Seiko Prospex SPB053J1
Living with the SLA017 inspired diver's watch from Seiko
I'm so used to wearing the Seiko Sumo or the Turtle PADI, that the Prospex SPB family represented an authentic novelty when, before the beginning of the summertime, Seiko gave me a Seiko Prospex SPB053J1. Since Seiko has decided to broaden its presence in Europe and in countries where it is still (and unfairly so) ‘suffering’ from a low "value perception", it has used the Prospex collection as its leading collection. Although more recent collections like the Presage are quite well-known among fans already, the brand’s admirers can easily tell that Seiko's product leadership has firmly established itself among professional diver’s watches.
These fans are very often professional divers that are willing to wear a Seiko Marine Master as easily as a professional would wear a classic three-hands-watch and they mainly live in the States. The Marine Master is the perfect example of a professional product, but it is definitely not the most suitable product if you aim to widen the reach of your customer base.
That is why, in 2017, as part of the communication and product development process that Seiko launched to expand the Prospex collection, Seiko presented the re-edition of the 62MAS; an object that has become a collector's piece even before the end of Baselworld 2017 and a standard collection inspired by the Seiko SLA017.
Seiko’s history inspires the Prospex SPB collection and a new generation of Easy Diver timepieces
Talking about Easy Diver timepieces when it comes to Seiko almost sounds blasphemous. Even when they craft a generalist or apparently less professional product, Japanese engineers still equip it with all the technical features that are needed in an authentic professional diver’s watch, and the same can be said for the Seiko Prospex SPB053J1. This is exactly what happened this year, when the manufacturer launched its Seiko Prospex 1968 Automatic Diver's Re-creation Limited Edition SLA025 as part of its top of the range collection; the history of diving linked to the best technology that the brand could ever offer within a price range that goes from €400 for a Seiko Turtle to €5,500 for a Hi-Beat.
Compared to the SLA017, the Seiko Prospex SPB053J1 retains all the features that have made the SLA017 famous, but this timepiece sports a more modern look that positions it between a Turtle and a Marine Master.
A symmetric case and an exceptional degree of wearability
Rather than starting off with the ordinary technical features of the Seiko Prospex SPB053J1, this is our chance to shift the emphasis on design that was clearly thought with the European audience in mind. The perfectly symmetrical case with its straight lugs and a large and protruding crown (with no protective shoulders) is an ode to vintage diving, while the shape of the elongated lugs with their polished and satin finish is a perfect design that make this watch one of the most wearable Seiko diver’s timepieces ever crafted (and not just underwater).
I own a Turtle Padi, a Silver Sumo and a Green Sumo and very few watches are as comfortable to wear as the Seiko Prospex SPB053J1. The elongated lugs are a clear reference to the lugs of the case of a Grand Seiko that represents a best-in-class in terms of comfort. The vintage flavor of the Seiko Prospex SPB053J1 lies in the position of the crown; an "anomaly" if you consider that, on all Japanese diver’s watches and not only on those crafted by Seiko, the crown is always positioned at 4 o'clock.
Seiko’s blue (and a scratchproof case)
In a time when all watch brands compete against each other with different hues of blue, Seiko has decided to respond with a singular matching; the blue of its dial is deep and full of dark tones that make it bright, while the bezel sports a hue that dramatically changes according to the light. When there is no direct light hitting them, the bezel and the dial seems to sport a similar hue with the tone of the bezel resembling a matted dark blue. In the presence of direct light the colour of the bezel tends to a bright blue.
It is a common feeling when it comes to the ceramic insert that is actually an aluminum ring. Seiko must have performed some surface processes on the ring that give it a tone similar to that of ceramics. Another pleasant surprise that I found out about by sheer chance is how successful the Hard Coating (or Dia-Shield) surface treatment could be as a protection for the case against scratches.
The SPB053J1 accidentally slipped between the rocks of the Faro di Capri beach, where these pics were taken; the photographer and I were worried about the timepiece being scratched, until we found out that there wasn’t (and still isn’t) any scratch on the watch. It is one of the most useful features and it also highlights how serious Seiko is when it crafts watches for a specific professional usage. The dimensions of the watch (42,6mm by 13,8mm) are well concealed and the SPB provides a feeling that is close to that of a sporty dress watch.
The silicon strap, the wonderful bezel
Seiko does not use standard rubber for its straps, but rather a silicone-made rubber that is definitely softer than standard rubber and is not prone to hardening or misshaping phenomena that are typical of some rubber straps and that cause its breaking (something that I have experienced myself over the course of the years). The strap ends with a pin buckle, whose size I find excessive because it disrupts the formal elegance of the case. The bezel; we talked about the insert already, but not about its style.
The Seiko Prospex SPB053J1 represents one of those rare examples, where the bezel of a Seiko diver’s watch is thin and features a very thin toothing. This is the very characteristic that brings this watch closer to European taste and also to those who are not necessarily professional divers.
Fortunately, Seiko didn’t spare on the feeling quality of the 120 clicks that is well-above that of other watches and other European brands that boast a higher retail price of an SPB. The generalist attitude of this collection is given by the option of equipping the SPB with a steel bracelet.
The 6R15 calibre (and my final considerations)
Welcome to the world of Seiko’s in-house built calibres because it is always good to remind everyone that everything that can be found inside the movement is of exclusive Japanese manufacture. Up to 50 hours of power reserve are more than enough for a caliber that offers the Hack Seconds function and a professed ability to be manually charged as well as being equipped with a technical gem like the Spron510 spiral; a metal-made spiral patented by Seiko that does not share the typical Swiss enthusiasm for silicon spirals.
In summary, it is extremely difficult for a Seiko Prospex SPB053J1 to sport even the slightest technical drawback because the 6R15 is a "workhorse" with a good shock resistance. As it can happen with cars or motorcycles, only the prolonged use of a watch would allow you to fully appreciate its characteristics and to find its faults. I discovered the SPB a year late because, for different reasons, we were not able to see live Seiko's 2017 novelties, while this collection is a real game changer for the Prospex collection.
There are things that I would have done differently like getting rid of the date for example and thus maintain the perfect symmetry of the case (which is something rare in today’s watchmaking) and edit the strap that I consider oversized and out of tone if compared to the general balance that I value, together with the comfort, the plus side of this Prospex. The retail price - below the €900 threshold - for a watch with an in-house built movement like this is simply unmatched and unheard of.
(Photo credit: Horbiter®'s proprietary photo-shooting)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®