular titanium case, the classic field watch is sleek and bridges the gap between vintage watches and 21st century timepieces excellently well. The watch wears well on the wrist at 12mm thick and is incredibly light thanks to its titanium case.
Made for every adventurer, the venture field watch comes with a solid water resistance of 200 meters so you can swim and dive with it. It also features a flat sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating, and is powered by Seiko’s NH35 automatic movement that has 24 jewels, beats at 21,600 BPH, and offers a 41-hour power reserve.
Seiko has been in business since 1881 and has been recognized for making great affordable timepieces loved by millions across the globe. The Alpinist is no exception with features that can seldom be found in other watches for the price it comes with. There’s great value in the Seiko Alpinist timepieces, and prices for a new Seiko Alpinist range from around 450 USD to 2,700 USD.
On the lower end of this price range, you’ll find the SPB models, while the current Prospex models (the reinterpretations and recreations) have prices that start from around 700 USD. With a bit of luck, you might find a “Red Alpinist” from the 1990s, or other vintage references like the Alpinist Champion but be prepared to spend from 1,000 USD up.
The most expensive Alpinist however is the Alpinist Re-Creation SJE085J1 that dates back to 1959 and was introduced in 2021. The watch is limited to just 1,959 pieces and sells for approximately 2,700 USD, and if you’re a thrifty shopper, you may find it at a significant discount. Overall I think the Alpinist is definitely a watch worth adding to your collection!
Seiko is a familiar brand name to watch enthusiasts and is much loved for its reliability, rich history, and versatility. Buying a Seiko watch means being a part of a community that knows quality when they see it. One of Seiko’s biggest selling points is its seemingly endless catalog of fantastic watches that can impress even the most dedicated critic.
The brand is highly collectible, and owners might start with one of Seiko’s many fantastic and robust dive watches before diving into more of their collections, like their dress and field watches. Seiko’s dive watches, in particular, are held in high regard, with many sporting nicknames affectionately given to them by enthusiastic fans, such as “Samurai” and “Tuna.”
One dive watch line that Seiko offers is the legendary Marinemaster collection. Many watches are a part of this collection, and taking the leap to buy one may be a challenging experience. We’re here today to provide you with a look into the storied history of the legendary dive watches that professional divers trust to help them explore the fierce ocean waters and a guide that highlights some of the many references in the Marinemaster collection.
What is the Seiko Marinemaster?
As the name implies, the Seiko Marinemaster is a watch born to be in the water and survive in the murky and mysterious depths of the ocean. It is a watch that will faithfully serve its purpose with excellent reliability. The Marinemaster line falls under the extensive Prospex collection of Seiko watches.
Prospex, short for “professional specifications,” is Seiko’s answer to the rigorous demands of professional diving and exploration. Many watches under the Prospex line can be considered a Marinemaster. Since the release of the first Marinemaster, Seiko has expanded this line with several different timepieces. However, it is important to note that some are not explicitly labeled as Marinemaster.
Generally, the Marinemaster line consists of watches with very high depth ratings of over 200 meters of water resistance, a crown located at the 4 o’clock position, and is classified under the Prospex range. Following this general rule makes identifying a member of the Marinemaster family a simple and painless process.
Seiko Marinemaster History
The 1960s was a tumultuous era of social upheaval that included major wars and periods of social unrest. In the world of diving, however, the 1960s is when exploration and diving achieved some of its greatest innovations and changes.
Right at the start of the decade, two intrepid explorers named Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh made history as the first people to reach the bottom of the Challenger Deep, the deepest known point in the ocean. They did so on their submersible vessel, the Trieste. This momentous event set the tone for the rest of the decade and made exploring one of the Earth’s final frontiers an exciting adventure for the brave and curious.
During this period, watches were prized as reliable workhorses instead of status symbols. They were expected to perform and keep their wearer safe because diving was a demanding profession. Divers who spend too long underwater risked endangering their life or suffering from physiological conditions like the bends.
There was a great need for accurate timepieces that could survive the oceans with their wearer and accompany them as they descended into the waters below. For the Swiss watchmaking industry, they answered with offerings from respected brands like Rolex, Omega, and Blancpain. On the other side of the world, the Japanese watchmaking industry needed to respond in turn.
Seiko answered that call in 1965 with the extremely robust Seiko 6217-8001/62MAS. This watch is the earliest ancestor of the Marinemaster. The 6217-8001 started the Seiko trend of creating timepieces that would keep divers alive in depths that would make most people shiver thinking about it.
This watch was designed to be functional at up to 150 meters underwater. Although it was only produced for a few years, its importance cannot be understated, as it is Seiko’s first serious professional dive watch and attempt to challenge Swiss watchmakers.
Two years after the 6217-8001, Seiko followed that up with the 6215-7000. The water resistance doubled from 150 meters to a staggering 300 meters. This watch featured the crown at the 4 o’clock position, a feature that continues to be seen in nearly every member of the modern Marinemaster family.
In addition to being an interesting conversation starter, the 4 o’clock crown serves a practical purpose. It provides easier access to the crown instead of the usual 3 o’clock position, especially when diving. In the perilous situations that divers can find themselves in, any advantage or comfort the equipment can offer is much appreciated.
Seiko continued its success with the release of the 6159-7001, which looked extremely similar to its predecessor but featured an interesting hi-beat movement that offered extreme precision and accuracy. In the 1990s, Seiko released the now hard-to-find SBCN005, a quartz-powered titanium watch that is the predecessor of the much more famous SBDX001.
Much later on, in the year 2000, Seiko released the Marinemaster 300 SBDX001 to a delighted Japanese exclusive market. Despite its success in the Japanese market, Seiko was slow to release Marinemasters outside of Japan. However, now that Seiko has released more Marinemaster models into the global market, everyone can get their hands on one of these coveted pieces.
Is the Seiko Marinemaster worth buying?
The Seiko Marinemaster 300 appeals to a wide range of people, ranging from professional divers to casual collectors. Its handsome looks, rich history, practicality, and accuracy are sure to delight anyone who has the chance to see a Marinemaster for themselves.
Undoubtedly, the Marinemaster 300 holds a special place in history as one of Seiko’s best contributions to the world of diving. Collectors will appreciate the historic nature of the watch while casual wearers will enjoy its rugged appearance with a touch of luxury mixed in. This classically designed tool watch fulfills its duties as a professional diving companion and looks good while doing it. The case is expertly finished, and the piece is comfortable to wear.
Marinemasters, at minimum, boast a water resistance of 200 meters, with many having 300 meters. Such watches will be perfect for water activities, ranging from a dip in the pool to coral reef snorkeling. The Marinemaster is also more than prepared for any adventures on land, with a tough stainless steel construction that will last a lifetime.
The time will be pinpoint accurate, with Seiko’s marvelous mechanical movements providing accuracy that matches and exceeds certified chronometers. Finally, Marinemasters feature a highly legible dial that makes telling the time easy with just a glance. The bold markers, generous lume, and large font contribute to this ease.
Every watch has its cons, and the Seiko Marinemaster 300 is no exception. Achieving the behemoth 300 meters of water resistance comes with a cost. The case is thick, with most Marinemasters being around 15 mm thick. Therefore, the watch sits tall on the wrist, which may bother some people who want a more sleek and understated timepiece.
Potential buyers can also consider other lesser known watches at the Marinemaster’s price point. The range varies, but other Swiss-made divers are also available at these prices. Marinemaster buyers will be lovers of Japanese watches, enthusiasts, and anyone looking for a large, rugged, practical watch that can handle any situation. The Marinemaster is a hefty piece, and anyone who is able to put one on their wrist will feel the weight. Wearers will definitely be aware of the watch’s presence.
The Best Seiko Marinemaster References
Many watches are in the Marinemaster line, but this guide will list several references in chronological order. If the word “Marinemaster” is on the watch, it will either be on the face of the watch, the caseback, or the tag that comes with the watch.
Also called the Transocean, the SBCN005 is one of the most unique models in the Marinemaster lineup. The watch was released in the 1990s. It looks completely different from later models and does not even use a mechanical movement.
Instead, the SBCN005 was a lightweight, titanium watch powered by the Seiko 7k32 quartz movement. The watch features a gorgeous dark blue dial with streaks of striking yellow accenting various parts of the watch. The watch also had a barometer scale, second time zone, and sapphire crystal lens.
The SBDX001 is the watch most people will immediately think of when they hear the word “Marinemaster.” For many enthusiasts, this is the definitive Marinemaster. Released at the turn of the century in 2000, the SBDX001 was a Japanese domestic market (JDM) exclusive watch for many years and was difficult for global audiences to find.
Instead of using a quartz movement, Seiko opted for a robust 8L35 mechanical movement for this watch. The design of this watch echoes back to its early ancestors from the 1960s and has a slick black dial. Measuring at nearly 16 mm thick and 44 mm in diameter, the watch is not subtle. Additionally, the watch features a unidirectional bezel, lumed hands, and a screw-down crown.
Seiko SBDX003 & SBDX005
Seiko released a collection of seven watches in 2000 as a part of their Seiko Historical Collection. The collection featured dive watches, dress watches, quartz watches, and pocket watches. The SBDX003 and SBDX005 are both highly prized collector items.
They were limited edition releases of only 500 SBDX003s and 1,000 SBDX005s. The SBDX003 has gilded yellow indices and golden text on a deep black dial. The SBDX003 also only came on a rubber strap.
The SBDX005 is in the “Tuna” style of Seiko cases, named affectionately by fans because it resembles, appropriately enough, a can of tuna. Both watches did not have the word “Marinemaster” on them, unlike the SBDX001. However, given their extreme water resistance, they certainly are Marinemasters.
The SBBN027 is a massive watch housed in a Tuna-style case and features a vibrant yellow bezel that makes the watch stand out. The 2015 release “Yellow Tuna” is a fun addition to the Marinemaster family. The bright colors don’t compromise the build quality of the watch, however.
It is very much a serious dive watch, water resistant to a titanic depth of 1,000 meters. Despite its massive 49 mm case, this piece is not very heavy because of the titanium build. The silicone strap is expertly finished and is flexible and strong. A new SBBN027 is around $2,100.
Released in 2015, the SBDX017 is the successor to the SBDX001. They are nearly identical in design and even share the same 8L35 automatic movement, but the SBDX017 features several upgrades over the older model. Notably, the SBDX017 features Diashield coating on the bracelet, which protects the stainless steel from scratches.
The Diashield coating also gives the stainless steel a slightly darker color. The watch features upgraded lume compared to the original and a Seiko Prospex logo etched onto the crown, which is normally unsigned. The SBDX017 was discontinued by Seiko in 2018.
After the SBDX017’s discontinuation, the SBDX021 was the next successor to the Marinemaster name. Instead of the deep black dials that most Marinemasters have, the SBDX021 has a luscious, mossy green dial. The SBDX021 was a limited release of 1,968 pieces, referencing one of Seiko’s most important years for making watches. With an upgraded ceramic bezel, sapphire crystal lens, and reliable 8L35 movement, this watch was a treat for Seiko fans.
Many of Seiko’s releases reference older models, and the SLA025 is no different. The SLA025 was a limited release in 2018, with only 1,500 models available. Vintage-inspired watches are extremely popular, and the SLA025 closely resembles Seiko’s 1968 diver watch with modern upgrades. The SLA025 was so beloved and well-received that it was even named by the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève (GPHG) as the year’s best sports watch.
The GPHG is one of the world’s most prestigious watch organizations that recognizes the year’s best innovations and creations in the watch world. The SLA025 completely updates the movement and features the luxurious 8L55 high-beat movement, a movement that is a variant of a movement used by Seiko’s ultra-luxury line, Grand Seiko.
The intent for these watches is apparent with Seiko’s official full name for them: “Prospex 1968 Diver’s Modern Re-Interpretation.” This 2018 release watch is only a sample of the larger selection from Seiko. Interested buyers can choose from different colors and upgrades, but the watch itself maintains the spirit of Seiko’s dive watches from 1968 and transports it to the modern world. Like many of Seiko’s watches, the SPB077 and a few similar pieces have a nickname: the “Baby Marinemaster.”
The SPB077 features a classic black dial and slimmer dimensions than most other Marinemasters. The case diameter is 44 mm, and the thickness is 12.7 mm. The watch is powered by the 6R15 automatic movement, which is found in many other modern Seikos. As the “baby” in the family, the SPB077 has a respectable water resistance of 200 meters. A new SPB077 can be yours for around $1,050.
This handsome 2019 release from Seiko is one of the latest iterations of the modernized Marinemaster 300. The watch has numerous upgrades that make it even tougher and more resistant to any challenge the ocean can throw at it. Instead of an aluminum bezel, Seiko has opted for an extremely scratch-resistant ceramic bezel.
The bracelet has a flexible diver extension that makes wearing the watch even easier. The build quality is impeccable, and the timepiece is completely sealed shut, thanks to its sturdy monobloc case design. The 8l35 automatic movement powers the watch, another variant of a luxurious Grand Seiko movement. A new Seiko SBDX023/SLA021 is around $3,100.
One of the newest watches on the list, the SBDC167/SPB299, is a Marinemaster with a mesmerizing icy blue dial. This 2022 release is a part of the “Save the Ocean” special editions released by Seiko, commemorating Seiko’s dedication to protecting the world’s oceans.
New watches are constantly added to the “Save the Ocean” line, all of which feature an exciting special edition colorway. It is beautifully sized at 42 mm and is thinner than most other Marinemasters, with a case thickness of 12.5 mm. A new SBDC167/SPB299 is around $1,250.
The Seiko Marinemaster is an extensive collection that embodies Seiko’s dedication to creating excellent Japanese products that are built to last. Buyers will be able to enjoy the watch’s rich history and marvelous engineering. Marinemasters will be a fine addition to any collection and will easily be able to compete with watches much more expensive than it.
The practicality, legibility, accuracy, history, and construction of the Marinemaster makes it a staple in the Seiko catalog, and Marinemasters will continue to be on the wrists of eager wearers for a long time.