Back in 2017, Seiko treated us to a nice surprise by reintroducing one of its most iconic watches: the Samurai. Praised by many enthusiasts, tested and certified as a reliable dive watch, updated for 2017 with slight evolutions and new colours, there was not much to complain about… Except maybe for the lack of a PADI edition. Well, the brand has come through for fans and the “warrior” can now be ordered in the super-cool blue and red combination dear to PADI editions. Meet the Seiko Prospex Automatic Diver “PADI Samurai” SRPB99J1.
Author’s note: the Seiko SRPB99J1 in the article is my personal watch, purchased a few days ago. I deliberately chose to wear it on a NATO strap instead of the steel bracelet delivered with the watch. I’ll explain why later, but for the record, this “PADI Samurai” SRPB99J1 is normally delivered with a bracelet.
The Seiko Prospex Automatic Diver’s Samurai
As a reminder, the Seiko “Samurai“ (you can see an old example below) was launched in 2004 and was produced for a few years, until it was removed from the catalogue. It was an affordable, reliable and well-designed modern dive watch, with an automatic movement and 200m water-resistance. Its design became iconic. And its combination of a large round bezel with a sharp, angular case became well-known amongst collectors.
The Samurai existed in various editions, including versions with a titanium case (discontinued in 2008, and reserved for the Japanese market) and a steel case with a “Clou de Paris” textured dial. The return of this iconic dive watch was announced with the 6,000-piece Lagoon limited edition, presented at the end of 2016. For Baselworld 2017, an entire Samurai collection was introduced, marking a true comeback for the model. The 2017 Seiko Prospex Automatic Diver’s Samurai is a slight update compared to the previous model and comes with the same case, a reworked bezel, different indexes and hands, and a mechanical upgrade, as the 7S movement was replaced by the more modern calibre 4R35.
The new Samurai was presented in various editions (see photos above), including a blue/grey bezel with blue dial, a black/grey bezel with black dial and a blue/red bezel with blue dial – all being non-limited versions available in the standard collection, all over the world (not JDM anymore). However, there was something missing, which can be summed up in four letters: PADI…
The Seiko Prospex Automatic Diver “Padi Samurai” SRPB99J1
A few weeks ago, Seiko announced the introduction of several PADI editions, including this Samurai SRPB99J1. Before we look at the watch, a few words about PADI and what it means at Seiko. Over the past fifty years, PADI has become the world’s most trusted scuba diving training organisation. PADI has issued a staggering 25 million dive certifications and has done more than any other organisation to introduce diving to the world. In 2015, Seiko teamed up with PADI to create special edition watches – the first was the great Turtle PADI watch, ref. SRPA21.
All PADI x Seiko watches are easily recognisable thanks to a combination of blue and red colours. Bezels, as well as dials, are mostly blue enhanced with a few red accents. What started as a one-off watch – the Turtle – has now become a sort of tradition, as most of the watches in the Prospex “Sea” collection now receive a PADI version. The latest to do so was the Samurai.
Some things change, some don’t. What doesn’t change with the Seiko Prospex Automatic Diver “PADI Samurai” SRPB99J1 is that we are, without a doubt, in front of a Samurai watch. We find the same case and movement, however, the bezel, hands and dial have been reworked to fit with the PADI design codes – minimal changes, you’ll see, but very pleasant ones.
The case of this new “PADI Samurai” is exactly the same as the 2017 editions, meaning a large and angular 43.8mm case. Facetted, brushed and robust, it befits the tool/dive watch purpose of this watch perfectly. It features pointy lugs and triangular crown protection pieces. Overall, the sharp, bold, modern, masculine case of the Samurai honours its warrior name. It features the signature knurled bezel and crown, and lug holes – again two features to remind us that this watch is a serious underwater instrument, not a fancy desk diver piece. Both the crown and caseback are screwed, guaranteeing water-resistance to 200m.
On the wrist, the 43.8mm diameter of the case can be completely forgiven. Yes, the Samurai is a robust watch but it wears much smaller than expected – even on my 16.5cm wrist. It is a hefty watch but not a monster. It is delivered on a stainless steel bracelet with solid links. I chose to wear it on a NATO strap to make it lighter and more comfortable. Another reason is that Seiko’s entry-level bracelets are good but not exceptional – which is understandable for a watch priced under EUR 500. The bracelet is fully brushed and features a diving extension.
Let’s now move to the elements that make this Samurai SRPB99J1 a true PADI edition. First let’s take a look at the bezel, which features a blue insert with a 60-minute diving scale. The first 15 minutes, crucial for calculations, are presented in red – a signature element of the PADI editions. Yet, this bezel can also be found on one of the standard editions, paired with a blue dial. What really stands out though on this SRPB99J1 is its dial.
As you can see, the Seiko Prospex Automatic Diver “PADI Samurai” SRPB99J1 features a black dial, instead of the blue dial previously seen on other PADI editions. Of course, the PADI logo is printed at 6 o’clock. The indexes and hands are just the same as the other Samurai watches. The main difference comes from the “wave” pattern that has been stamped across the dial. Finely executed, lively, almost like a guilloché pattern, it animates the SRPB99J1 and gives it an interesting texture and look. While barely visible at a certain distance, you start discovering the pattern once you take a closer look. The matte black dial provides great contrast and legibility, however, this wave pattern plays with the light and offers great depth.
Surprisingly, this pattern is very precisely executed and refined. Another difference compared to the normal Samurai are the hands. The minute and seconds hands are coated in black with red accents, while the hour hand retains its arrow shape and has a brushed steel finish. The luminescent paint applied to the indexes and hands emits a bright blue glow, while the minute hand emits a green glow (which helps to differentiate it from the rest).
Inside the case of the Seiko Prospex Automatic Diver “PADI Samurai” SRPB99J1 is the Calibre 4R35 – a movement introduced in 2011 as a replacement for the 7S family, which powered the previous Samurai and other models. This movement is shared with the Turtle collection, yet with a sole date display (and not the day-date indication). The 4R35 family brought several updates, including a hacking function and a manual winding capacity. This calibre 4R35 beats at 21,600vph, features 24 jewels and boasts a power reserve of approximately 41 hours. Seiko indicates an accuracy of -35/+45 seconds per day, which is extremely pessimistic.
With objectivity in mind, the Seiko Prospex Automatic Diver “PADI Samurai” SRPB99J1 is an excellent watch. It is a well-built, well-powered and well-designed watch offering outstanding value for the money. It looks good on the wrist and wears smaller than you’d expect. The new dial is surprisingly well-executed and brings a lot of depth to this watch.
On a more personal note, I have to confess a soft spot for Seiko x PADI editions. I already own a Turtle SRPA21 and I could see myself adding a few more PADI editions to my collection. I own several luxury or high-end watches from established Swiss brands and I’m still amazed by the incredible quality of these Seiko watches. The only flaw I can see concerns the clasp, which I feel is poorly executed. Maybe I’m too used to Rolex or Omega bracelets, which come with watches priced 10 times higher… I prefer wearing my Seiko Prospex Automatic Diver “PADI Samurai” SRPB99J1 on a NATO strap. But objectively, there’s a lot to love about this new PADI edition. Price: EUR 479 or USD 550. www.seikowatches.com.