Willard III (Seiko SPB151): A Willard! A Willard! No kingdom for a Willard!

A blog entry about the Willard? Isn’t it all said about this watch? Maybe, but this days the X-Willard arrived in Germany (and in my collection), with reference number SPB151 for the black version. And owning this watch for some days now I decided it’s worth a new blog entry.

Let’s first have a look at the vintage Willard. The reference 6105-8110 appeared in 1968 and was produced until 1977. It was the first diverwatch from Seiko with the Turtle shaped case and with a diameter of 44mm it was really a big watch in its time. It bears some of the features we all identify today as typical Seiko: the asymmetric case and the crown at 4 o’clock protected by bends in the case. The 6105 was an automatic movement with 17 juwels and 21.600 bpH. No handwinding, but with a date quick-set. The bezel rotates in both directions and the watch had a water resistance of 150m. The Hardlex glass bears the typical bevel giving the watch a very unique look.

6105-8110 in perfect condition

The 6105-8110 was neither a cheap nor an expensive watch at it’s time but a very robust one. No surprise the Japanese adventurer Naomi Uemura (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naomi_Uemura) chooses this watch for his expeditions. He was the first man reaching the North Pole alone (in 1978). In 1984 he vanished at Mt. McKinley. In Japan the 6105-8110 bears the nickname “Uemura”.

6105-8110 (picture by ajiba54)

But in most other parts of the world this watch is called “Willard” after the main character in the movie “Apocalypse Now”. The 6105-8110 was sold at PX-stores and many US soldiers were wearing this watch during the Vietnamese war. So Francis Ford Coppola (or his crew) decided this watch would be a good choice for his Captain Willard chasing Colonel Kurtz in the Vietnamese jungle. The movie creates the nickname Willard for this watch and most collectors use this name when they talk about the 6105-8110 today.

In 2017 Seiko started with the reissues of their famous diving watches. The first was the 62mas reissue, the SLA017 (https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/10/25/the-seiko-62mas-reissue-an-important-first/).  At the same time they released a so-called “modern reinterpretation” of the 62mas, the SPB051/053 (nicknamed 51mas/53mas), a more affordable version. While the SLA017 had a price tag of 3.800 Euro, the SPB051 was available for 1.050 Euro. This scheme – a limited reissue with a high price tag and an unlimited and more affordable modern reinterpretation – was continued in 2018 with the SLA025 (reissue) and SPB077/079 (modern reinterpretation, nicknamed MM200 oder Baby MM), modern versions of the 6159-7001.

When Seiko released in 2019 the next limited reissue SLA033 (reissue of the 6105-8110) there was no modern reinterpretation…The SLA033 was an almost perfect reissue of the Willard. The main difference in the design was the lack of the typical bevel in the glass (okay, a small bevel was left). I have no idea why they decided to install a normal sapphire glass. The SLA033 did not sell so easy as the SLA017 and you can still get one today with a great discount.

SLA033 (picture by aboutwatches_UF)

This year, without Baselworld and any other fairs, the modern reinterpretation of the Willard followed, a big surprise for most fans. They released the SPB151 (black) with a bracelet and the SPB153 (green) with an excellent rubber. I personally would have welcomed the SPB151 with the rubber…

SPB151 on original bracelet

Let’s have a closer look at this watch: The size shrinked to a more comfortable 42,5mm diameter and 46,5mm length lug2lug. Lugwidth is 20mm. The best of all: the bevel is back! The gorgeous and special look form every direction is therefore also back. But no ups without downs: The framed date is missing, it’s just a square hole in the dial. But beside of the date the vintage look with alloy bezel is perfect! The watch comes with a bracelet of good quality, but I think most fans, including me, will wear this watch on a rubber

The movement is Seikos recent mid-class 6R35 with 70 hours power reserve, 21.600 bpH and MEMS technology. My piece runs with +1 sec/24h.
The overall quality of this watch is perfect at this price range, the screw-down crown the best I had in a watch. And this is what my friends have told me, so maybe Seiko improved the technology for the screw-down crowns. The case is very nicely finished with polished and brushed parts and drilled lugs. It’s even better than the excellent case of the SPB051/053 and a step forward from the SPB077/079. Excellent job!

SPB151 on Chocolate Bar Rubber

I personally wasn’t the biggest fan of the Willard and not willing to pay 2,5-3,5k for a perfect vintage piece or the SLA033. I think many people had similar thoughts and some bought the cheap Chinese copies instead. Well you can have now a real Willard from Seiko at a reasonable price point in real high quality! For the Willard III you don’t have to give away a kingdom. The SPB151 with the bracelet is priced at 1.350 Euro – not a cheap watch and not a very expensive watch just like the 6105-8110 in it’s times.

The bevel is back!
Iconic shovel second hand
Excellent case finish
Wristshot on my 17,,5cm wrist