Seiko divers are iconic. Practically every review of a Seiko diver paints a picture of a high value tool watch, and the Seiko SRP779 is no different. The SRP77X line is not a new addition to the catalog, but a reissue of the beloved Seiko 6309 (or “Turtle”). For years, buying a vintage Turtle was a way to pick up a fantastic watch on the cheap, but over the years supplies dwindled and costs rose. When the reissue was announced, it was met with mingled praise and shock, both of which were positively reinforced once the new Turtles trickled out into the market.
I’d like to do something a bit different this time and take a moment for a PSA. Most knife and gear folks I know are familiar with the concept of buying secondhand gear. Often this gear is gently used – if at all – and buying this way is easier on the wallet. This is mostly true for watches, but not in all cases. In the secondary watch market, potential buyers aren’t just looking at secondhand sales, but something known as the grey market. Grey market watches are legitimate products, in that they aren’t stolen or counterfeit, but are sold through back channels not intended by the manufacturer. Sometimes an authorized dealer needs to move a bit of product without selling it themselves; in which case, they’ll sell to a grey market dealer. Maybe someone has a source for watches sold in international markets, where exchange rates can play havoc with the price controls watch manufacturers put in place.
Whatever the source of a grey market watch, you should know that there are hidden costs associated with them. Most commonly, they won’t be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty, and that includes servicing, repairs, diagnostics, the lot. For some watches, those service costs can hit three and even four figures. Moral of the story: be an informed consumer, regardless of how you purchase a watch. I only mention all of this because I’m not entirely sure that my watch isn’t grey market, and it was a pain to figure out what that meant after the fact. With that out of the way, on to the review.
The Seiko Turtle is not a svelte watch. That shouldn’t come as a surprise: it weighs 4.28 oz, with a 44.3x48mm, 14mm tall case. The bezel does tend to catch on shirt cuffs – especially on dressier shirts – and that same height means that the wearer is more likely to scuff up the watch on doors, corners, handrails, etc. Don’t mistake my meaning: it’s not actively bothersome, just a little fussy from time to time. The horizontal dimensions of the watch have never given me any trouble. Is it a wide watch? Yes, but the lug to lug distance is actually pretty tame at 48mm (for reference, that’s a hair less than the Bertucci A-2T).
Shirt cuffs aside, this watch is incredibly comfortable. Prior to the arrival of the SRP779, I didn’t quite understand why this particular style was referred to as a “cushion case diver.” After wearing it on a near daily basis for several months, the mystery was solved. This is quite simply the most comfortable watch I’ve ever worn. Sure, it has an unfortunate tendency to pick fights with sleeves, but the same curves that start those brawls are the ones that make the Turtle superb on the wrist.
The movement Seiko uses for the Turtle reissue is the 4R36, an in-house movement that offers a few upgrades to the venerable 7s26 movement offered on the SKX line, notably the option to hand-wind the watch and a “hacking” seconds hand (that just means the seconds hand stops when you pull the crown out). Both features are desirable if you’re the sort of person with a few different watches, as they allow the watch to be part of a rotation with far less hassle. The 41 hour power reserve is no slouch in this regard either.
Of course, this was also my first experience with a mechanical (or rather, automatic) watch. To state the obvious: no, it’s not as accurate as a quartz movement. I haven’t bothered to sit down and parse out the seconds lost/gained in a day, but it does need to be reset once a month or so. Estimates online hover at +/- 15 seconds per day, but if serviced that number can be brought down. The hacking seconds hand makes adjusting the time far less onerous than it would be otherwise. Still, a mechanical movement requires more upkeep and is less accurate, so is it worth it? In my opinion: yes, but not for any reason that could be considered objective. The sweeping seconds hand is beautiful, but not a mark of performance, and while it’ll never require a new battery, getting it serviced every few years is recommended (which is undoubtedly more expensive than a new battery).
Despite the quirks, I like the mechanical nature of the SRP779. There’s just something cool about a device powered solely by the motion of the human body, of gears whirring, springs winding, and weights swinging that a battery powered watch can’t capture. You might think I’m full of it, and that’s completely fair. My only rebuttal is that much like stropping a knife, inking a fountain pen, or really any gear maintenance, there’s a meditative quality to the upkeep that makes it not just palatable, but enjoyable.
The stainless steel case is simple but distinctive. Cushion case divers are certainly in the tool watch category, and the SRP779 is no exception. The top of the case has a brushed finish in a circular pattern, while the underside was given a polish on par with a mirror. This two-tone finishing provides a touch of understated class to an otherwise function driven case (though it makes photography a bit frustrating). All of this is held together by a screw down caseback.
As a recent convert from the world of quartz, I didn’t realize the emphasis watch collectors place on the crown of a mechanical watch. After reflection, it makes sense: you’ll be interacting with a mechanical more frequently, so accessibility, traction, and (dare I say it) action are part and parcel of the tactile experience. The crown of the Turtle is – as best as I understand it – quite good. It’s located at just above 4 o’clock on the case, which keeps it from poking your wrist at odd angles. The machining is even and crisp. Winding the movement and setting the time are pleasant enough, all things considered, but I’m not qualified enough to say more than that.
Dial, Crystal, and Bezel
In many respects, the dial is the most striking feature of the Turtle. The black face of the dial is marked at five minute increments with raised pips, each of which is coated with Seiko’s Lumibrite paint. Dashes indicating minute marks are found on the chapter ring, which is at a 45 degree angle to the dial. There is a day/date function at 3 o’clock with a beveled window, and sword hands complete the package. The hands are polished along the edges with Lumibrite interiors. As much as I gripe about the height of the watch above, it’s the height that accommodates all of these features, so take my complaints with a grain of salt.
Two issues regarding the dial: first, most reviews note that the chapter ring is misaligned. I’m either dense, blind, or lucky, as I haven’t noticed that on my model. Second: unlike the original Turtle, the Lumibrite pip on the seconds hand is located not at the tip, but at the rear of the hand on the opposite side of the stem. It’s not so much a flaw as an oddity. Taken as a whole, however, the topography of the dial is gorgeous, especially for someone who thus far has only experienced painted numerals on flat surfaces.
Seiko uses their proprietary crystal, Hardlex, on the SRP779. The Turtle reissue is priced right around the point that sapphire crystal becomes feasible, but as Seiko uses Hardlex on four figure plus watches, I don’t know how much I can criticize them for using it here. Despite innumerable scrapes and dings, the crystal hasn’t picked up any visible scratches. It doesn’t have the shimmer that sapphire crystal does, but in the right light the Hardlex is practically invisible, which has a charm all of its own. The depth I mentioned above is absolutely entrancing when the crystal vanishes.
There are a number of color configurations available for the Turtle reissue, and the best known is likely the black & gold variant. It’s very handsome, and it does dress the watch up, but it’s not the configuration I chose. I’ve been on a couple dives, and hope to go on more, so I chose the blue and red variant. If those options are too colorful for you, there’s always the black and silver version. After several months of wear, there are a few points where the anodizing isn’t -quite- perfect, but you’d practically need a jeweller’s loupe to notice them. It’s not something that catches the eye with a casual glance to check the time.
The unidirectional dive bezel has actually proved quite useful. I use it to time samples at work, to set rest periods while exercising, to measure how long my commute takes, and countless other minor tasks. Rotating the bezel requires enough effort that accidental engagements are rare, but not so much effort that wet or sweaty hands couldn’t set it. The machining on the lip of the bezel (I’d hate to call something this polished “knurling”) adds visual interest and improves traction. Incidentally, the bezel is unidirectional so that if you are on a dive and accidentally shift the timer, you will only ever lose time. The last thing you want is to brush your watch against some equipment and end up thinking you’ve got fifteen minutes your oxygen tank can’t corroborate.
Up to this point, many of the pictures for this review have not featured the strap the watch came with, and you may be wondering if that’s a reflection on the quality of the strap. It isn’t. The rubber strap on my SRP779 is incredibly comfortable and doesn’t look or feel cheap. Yes, it’s rubber, but in the same way that a Nikon is made of plastic. I regularly switch between the stock strap and a NATO style nylon strap. When these photos were taken the weather was a little cooler, so I didn’t have to worry about sweat leeching into the strap. Now that my region is regularly hitting triple digits, the Turtle is rubber-clad once more. Readers should note that swapping the strap is made easier by drilled lugs.
Seiko SRP779 Review – Final Thoughts
Sometimes a purchase can represent a watershed moment in your understanding of quality. I’m sure most of us remember buying our first Spyderco or Benchmade after carrying nothing but swap meet specials. It was game changer, right? I’m not trying to imply that my prior watches were on the same tier as swap meet specials; rather, that the gulf in quality between those watches and the Turtle reissue is similarly vast. Due to my inexperience in the world of watches, I can’t make an informed comparison to other watches in this price bracket, but what I can say is that the Seiko Turtle has completely reset my expectations of quality. Hopefully that’s recommendation enough.
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