The new Seiko SLA033 has been one of the most anticipated and talked about watches of Baselworld 2019, up there with the Tudor Black Bay P01. It is undeniable that Seiko has more memorable divers per square metre – and price segment – than any other company (just head to the Seiko microsite on MONOCHROME to confirm my assertion). And not as a result of a well-planned marketing campaign but thanks to word to mouth, which is how fame is truly consolidated. At Baselworld 2019, Seiko took the decision to create yet another famous dive watches (after the SLA017 and the SLA025), with the 1970 Diver’s Re-Creation SLA033.
Among these iconic watches is the “Captain Willard”, the Seiko 6105, which occupies the highest echelon of Seiko divers, and of dive watches in general. Produced from 1968 onwards, with a water-resistance of 150 metres, what caught everybody’s eye was the crown positioned at 4 o’clock (which was, in fact, used for the first time in the 1961 Seiko Silver Wave) and the big, gumboil-looking lower crown protector (the predecessor of the popular Turtle shape divers, like this one). The Seiko SLA033 recreates the 6105, so let’s take a look at the history of the model.
TESTED IN REAL LIFE
Naomi Uemura was a very popular Japanese adventurer, well respected for having achieved solo feats that up to that moment had only been accomplished by large teams. For instance, he undertook a one-man dog-sledge run from Greenland to Alaska, a journey of 12,000 km that took 18 months. He was the first to reach the North Pole alone. He was also the first to descend the Amazon river in a boat, and the first to ascend the North American Denali Mountain in winter – the third most prominent and solitary peak of the world. It was there where he disappeared when he was only 43 years old.
“In all the splendour of solitude, it is a test of myself, and one thing I loathe is to have to test myself in front of other people,” said Uemura. That was the reason why he undertook everything alone, a reason that unfortunately also deprived him of the help he needed at his most desperate moment. The reason I have been talking about Naomi Uemura’s exploits is that he was wearing a 6105. Not as part of a marketing campaign orchestrated by Seiko. It was just a watch that was robust, reliable and durable enough to accompany Uemura on his travels.
Despite Uemura’s heroic deeds, and even having a museum in Tokyo dedicated to him, the fame of the 6105 comes from fiction: it was the watch Captain Willard wore in the masterpiece Apocalypse Now. Not just a fancy prop, the watch actually portrayed a real wartime situation; the 6105 was sold in Asia during the Vietnam conflict and American soldiers had better -and cheaper- access to it than locals because they paid in dollars.
The watch earned a solid reputation among the ranks for being a sturdy piece of equipment, to the point of becoming one of the favourites among the soldiers. When the soldiers returned to civilian life, so did the watch. Appearing throughout the movie on Captain Willard’s (Martin Sheen) wrist, the watch became an icon. The irony is that 6105 had gone out of production in 1977, two years before the movie hit cinemas around the world. The cry for a re-edition increased notably with the re-release of the movie in 2001 (known as Apocalypse Now Redux). And Seiko has taken its own sweet time to please its fans.
Like the Seiko Prospex Diver 300m Hi-Beat SLA025, Seiko has respected the original dial and has not added the ProsPex logo (which, let’s be honest, does not get much love from the fans). The case has grown up to 45mm in diameter and 13 mm in height. The polished and satin-finished steel has a “super-hard” coating (no info on that, sorry) and a dual-curved sapphire glass with anti-reflective coating (a clear improvement from the original Hardlex glass).
The watch is water-resistant to 200 metres and it is equipped with a screw-down crown. By the way, the crown has kept the “Lock ->” indication that appeared on the original 6105. It adds a vintage touch to the watch (and looks cool). The upper part of the bezel has been polished with the Zaratsu technique. That means mirror-polished surfaces that reflect no distortion at all, where a straight line is always straight, even at the edges. I have seen it done and it is one of the most time-consuming techniques applied to a simple steel case. It is also a source of pride for Seiko, and with good reason.
The movement used is the 8L35, an automatic calibre that beats at 28.800 alt/hour during the 50 hours the power reserve lasts. This is a controversial movement because Seiko states it operates at a rate of -10/+15 seconds a day. While most owners report their watches run well within chronometer specs, some others say that their models perform at the manufacturer rates. I think that for a watch of this price the specs should be far tighter than they are, even if it is common knowledge that you can adjust these movements to virtually 0 loss/gain. And getting a motor that works fine should not be a gamble either. Mainly because Swiss competitors of far less rank have better-expected performances.
The Seiko SLA033 comes with a high-strength silicone strap (the original was in PVC) and it is a limited edition of 2,500 units. For the price, EUR 4,350, you get an excellent diver and an icon that will be hard to get your hands on once they go on sale – which is going to happen pretty fast. Still, as with the SLA017 and the SLA025, this price segment is tough and Seiko is here competing with Swiss heavyweights. More information at Seiko.com.