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In 1979 Francis Ford Coppola directed a movie called Apocalypse Now. This movie was famous for a number of reasons not least of which was the rocky relationship between Coppola and the increasingly erratic Marlon Brando. The movie also gave us one of the more dramatic examples of The Flight of the Valkyries as well as Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore (Robert Duvall)’s “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” line.
For those of us that are more watch-minded, there are two very notable timepiece takeaways from Apocalypse Now. The first was Brando’s bezel-less Rolex 1675 GMT Master that he wore during the filming. The second was Captain Willard (played by Martin Sheen)’s Seiko 6105 Diver (known now affectionately as the Seiko Willard). These vintage Seikos have become increasingly popular and as a result grown rapidly in value. Luckily for some of our more practically-minded collectors Seiko has reissued the Willards in new modern examples. These watches retain the charm of the old 6105’s while adopting the modern materials and mechanisms we’d expect from a new Seiko.
Let’s get some specs out of the way:
All measurements are taken by me personally, and may differ from the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Case Width: 45mm from the widest point, but 42mm not counting the crown guard
- Case Thickness: ~13mm
- Lug to Lug: 46mm
- Water Resistance: 200m
- Weight: 173 grams
- Movement: Seiko 6R35
- Lug Width: 20mm
I think to be exceptionally succinct in this section I can say: On my 7.25” wrist the Willard wears like a molded dinner plate. The case size is wide and covers a significant amount of the surface area of my wrist (very similar to an SRP series) but the design of the case paired with the 13mm thinness makes it extremely comfortable. Generally speaking I’ve found that these vintage inspired Seiko models wear much smaller than their case size would suggest, and the Willard is no exception to that.
I think that the reason these larger Seikos wear smaller than their millimeters would largely come from the fact that the portion contacting your wrist is smaller than the overall case size. Looking at both a SRP series turtle and this SPB183 you can see the case flares dramatically out as it rises from your wrist.
The SPB183 uses the new Seiko 6R35 in-house movement. This is an upgrade from the previous 6R15. The main difference between the two is a 20hr increase to the power reserve. The 6R15 had a modest 50 hours power reserve and the new 6R35 boasts a weekend-spanning 70 hours. I’ve owned several watches with the 6R15, and while I can’t honestly say I missed that 20 hours in the practical application, more is always better to have. It is nice to see Seiko beginning to modernize their movement catalog. Getting up to a three-day power reserve has become somewhat of table stakes in new releases and to see this update made on a piece at this price point is very welcome.
In terms of accuracy, the 6R35 is rated to be within spec at, “-15/+25s per day.” Mine runs a hair fast. Seiko’s regulation of their Prospex series has been a matter of great debate and consternation amongst watch folks. Practically speaking I haven’t really noticed an actionable deviation. I’m sure any of us can agree that Seiko tightening this tolerance up would be a welcome improvement but in my mind at least this is par for the course when it comes to anything not sporting a Grand Seiko badge.
Case & Crown
The Seiko Willard stands out from its fellow vintage-inspired Seiko divers in that it has an asymmetric case due to its integral crown guard. You can see along the right side of the watch the case juts out at the 3 o’clock marker and hugs the crown securely, that guard then follows the curvature of the watch around and terminates into the lug. Personally, I love this detail. Not only does it give the watch visual appeal but it also is very effective at protecting the crown from any damage. This asymmetry also works to separate this watch from it’s SRP brethren visually.
The case finishes on the SPB183 are pretty utilitarian. Most of the watch has a brushed finish that will wear nicely and age well. The sides of the case are polished and contrast nicely with the brushing. This finish pairing is pretty standard for Seiko, my SRP777 also has this. The crown is an unsigned roughly 6mm crown. The texture on the crown is just sharp enough to make grabbing it easy.
A quick note, the SPB183 continues the tradition of Prospex Seikos having drilled lugs. I could kiss the designer for this. It makes changing from the bracelet to another option a sinch.
Dial and Crystal
I want to touch on the sapphire crystal first. This was the thing that caught my eye first when I was standing in my local Seiko AD. Along the edges of the crystal is a polished bevel that leads down into the bezel. This bezel catches the light in a really pleasing way as the watch moves in the light and gives the overall appearance of the timepiece lots of visual interest. I’ve seen boxed sapphire crystal before, and even faceted crystals on vintage Seikos and this seems to be an effective marriage between the two. Beyond that, it’s just nice seeing Seiko start putting sapphire crystals in their watches. For a long time even the higher dollar Prospex line came with Hardlex crystals — these are fine, but sapphire is far superior, and too many of Seiko’s competitors were offering it at similar price points.
The dial! So, my SPB183 is a limited edition release of the Willard Reissue. The primary distinguisher of the LE is the deep blue almost navy sunburst dial. There are also the SPB151 and SPB153 variants available. The 151 has a black dial (on steel a steel bracelet) and the 153 is an olive green sunburst (which comes on a black rubber strap).
Moving away from color the dial is fairly traditional with large rectangular lumed markers at the hour and double indices at noon. Seiko chose a quasi-stick style handset that is nicely faceted on either side allowing the hands to catch the light well. The stoplight second’s hand on the SPB183 is gold in contrast to the silver hour and minute hands. I’ve seen these called “stoplight” due to the split red and white lume plots at the end. This along with the blue dial are what separates the LE from the regular release.
Generally speaking, I really enjoy blue colorways on watch releases. Seiko did a really nice job on the Willard reissue giving it just enough panache to make it feel special (as a limited edition) but not making the color so bright that it appears gaudy. The goldish second’s hand is also a really nice touch and adds an additional layer of visual appeal.
All in all, this is a solid dive watch that has excellent legibility and should serve perfectly in the rolls that it’s intended for.
If Seiko could be said to have a weak point I believe that it would be their bracelet options. Generally speaking even on their high-end options like the Marinemaster 300 Seiko bracelets have always felt a little, “jangly.” The SPB183’s bracelet is an improvement on what I have seen in the past at this price point. It’s a nicely brushed oyster style bracelet. Seiko still insists on using the pin and collar assembly for the links that make these bracelets almost impossible for the end-user to size.
In the box with the watch comes a long Seiko diving rubber strap. For the SPB183 this strap is a dark navy blue to match the dial. These straps are generally very nice, although extremely long as well. The rubber straps are generally meant to be able to fit over a wet suit — so you may find it a bit longer than you’ll want to wear daily. That will ultimately be up to the end-user.
Seiko SPB183 Review – Final Thoughts
So I guess to summarize, who would the Seiko Willard reissue be best for? I would say anyone that’s looking to make a jump into a dive watch purchase and wants to stretch a little beyond the SKX or SRP collections. These are purpose-driven pieces that retain some of the je ne sais quoi that inhabits the vintage Seiko Willards.
If you happen across an SPB183 (the limited Blue version) I strongly suggest you pick it up if you can. Seiko LE’s have a, sometimes annoying, habit of dramatically increasing in value once sold out.
The Seiko Willard reissues are available in three different versions. The non-limited versions are the SPB151 (black dial on bracelet available) for $1350 and SPB153 (olive dial on rubber) for $1100. The Seiko SPB183 pictured here was released in a limited edition of 5500 pieces for $1400.
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