Seiko SBDY049 / SRPE03: Long live the King

The Seiko New Turtle is one of Seiko’s bestsellers. You can get them in various colors, limited editions (limited pieces), special editions (limited time), US special editions, Europe special editions, Thailand special editions, and and and…it’s hard to keep track of all models. I have written about the New Turtle before in my blog: https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/11/08/seiko-new-turtle-the-watch-with-many-faces/.

The design is one iconic design back from the 70s and it’s one of Seiko’s most popular divers. It’s also – after the discontinuing of the SKX – the most affordable ISO Diver in Seiko’s portfolio. It’s a target of many moddings, the replacement of the hardlex crystal (sapphire) and the bezel insert (ceramic) being the most popular upgrades. A few weeks ago Seiko announced a brandnew New Turtle including this popular upgrades from the beginning. The references being SBDY049 for the JDM / SRPE03 for the ROW black model and SBDY51 for the JDM / SRPE05 for the ROW dark green model. Until today it’s not clear to me if it’s a special edition. For sure it’s no limited edition because the watches don’t show numbers on the case. And I don’t found them on any Seiko homepage.

The SBDY049/SRPE03 comes with a steel bracelet while the SBDY051/SRPE03 has a dark green rubber strap attached. As mentioned both of them come with sapphire crystal and ceramic bezel insert. The sapphire crystal has a cyclops lens on the crystal, magnyfying day and date. The dummies were shown on some popular blogs, but I have never seen a hands-on-blog entry until today. So maybe this is a premier here, since I ordered my watch in Japan a few weeks ago. On the 16Th of January the watch was deliverd to my address, most likely one of the first pieces in Europe.

Why did I buy this in Japan, although it’s because of import taxes more expensiv? Hard to tell. I think the Kanji dial was the most important reason. I know, you can mod a Kanji dial, but to my opinion: If it has Kanji it must be a JDM.

Let’s talk about the differences to the former New Turtles (Old New Turtles? Generation 1? I don’t know).

The crystal is sapphire as I said. Yo u can’t see this, which is a plus, because normally Hardlex looks better than sapphire. It has a cyclops on the outside. If you don’t like this it should no big thing for a watchmaker to remove it. I like the look with the cyclops.

Cyclops

The bezel insert is ceramic and therefore scratch resistant. The dots and the numerals are not printed on the surface like the inserts of the other New Turtles (with the exception of the STO III) but engraved. It’s definitely shinier as any other bezel on this series before, absolutely gorgeous.

The bezel itself is also different. But it shares the same height as the New Turtle even if it looks taller. But that’s an optical illusion, because the new bezel doesn’t have round edges as the old one. The pattern on the bezel is also different and emphasizes the illusion of a higher bezel.

New bezel
Comparing old (upper watch) and new bezel.

The “Diver’s 200m” on the dial and the long side of the second hand has a golden color, a little but interesting detail.

Golden details

Absolute gorgeous is the new waffle dial, adding depth and nobility to the watch. It’s not really a clous-de-Paris dial because the squares are somewhat big (about 0,5 mm) but close to this. A little bit Royal Oak in this Seiko.

Waffle dial

Everything is perfectly aligned, the dial, the bezel insert, the cyclops. Personally I don’t think Seiko changed the manufacturing, you probably find misaligned pieces out there. But my four New Turtles don’t have misalignments and the fifth now fits in this row.

What do the old New Turtle and this piece have in common? First of all the case, so every bracelet designed for the New Turtle fits on the SBDY049. I am wearing it right now on an Uncle Seiko H-Link bracelet which is an extraordinary good looking combo in my opinion. The bracelet delivered with the SBDY049 / SRPE03 is the same as every Seiko New Turtle steel bracelet before.

And of course the movement is still the same. Seiko didn’t do any upgrades, the 4R36 is working in this Turtle like in any other New Turtle. Why not a 6R? Well, I think they didn’t intend to make a competitor for the Sumo or the MM200. And with a 4R36 the price in Europe will be 599 Euros. I can’t think of a better watch for this money.

King Turtle on Uncle Seiko Bracelet
King Turtle on original bracelet

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