In Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, “Cat’s Cradle” he wrote of a mysterious substance “Ice 9” that could in fact FREEZE any organic substance it came into contact with! A single molecule of Ice 9 could have set off a chain reaction of frosty crystallization that would have ended all life on Earth! When I bought my Seiko SBDC007 it had a similar effect on my entire collection! It froze them all in their tracks and rendered them useless!
At the outset of the lunar year denoting the time of the Dragon my family boarded a Boeing 777 bound for Singapore. (China can be a bit TOO festive during Chinese New Years! (Read as – LOUD!!!)). In Singapore we went about the task of sourcing out the essentials: shelter – our usual room overlooking the marina did the trick! Food – there are enough celebrity chefs in the Mall alone to keep us nicely fed. Clothing – shorts and t-shirts please – even in February, Singapore is bloody hot! With the ‘needs’ covered we set out to cover the ‘wants’! My wife and daughter are easy to shop for. My daughter is generally placated with a few stuffed animals. My wife is a bit trickier – but trips to Yves Saint Laurent, Bottega Venetta and my old friends at Louis Vuitton ticked all the boxes for that part of my list. Last up: ME! (What do you get for the guy who has everything and/or doesn’t want anything???).
I spent some time looking around. I knew I didn’t want anything big or especially special. I looked at automatic chronographs, winnowing the candidates down to three – each of them using an ETA derived movement. (That’s just not very special at all – is it?) Then I walked to the Seiko Boutique on Biddeford Road… manna from heaven!
My eyes immediately honed in on the SBDC007 “PROSPEX 200M Air Diver”. I had seen the watch on the interweb before – but being a JDM (Japan Domestic Model) I’d never actually seen one in person. I held it for about 30 seconds and offered the shop-keeper my credit card. And not unlike another vignette from my life – I was captivated by a beautiful face and found a deep, deep love for the substance of the complete package/offering.
From the moment the SBDC007 came into contact with my collection up until now no single watch I own has been able to fight successfully with it for wrist time. It has, in essence, killed off my entire collection in one swift chop!
Seiko? Yes. Seiko.
First – for the uninitiated – some basic facts about Seiko (members of the ‘League of Shadows’ can skip this part!)
Seiko MEANS precision/craftsmanship (well Seikosha means house of craftsmanship!) The Company was founded in 1881 by Kintaro Hattori Tokyo’s Ginza. While gaining acclaim locally, Seiko did not gain full attention in the outside world when they introduced what would now be dubbed a ‘disruptive innovation’ called the Astron in 1969.
The Astron was the first commercially available quartz movement watch – and it was a killer! It single-handedly (triple handedly?) bankrupted and or made obsolete virtually the entire mechanical watchmaking industry! It would be too difficult to reckon the number of companies and fabled names that the Astron laid to rest. It’s easier to put it this way – Rolex, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet and Vacheron Constantin survived. Nicholas Hayek Sr. amalgamated the remaining marginal players under the umbrella formed by the Swatch Watch (itself a minimalist quartz movement watch!)… Several other companies made it – barely. What the Swiss could do intricately and precisely, the Japanese – lead by Seiko could do MORE accurately and cheaply!
Further on, history is littered with excerpts of where Seiko (probably suffering from boredom) decided to mix things up again!
The first Automatic Chronograph? The famous calibre 11? Or Zenith’s El Primero? Hmmm no. That was Seiko too. [Word from the editor: I disagree with this statement] The Kinetic movement introduced in 1986. The Kinetic was a cheeky wink to the automatic watch – having analogous parts – but a very different outcome. Using a rotor to power a movement that fed a capacitor, the Kinetic movement had a quartz outlook on life. That’s to say – accurate.
Next up, Spring Drive! Announced in 1997 the Spring Drive is virtually all mechanical – up to the escapement! The escapement is a funky combination of mechanical, magnetic and quartz regulators. Hallmarks of the Spring Drive movement are the 72 hour power reserve. It’s unbelievable accuracy! (Who needs an atomic clock when you’ve got a Spring Drive?) And then there is that second-hand! I’ve stared and I’ve stared and I’ve stared – but I’ve never seen it skip, jump or bump once. It’s so smooth it cannot be mechanical – it has to be natural!
Movement – Inner Beauty:
The SBDC007 features Seiko’s 6R15-01D0 movement. The Japanese made 23 jewel movement runs at a casual 21,600 bph and offers manual winding in the first crown position, quick setting date in the second position and hacking for time setting in the third position. It’s got a 50-hour power reserve and for the most part runs about 4 seconds fast per day. The official numbers are a bit more conservative +25/-15 per day! (You are joking – right?) I’ve had the same movement in a Seiko Spirit (SARB023) that ran at about 1-2 seconds per day fast and in a Seiko SBDC003 that ran about 7 seconds fast per day. This particular example runs about 4 seconds fast per day. I’ve not had any issues with the power reserve or with any timekeeping ‘anomalies’.
For me, this was one of the strongest selling points when considering the purchase of this watch. NOT because of it’s accuracy; because it was NOT an ETA derived movement. No offense to the powers that be at the Swatch Group – you know you’ve got me right where you want me! But sometimes I just want something different. While the 2824-2 is a fantastic workhorse movement – it’s everywhere these days. I know that’s bound to change – but for now it’s omnipresent… not in the Seiko!
Dial – A Face Anybody could love!
The SBDC007 has a brother SBDC009. The SBDC009 has a stunning Orange dial. I opted for SBDC007 with its flat, black dial. Writing this I can see how little text there is on the dial – four words on four lines:
“Seiko / Automatic / SCUBA / 200m” That’s it.
The literary austerity leaves us to marvel at the dial markers and the hands. There are double inverted triangles at 12, very large round hour markers at 1,2, 4,5,7,8,10 and 11. There are two pentagonal obelisk looking markers at 6 and 9 and a framed date-window at 3 (The date wheel is black on white.) What can I say about Seiko Lumibrite that you may not have already heard? It’s just spectacular! In daylight it appears pale green. In low-light situations it shines bright green. It is super easy on the eyes and lasts for a good number of hours. That’s not to say that it’s visible after a good number of hours – the dial is still completely legible after a few hours of darkness! Spectacular!
The same goes for the hands. The hour hand is a rather stubby looking double triangle that looks like an arrowhead, the frame of the hand ‘swoops’ backwards on both sides of the stalk making the hand appear a bit like a pendulum. The hour hand is so large that in the dark it is easily visible!
Same again goes for the minute hand which is a five pointed obelisk shape, reminiscent of the 6 and 9 hour markers. Though, the hand is long and wide (and ever so slightly rounded). The overall effect is to make it extremely legible to read in light or dark. The secondhand is a nicely finished stick hand with a largish counterweight. About 1/5th the way down the second hand is a double-segmented figure that is wider at the top that it is at the bottom. The top is a pentagon and the bottom is a rhombus. They are just large and distinct enough to insure that in the dark you know exactly which hand you are looking at.
Case – Making a Case for Diashield Titanium:
The case of the SBDC007 is a 42mm titanium case with a 120 click, 60 minute graduated bezel. The bezel has a steel insert featuring longer markings on the 5’s and for the first 15 minutes; but there are dots for each of the minutes from 16-59 and an inverted triangle with a luminous dot at 60 minutes. The bezel is perhaps the only letdown of the watch. The steel insert attracts scuffs, scratches and dings. The flip side of the proposition is that steel bezels are relatively cheap and cheerful to replace.
Worth mentioning is that this case has a titanium screw-in style caseback. Some of Seiko’s other more ‘sophisticated’ designs feature one piece cases, necessitating removing the crystal to access the movement. Call me simple – but that seems WAY too complex to be practical. I understand that it makes the cases ultra pressure resistant, but I can’t get my head around how difficult it must make the service process! These are, after all, mechanical devices and they will require service from time to time!
The overall shape of the 50mm long case is standard divers watch fare: that’s to say that from the top, the sides of the case are rounded and have integrated the lugs into that curve. On the 6/9/12 side of the case there is one continuous compound curve. On the 12/3/6 side there is a beautiful, Seiko marked screw-down crown, protected by crown-guards. Most of the facets of the case are brushed in appearance, accented by tastefully placed polished titanium features. Other manufacturers are turning away from this sort of thing – but the SBDC007 has drilled lugs. Again the industry is starting to look down on drilled lugs as rather de-classe. This will speak volumes for how I am as a person: I LOVE drilled lugs. This watch has a lovely bracelet (more to come) but it also lends itself nicely to Seiko rubber straps and NATO style straps. The drilled lugs allow for easy strap and bracelet changes. Kudos!
Seiko claims to have treated the titanium of the case with a hardening process called Diashield. Diashield is supposed to make the case scratchproof. It does. I’ve worn this watch for some component of every single day of the last 11 months and I would have to really scan with a loupe to find. Periodically I run the watch under the tap and give it a brushing with an old toothbrush. Once the watch dries it appears EXACTLY the same way it did on the day I took it out of the box! It just never looks tired or worn. It’s always pretty much just as fun to look at as the first time and in as much it never wears on you.
Bracelet – Pins and Needles So Far!
The SBDC007 has an all-solid bracelet. The tops and bottoms of each link are brushed and the sides are brilliantly polished. The end-piece is 22mm wide and features a long center link. From the end-piece down the links are offset so that the but end of the following link secures to the previous center link via pins. The links tapper down to a nice 20mm at the clasp.
As is the case with drilled lugs – the current state of the industry is to think that pins are somehow inferior and let down the overall appearance of the watch. Rolex was a pioneer in the use of screws for their bracelets. Omega used pins in the past, but have adopted screws. I actually prefer screws for one reason – when done correctly – a pin set bracelet does not come undone. I’ve had the screws come out of or loosen a number of times on my Rolex watches. However, I’ve never had a pin come out and had a bracelet fail.
The clasp is another area where the SBDC007 shows it’s status. I’ve heard it said that the old-style Rolex flip-lock clasp was a bit of a let-down considering the solid nature of the Rolex Oyster case. Rolex heard that and updated the clasp to a solid monolithic chunk of metal with no visible pins for adjustments. The Seiko clasp is kind of an afterthought. It’s a folded style clasp, with a double-sided button to release the hidden bolt. Further there is a safety mechanism that fits over and around the clasp. The main portion of the clasp has four holes drilled on either side for adjustment via spring bars. The security end of the clasp is fitted to an extension (for a wetsuit I presume). The extension hides by folding over onto itself and then is secured to the pin of the security clasp via a façade shaped like the main portion of the clasp that ‘hooks’ over the security pin.
It works. It does work. It feels good and it never fails (it hasn’t caught or snagged in the 11 months I’ve been wearing the watch). But I get the feeling that all the energy and excitement generated at the beginning of the design phase of the project must have petered out there was something of a parts-bin raid for the clasp mechanism. Because of the Diashield treatment the appearance after 11 months is still perfect. I use one of those fancy notebook computers that folds-up into a shape so small you can put it in an envelope and mail it to your best friend if you get sick and tired of it. The case of the notebook is all aluminum. That aluminum to watch mix has been the ruination of so many watch clasps I can’t keep track. But not the SBDC007. Run it under the sink and brush it with an old toothbrush and it looks showroom new! I’m not sure what kind of witchcraft Seiko are upto with this Diashield business – but I like it. I like it a lot. (I wish there were a place I could take my OTHER titanium watches to have them treated!)
What’s in the Box? Learn to never judge a book by it’s cover!
The biggest letdown of the SBDC007 has nothing to do with the watch or it’s performance. It has to do with the packaging! Call me spoiled from all of the Apple stuff I’ve bought over the years – but I really do expect more from packaging! Rolex do have their fabulous suede lined green boxes. Omega do have their box inside a box with books and cards on the side design. The Seiko – which doesn’t cost anywhere near the amount of a Submariner or even a Seamaster, but does it have to come into the world in a cardboard box? The manual that you receive is not much more sophisticated than the one you get for a Seiko 5 (no dings on the ‘5’ it’s another cult watch that I adore!) There are no extras or freebies. No straps. No strap tools… just the box, the cushion and the manual – and that’s it. Here’s where I’m supposed to say “Oh – but it’s a high quality box…” It is – but it’s cardboard. At the end of the day it’s not a complete turnoff – but it does give you the feeling that marketing is not HIGH on the list of priorities for Seiko!
Would I Do It All Again?
Given the chance – would I buy the SBDC007 again? Answer: NO! Not because it isn’t a phenomenal watch – it is! I’d skip it because wearing the SBDC007 as much as I do makes me miss all my Seamasters, SeaDwellers and Luminors! They are, now all things of the past. The SeaDweller has a better depth rating (hint – I can’t even swim – so who cares???). The Seamaster is just one of my favorite designs – but at 41mm it can’t really compete with the 42mm SBDC007! The Luminor has been rendered a relic; a hold-over from when the transistor radio was a piece of furniture and from when the ‘drones’ used for military missions were quite literally the guys who scored LOWEST on the test! (“…take this torpedo and RIDE IT into the target! You’ll probably die in the blast – so good luck!”…)
As I write this I’m looking out the window at 8 inches of snow… dreaming about Chinese New Years this year… my family basking in the sun on a tropical island for a week! YAY! Santa Claus was good to me this year too! A Nasa certified chronograph AND an Incredible Hulk!… but what will I take with me to the Islands??? Looking down at my wrist: Seiko time is 2:55pm!
This article is written by Mario Squillacioti, contributing writer for Monochrome-Watches.