Legends from the 60s reissued: Seiko SLA017, Doxa Silver Lung and ZRC Grand Fonds

This entry is my first attempt to write about of more than one watch in one entry. So today you will receive information about three watches for the price of one 😉

I always was a fan of the 60s and 70s. This were two decades of great designs in watchmaking and almost ever single watch design today has its roots in this age. And not to mention – these are the decades of my youth.

In watch design it was especially the golden age of diving watches. The first icons appeared some years earlier: the Blancpain Fifty Fathoms (first watch with diving bezel) and the Rolex Submariner. But in the 60s designs explode and so did companies. I will mention Zodiac, Doxa, Yema…all releasing icons highly sought by collectors today. But this original watches are now often shattered pieces and the few ones in good condition are expensive and very hard to find. The companies today began to satisfy the longing for this old watches with modern reissues, more or less exact the same design. Often released in limited numbers some of them became collector pieces too. I will show you three of them:

Seiko SLA017, reissue of the 62mas


Doxa Silver Lung Annivesary, reissue of the original Doxa Sub Searambler Aqua Lung

ZRC Grand Fonds 300, reissue of…yes, the ZRC Grand Fonds 300

When I acquired my ZRC Grand Fonds I thought it maybe an interesting idea to talk about three watches in one article. It will not be longer than my usual entries, because two of the watches I reviewed in earlier entries.

The Seiko SLA017 in https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/10/25/the-seiko-62mas-reissue-an-important-first/
and the Doxa Anniversay in https://michaelswatchblog.de/2020/01/31/doxa-sub-sharkhunter-50th-anniversay-the-legend-reissued/.

Truth to tell it’s not the same Doxa but the only difference is the dial with the silver color and black Aqualung Logo. Like the Doxa Sharkhunter in my article the Aqua Lung was released in 1967, in a very small batch, some say less than 10 pieces. To find a Doxa Silver Lung from this period is therefore quite impossible, don’t even think about it. In 2017, 50 years later, Doxa released the resissue. The so-called Silver Lung with the silver Searambler dial was built in 300 pieces and released with a retail price of about 2,500 USD – you can’t get one for this price right now. It’s a rare watch on second market and most of them are in the hands of collectors. Chrono24 lists no piece. I got mine from a fellow collector of dive watches in March 2020, two months after my Doxa Sharkhunter Anniversary, so I have two of them reissues in my collection. When it comes to retail price it’s the “cheapest” of the three watches. And it’s the only one which is really a 1:1 reissue, the other two have grown in size. The history and more details you can read in my blog article.

I think I have almost wrote everything about the Seiko SLA017 in my other entry. It was a sensation in 2017 (same year as Doxa!), a Seiko at this price point was unknown, the expensive Seikos were named Grand Seiko. Many fans were surprised while other fans of more expensive brands admired the watch. It’s the most versatile of the three watches, the least eyecatcher for the common people not familiar with watches. And it’s the one with the highest retail price with 3,800 Euro. It’s sold out like the Doxa and slowly it becomes a collector’s piece, now it’s the last time to get one for a reasonable price in my opinion. It’s my favorite one of this three watches and if I had to choose it would be the SLA017 (glad I have all three…).

Since I have already written about the Seiko and the Doxa this article will give more room to the ZRC. Probably some of you didn’t heard about ZRC until now. The company was founded in 1904 in Geneva by Edmond Ziccolo and Joseph Rochet, so ZRC is Zuccolo, Rochet and Cie. It was specialized in expendable metal bracelets – we will talk about the bracelet of this watch later.

From 1960 to 1964 ZRC developed their first watch, the ZRC Grand Fonds 300 – the ancestor of my watch. The watch was used by the French Navy from 1964 to 1982 and original pieces from this time are highly sought collector’s pieces. It almost looks like the recent watch expect the size which grow from a diameter of 36mm to a more modern size of 40,5mm. In almost every other aspect today’s Grand Fonds looks like the legendary watch from 1964.

The new Grand Fonds was released in 2015. In 2017 ZRC teamed up with Alban Michon for a Northpole expedition. They made a special edition of this reissue and distributed it via Kickstarter, so the watch was presented to a bigger community.

The bezel has a special cleaning system named ECS ™, allowing fresh water flowing under (!) the bezel to wash out salt from diving. You have to take a very close look at the watch to spot this system. What you see even from a distance is the most unique design feature: The crown is placed at 6 o’clock. The crown can only be unscrewed if you tilt the strap adapter (or with bracelet, if you tilt the bracelet). In unscrewed position you cannot put the watch on the wrist again, you first have to screw it again. So it’s a safety feature. If you have the watch on the wrist, the crown is screwed down. A cool feature….but a complicated thing to wind up the watch or to set the time. You can only use two fingers to operate the crown and they should better be not too big. The quality of the case is amazing and explains the price point.

Inside you find the common ETA 2824-2 (or a Sellita SW-200) Elabore, so that’s nothing special. The Doxa and the Seiko have significant better movements. You may think that’s no problem, because the good point is, every watchmaker can easily adjust, clean and service the movement. Well, wrong. The caseback has triangle shaped slots to open and requires special tools only available at ZRC. And talking about triangles: The strap/bracelet doesn’t have springbars but is attached with screwed pins on the lugs. A good thing, but you need a screwdriver with triangle pikes not available at your favorite hardware store. At least this special screwdrivers are now part of every ZRC watch set. And to remove the strap from the strap adapter you need a very sharp and thin normal screwdriver. ZRC delivers two screwdrivers with four tops with every watch. Two tops with the triangle pikes and two with sharp normal pikes. Did I mention you always need both screwdrivers to unlock one bar? So changing a strap means: First unscrew the bar at twelve o’clock with the triangle pike, then change the tops and unscrew the second bar from the adapter with the other tops. Let me say: This watch has character , but it’s the character of a diva when it comes to strap change.

So you may have the idea to order the watch with the bracelet and forget the whole strap thing. Ok, that’s 600 Euros more. And the bracelet is a diva, too. No micro adjustments, rather big links. In the last link of each side there is a built-in spring to easily put it over a wet suit and to “breathe” – means changing the diameter under water according to the water pressure. A real good thing for divers. If you are not a diver you have a very good chance the bracelet is either too small or too big. The springs are too tight to make a comfortable wrist if you like your bracelet close to your wrist. That’s the reason I ordered it with a leather strap although the bracelet looks absolutely gorgeous. Right now an Isofrane is on the watch looking very good in my opinion.

All three watches are very comfortable at the wrist. The Doxa is king here, I don’t know a more comfortable bracelet than the Doxa BoR. Which of the three watches ever is your favorite: you will receive a real legend reissued.  

Seiko SLA017Doxa Silver LungZRC Grand Fonds
Diameter39,5mm42,5mm40,5mm
Length47mm48mm49,5mm
MovementSeiko 8L35ETA 2824-2
COSC
ETA 2824-2
elabore
Units2000
(sold out)
300
(sold out)
unlimited
Retail price
with bracelet
3,800 Euro2,500 Euro3,200 Euro

Some macros.
Seiko:

Doxa:

ZRC:

Wristshots:

The Seiko 62mas Reissue: An Important First

In my new article I will take a closer look at the Seiko 62mas reissue, reference SLA017. I will explain why this watch is an important “first” for Seiko – and also for me.

The SLA017 was a surprise at Baselword 2017 in some points. It was the first true reissue of one of the famous divers form Seiko’s history especially for collectors (not counting the historical collection from the year 2000). The original historic diver was the famous 6217-8000, nicknamed 62mas, the first Seiko diver, released 1965.

Well you can say, the New Turtle is a reissue of the 6309-Turtle, but that’s not the same as with the SLA017 as you can easily see. With a price tag of 3.800 Euros in Germany and 2.000 pieces worldwide the target group of the SLA017 was clear.

The SLA017 was the first of the collector reissues followed by the SLA025 in 2018 and the SLA033 in 2019. So here we have the first “first”.

Original 62mas. Picture by ajiba54. The watch has a diameter of 37mm, slightly smaller than the SLA017

The watch came with a retail price of 3.800 Euro and that means – as far as I know – it was the most expensive Seiko ever (not counting Grand Seiko, Credor, …). And the watch scene, especially many Seiko fans had to chew on that. Seiko, that’s the brand with the SKX, the most modded watch, very good quality for very good price. But a Seiko at that price point?

Let’s take a look back in time. Until 2012 buying a Seiko in Germany means you were going to a big, non-luxury department store or a rather small watch retailer. Normally you bought a watch for 200, maybe 300 Euros. At least that was the normal way. For the fans and insiders it was well known that Seiko manufactured better and more expensive watches, but they were not available in Middle Europe. They were sold in Japan. The probably most famous of this watches was with no doubt the SBDX001 called Marinemaster 300. To buy this watch you had to import it from Japan and only few people did this.

Marinemaster 300 – SBDX017 (successor of the SBDX001)

In 2012 something changed. Seiko Germany decided to add the MM300 officially to the German collection. The retail price was about 2.000 Euros, marking the top of the mechanical collection in Germany. The same discussion as five years later with the SLA017 began, but time by time the scene accepted this retail price (and you could get a 15% discount easily, the same as with other brands). It was a good watch for a good price point (again…), even in comparison with the Swiss competitors. In many eyes it became a bargain with it’s 8L35 movement, the same as the Grand Seikos 9L (but undecorated). The monocoque case is truly unique, no helium valve needed. In tests the watch stands much more than the guaranteed 300m water resistance. Ok, the Hardlex remained a point of critics, but whatever advantages a sapphire crystal has, it splitters in thousand pieces if it gets hit really hard. No good idea for a diver. Hardlex crackens, but keeps intact, so it’s technically a better crystal if you are diving. If…

Well and today? The MM300 became a collector’s piece. It’s hard to find a flawless MM300 for less than 2.000 Euros and prices are still rising.

And then, five years later, the SLA017 appeared, same movement, sapphire crystal, only 200m water resistance, no monocoque case but with a more than 50% higher price point. Take that!

While many Seiko fans talked about the “far too expensive watch”, others bought. I have heard of some Rolex fans who bought this watch as their first Seiko and were impressed by the quality. Since I have a SLA017 and a MM300 I can tell you that the SLA017 is really one step ahead, not a big one, but a step. Yes, there were some incorrect placed crystals and this should not happen at this price point. Seiko had still some things to learn. But they corrected every piece they get and the SLA025 and SLA033 didn’t have any issues like that.

The SLA017 didn’t sell fast, but it did sell. About a year later all were sold. Some too optimistic buyers thought about quick money and tried to sell them fast for a higher price. But usually this didn’t worked out. You still can get a very good piece for about 3.300 – 3.500 with good patience. The best time of the SLA017 is yet to come, this I am sure.

But this first luxury diver made room for the later reissues, which are more expensive than the SLA017. And in 2019 Seiko released the even more expensive Prospex LX line. I don’t think they had done this move if the SLA017 had been a fail in selling. It was the SLA017 who paved this way. And this is the very important second “first”.

We will come to the last “first” and that’s my personal one. It was not my first Seiko and I sure wasn’t a Rolex collector any time. In the summer of 2017 I was looking for a replacement for my summer holiday diver, a blue Longines HydroConquest. The bad microadjustments made it impossible to fit this watch perfectly to my wrist. And well, to be honest, I had some hunger for a new watch. I think you can understand this. I don’t want to spend more than 300 Euros and that’s the price tag where it’s very hard to beat the big Japanese watch companies. I bought the SRP779, the New Turtle Pepsi, because I like the looks and I didn’t had a Pepsi before. When I received it, I was astonished about the value you get for 300 Euros – a true Seiko experience. Only four weeks later I was looking for a black diver and found the Sumo SBDC031, which was a real upgrade compared to the New Turtle. But the price was still very reasonable, I paid around 500 Euros! Compared to my Longines, the Sumo was better in case, finishing, bracelet and dial. Until today in my opinion you can’t find a better diver for a 500 Euro budget.

So in October 2017 it had to be a big move. I decided to buy the new SLA017 (gladly my wife accepted). Would it be as good as my most expensive watch so far, my beloved Panerai? Yes, it was. I got a flawless piece and it’s still my all time favourite watch today. If I had to sell all my watches – horrible scenario – and keep only one piece it would be the SLA017.

At the same time I had the pleasure to meet the best Seiko expert in Germany (and maybe in Europe), Mr. Baris Ö. aka ajiba54. I am proud that we became close friends in the last two years! You can read an interview with him in the last Seiko Germany magazine. So that’s another personal first.

The SLA017 came in a “German-retail-non-online” edition which means it came in a pelicase with the watch, two straps, a miniature of the Japanese expedition submarine Shinkai 2000 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DSV_Shinkai_2000) and some documentation. Seiko Germany decided to value up the international set, which only contains the two straps – if you buy this watch through a retailer in a shop and not an online store. There are only 70-90 pieces of this set, I don’t know the real number. Compared to 2.000 pieces of the watch a rather small number.

So this was my personal “first”: the first really expensive Seiko in my collection. The Marinemaster 300 SBDX017 followed ten months later, let’s see what the future will bring.  

Diameter 39,5 mm
Lug2lug 48 mm
Height 12,5 mm
Movement 8L35
Lug width 19 mm
SLA017 on a Wjean chocolate bar strap
Flawless hands
Signed crown
Dial detail
Bezel and lugs
Date window through the domed sapphire crystal
Drilled Lugs
Caseback with dolphin
12 o’clock index
200m water resistance
Lumeshot (SLA017 on sturgeon leather strap from ch-vintagestraps)
Wristshot