Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1968 hi-beat dive
r Ref. 6159-7001, the first diver’s watch with a hi-beat automatic calibre, Seiko introduced three modern divers that pay homage to this horological icon. The limited edition Prospex Diver 300m Hi-Beat SLA025 with calibre 8L55 (36,000vph/5Hz) sits at the top and is a faithful recreation of the original. Retailing for EUR 5,500, it’s not, unfortunately, for the casual enthusiast. At the other end is the Prospex Diver 200m SPB077, which isn’t a limited edition and retails for as little as EUR 900 (depending on silicone or steel bracelet). It’s more of a reinterpretation as the calibre 6R15 beats at only 21,600vph (3Hz) with a 200m water-resistant case. The one I’m looking at sits in the middle, with the calibre 8L35 beating at 28,800vph (4Hz) and water-resistance of 300m. Let’s take a closer look at this new limited edition commemorative diver.
All three models have the look of the original 1968 diver, but the SLA019 stands out with a green dial and matching bezel. It’s a bit polarising and not a common colour for a diver, especially a traditional one, but there’s method to the madness. The colour was in fact inspired by the green cedar trees on the island of Yakushima, a favourite diving area located in the south of Japan. Knowing this background information makes it the coolest looking of the three models.
Like the original, large applied indices surround the perimeter, but are silver instead of gold, as are the hour and minute hands. Interestingly, the seconds hand is crafted in traditional gold. A generous amount of Seiko’s revered LumiBrite on the hands, indices and bezel ensures a lasting glow underwater. The date window at 3 o’clock is a bevelled cut-out with a printed outline, unlike the higher-end SLA025 with a bevelled metal insert. The bezel is unidirectional with a 60-minute cedar-green zirconia ceramic insert. Curiously, its edge has a more pronounced pattern than the other two.
The one-piece 44.3mm case doesn’t have a traditional caseback, with the movement installed from the front. This monobloc design ensures durability and a water-resistance of 300m. It is hefty at 15.4mm in height but is mostly faithful to the proportions of the original. The case has been treated with a super-hard coating to resist scratches and wear, making it tougher than your garden-variety diver. A sapphire crystal with an anti-reflective coating on both sides protects the dial and the knurled screw-down crown sits at 4 o’clock. The stainless steel bracelet has also been treated with a super-hard coating and has a three-fold clasp with push button release, secure lock and a slide adjuster.
The heart of the Prospex Diver 300m SLA019 is Seiko’s in-house 8L35 calibre, which is basically an undecorated version of the Grand Seiko 9S55 movement. It beats at 28,800vph (4Hz), which is respectably high, but not at the level of the high-beat 8L55 calibre at 36,000vph (5Hz). It has 26 jewels and a 50-hour power reserve with an accuracy of -10 to +15 seconds per day. Functions include hours, minutes, central seconds (hacking) and date complication.
The SLA19 is an interesting piece that pays homage to the 1968 original, but has a little fun with the design. The green dial and bezel won’t be for everyone, but the reasoning behind the colour certainly justifies its existence. The edges of the bezel are a little different, as are the colours of the hands and indices, but the overall package is faithful. The watch is limited to 1,968 pieces and retails for EUR 3,200. It’s not cheap, but EUR 2,000 less than the high-beat SLA025 at EUR 5,500. It’s an excellent addition for the Seiko enthusiast.