While we’ve recently covered the 62MAS, a very faithful (and pricey) re-edition of Seiko’s and Japan’s first-ever dive watch, the Japanese brand continues exploring its past icons with the launch today of yet another interpretation of a famed diver. However, faithfulness isn’t the topic of the day. This new watch is actually part of the “Modern Re-Interpretation” series, which brings back some design elements of vintage models, but in a contemporary package. Using the same base as the 1968 Diver’s Save the Ocean SLA055 and SLA057, it is time for the new SLA073 to hit the surface, with slightly reduced specs, a more accessible price and a cool textured dial.
As a reminder, Seiko entered the professional dive watch race back in 1965 with the all-important 62MAS. This 150m rated watch with an automatic movement proved its high quality and reliability when worn by members of the 8th Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition in 1966. And it was also the starting point of an immense lineage of watches designed for specific aquatic purposes. The successor of this watch, even though often relegated to the second position (and not only chronologically), might be even more important, this time regarding its specifications and its design. Launched in 1968, the Seiko Automatic Diver 300m Hi-Beat 6159-7001 was an impressive and innovative professional dive watch; Seiko doubled the water-resistance, improved functionalities and made what was the first hi-beat diver’s watch on the market. And finally, the design of this watch has been crucial, influencing production for now more than 50 years.
This 1968 design (a massive 44mm watch) with oversized shoulders, large polished facets and a crown at 4 o’clock has been a great source of inspiration for the brand. It has been used in accessible models, such as the SPB077 & SPB079 and the new SPB185 & SPB187. The same inspiration has been used in mid-range or higher-end models, such as the SLA019 or, recently, the Save the Ocean SLA055 and SLA057. And finally, we’ve seen faithful re-creations with the Hi-Beat SLA025 (a historically relevant model) and the Hi-Beat SLA039 (a more modern take with a blue dial).
Today, it’s yet another modern re-interpretation of the 1968 Diver that is offered by Seiko, a non-limited watch that shares multiple elements with the 2021 references SLA055 and SLA057, but also some differences. Design-wise, no surprises. The new SLA073 shares the same case shape and dimensions as the two aforementioned Save the Ocean editions. It means a modernised take on the ref. 6159, with an angular shape, large polished facets on the sides, a crown positioned at (almost) 4 o’clock and a highly raised bezel on top. The case has respectable dimensions – 42.6mm in diameter and 49mm in length – with a relatively decent thickness of 13mm.
Slightly surprising, the water-resistance of this watch is only rated at 200m, just like previous versions but unlike its more powerful ancestor. Still, it remains sufficient for most underwater activities. The crown screws down, the solid steel caseback is also screwed, and a domed sapphire crystal protects the dial. Contrary to the Save the Ocean editions, the case of this version is uncoated stainless steel (not Ever-Brilliant steel). The uni-directional bezel is fitted with a stainless steel, black hard-coated insert (and not ceramic as first stated) and a fully graduated 60-minute scale.
The real novelty on this Seiko Prospex 1968 Diver Modern Re-Interpretation SLA073 is the dial, with a cool texture and a double-gradient effect (darker on top and bottom) that is said to be inspired by cave diving and an underwater cave illuminated by a diver’s light (I quote…) While the date at 4h30 – which doesn’t align with the crown and looks a bit weird – will create debates, the dial itself is quite cool and adds great charm to a watch that could have been otherwise too classic. All elements are coated with blue-emitting LumiBrite, except the minute hand with its green glow.
Under the solid back is the in-house calibre 8L35, a high-end automatic movement based on the Grand Seiko calibre 9S55 and developed especially for diver’s watches. Beating at 4Hz and storing up to 50h of energy, it uses MEMS technology for the escape wheel and pallet fork and parts specifically developed to resist heat and cold. It is hand-assembled at the Shizukuishi Watch Studio in northern Japan and comes with a reported accuracy of -10/+15 seconds/day (slightly pessimistic, as many examples are reported to run much more precisely).
Worn on a 3-link stainless steel bracelet with a folding clasp and diving extension, the new Seiko Prospex 1968 Diver Modern Re-Interpretation SLA073 will be part of the permanent collection. It is priced at EUR 3,000, which is substantially less than the SLA055 and SLA057, both limited editions priced at 4,600 euros. For more details, please visit seikowatches.com.
13/07 - update regarding the material of the bezel (steel with black coating, not ceramic)