If the history of dive watches at Seiko is fairly well known by now and has been initiated by the legendary 62MAS of 1965, there’s another watch of importance – if not even more important for the brand – that has been a great source of inspiration for both historic and modern collection; the 1968 Seiko Automatic Diver 300m Hi-Beat 6159-7001. These dive watches were made for professionals and adventurers, and were designed to meet the challenge of the most extreme conditions. Based on this concept, the brand now introduces the Seiko Prospex 1968 Diver’s “Save the Ocean” SLA055 and SLA057, two watches that will benefit marine conservation initiatives but will also be worn by members of the 63rd Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition’s mission to Antarctica.
The 1965 Seiko 62MAS is considered important mostly because it was Seiko’s, and Japan’s, first dive watch. This 150m rated watch with automatic movement proved its high quality and reliability when worn by members of the 8th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition in 1966. And it also was the starting point of an immense lineage of watches designed for specific aquatic purposes. The successor of this watch, even though often relegated to the second position (and not only chronologically) might be even more important, this time regarding its specifications and its design.
Conceived in the second half of the 1960s and launched in 1968, the Seiko Automatic Diver 300m Hi-Beat 6159-7001 was an impressive and innovative professional dive watch. This watch was not just an update of its predecessor. In just three years, Seiko had doubled the water-resistance, improved the functionality and legibility of the watch and gained drastically in precision. The Automatic Diver 300m was the first hi-beat diver’s watch on the market. But it’s the design itself that will make history, as this watch feels entirely familiar… it’s actually the watch that will define over 50 years of dive watches at Seiko.
The 6159-7001 (and the 6215-7000, a visually almost identical watch with equal specs but no hi-beat movement) was large (44m), massive (14mm thick), far more protected than its predecessor (it has a monobloc case). It featured oversized shoulders with large polished facets, a raised rotating bezel and a crown at 4 o’clock, all of which will become associated with Seiko’s dive watches.
If it has been a great source of inspiration for most Seiko dive watches in the past, the design of this watch has been re-issued on multiple occasions recently. It goes for rather accessible models, such as the SPB077 & SPB079 and the new SPB185 & SPB187. The same inspiration has been used in mid-range models, such as the SLA019. And finally, we’ve seen faithful re-creations with the Hi-Beat SLA025 (a historically relevant model) and the Hi-Beat SLA039 (a more modern take with a blue dial).
The new SLA055 and SLA057
There are four important things to note in the name of these watches (sorry in advance…), the Seiko Prospex 1968 Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation Save the Ocean Limited Edition SLA055 and SLA057. First of all, these are watches based on the 1968 Diver’s, which should give you a rather clear idea of what was the inspiration behind their design. Second, these are “Modern Re-interpretation” meaning that we won’t be talking about “Re-Creation” models as it was the case with the SLA025 or SLA039. This means watches that are inspired by a historic model but not one-to-one reproductions, leading Seiko to take some liberties in the design, the proportions or the specifications.
Third, these watches are from the “SLA” range, a nomenclature used for high-end dive watches at Seiko, comprising more advanced materials and fine movements. Finally, these watches are part of the “Save the Ocean” collection, which aims at supporting several marine conservation initiatives – as it was the case with this trilogy of models or this duo.
Both watches we’re looking at today are identical in all points, with the exception of their colours. As said, these are inspired by the 1968 Hi-Beat Diver, which is clearly visible in the overall shape of the case. Angular and muscular, we find back the same general design with pronounced shoulders with a highly polished lateral facet, the raised bezel and the crown at 4 o’clock. But, some things have changed, including the proportions. Notably, these SLA055 and SLA057 watches are slightly more compact than the historic model or its re-editions, with a 42.6mm diameter and a 13.1mm height – that’s 2.2mm less in diameter and a whopping 2.6mm less in height. And on the wrist, this is far from neglectable!
To achieve this reduction of size, some concessions had been made, such as a water-resistance reduced to now 200 metres. But note that a new crown has been developed, which is not screwed directly into the case but locked into a separate component that is built into the case and so can be more easily replaced. In the same vein, the unidirectional bezel, even though still protruding from the case quite massively, is now slimmer and has a new notched profile benefiting grip. It also features a black-coated stainless steel insert with an engraved 60-minute scale. The steel caseback is screwed and the watch is protected by a dual-curved sapphire crystal with AR coating.
In the same vein, materials have evolved on these Prospex 1968 Diver’s “Save the Ocean” SLA055 and SLA057. The case, bezel and crown are all made of Seiko’s Ever-Brilliant Steel, a specific grade of steel that is more corrosion resistant than that which is commonly used in watches today (it is comparable to 904L steel). In addition, the case is very nicely finished with Zaratsu polished (distortion-free) surfaces, resulting in a very satisfying watch.
As said, Seiko is releasing today a pair of watches, both identical to the exception of their colours. The most classic of the two is the SLA057, which has a matte black dial with gold-coloured applied indexes and hands, all largely filled with Lumibrite. The scale on the bezel also has a warm, golden colour and the dial shows no specific texture. In this regard, it is close to the original 1968 concept and makes for a very appealing, classic dive watch.
The second model, the SLA055, is both more original and more modern. It features a gradient dial, ranging from light to dark blue, combined with an icy texture. The idea was to reproduce the feeling of the Antarctic landscape as well as the colours of polar ice. The bezel follows suit with ice-blue numerals and markers. Here, the hands and markers are silver-coloured and filled with light cream Lumibrite. On both models, the display is classic with central hours, minutes and seconds, and a date window at 4:30.
Powering this watch is a higher-end movement, but not the previous Hi-Beat calibre used in the SLA025 or SLA039. Seiko here went for the Calibre 8L35, a movement developed especially for diver’s watches and is hand-assembled at the Shizukuishi Watch Studio in northern Japan – meaning the same place where Grand Seiko movements are made. Actually, this very movement is based on the Grand Seiko calibre 9S55 (which has now been replaced by the 9S65, with an extended power reserve). This movement runs at 4Hz and can store up to 50 hours of power reserve. It is also known to run within chronometric standards.
Both the Seiko Prospex 1968 Diver’s “Save the Ocean” SLA055 and SLA057 are delivered with two straps. First is a classic diving strap in black with a texture that pays homage to the 1968 model, yet it is now made of silicone for greater strength and comfort. This strap is closed by a steel pin buckle. These watches are also offered with a fabric strap that incorporates a traditional braiding technique from Japan called Seichu. The SLA055 comes with a blue strap while the SLA057 comes with a black additional strap.
Being part of the Seiko Save the Ocean program, these watches will contribute to the National Institute of Polar Research, which is based in Tokyo. Also, Seiko recently donated watches to be worn by members of the 63rd Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition’s mission to Antarctica.
Availability & Price
The Seiko Prospex 1968 Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation Save the Ocean Limited Edition models will be available from Seiko Boutiques and selected retail partners worldwide in January 2022. The blue SLA055 is limited to 1,300 pieces and the black SLA057 is limited to 600 pieces. Both will retail for EUR 4,600.
For more details, please visit www.seikowatches.com.