Top of the Pops: Grand Seiko Diver SBGA231

I am a long-term watch collector. Most of my pieces I acquired for less than 1.000 Euro, many even for less than 500. I do own many Seikos, some Swiss brands, some German and very few microbrands. So the acquisition of a Grand Seiko is not a normal thing for me – it’s very very special, it’s top of the pops in my collection. And I don’t mean the price point. Well, at least not only…

Let’s have a look at history first, because history is important for every serious watch collector. The first watch called Grand Seiko was released 1960. It was manufactured at the Suwa Seikosha factory (today: Seiko Epson). The movement was the handwinding 3180.

First Grand Seiko (Picture copyright by Seiko Corp.)

In 1967 Daini Seikosha (today: Seiko Instruments) produced their first Grand Seiko, the 44GS. The design became a milestone for future Grand Seikos, you can see the genes of this design even in the recent collection. The movement was a milestone too: The 61GS was a self-winding movement with an accuracy of +/-2 sec/24h (that’s what Rolex guarantees today) and it won some Swiss Chronometer competitions, something never heard of before. Another great movement was the hand winding 5722. You can see the beautiful Grand Seiko from 1967 with this movement, watch is property of my my friend ajiba54.

44GS from 1967 (picture copyright by Seiko cCorp.)
57GS from 1967 with 5722 movement

I cant’t list all milestones from Grand Seiko, if you are interested you can visit the Grand Seiko Homepage of your country, where you can find lots of material. Two more events I will mention:

In 1988 the first Grand Seiko Quartz was released, the 95GS movement had an accuracy of +/-10 sec/month, better than todays normal Quartz movements. Grand Seiko watches with Quartz movement in the recent collection have an accuracy of +/-10 sec – in a year!! All components are made by Seiko itself, including the selected Quartz crystals.

Grand Seiko with 95GS Quartz movement from 1988 (picture and watch by ajiba54)

The other important milestone was the release of the Spring Drive movement, first appeared in Grand Seiko in 2004. I think we should have a closer look at Spring Drive, because this is a movement like no other.

In 1977 a young engineer named Yoshikazu Akahane had the idea to put the best things from a Quartz and a mechanical movement together in a whole new type of movement to bring his vision to life: a movement that shows the continuing flow of time. The second hand should not make one step per second like in Quartz watches and not some little steps like in mechanical watches (the High Beat movements make up to 10 steps per second), it should move without any steps in a continuous move. It took him and his team 22 years until this vision came true. In 1999 the movement worked as he wanted. It took another 5 years to optimize the concept for a Grand Seiko with the 9R65 movement. This movement is used until today and it’s also the heart of my SBGA231.

9R65 Spring Drive (Picture copyright Seiko Corp.)

Spring Drive has a mainspring like any mechanical movement as the source of the power and a self-winding mechanism to power it up, so no battery is needed. The self-winding mechanism is more or less the same Magic Lever construction as in any automatic Seiko. But the accuracy of the watch is not controlled by a balance wheel like in mechanic movements but by a highly accurate Quartz crystal oscillator and an electronic circuit. The second hand is moved by a flywheel and is slowed down by an electromagnetic brake. So you have the advantage of Quartz (high accuracy) and mechanical movements (high tourque, no battery) combined and as a special attribute the continuous moving of the second hand. Because of the mechanical parts the Spring Drive movements don’t reach the accuracy of the Grand Seiko Quartz watches. Grand Seiko guarantees +/- 1 sec/24h or +/-15 sec/month. However my watch after five days doesn’t show any difference compared to the atomic time. But the reason I bought a Spring Drive watch was not accuracy, it was the moving of the second hand. Look at the short video.

In May 2019 I put my hands on first demo models of the new Seiko LX series and decided: Once I have the money I will some day buy the LX Land. All LX models are with Spring Drive movement and all are made of titanium which makes the watches very comfortable to wear.

Seiko LX Land

But when unexpected the money knocked on the door I want to be really, really sure to buy the best Spring Drive Seiko for me and I tried some other models, including the GS Diver, although it seems too big for me reading the dimensions: 45mm diameter, 50,4mm lug2lug size and a height of 14,2mm. But it’s not the first time a watch has a completely different appearance as you would expect. The curved case fitted perfectly on my wrist (I had this experience with the even bigger Sumo before) and the special conical bezel insert gave it a height of only 12,5mm on the edges of the watch – this watch would easily fit under any shirt cuff.

GS Diver Titanium SBGA231

The GS Diver SBGA231 is – like the LX models – fully made of titanium. Surprisingly it doesn’t look like titanium, there is nothing left of that typical grey colour. Compared to my other titanium watch, the Shogun Red Zimbe (https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/10/12/the-red-side-of-life-seiko-shogun-zimbe-red-spb099/) it’s even more shiny. I don’t think anybody will identify the material as titanium just from the looks. He only will be suspicious when he gets the watch in his hand. Why is this watch so light weighted? The total weight with full bracelet is 131 g, compared to 201 g of the steel version SBGA229. It’s also 1.000 Euros more expensive, but it’s worth every cent, believe me, because this is an extremely comfortable watch in this version.

One follower of my Instagram channel asked me to compare the GS Diver with my Marinemaster 300 (SBDX017). The MM300 has a diameter of 44mm, a Lug2Lug size of 49,6mm and a height of 15,3mm. So the MM300 seems to be a bit smaller. But that’s not what your eyes see. Especially the conical bezel insert makes the GS Diver looks smaller. And the MM300 has a weight of 230 g. Because of its monocoque case it’s even heavier than the steel version of the GS Diver. And the height gave it totally other proportions. It lays heavy on your wrist, feeling indestructible whatever will come. If you like this feeling more than a very comfortable watch, then the steel version of the GS Diver or the new Marinemasters are the right watches for you. If not…

Marinemaster 300 SBDX017

Let’s have a look at the bracelet: The very beautiful polished and satin parts gave the watch a distinctive and noble look. Shortening is very easy with the typical Seiko collar/pin System. The clasp is technically the same as the Marinemaster clasp with the same diving extension system, but it seems better finished. You have also four normal positions for micro adjustments.

The case has drilled lugs for easy strap change. But why do you want to change this beautiful bracelet? The case has the beautiful Zaratsu polish, hand made by experts in Seikos Grand Seiko factory in Shiojiri. This is for sure the most beautiful watch case I have ever seen. And even the indices are hand polished, you can see the high quality everywhere you look at this piece.

All in all it’s a true masterpiece and really top of the pops in my collection!

Diameter 45 mm
Lug2lug 50,5 mm
Height 12,5 – 14,2 mm
Movement 9R65 Spring Drive
Lug width 22 mm
Golden GS Logo indicates the titanium version
Conical bezel insert
Power reserve indicator (all Spring Drive movements have a power reserve indicator)
Perfect hands finishing
Lume pip
Crown
Bottom with GS Lion Logo
Lumibrite
Masterpiece
Wristshot

Seiko New Turtle: The watch with many faces

As a watch collector, especially as a Seiko fan it is obvious that I have a New Turtle in my collection. No surprise so far. But looking into my suitcase I see four of them?! How could that happen? Let’s have a closer look at the New Turtle. Expect some more pictures as usual…

In 2015 Seiko released the New Turtle. It was a remake of the 6309-7040, nicknamed Turtle because of the shape of its case. The 6309 sold in high numbers in the 80s. Today it’s a collector’s piece. It’s not difficult to find one, it’s difficult to get one with no aftermarket parts and in good condition. Prices for such pieces have crossed the 500 Euro line and are still rising – not as fast as the famous predecessor, the Willard – but rising. If you are interested please be sure to get an all-original one otherwise the value is rather low. My piece is an all-original from 1983.

6309-7040 from 1983 in original box

It is said, that the New Turtle was not the idea of Seiko Japan, but of Seiko Thailand. The new case is very similar to the original 6309 case, but slightly bigger. With 44mm in diameter it seems to be a big watch, but with a lug2lug size of 46mm it will fit almost any wrist, including female ones. The movement is the recent standard Seiko movement 4R36, handwinding, hacking, 21.600 bph, day-date wheel with the standard blue Saturday and red Sunday (I love this coloured weekend). Also the Turtles glow like flashlights in the dark thanks to the latest formula of Lumibrite (see picture of the bicolour Turtle)

The first batch included the classic black SRP777 (the only colour the 6309 was issued), the blue SRP773, the black-gold SRP775 and the Pepsi SRP779. A Coke (black-red)  SRP789 and a Batman (black-blue) SRP787 followed in no time. Soon there was a discussion about the Prospex X on the dial. My personal opinion: The X (or better a P/S for professional specifications) looks good on modern divers but not equal good on vintage inspired pieces. So I would have preferred a dial without the “X”, but I think we all got used to the sign right now…aren’t we?

It was in 2017 when I was looking for a new summer diver and the New Turtle was an obvious choice. I loved the case and I was especially looking for a Pepsi, so the SRP779 became my first Seiko ever.

New Turtle Pepsi SRP779

The New Turtle became an instant success and in 2017 Seiko released the first limited editions. The most famous one is the grey Zimbe Turtle, high valued by collectors. It’s a special watch because it was also the first Zimbe Edition ever. Today we have twelve Zimbe editions (you can read about Zimbe and the edition No. 11 here in my blog: https://michaelswatchblog.de/2019/10/12/the-red-side-of-life-seiko-shogun-zimbe-red-spb099/).

Other colours followed, some with gold cases, some totally black ones (Ninja Turtle) and other special coloured editions, for example the Blue Lagoon. You have to distinct two kind of editions: The real limited editions, which means there are a limited pieces of watches available (like the Zimbe) and the special editions, which means the watch is produced for a limited time (like the Save-the-Oceans). Many of the limited or the special editions are only available in some special countries (like the Zimbe in Thailand).

In 2018 Seiko announced a cooperation with Fabien Costeau, grandson of the the most famous explorer of the seven seas, Jaques Costeau. They made some special “Save-the-Oceans” editions including a New Turtle. The dial is a blue-black one with a special texture that resembles a whale’s skin. It was also in 2018 when some pieces with sunray dials appeared (SRPC-Series). And it was in this year, thanks to Seiko Germany, Europe gets his limited edition, the Grey Dawn (SRPD01), limited to 2018 pieces. It is still one of the most beautiful watches I have seen, so I had no choice to buy one. And it is still my favorite Turtle (second only to my 6309).

Dawn Gey, limited to 2018 pieces, Europe only

A few months later in 2019 I was looking for a bicolour black-gold watch. A favorite colour in the 80s bicolour watches became extremely out-fashioned in the last 30 years but the last two years they made a little revival. So if you want to buy a bicolour watch for some special moods and don’t want to spent much money, why not buy a third New Turtle? I replaced the bracelet with a bicolour one from Strapcode and the look was perfect.

Turtle Bicolour with Strapcode bracelet

In Spring 2019 Seiko released the third Save-the-Oceans edition (the second one was the same as the first but with a black case, a black bracelet and a slightly blacker colour of the dial) and I had the chance to put my fingers on a pre-release example on our Seiko get-together in May. Most other fellow collectors soon fell in love with this piece, I didn’t. Although it’s a really gorgeous piece with some thrilling details: the dial shows a little shark fin, the counterweight of the second hand resembles a shark fin and it has a bezel insert with engraved numbers and engraved round grooves. It’s a complete different insert, like no other insert from the New Turtles, because all others are flat. The model is called “Great White Shark” (SRPD21). And, well, it’s the same old story, sooner or later such special details catch me and so I added the fourth New Turtle to my collection only a few days ago.

Save the Oceans III

A last look at the straps: The New Turtle comes either with a steel bracelet or a black rubber (silicone) strap, depending on the model. Some limited editions have two straps in their box. The Grey Dawn for example comes with the steel bracelet and a grey rubber strap. The rubbers are soft and comfy but very dust attracting, so I don’t use them (replace it with the excellent strap of the New Arnie, if you like rubber). The steel bracelet is a really good one in its price range, having polished and brushed parts. It looks good on every New Turtle. Shortening is a bit difficult, so let your dealer do this. With a lugwidth of 22mm of course there is a universe of other straps for this watch and the drilled lugs support easy strap change. My Pepsi is on a Chevron Strap from Crown&Buckle and I don’t think I will ever change this perfect combo. The bicolour Turtle is on a Strapcode bracelet as mentioned, a too expensive choice to say the truth, but wanting a bicolour bracelet with fitting endlinks there is no much choice. The Grey Dawn and the Shark are on their original bracelets. I have seen the Grey Dawn on grey-orange Erikas and that’s a pefect choice too.

All for models are special in my eyes: The “fits every occasion” Pepsi, the special mood Bicolour, the noble and distinctive Grey Dawn and the colourful White Shark. So every piece has its place in my collection and my heart.

Do I think about a fifth New Turtle? Well, why not… The Ninja is in my mind and I am sure Seiko will continue with new versions. So have a look at the collection, if you don’t already have one. I am sure you will find a perfect piece of your choice of this watch of many faces.

My New Turtle family
Wristhshot Dawn Grey
Wristshot Bicolour
Wristshot Pepsi
Wristshot STO III
A stack of Turtles

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

Why the New Arnie (SNJ025) is my favorite Seiko release 2019

Seiko SNJ025 “New Arnie”

2019 was a great year for Seiko fans. The Japanese company released more new models than all other watch companies together, at least it seems so. Of course, I am little bit biased…

So let’s take a closer look at the novelties.

One really big move was the release of the new Seiko LX line, the most expensive Seikos ever (of cource not counting the Grand Seiko, Credor…). Made of titanium, spring drive driven high end models – they fascinated me from the first time I saw them on a private Seiko event in May 2019.

Another model shown on this event was the New Turtle Save The Ocean 3, loved by almost every person in the room, but not touching me (I love the New Turtle, but not the STOs).

Save the Ocean 3

They also showed the new Sumo, sapphire upgrade, new movement 6R35 and of course new price point. The movement is for sure interesting, but when it comes to looks I prefer my old Sumo. I like the fat numbers on the bezel.

The most surrounded watch on this event was without any doubt the reissue of the “Willard” (SLA033), one of Seiko’s most sought after icons and a real eye catcher.

SLA033 “Willard Reissue”

And last but not least some weird looking analogue/digital watch which in my mind I suddenly marked with the attribute “ugly”. Of course I knew the famous predecessor H558, worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in various movies in the 80s. We will talk about history later. But Seiko only showed the Pepsi version of the “New Arnie” (there was no Pepsi version of the H558), which is still not my favorite watch.

Later in the year Seiko released the new Seiko 5 Sports. You can read about this in my last blog entry. And the year hasn’t finished yet and I did not mention the countless special editions from other Seiko Models.

So why I am so fascinated about the New Arnie today? I will try to explain this.

First: History
The H558 was a true child of the 80s. With its both analogue and digital dial, its multiple functions including alarm and chronograph and its 150m water resistance it was technically an interesting watch and the first hybrid diver with all this attributes. It was released in 1982 with a price tag of 45.000 yen and built until 1990. There were some hybrid watches at this time from other companies. But it did not become famous because of the interesting technical points. It was action movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger that wears this watch both private and in some of his best movies including “Predator” and “Commando”. He didn’t wore it in ”Terminator”, but as most people identify Mr. Schwarzenegger with his most famous role, the H558 became the terminator watch or more popular simply “The Arnie”. That’s one thousand points for coolness, even many years later, I guess.

Seiko H558 (photo by ajiba54)

For 29 Years Seiko didn’t made any successor and then as a surprise at Baselworld the SNJ025 appeared, quickly nicknamed “New Arnie” (you don’t need much creativity for this…). It’s not a 1:1 reissue, they changed the look of the watch, and in my opinion improved it. The big crowns on the left side make a better balance to the usual crown an 3 o’clock. I have heard this from many fellow collectors, so it seems Seiko made a great job here. They transported the rich history in a more modern shape without changing the design really much. Well done!

Second: Coolness
You can’t really separate this from the historical view and I don’t know how you really measure coolness. But it’s a difficult thing to find a cooler watch than the one, the biggest action star ever had worn. Funny thing is, I heard the attribute “cool” even from people that don’t know the Arnie connection. And do you know, how time setting works? You set the time on the digital display, push in the crown and the analogue hands follow like slaves. I have tried to show this in the video. Pretty cool, too.

Third: Uniqueness
Also a difficult thing, but I think this watch really stands out here. You can recognize the New Arnie from 10 meters away when you can see the wrist of its owner. Well maybe you mistake it for a H558, but I think that doesn’t count. In my mind that’s a remarkable thing today with thousand of lookalikes and wannabees. I think the Arnie will stay pretty unique even in the future, no Microbrand has the abilities to produce such a watch at this pricepoint, I am sure.

Fourth: Reliability
It’s a quartz watch, ok, and many collectors don’t like quartz watches. Its movement is made of plastic and contains no jewels. But it’s solar powered and if you put in a dark room for half a year it will still work. Buy and wear it, and for more than ten or twenty years you will not have any problems. You don’t have to set the date, it changes automatically until the year 2100. Its accuracy is good enough (Seiko says about 15 sec a month, mine runs with an accuracy of 5 sec a month) for almost every situation.

Fifth: Price point
The recommended retail price is 469 Euro in Germany, so this is an affordable watch for every collector. You don’t get a new Sumo for this and for sure no LX oder Willard Reissue. You can take the STO Turtle if you prefer mechanical watches. You don’t have to be wealthy, it’s still a watch for normal people.

One thing I almost forgot: The SNJ025 comes with a brand new developed flat vent of excellent quality. It’s very soft and comfortable and finally a diver strap from Seiko that doesn’t attract dust!

So in summary it’s a very cool and unique watch with rich history, reliable in every situation for a very reasonable price – and that’s why the New Arnie is my favorite Seiko release 2019.

Variations Black (SNJ025), Pepsi (SNJ027), Gold (SNJ028). Alas, no orange model like the H558.
Functions Time, Date, Chronograph, Alarm, Second Timezone, Backlight, Battery Level
Analogue Hands Stepper Motor (every 15 seconds a quarter minute), automatically following the digital display time
WR 200 m Water Resistance
Movement H851 Solar
Size 47mm x 50mm x 14mm, Tuna shape, 22mm lug width
Digital display in modus day/date
Solar powered H851 movement
Second hand hits the indices almos perfectly
Right crown screwed down (or better screwed up, because you close the crown the other was as usual), left crown not
Controlling the watch with the big crown on 3 o’clock
The superb new Seiko Flat Vent
As reliable as it could be
200 m water resistant
In my palm

Seiko 5KX – Thumbs up or down?

This year few moves from Seiko made a bigger wave in the scene than the end of the SKX and release of the new Diver style Seiko 5 Sports, quickly nicknamed 5KX.

Since I am one member of this scene, owner of a SKX (and some of it’s predecessors) and since a few weeks also owner of two new 5KX, I think I share my thoughts on this ‘case’.

Normally it’s a good idea to look at history first, for this will often clear some facts: neither is the SKX the first watch with this case design nor the best (in my opinion). That famous watch didn’t pop out of nowhere. In fact, the first watch with the SKX design was released in 1978. The reference was the 7548 and you wouldn’t believe it – it was a quartz watch. Today many collectors hull up their nose when it comes to quartz, but the 7548 movement was far better than our standard cheap quartz movement today (which power 99,9% of todays quartz watches). It was adjustable, had 5 jewels, contains no plastic parts, built to last. One of his successors, the 7C46 is still used in one of Seikos best dive watches, the Tuna family. The 7548 was a great success in his time, laid the base for future SKX-style watches.

Seiko 7548 from 1980

Successors of this watch were for example the famous 200m Professionell (also a quartz watch), the 7002 as a automatic watch and, in the late 90s, the most famous of all, the SKX. If you ask an expert which of this watches is the best, he will probably name the 200m Professionell.

The SKX was sold for many, many years (more than 20!) and became an icon for watch collectors, even if they are not especially Seiko fans. The downsides they gladly accept – the screwed down crown is in my eyes not very good and it’s almost impossible to fix the crown with the first attempt. Neither the second. The movement 7S26 was a reliable workhorse, but without hacking and handwinding very oldfashioned. To start the movement, one has to do the Seiko shuffle…a little bit weird.

Around the year 2015 something changed in Seiko’s portfolio, the Prospex X (or better P/S for professionell specifications) appeared and soon became an object of many bad comments from the fans. But Seiko continued (as always) and started new lines (for example the New Turtle) or prospexed old lines (for example the Sumo). The Turtle today is one of Seikos best selling watches. Turtle and Samurai became the entry level of the Prospex line of real divers.

Real divers? There was this old SKX left in the portfolio, loved by the fans, old fashioned, 20 years old. And now, with a bang (for many; others had awaited this years ago) Seiko discontinued the SKX. Take this, watch aficionado!

In my eyes, Seiko had three options:

  • “Prospexing” the SKX with a 4R36 as a direct competitor to Turtle/Samurai. The fans would have growled in anger because of the X on this icon!
  • Upgrade the SKX as a competitor to the Sumo with a 6R Movement. The fans would have growled in anger because of the remarkable higher price point!
  • End the SKX line for now and release the case design in a lower line like the Seiko 5, making it no competitor for any other diver. The fans would have growled in anger because of the downgrade (even it was not intended to make this watch the SKX successor)!

See something?

As we all know, option 3 was chosen. The handsome design came to the Seiko 5 line and the fans yelled “downgrade”. But that’s not right, it’s no downgrade, it’s a complete new watch with all features typical for a Seiko 5: movement 4R36, 100m WR, see-through bottom. The SKX is history. Some say “for now” and maybe in the future Seiko will bring option 2 to life…

Let’s have a closer look at the new Seiko 5 Sports now. I bought two of this new watch line in the last weeks, the orange SRPD59 and the crème SRPD67. The finishing of the watches is remarkable for this price point. I have heard many comments about misalignments, and yes, this happens, but my watches are perfect. I bought the two of them by two different authorized dealers (the Creme ist not available in Germany).
The 100m WR allows swimming and even snorkelling with this watches, but not real scuba diving – well I think very few of us are scuba divers and they use diving computers. So it’s more something that happens in your head. Then there is one thing I really don’t miss: the screwed down crown, as I mentioned before. The normal crown is much more convenient to my opinion. The screwed down crown of the SKX wasn’t really comfortable, in other price ranges Seiko can do this a lot better.

Let’s come to the bracelets. The Orange came with a new Oyster which has one thing in common with the famous SKX Jubilees: It rattles like a snake, at least my piece. So you have one familiar thing more…Otherwise it’s a reliable bracelet, absolute ok at this price point. The Crème came with a Mesh/Milanaise, which lifts the price about 70 Euros. I don’t know why. I would prefer the Oyster every time and I don’t like this bracelet, especially it’s clasp. Ok, truth to tell, I don’t like any Milanaise, so I am biased. I removed this and put on a GL831 from Uncle Seiko, which in my eyes is a perfect match. It’s easy to replace the bracelet because the 5KX has drilled lugs – which the SKX lacks.

They use the well known 4R36 and my watches are real good when it comes to accuracy. The Orange gains 5 sec/24h, the Crème gains 2 sec/24h, excellent for this movement.

With so many different colors of the new 5KX I think everyone will find his favourite and I highly recommend this watches. They are an eyecatcher for small money!

So for me: Thumbs up!

  SKX Seiko 5 Sports aka 5KX
Movement 7S26, no hacking, no handwinding 4R36, hacking and handwinding
Case 42mm, screwed down crown 42mm, drilled lugs, no screwed down crown
Water resistance 200m 100m
Glass Hardlex Hardlex
Bottom Screwed down, massive See-through
Price (Euro) 299 259-329
SRPD59 Orange
SRPD67 Creme
Processed With Darkroom

The Red Side of Life – Seiko Shogun Zimbe Red (SPB099)

Dear friends,

Today I want to introduce you to my new addition, a Seiko Shogun. But a very special Shogun: the Zimbe Shogun Red (SPB099). I was thrilled when I saw the first picures, but the price was too high for me…for two days. Then I could not resist this red dial. A red dial I had not in my collection and I also have a soft spot for well made LEs (see my Blue Alpinist).

What does Zimbe mean:
“Zimbe” is the name Seiko gave the Thailand Limited Editions, special editions that are sold only in Thailand and come in very few pieces, in this case, only 500 were manufactured.
Zimbe comes from the Japanese word for whale shark: Zimbe Zame. To meet a whale shark is one dream of a diver. These fish are extremely rare in Asia. Since I am not a diver, I can not tell, what it is to meet a whale shark. The whale shark logo can be found on the box, on a hangtag and on the back of the watch . Zimbe watches are generally very popular collector’s items, they sell out fast and prices move rapidly. The Shogun Red is the eleventh Zimbe.

Why is this Zimbe red:
The colors are reminiscent of the ceremonial armor of a Samurai – even if the watch is not a Samurai, but a Shogun. Shogun is the leader of the samurai, for centuries, Japan was in fact ruled by a Shogun. The common Seiko Shogun is only available with a black dial, but there was a Zimbe Shogun before with a black and blue dial.

A word on Titan:
The Seiko Zimbe Shogun is made of titanium, which is a love because of the low weight for some collectors and a hate for others for the same reason. Many – including me until a few months – connect a subjectively lower quality impression. I can reassure the skeptics: the impression of quality is top notch and hard to beat in the price league, I think the macros speak for themselves. Sharp (but not rough), clear edges, fine brush cut, precise processing, everything was great! Japan is the leading country for precision titanium processing (my titanium glasses from a traditional Swiss manufacturer are also “Made in Japan”) and Seiko here has particular expertise. This shows, for example, also the new Prospex LX line.

And what movement is in it?
In the watch works the 6R15D, the latest edition of the 6R15. In accuracy and stability of the rate in individual positions significantly improved over previous versions.

Red Zimbe with Zimbe Hangtag
Lumeshot