Seiko Prospex SPB183J1 55th Anniversary Prospex
When searching for a new diving watch, Seiko Prospex is often filling the wish list. The offering is so comprehensive that it's hard not to find yours whatever your budget and wrist size. Some products are as technically refined as they are rugged and legendary. For instance, please take Naomi Uemura, the legendary Japanese explorer, whose endeavors made history. He was wearing a Seiko Prospex while successfully climbing Mount Denali, Alaska, and even more so when he reached Alaska from Greenland in a single dog sled, via a 12,000 km journey that took eighteen months (photo below is by Ira Block for National Geographic).
The Seiko Prospex, nicknamed Seiko Naomi Uemura, has pioneered the Seiko Turtle collection and broke cover in 1970, five years after Seiko introduced its first-ever diver's watch. While we all reckon the 1965 and 1968 case designs are icons, I believe their 1970 sibling looks as distinctive as it is up to more than just a professional task. Additionally, it hit the headlines thanks to Martin Sheen while screen playing Captain Willard in the Oscar-winning Apocalypse Now film. To sum it up, no Japanese diving watch has such a cool pedigree as the Seiko 6105-8110. In 2019, Seiko re-created this timepiece by introducing the Seiko Prospex SLA033J1 Limited Edition watch, a modern and premium take on the once-affordable asymmetrical diving watch par excellence.
Seiko has then expanded the product portfolio by adding more accessible variants along the way, the main difference being the SLA033J1 pictured above was built at the Shizukuishi Watch Studio, where all the Grand Seiko are assembled. In contrast, the low-end models are manufactured at Seiko and usually stand below the 1,500 Euro threshold price point, where the Japanese brand has no competition globally. First came a green dial and bezel new model (and a standard black one), followed last year by the Marine Blue Seiko Prospex SPB183J1, celebrating fifty-five years of sea exploration and countless record-breaking performances.
In the words of Takumi Kishino, Seiko Prospex Design Director, we were honored to host during our first Seikology Club's webinar, this Prospex draws inspiration from Antarctica and its waters' shades of blue. Across the Prospex range, the Seiko SPB183J1 1970 Diver's Re-creation doesn't feel just like a diving watch.
The asymmetrical case features a crown protector at four and has a flat profile to attract those looking for a rugged diving watch, or a vintage-looking sports watch with a seventies vibe to it; prove me wrong, but I see a tonneau-shaped racing chronograph feel to it, too. I would have gone for a blue ceramic inlay on the bezel, but I understand the current one is consistent with the highly sought-after old one.
As far as the vintage feel concerns, a more Seiko 6105-8110-looking bracelet design would make the recipe more compelling; the Oyster-looking one, on here, is a kind of a "Deja vù." However, the Seiko SPB183J1 55th Anniversary comes standard with a silicone strap, smoothly and elegantly wrapping your wrist, given the shortened lug-to-lug distance.
The Seiko SPB183J1 case is 42,7mm across (hence smaller than the 45mm wide premium SLA033J1) and 13,2mm thick. Place it alongside a Seiko 6105-8110, and you'll find out it is smaller in diameter but thicker. On the standard steel bracelet, it wears better than it looks. I highly recommend swapping it with the blue OEM silicone strap; as a full steel timepiece, this robust timepiece weighs in at 180 grams. The flat sapphire crystal sports a lovely bevel on the outer part, the dial has squared indexes filled with plenty of Lumibrite, with the central sweeping seconds hand holding a wide red dot amidst a gold profile.
Gold accents are standard on most diving watches from Japan. The blue bezel is thin and exquisite; fine grooves and a satisfying ratcheting experience enhance the perceived quality but do not expect it to be as easy to grab with your diving gloves as you'll experience with a Marine Master 300. The icing on the cake is that the bezel's top end is zaratsu polished, and the whole case adopts a "super hard coating" treatment to protect it against shocks and scratches. I can confirm it works, as it did when I found my Seiko Prospex SPB053J1 rolling across some rocks during a photo-shooting session back then. Finally, the Seiko SPB183J1 Re-creation Diver's 55th Anniversary adopts a workhorse among Seiko's mechanical movements.
The 6R35 caliber features hand-winding capability, hacking seconds, a +25 to -15 seconds per day accuracy, and seventy hours of power reserve. It is not as refined as a SLA033J1's caliber 8L35, but it's more than enough for a timepiece costing one-third of that price. In the 1,500 Euros priced class of products (1450 Euros to be more precise), it is an unbeatable value proposition; it is suited for professional diving, as it is, once it's off your diving suit, for anything else. It outperforms the competition if you're looking for an all-rounder with professional diving specs too conceived as your one-piece collection on a budget.
(Photo credit: Marco Antinori, Peter Tung for Horbiter®)
Gaetano C @Horbiter®