Lifestyle

Retro charm: Neo-vintage watches inspired by Seiko's first diver

Retro charm: Neo-vintage watches inspired by Seiko's first diver

For a generation of watch enthusiasts, Seiko represents the rabbit hole that lead them down the esoteric world of mechanical diver’s watches. Affordable and sturdy, examples like the now-discontinued Ref. SKX007, the ‘Samurai’ and ‘Turtle’ have helped Seiko build a cult-like following in the watch community. This year the Japanese brand celebrated the 55th anniversary of its first diver’s watch – the legendary Ref. 6217-8000 ‘62MAS’ - with the re-introduction of two new models that riff on popular timepieces from their archives. The first is a remake of the popular Ref. 6105-8110/9 ‘Willard’ from 1970 while the second is a vintage-inspired version of the ‘62MAS’ diver.

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The Seiko Prospex SPB147J1 is inspired by the brand's first diver's watch Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal

This is not the first time Seiko has revisited the 62MAS; in 2017, along with a faithful but expensive remake (Ref. SLA017), it introduced two references – SPB051 and SPB053 – as “modern reinterpretations” of the original. These watches were priced a notch above the entry-level diver’s, but it did not quite hit the spot as vintage revival timepieces. However, this year’s effort – available in four different references – represents a handsome set of retro-themed diver’s watches. The case is a modest 40.5 mm wide and 13.2 mm in height and is fitted with a domed sapphire crystal as opposed to the Hardlex crystal used on the entry-level and SRP Turtle/ Samurai models.

The stainless steel case features Seiko’s Diashield coating (also referred to as “super hard” coating) which makes it more durable and better resistant to scratches. The case has drilled lugs and a unidirectional bezel with a black brushed steel insert that also has a super hard coating to prevent scratches and dents. It is also depth-rated to 200 metres as opposed to 150 on the original. A polished bevel runs from lug to lug breaking up the matte finished surfaces of the lugs and case band. There is a real sense of quality here, the watch sits well on the wrist and both the steel bracelet and the silicone strap are comfortable to wear.

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The Seiko Prospex SPB143J1 has a sober grey dial Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal

As mentioned earlier, there are four variants but I got my hands on two models that sit at the two extremities of this range. The SPB147J1 stands out with its warm tones - the dark brown sunburst dial and gilt indices and accents are reminiscent of the patina on vintage diver’s watches. This is in stark contrast to the cold vibes of the SPB143J1 with its sober grey sunburst dial and black bezel. The latter is a closer approximation of its tool watch ancestor and is paired with a stainless steel bracelet. This being a diver’s watch – dial legibility is all-important and the watch scores well on this front. There is generous use of Lumibrite – Seiko’s proprietary luminescent coating – on the indices and hands.

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Beneath the caseback beats the Caliber 6R35 movement Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal

The upgraded Caliber 6R35 is the engine powering this watch. A self-winding in-house movement that can also be manually wound, the 6R35 now has a power reserve of 70 hours and Seiko promises an accuracy of “+25 to -15 seconds per day” under normal conditions. A chronometer-grade movement it is not, but the 6R35 is sturdy and dependable and powers many of Seiko’s mid-tier models. The SPB line sits above the entry-level diver’s and the SRP series but well below the SLA or the Spring Drive-powered LX series. While the SPB147J1 (paired with a rubber strap) is priced at AED3,900, the SPB143J1 retails at AED4,600 and is fitted with a three-link stainless steel bracelet.