Although this particular Seiko wasn’t on my radar, I knew I always wanted to check out one of their divers, or maybe an Alpinist, so when Dan ‘Jackson’ came by my place for a visit and offered one up as a trade it kind of went like this: https://youtu.be/uvqazhJJ01A?t=2
My everyday watch is an Omega Seamaster Planet Ocean ref 2201.50.00. I was guessing that this wouldn’t be kicking my PO off my wrist permanently, but also thought hey, why not. Life isn’t a practice run so I have to pull the trigger when it feels right. Right? It’s a nice watch at an apparently reasonable value. It’s also both blue and shiny which can be strong qualifiers for a guy like me. YOLO, just not in a frat boy kind of way. That might catch you a case. Kidding aside, with such a devout group of brand enthusiasts I had to give one of these a shake to see if Prospex Divers live up to the fanboy hype and deserve our money.
Now that it’s been a couple of weeks of wearing this every day I feel like I can share some opinions, but lets get the details out of the way first.
Specs (From the Seiko website)
- Stainless steel (Duralex coating) with a stainless steel bezel
- Thickness: 13.8 mm
- Diameter: 42.6mm
- Lug width: 20mm
- Curved sapphire
- Anti-reflective coating on inner surface
- Caliber 6R15
- Automatic with manual winding
- Hacking seconds hand function
- Calendar (date)
- 23 jewels
- Approx. 50 hours
- +25 to -15 seconds per day
- Silicon/Stainless buckle and keeper
- Screw down crown
- Unidirectional rotating bezel
- LumiBrite on hands and indexes
- Water Resistance 200m / 660ft
Just a note, while this watch was released as a “modern interpretation” of the 1965 62MAS. I’m not really feeling a strong connection as seen in the closely reproduced SLA017 Limited edition. The similarities could be compared to Battlefield V repping WWII so for the purpose of this review I won’t be making many comparisons. Following the design lineage of the Prospex line can, and should be its own article.
If you truly want a 62MAS though, the real deal, in reasonable vintage condition can still be found. Limited to 2000 units, a new SLA017 might be impossible to find brand new but I’ve seen lightly used ones pop up on Watch Recon for a little less that $3500 USD.
As a medium to large sized diver this doesn’t exactly melt into your wrist although its relative thickness at 13.8 mm keeps it from feeling like you are wearing a teetering brick. Its proportions help it stay put which is nice for people who prefer a looser fit like myself. In fact, it is surprisingly comfortable with the exception of the somewhat stabby crown which at the 3:00 position, occasionally reminds you that you are alive and didn’t actually drown in 1984.
It would be an improvement if the crown was slightly shrouded like on my PO, with a guard, or at 4:00 like on the SPB079J1. Sometimes referred to as a “retro” or “heritage” kind of crown position/look, I may refer to it as “mildly uncomfortable” but I digress. It will make you a man like they used to make men. Your dad’s, dad. Barefoot to school at 6:00 am in the freezing cold on broken glass kind of stuff. It’s not actually that bad. Mild is the key word here.
In retrospect I remember finding the PO’s crown noticeable as well, so it’s something I can easily say everyday users will forget about. Traveling forward in time, I have. Otherwise, all of the edges are flowing and well rendered which translates to a comfortable wear.
With my modest 7.25” wrist this fits well without looking ridiculous on the bracelet or (I’m guessing) stock strap. For you sneaker wearing low-brows this is comfy and looks sharp on a NATO too. If you are a bit weedy though, it may look more like a Pip-Boy 3000 than a watch, so something a bit more demure may suit your delicate wrist better. In these modern times, something > 40 mm would be my recommendation for you.
The movement is a calibre 6R15 (23 Jewels) which is a mid-range, in-house design that operates at 21,600 vph. It’s a step up from the Seiko 7S26 that’s found in the likes of the venerable SX007’s and other entry level mechanical Seikos.
I’ve heard of this movement referred to as both “tried and true” and “just a 7S26 with hacking and winding” hastily tacked on. On the other hand I’ve read that the movement’s support has been re-engineered enough that it deserves a distinction far beyond that of a modified 7S26. Honestly I’m just getting started with these Seikos so I still have some things to uncover over time but hey, that’s what the hobby (and comment section) is all about.
Personally I like the performance I’ve been getting out of this movement. I’m not hooking this thing up to my Timegrapher or anything. I just like to be on time and this gets me there without a daily check against my iPhone. Well not entirely true, during the time of this review I had periodically checked it against my phone and it seems close enough to me. I would say it safely sits well inside Seiko’s advertised tolerance of +25 to -15 seconds per day. Much tighter would be my guess but again, I haven’t any kind of real measure. Maybe when I get my mildly abused PO serviced I’ll have this watch regulated and share some more info on the movement when it is looked at by a proper watchmaker. In the meantime I’ll let the heritage boot guys banter about the faults or virtues of the 6R15 over a craft brew. You know who you are.
My only beef with this movement is how the date turns over. It starts to slowly creep just before 11:00 pm and finally, snaps into place at about 11:59. I’d like this to just snap over at 12:00 ish like my Omega. I’m a night owl so I’m always seeing this half turned over date. Maybe I’m just spoiled.
Circling back; movements without hand winding, a screw-down crown and to a lesser extent hacking are a deal breaker for me so this fits the bill. Having the date is also a big plus. As far as reliability, only time will tell. I tend to be pretty rough on my watch so if anyone will awaken the gremlins, I’m your man and will duly report.
A bit of trivia; Seiko is one of the few companies that makes their own mainsprings. They use their proprietary Spron 510 alloy which is also found in the balance spring. Spron helps gives this watch a 50-ish h power reserve which I seem to be getting most of. The alloy is similar to its Swiss counterpart Nivarox but not as high tech as newer alloys or the Silicon mixtures in the most current Rolexes, Omegas and their ilk.
Along with the aforementioned features the 6R15 includes Diashock which in this watch is basically a flat spring that cradles the balance wheel end stone and jewel helping to protect the balance against shock. I’m pretty sure most mechanical movements worth their salt have a decent one of these.
Case and Crown
The screw-down crown is a pleasure to use on this watch. Setting the time or “quick set” date is a smooth procedure. I’m also liking the wind which feels satisfying with its slightly audible ratcheting. A crisp, coin edge and fair size gives you a good grip for easy operation. If I could change one thing, I’d probably add some detailing to the cap of the crown which is “sterile”. Maybe the PX logo a “S” or “Seiko” like on some other models?
The case has a flowing shape with drilled, tapered lugs at 20mm apart. The face has a brushed finish that follows the circumference of the bezel. Moving toward the edge there is a highly polished bevel followed again by brushing on the outmost sides. The back is largely mirror polished, with the exception of a ring around the screw-down case-back that frames the embossed Prospex, Tsunami logo. I’m not crazy about the Tsunami Embossing. Maybe it will grow on me but it doesn’t capture my imagination at the moment. I prefer the dolphin logo which shouldn’t be cooler but kind of is. I personally like a more traditional depiction of the tsunami. There’s more info and the serial number, logo’s etc on the case back. All things you don’t really see but may admire when off your wrist in full nerd mode.
Overall, the case is attractive, with good attention to detail and thoughtfulness in its design. The workmanship is protected with a Seiko’s Diasheild which I’ve read is some type of PVD coating similar to what you would find on black-bladed knives or those gold-titanium coated drill bits. I have no reference as to how long this will last but so far so good. The bracelet must not be coated with the same stuff as it’s showing a fair bit of scuffing already, but nothing unexpected.
Dial, Bezel, and Crystal
The Dial is blue with a sunburst pattern. It presents a dark, near black color in low/artificial light and a vivid, bright royal blue in strong daylight. The indexes are oversized, made up of wide, applied, flat stainless borders and filled with Seiko’s LumiBrite. The signature consists of the Seiko logo on the top half with the Prospex logo, “Automatic” and “Diver’s 200m” on the bottom half.
There’s a chapter ring with a flange meeting the bezel with the hour and minute indexes. The primary lumed indexes are straight at 6 and 9 with a double width at 12:00. The others taper toward the dial’s centre. A chamfered date aperture is found at 3:00 which has a small white border giving it a tightly finished look. The Lume works great and keeps its glow for a long time.
I’ve read that some of these watches have alignment issues with the bezel and or chapter ring. I’m not seeing anything like that on this particular watch which looks to me, as expected. To be critical, It would have been nice if there was another applied element. Either the Seiko logo or Prospex logo would do and I’ve seen it done on Seiko models at a less than half the price. A little more detail would have me totally sold on this dial but I’m still about 85% there.
The handset is shared with the Seiko Tunas and includes a portly arrow for the hour and a slender rectangular minute hand that terminates at a blunted point. While not as elegant as some of the other Seiko diver hand sets, you can’t argue with the legibility. You could argue that the steel bordering on the hands could be polished to match the index borders and I wouldn’t disagree. I think it would help tie things together.
Back to legibility, the dial might be be better with more contrasting indexes like the bubbly ones found on the Tuna that these were borrowed from (I get that it’s supposed to reference the 62MAS). Either way it’s a pretty moot, enthusiast issue in my opinion. If you can’t read your watch you have other problems to address. The second hand is narrow with a lumed tail. The lume here is used to show that the watch is working, as per ISO 6425 (diver’s watch) standards.
The bezel is a 120 click, unidirectional that rotates counter-clockwise. As on the crown, a tight crisp coin edge makes it easy to get a hold of. That’s a good thing since the rotation is pretty firm, albeit smooth with a dampened feel. The insert is super polished, blue and with matte indexes and numbers. Like the dial, In low light the bezel almost appears black but presents a bright blue in daylight. While the bezel and dial aren’t exact in color, they compliment each other perfectly. There’s a lume pearl so the bezel position can be easily read in the depths.
The crystal is slightly domed with an antireflective coating on the inside. There’s not much to say here other than it looks great and it should stay that way since it’s a sapphire crystal, not Seikos cheaper Hardlex Mineral. If it’s anywhere near as hard as the one on my Omega, it will take more of beating than it will ever deserve. Before the crystal meets the bezel, there’s a generous bevel that is large enough to refract elements of the dial below. Since the dial is pretty simple, I feel that this adds a necessary detail. On a busier watch I appreciate it if the crystal flows into the bezel seamlessly.
This watch came with the Seiko M01X331H0 bracelet which is normally purchased separately.
It’s an attractive Oyster copy with a pinch button deployment clasp with a safety. There’s also a Diver’s extension. For the price the fit and finish is excellent. The links are brushed and have polished inner and outer edges. The inner edge polishing in particular, adds some luxe appeal without the associated premium.
If I were to adjust the bracelet aesthetically, I might give the clasp a little more love but to reiterate, at this price I have no legitimate complaints. Mechanically, the detent on the safety could be stronger. While it’s staying put now, I’m not sure if that will always be the case. Functionally it’s not a big concern since the main clasp is sturdy.
Speculating from photos, the stock silicone bracelet looks to have some inner texture so it should breath a little for comfort. The ends flow fluidly with the case, more so than the bracelet or a nato does. Not surprising though, since this strap is made for the watch. The pin buckle is polished while the keeper is brushed with an embossed Seiko logo.
The silicone strap’s accordion shape won’t be for everyone but it serves the practical purpose of working as a diver’s extension with the added function of maintaining a comfortable tension under variable pressures/wet and dry. If I was actually diving with this watch (which I won’t be), this would be the strap I’d use because its purpose built. At the desk I like the look of a Nato or the bracelet and I’ve read that these silicone straps are lint magnets.
Seiko SPB053 / SPB051 Watch Review – Final Thoughts
The Seiko ref. SPB053 is a sharp looking watch that has a sophisticated balance of conservative detailing and good functionality that references decades of Seiko diver designs. The stand out for me has to be the dynamic combination of dial and bezel that shows different personas depending on the lighting. This has been the most enjoyable aspect and I may have found it a touch too minimal otherwise.
As to be expected with all the Prospex line up, it meets the diver specifications outlined in ISO 6425, making it a viable mechanical alternative to a dive computer if you are feeling old school or want to look medium-fancy in your Y-40 swimming pool.
Value wise, there’s a lot of watch for your money here but the pricing/feature is still carefully measured. Seiko has amassed a following that they are clearly aware of by releasing such models, so while easily worth the ask, you aren’t getting an absurd amount of extra value – just what the brand is typically known for. That said, the fit, finish and function will satisfy.
As for me personally, the SPB053 has ticked enough boxes to put it in the recommend column, so long as you aren’t actually looking for a 62MAS and can pull off the larger 42.6 mm case.
An applied signature, polished hands and some detail on the crown would have made this even more competitive and memorable at a price point where there are some other tempting offers. Regardless, I’m understanding why people love the Prospex line. They have a compelling value proposition and wear well, dressed up (maybe not black tie) or down while maintaining that tool watch pedigree. There aren’t many divers around this price with a similar build quality and fewer with such a long and clearly documented design history.
The addition of a couple of Natos and the excellent bracelet will makes this considerably more enjoyable. The drilled lugs make for easy strap changes to get more life out of this beautiful watch.
If blue isn’t to your taste the model also comes in black as ref. SPB051. There’s also the SPB079J1, a similar type vintage inspired ‘re-issue’ that was previously mentioned and has worked its way onto my wish list.
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