There aren’t many compass watches around. Given the fact that we spend most of our time on land, it’s kind of weird that watches with abyssal water-resistance are far more common than compass watches… Seiko, however, has always had compass watches in its collection and this genre is something of a hallmark of the Prospex family (Prospex isn’t limited to dive watches). The Japanese brand recently introduced the Seiko Prospex Automatic Field Compass SRPD31K1. It is robust, it is accessible and it still looks cool.
A compass can seem outdated these days because of our easy access to GPS devices. But what if you find yourself trekking in the desert or hiking in the mountains and your advanced electronic device decides, for no understandable reason, to abandon you. What do you do? Well, in that case, the only way to know your position is thanks to the sun and the only way to orientate yourself is thanks to a compass. Seiko, which has three sub-ranges in the Prospex collection, based on land, sea and air, is one of the few manufactures to still propose a watch equipped with a compass feature. Remember the Seiko Fieldmaster (a.k.a. Field Tuna) or the Seiko Alpinist, but also the recent Sports Collection? Well, the concept with the new Prospex Automatic Field Compass SRPD31K1 (and its two variations, ref. SRPD33K1 and SRPD35K1) is the same. A simple, robust, adventure-driven watch with a 3-hand display and a rotating internal bezel with cardinal points.
Visually, this new Seiko Prospex Automatic Field Compass has more of a tool watch style than its predecessor under the “Alpinist” name. The 43mm stainless steel case a typical no-nonsense, no-frills deal. Don’t expect superfluous decoration here. The case is well-protected with a recessed crown for the movement and a large protective bridge for the compass crown (no risk to actuate it by accident). The case of this SRPD31K1 has a thin bezel that holds a Hardlex mineral crystal. The case is rated 200m water-resistant – in fact, pressure-resistance of 20 bars would be more accurate in this “land” context.
Despite its 43mm diameter, its 14mm height and a large dial opening, the Prospex Automatic Field Compass is comfortable on the wrist, thanks to extremely short lugs. The watch sits well on the wrist and the nice, slightly aged 22mm leather strap is supple. It is secured by a steel pin buckle.
The dial follows the same idea. Simple, straight to the point. It features large, fully luminous, raised plots and Arabic numerals as well as oversized hands for the minutes and hours. Still, the SRPD31K1 is visually appealing – in fact, it even looks really cool, with this adventurous, tool-oriented, slightly vintage design. A seconds hand is also present, as well as a day/date complication at 3 o’clock – we could easily question the need for the latter, but most of the owners will probably wear the watch as a daily beater, not as a piece of equipment.
The main characteristic of the Seiko Prospex Automatic Field Compass SRPD31K1 is its compass bezel. It’s important to establish that this Seiko Prospex isn’t equipped with a magnetic compass, meaning that it won’t indicate your direction relative to the geographic cardinal directions on its own. It needs to be operated, using the second crown, the hour hand and the position of the sun.
How to use the compass?
(extract from the user manual)
- While keeping the dial level, point the hour hand in the direction of the sun.
- Then turn the crown at the 2 o’clock position to set “S” (South) on the rotating compass ring to the middle point of the arc between the 12 o’clock marker and the time scale indicated by the hour hand. The direction marks on the ring indicate the corresponding directions. The compass ring is graduated in 15° increments.
- In the a.m. period, set the rotating compass ring to the middle point of the arc to the left of the 12 o’clock marker. In the p.m. period, set the ring to the middle point of the arc to the right of the 12 o’clock marker
- The rotating compass ring can be used in the Northern Hemisphere only.
- The rotating compass ring is so designed as to provide only an approximate indication of direction.
Like most of the entry-level watches in the Prospex collection (and Presage too), the Field Compass SRPD31K1 is powered by one of the 4Rxx movements, here the calibre 4R36. This automatic engine runs at 21,600vph and provides 41 hours of power reserve. It is partially visible under a see-through caseback, with ground-to-air emergency signal codes printed on its surface.
The Seiko Prospex Automatic Field Compass SRPD31K1 is now available in most markets and is priced at EUR 419. More details at www.seikowatches.com.