Whenever we think of Seiko, our minds are almost automatically drawn to the diving world. Even more so when the term “Prospex” comes into the equation. But that simple term, indicating a watch with professional specifications, could mean a lot more than just a simple dive watch. Prospex is also applied to land-linked watches such as the Alpinist, another very popular range of tool watches by the Japanese juggernaut. And in recent years, it’s the Alpinist range that has been getting much love and attention, both from collectors and enthusiasts and Seiko itself. With faithful recreations from the earliest Alpinist references to more modern takes on the concept dedicated to mountaineering, there’s a lot to be discovered! And now, the brand might have released the best-looking modern Alpinist to date, with the Seiko Prospex Alpinist “Rock Face” SPB355J1.
The Alpinist dates back to the late 1950s when Seiko launched a watch built for Japanese mountaineers. Known as Yama-Otoko, it was Seiko’s crack at a proper purpose-built sports or tool watch long before the brand’s first dive watch would appear. This iconic watch featured a very legible dial, a shock-protected movement and a simple yet robust steel case. It has served as the inspiration for the Seiko Prospex 1959 Alpinist Re-Creation SJE085, with others like the SPB249J1 and SPB251J1 also based on the same style.
This modern-day Prospex Alpinist SPB355J1, though, falls under a different class of Alpinist-branded Seiko watches. This specific style of Seiko Alpinist was first introduced in 1995, some 30 or so years after the original. The trademark features were the second crown and the inner compass bezel. This series of watches is commonly known as the “Red Alpinist” because of the red line of text on the dial. It would serve as the predecessor to one of the most emblematic modern-day non-divers by Seiko: the SARB-series. The green dial SARB017, first launched as a Japan-only model but later made available worldwide, became a very popular reference. Discontinued in 2018, it didn’t take long for Seiko to replace it with the current generation of Prospex Alpinist models, which now includes this “Rock Face” SPB355J1.
The Seiko Prospex Alpinist Rock Face SPB355J1 comes in a modestly sized 39.5mm wide and 13.2mm tall case. The height is primarily due to the domed sapphire crystal with a cyclops lens over the date. The case shows a mix of brushed and polished finishings and comes with not one but two crowns. Hardcore fans will immediately know that the second crown is used to rotate the inner compass bezel (but more on that in a bit). The primary screw-down crown is used for winding (if needed or desired) and setting the watch. Flipping the watch over reveals the see-through caseback granting a view of the automatic movement inside. Rated 200m water-resistant, the Alpinist SPB355J1 feels just as at home in the water as it does on land or in the mountains.
The name “Rock Face” is a direct reference to the dial of the SPB355J1, and it’s not that hard to tell why with its pattern that looks like the face of a rugged granite mountain. Professional climber Stefano Ghisolfi, for instance, wore this watch when scaling the treacherous granite Silence sport climbing route in Flatanger, Norway. The textured grey-silver dial is yet another testament to Seiko’s skill in dial-making. It is finished with blue applied hour indices and markers and the signature Prospex Alpinist hands (also in blue). On the perimeter is a minute track with luminous dots at every five-minute intervals and the sloped inner rotating compass bezel in dark grey, light grey and blue.
Powering the SPB355J1 is the automatic Seiko Calibre 6R35. A movement we are all familiar with, it is used in countless other Seiko models, such as the recently updated Sumo Prospex Divers and the aforementioned Alpinist SPB249J1 & SPB251J1. This typical Seiko workhorse has a running time of 70 hours, more than plenty to get you through the weekend. Beating at a frequency of 21,600vph, it is regulated to run within -15/+25 seconds per day. In all honesty, it’s not the best-looking movement as the finishing is somewhat industrial, but it does what it needs to do admirably.
The Seiko Prospex Alpinist Rock Face SPB355J1 comes on an attractive textile strap in a sand-grey tone with a folding buckle. An additional blue calfskin leather strap with the same folding buckle is supplied with the watch in the special box. It is presented as a European-exclusive edition, limited to 3,000 pieces and available from November 2022. It will retail for EUR 930, which sounds like a very fair price for such a cool combination of dial, hands and strap. Oh, and the case isn’t half bad either, of course!
For more information, please visit seikowatches.com.