When it comes to sports watches made by Seiko, we all have in mind diver’s models and, specifically, the first of its kind for the Japanese brand, the 62MAS launched in 1965. Yet, this wasn’t Seiko’s first so-called sports watch – or at least, a purpose-built model made for action. We have to go back in time, the year 1959 to be precise, and look at a watch named the Seiko Laurel Alpinist, a watch specially designed for Japanese mountain climbers. Today, as part of the all-new 2021 collection presented by the brand during its “summit,” the first Seiko Alpinist watch from 1959 is brought back to life, with one high-end and ultra-faithful reproduction (reference SJE085J1), as well as modern interpretations under the Prospex line (the new SPB241J1, SPB243J1 and SPB245J1).
The 1959 Seiko Alpinist
Here is probably a rather confidential but still important model for the brand. Certainly, the main focus of Seiko when it comes to sports watches has been diving instruments, however, the Japanese brand has some more watches under its sleeve. For instance, the 1959 Seiko Laurel Alpinist, which can be considered as Seiko’s first sports watch. Before we take a look at this specific model, and if you want to know more about this specific collection, you can have a look here, at thespringbar.com. So what is the Seiko Alpinist? Basically, a watch designed specifically by Seiko for “Yama-Otoko,” Japanese for mountain men. It was also Seiko’s first attempt to create a sports watch and as such, it should be regarded as important. Launched in 1959, this watch will lead the way to multiple generations of Alpinist watches.
A hand-wound watch (with a 17-jewel Seikosha movement) with a relatively simple but sturdy 3-part case, the 1959 Laurel Alpinist was delivered on a so-called Bund strap, reinforcing its intentions for robustness. The stainless steel case measures 35mm and is topped by a high-domed plexiglass crystal. The most distinctive element of the Alpinist, which will be drastically toned down in modern editions, is its striking and very bold dial with large triangular markers at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock, as well as baton applied markers and an inner white minute track. There was an impressive amount of luminous material on the dial, as well as on the hands, again with a sharp design. The watch was available in black or white-cream.
These early Seiko Alpinist are today amongst the brand’s rarest and most collectable pieces. And the specific design of its dial has, until now, never been reproduced by Seiko… until now!
Seiko Alpinist Prospex 1959 Re-Creation SJE085J1
As explained in the introduction, Seiko is bringing back the style of the 1959 Alpinist watch in two different tastes – something we’ve already seen from the brand, with a combination of a high-end and faithful re-creation, accompanied by a series of more accessible modern interpretations.
First and foremost is this new reference SJE085J1, the highlight of this collection. This watch basically brings back most of the charm of the 1959 Seiko Alpinist watch with only minor concessions to modernity. As such, the watch retains most visual elements, starting with a compact case of only 36.6mm in diameter and 11.1mm in height – something that will definitely please vintage watch enthusiasts. Compared to the original 1959 watch, the case of this new Alpinist Re-Creation SJE085J1 retains the same thin, flat bezel and thin lugs with a bevel on the side. Water-resistant to 100m, the caseback and the crown screw down while the watch is protected by a modern, yet highly-domed, sapphire crystal.
The most striking element of this re-edition is, of course, its dial. Only available in black, it brings back the distinctively shaped hour markers – triangles and batons – as well as the sharp dauphine hands. The inner minute track is also back and the watch has a fair amount of Lumibrite on its dial. Some evolutions are to be noted, however, such as the Seiko-only logo (no Laurel), the “automatic” mention at 6 o’clock and the addition of a date display at 4:30 in a tone-on-tone window.
The SJE085J1 is powered by the Calibre 6L35, a higher-grade automatic movement that is also used in the recently-introduced re-edition of the 1965 King Seiko KSK. This movement, which runs at 4Hz, can store 45 hours of power reserve and has been chosen here due to its slender profile, allowing for this re-edition to be relatively thin.
The final touch is given by the original strap, which is composed of a classic two-piece leather band with irregular stitchings design, as its predecessor, and with a protective underlining leather band.
The Seiko Alpinist Prospex 1959 Re-Creation SJE085J1 will be a limited edition of 1,959 pieces, available from Seiko boutiques and selected stores as of August 2021, and priced at EUR 3,150.
Quick facts: 36.6mm x 11.1mm stainless steel case – sapphire crystal – 100m water-resistant – black dial with applied luminous markers and hands – Calibre 6L35, automatic, 26 jewels, 4Hz, 45h power reserve, time and date – “bund” leather strap with decorative stitchings – limited to 1,959 pieces – EUR 3,150
Seiko Alpinist Prospex Modern Interpretations SPB241J1 – SPB243J1 – SPB245J1
In addition to the highly retro-styled model above, Seiko will also propose this cool old-school design in modernly-shaped and equipped Prospex watches, the three references SPB241J1, SPB243J1 and SPB245J1. While also directly inspired by the original 1959 design, these new Seiko Alpinist models are more contemporary in design and are also offered in a more accessible price range. More importantly, they will be part of the permanent Prospex collection, and not limited in production.
These new Seiko Alpinist Prospex Modern Interpretations are not intended to be proper vintage watches, however, they retain compact dimensions with a stainless steel case that measures only 38mm in diameter, for a height of 12.9mm. The case is here polished and brushed, still with the distinctive elements of the 1959 Alpinist, knowing a non-protected crown, sharp edges and a polished bevel on the side of the lugs. These are equipped with a sapphire crystal, a screw-down crown and caseback (with see-through crystal) and are water-resistant to 200 meters.
All the distinctive elements of the original Alpinist dial have been here re-interpreted in a modern contemporary way, with more depth and layers for a multi-dimensional effect. The dial, available either in grey (SPB243J1), silver-cream (SPB241J1) or green (SPB245J1), features the emblematic markers and hands, filled with cream-coloured Lumibrite over silver-polished applied elements. The inner minute track is retained and a date window sits at 3 o’clock.
At the heart of these modern interpretations is a well-known mid-range automatic movement, the calibre 6R35 with 3Hz frequency and comfortable 70h power reserve. As said, the movement will be visible through the caseback.
The green model SPB245J1 will be offered on a black leather strap with a folding buckle at a price of EUR 750. The cream-coloured SPB241J1 and grey SPB243J1 are worn on a 3-link steel bracelet with a butterfly folding clasp and will be priced at EUR 770. All the models will be released in the permanent collection and available as of August 2021 from Seiko boutiques and selected retailers.
Quick facts: 38mm x 12.9mm stainless steel case – sapphire crystal front and caseback – 200m water-resistant – silver-cream, grey or green dial with applied luminous markers and hands – Calibre 6R35, automatic, 24 jewels, 3Hz, 70h power reserve, time and date – stainless steel bracelet with folding clasp (SPB241J1, SPB243J1) or leather strap with folding clasp (SPB245J1) – EUR 770 (SPB241J1, SPB243J1) – EUR 750 (SPB245J1)
More details at www.seikowatches.com.