A friend of mine who is an underwater photographer, fisherman, diver, and a watch lover once tried to explain me why he loves dive-watches. Surprisingly, he referred only very briefly to the heavyweights (Rolex, Omega, etc.) and instead he focused mainly on Seiko. He told me that you must be nuts or very rich in order to dive for a specific job (hunt fish for instance) wearing your expensive dive watch; because 9 out of 10 times you gonna scratch it at the very the least if not more. For the friend of mine, if you have a strong and professional link with the sea, you have to wear a cheap (relatively speaking) but highly reliable, rugged, professional-oriented dive-watch. That’s the essence of a diving watch for him and in this specific market, Seiko almost dominates the competition. And as the successor of the iconic Seiko SKX007, the new Seiko Prospex SRP series has to be seriously considered. Overview.
A Blast From The Past
This is widely known: retro/vintage-inspiration sells and sells well. Watch manufactures, a few exceptions apart, took a splash in their past and reissued watches with vintage elements like patina tinted hands (in order to look like tritium), dials that look like those glorious gilt ones of the 1950’s and 1960’s and cases of vintage models, among other retro-aesthetic alterations. Many vintage-like creations succeeded. Some did not. In this frenzy to look to the past, Seiko answered by producing a vintage-oriented model that is reminiscent of an iconic Seiko diver of the past, the 63XX series, a.k.a the Seiko Turtle.
A vintage Seiko 6309 “Turtle” – source: watchuseek
The 63XX series, successor of the 6105, and was launched in 1977. The introduction of the 6306/9 stayed true to the inherent qualities of its predecessor. It was cheap, easily accessible and also very, very reliable. The 6306, marketed earlier in Japan (JDM), had a cushion-shaped case and a 21-jewel calibre, which ran at 21,600vph – its production lasted up until 1981. Its brother, the 6309, had a 17-jewel caliber and was produced up until 1988 in many variations (6309-7040/9 and later 6309-7290, 729A, 729B). The 6309, available in all regions of the world (except Japan) became a staple for professional divers, for spear fishermen but also for recreational swimmers. It became a hit because it had all the properties of a good mechanical watch, it was superbly executed and above all, it had a great price tag.
The New Seiko Prospex SRP series
The new SRP Prospex series is probably one of the most accurate re-issues, up to now. It’s probably an indication of how right Seiko’s designers were in the 1970s, when designing the original 63XX series. The new Seiko Prospex SRP series looks as purposeful as when it first entered the market, 39 years ago. The cushion-shaped case (so-called turtle case) of these models is the central vintage element that defines them – and tends to make them so attractive, especially among Seiko aficionados. This cushion-shaped case measures 44.3mm wide with a lug-to-lug height of approximately 46mm. The watch is 14mm thick, and it has a lug-width of 22mm. It’s a large watch, for sure, but it’s not oversized. Cushion-shaped cases tend to wear a lot smaller on the wrist than their dimensions suggest.
The new Seiko Prospex SRP series retains the same bezel font and layout as the original right down to the subtle concaving of the insert, as it meets the flat Hardlex crystal. The case is slightly taller than the original and this is mostly due to the taller bezel. At 4 o’clock we find the oversized screw-down crown, offering a 200m water resistance (note that the bezel is partially recessed into the case, for extra protection). Flipping the watch around we find the screw down stainless steel case-back, with Seiko’s iconic Tsunami logo, while in addition we can see the specs of the watch and the words “Air Diver” – which are here to remind its user that this Seiko Prospex SRP is not intended for saturation diving. Last but not least, one of the biggest improvements to the original design is the inclusion of drilled lugs. It’s a shame that most manufacturers shy away from incorporating hollowed-lugs on their sport models.
Accordingly to the authenticity of the case, the dial of the SRPs’ neatly reproduces the dial of the 63XX, with some subtle modern touches. The dial reintroduces the characteristic 63XX 12 o’clock marker and we can also see the wedge-shaped markers at 6 and 9. The day-date feature at 3 sits in a gently angled aperture. The markers are applied with a slightly raised white ring, which approximates the printed white ring on the 6309. The lime is applied in a domed pillow, which gives the dials a vary neat and subtle 3D appearance. The Seiko logo at the top of the dial is larger than the original and printed in white rather than silver. Moving down the dial we next find the somewhat controversial Prospex logo. Some like it, most aficionados do not, but I personally don’t think that this is potential deal-breaker.
At the heart of the watch we find perhaps the most important upgrade from the SKX series (fully reviewed here), that the new Seiko Prospex SRP series replaces in the collection. The caliber 4R36 is a great movement; a self-winding calibre with manual-winding capacity and hacking-seconds features, beating at 21,600vph, having 24 jewels and a power reserve of approximately 40 hours. The 4R36 was introduced in 2011 and was the precursor of Seiko’s 6R15 family – while it was created to compete with the iconic ETA cal.2824. All in all, we’re talking about an extremely durable and fairly accurate modern movement, which matches exactly the character of the new Seiko Prospex SRP series. It is a great improvement of the 7s26 calibre. Well Done Seiko.
It seems that Seiko listened to various reviewers around the world, who complained about the quality of the genuine rubber straps – especially those fitted on lower budget Seiko divers. Here also, we can say that Seiko have upgraded yet again with the soft, supple silicone strap fitted to the black dial (ref. SRP777K1) and Pepsi versions (ref. SRP779K1). The strap is very comfortable and the signed clasp and metal keeper are welcomed steps forward. However, here we must notice that the downside of the strap is that it gathers dust very easily – a proper dust-magnet I should say. The two there versions (blue dial ref. SRP773K1 and black/gilt dial ref. SRP775K1) feature an OEM steel bracelet, which is very nice, comfortable and seems to match the character of the watch.
There are currently four variants released:
- Seiko Prospex SRP777 – black dial, white markers, black bezel and silicone/rubber strap (reminiscent of the Seiko SKX007) – 399 Euros
- Seiko Prospex SRP779 – black dial, white markers, pepsi (blue and red) bezel and silicone/rubber strap (reminiscent of the Seiko SKX009) – 399 Euros
- Seiko Prospex SPR773 – blue dial, white markers, blue bezel and metallic bracelet – 429 Euros
- Seiko Prospex SRP775 – black dial, gold inscriptions and markers, gold hands and black bezel with gold scale and metallic bracelet – 439 Euros
A look at the New Seiko Prospex SRP777 VS. the old Seiko SKX007
Conclusion about the New Seiko Prospex SRP series
Personally, I think that this new Seiko Prospex SRP line of automatic dive-watches is very well positioned within Seiko’s PROSPEX line and a great bargain for anyone looking for an automatic, professionally-oriented and reliable diver or just a nice, casual daily beater. These new Seiko Prospex SRP incorporate the vintage-style of one of the most important and most popular Seiko dive-watches of all time, with modern touches and upgrades. Seiko is completely dominant in this segment of the market (sub-500 euros, quality and automatic dive-watches) and they introduced a watch that has almost no opponent in this price range. Excellent job I should say.
All pictures of the SRP-777 courtesy of GeorgeEmGi.