This is it; the star of show – or at least the watch that received most comments and that reached the 1st place in our “most read articles of Baselworld 2017“. And believe us, surpassing Rolex in numbers during the Basel Watch Fair is properly impressive… All of that, just to tell you how expected this watch was and how well received it has been. Its name: the Seiko Prospex Diver SLA017. Its function: being a faithful recreation of the 1965 Seiko 62Mas ref. 6217, meaning the first professional dive watch of the Japanese manufacture. Its achievement: already being a collector. Overview of an upcoming success story.
Our first introducing article was entitled “The Eagerly Awaited Seiko 62Mas Reedition SLA017“. And in that case, eagerly awaited was an understatement. Seiko’s collectors have been waiting for years to see the comeback of a legend, the 62Mas, the watch that started it all, a watch that is so important for the brand that it still influences most of their dive watches – and also the industry, in a certain manner (think ISO norms…) Thus, when Seiko announced during Baselworld the recreation of the 62Mas, the collecting community immediately reacted: “faithful”, “superb”, “greatly reissued” but also… rare! Yes, there won’t be enough for every collectors. But let’s first look at the ancestor.
The Recreation of Seiko’s First Dive Watch, the 1965 ref. 6217 a.k.a 62Mas
Seiko entered the race for dive watches much after the Swiss did. For instance, Blancpain introduced the Fifty Fathoms in 1953, quickly followed by Rolex and the Submariner (in 1953 too), both considered as the first purpose-built dive watches (with screw-in crown and rotating elapsed-time bezel), Tudor came with their Submariner in 1954 and Omega came with the Seamaster 300 in 1957. Seiko waited until 1965 to come with their own vision of a dive watch, but this long wait ended up in the creation of one of the most iconic watches of the brand. This 62Mas is the mother of all upcoming aquatic watches of the brand (fonts, dial color, bezel style, case style…) and even today, Seiko’s professional dive watches – dubbed Prospex – are greatly inspired by the ref. 6217. But not in a vintage way.
The Japanese might have been slower than the Swiss to come on the market, Seiko’s reputation in terms of dive watches is unquestionable. The brand benefits from an incredible aura and respect amongst collectors first, but mainly amongst professional divers, who know about the efficiency and reliability of these watches. And this reputation is no accident of fate. It is the result of over 50 years of innovation, based on the 62Mas, a period during which Seiko demonstrated its superiority, being responsible for creating many of the features that are now widely accepted as the industry norms. Indeed, The ISO 6425 standards have been partially based on aspects of Seiko’s diver’s watches. Seiko inventions like the accordion-style strap, the use of titanium as a case material and the extra wide hands have helped to define the world’s expectations of what a diver’s watch should be.
The Seiko 6217-8000/1, nicknamed the “62Mas”, had strong arguments: an automatic movement (calibre 6217A), a 150m water resistance, a large (at that time) 37mm case with a mono-bloc shape (rather massive integrated lugs, which guarantee the solidity of the case) for maximum protection and a dark grey dial with large indexes and hands, of course all luminous. The bezel was already featuring a perfectly readable 60-minute insert, with all the required markings, but was still bi-directional. And today, this icon is back, in a very faithful reedition, the Seiko Prospex Diver SLA017.
The Seiko Prospex Diver SLA017
Basically, what we have here is an extremely faithful recreation (and Seiko does mention this and not a reedition, and when actually look at these two watches, the old one and the new one, you understand why recreation…). Everything has been recreated in the same way: same case shape, same bezel, same bezel insert, with the same scale, the same font and the same dots, the same dial, with identical indexes, hands, inscriptions, the same date window, the same (kind of) caseback. Even the strap, with diamond pattern has been recreated. At first sight, it’s like having a New Old Stock version of the 62Mas (if you have one, send me an email, please…). Is that all? Well, not really, as the new Seiko SLA017 does a few concessions to modernity though.
The first thing to note is the resemblance of the case between the Seiko Prospex Diver SLA017 and the 62Mas. They share the exact same shape, with a mono-bloc design, meaning integrated and rather bulky lugs, sharp angles all around, a quite unadorned, utilitarian design (don’t search for polished angles or smooth parts here, this watch is meant to be rough and is purpose-built). The oversized and fluted crown of the 62Mas is back (and actually quite prominent), so are the holes in the lugs to quickly change the strap. In terms of execution of the surfaces, the SLA017 sticks to the circular brushing on the top of the case, again reminiscent of the 62Mas. So what have been updated? Basically, as often in such recreations: the watch is now larger. From a 37mm diameter on the original, the case of the SLA017 has grown to 39.9mm – which is admittedly quite reasonable, especially compared to the usual 44mm / 46mm cases of Seiko’s dive watches. The watch is now water resistant to 200m instead of 150m on the 62Mas.
The same faithfulness can be observed in the bezel. The insert remains identical to the original 62Mas, with a 60-minute scale and graduations for (almost) every minute. Even if rather unpractical, Seiko chose to keep the dots absent around the numerals, meaning that some minutes are not marked. A luminous dot is placed at 12. Another concession to modernity: the bezel is now unidirectional, a mandatory feature of modern dive watches (for security reasons, if you accidentally turn the bezel, the remaining time on the scale can only be shorter). Even the notched profile of the bezel is close to what can be found in the 62Mas. Another concession to modernity is the apparition of a sapphire crystal, replacing the vintage Plexiglas (but still the sapphire has a highly domed profile).
As for the dial, the partition is the same as the rest, with this Seiko Prospex Diver SLA017: faithful. We find back the same polished and raised rectangular indexes, with large dimensions and a lot of luminous paint for night readability. The date window at 3 is equally circled with a polished ring. The dial itself shows the typical dark grey color of Seiko dive watches, with a sun-ray brushing. The dial’s inscriptions evolve slightly compared to the 62Mas, with a printed logo instead of an applied one. Yet, overall, the dial remains close to the 62Mas (even if we can note that the minute markers are now longer). The hand-set is also faithful to the original.
On the wrist, the Seiko Prospex Diver SLA017 is extremely pleasant, with a reasonable size and that tool style that made the vintage edition so desirable and efficient. It has some clear vintage flair but feels modern in terms of wearability, presence and mainly quality of construction. It feels solid and perfectly adjusted – probably a notch above the MM300 for instance. Everything is firm and precisely adjusted. The silicon strap is supple and comfortable, while its look befits the style of the watch. A stainless steel bracelet is also included in the box.
The Seiko Prospex Diver SLA017 is equipped with a high-end Seiko movement, calibre 8L35, which was specially designed for dive watches and is made by Seiko’s skilled craftsmen and women in the Shizuku-ishi Watch Studio in Morioka in the north of Japan – we’re not talking about an entry-level movement here, not at all. This movement is based on the architecture of the Grand Seiko 9S55, is finished in a very pleasant way, boasts 50h of power reserve, beats faster than standard Seiko movements (28,800 vibrations per hour vs 21,600vph in most entry-level Seiko divers) and is hand-assembled and hand-adjusted (rated to -10/+15 sec/day).
Now comes the bad news. This Seiko Prospex Diver SLA017 is limited to only 2,000 pieces (which might already be sold out or extremely difficult to find) and it is not an entry-level watch, like the Turtle or the Samurai can be. It will require EUR 3,800. Don’t get us wrong, this price is justified (despite some comments) by:
- The exclusivity of the piece (2,000 pieces only) so no economies of scale possible due to large production numbers
- The movement inside – the calibre 8L35 is a great movement
- The overall quality of the watch – which can easily compete with some of the major Swiss brands and their EUR 5,000 watches
- The presence of a steel bracelet and a silicon strap in the box
Overall, Seiko has created an extremely desirable watch with this Prospex Diver SLA017, as being first a highly qualitative offer (if there was any doubts to have about Seiko) and mainly a super-faithful reedition, with only few concessions to modernity. As said, an already collectible watch, even if it will be only available from July 2017. More details on Seiko’s official website – www.seikowatches.com.
Specifications of the Seiko Prospex Diver SLA017
- Case: 39.9mm diameter x 14.1mm thickness – Stainless steel with circular brushing – unidirectional diving bezel – domed sapphire crystal on the dial side, steel back – 200m water resistance
- Movement: calibre 8L35, in-house – adjusted to -10/+15 sec/day – automatic with central rotor – 4Hz frequency – 50h power reserve – hours, minutes, seconds, date
- Strap: black silicon strap AND steel bracelet with folding clasp
- Reference: SLA017
- Availability: 2,000 pieces – in stores in July 2017
- Price: EUR 3,800