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By Cordwainer Byrd

Seiko’s rich legacy of products that represent absolute real estate in the rich tapestry of wristwatch history lend themselves to recreations and homages, with 2020 delivering a singular treat in the release of a three-watch edition that charts the story of Seiko’s indelible mark on adventure, diving and outdoor sports.

Released this September, Seiko’s Prospex “Built for the Ice Diver” collection represents a material homage to Seiko’s 55-year history of producing sports diving watches, beginning in 1965 with the release of Japan’s first dive watch, the 62MAS.

The Original Seiko Diver’s watches. From left we see the 1968 Hi-Beat Diver’s 300m, the famed 1965 62MAS and the 1975 Professional Diver’s 600m.

New classics

The new collection is comprised of recreations of highly desirable classics that represent modern technology brought to bear on a vintage subject.

“Built for the Ice Diver” is a reference to Seiko’s position as Japan’s watch for the adventurer, tested in extreme conditions both underwater and as a companion to high mountaineers. The 62MAS set the standard for many subsequent Seiko dive watches, with an automatic movement, quickset date and 37mm stainless steel case capped with a plexiglass crystal and rectangular tritium minute markers, ratcheted bezel and broad hands. Vintage examples sell for more than $4,000.

This particular watch, of the many, many variations of Seiko’s developed across multiple markets, grew to prominence because of two men, one real and one fictional. The first, acclaimed Japanese Adventurer Naomi Uemura, chose the original Seiko 62MAS because it was a robust, waterproof watch, and made in Japan to boot.

Japanese Adventurer Naomi Uemura, pictured with the historical Seiko dive watches.

Sure, he could have picked a Rolex Explorer or Blancpain Fifty Fathoms, like any other run-of-the-mill international adventurer, but Uemura was a standard bearer for his country and selected that most Japanese of all brands, Seiko. He (probably) wore the watch throughout many of his treks, which included a one-man dog sled run from Greenland to Alaska, the first solo walk to the North Pole and ascension of the North American Denali Mountain, which marked his last adventure. He disappeared on the Denali hike, presumably with a Seiko on his wrist.

The second man in the Seiko storybook is the legendary “Captain Willard” from Francis Coppola’s film, “Apocalypse Now.” Willard, played by Martin Sheen, wore a Seiko in the same dive watch family, which gave rise to the watch’s status among collectors, (we love our little tribute names, don’t we), and its value on the secondary vintage watch market.

The legendary “Captain Willard” from Francis Coppola’s 1979 film “Apocalypse Now” wearing his Seiko diver.

Seiko has re-issued this watch in several variants over the years, and at varying price points, creating secondary and tertiary collectors’ markets for the multiple iterations of this product.

The new collection

For the uninitiated collector, deciphering the complicated soup of Seiko designations, per market, is itself a treasure hunt and the stuff many lengthy Seiko forum discussions. Suffice to say, the current Prospex Ice collection is alluring enough to satisfy anyone interested in wearing a tough watch that looks like a classic from the analogue era. So, let’s get on with now.

The Ice Diver collection is comprised of three watches, each with its own twist on our theme. Shop for SKUs SPB175 (grey dial/bezel), SPB177 (green dial/bezel) and SPB179 (blue dial/bezel), packaged in the Seiko Sumo case, released exclusively in the North American market and priced at a very competitive $900.

The Sumo variant is a wide (44mm), thin (12mm) all stainless watch case and signed bracelet, powered by a Seiko automatic caliber 6R35 movement, beating at a frequency of 21,600 BPH, pivoting on 24 jewels, with a 70-hour power reserve. It’s water resistant to 600 feet and has a dual curved sapphire crystal. It has a date indicator, rotating bezel, Lumibrite hands and markers and a three-year manufacturer’s warranty.

Seiko Prospex Ice Diver SPB175, priced at $900.
Seiko Prospex Ice Diver SPB177, priced at $900.

And if that’s not enough, it’s supplied to the Japanese Antarctic Research Expedition (JARE), which means that the homage on an homage on an homage is now itself a bona fide collectible with its own nascent back story. Face it folks, for $900 this is one hell of a watch – and by the time you read this it will probably be sold out anyway, and headed to become a $1,500 watch on the collector’s market. And so it goes with Seiko.

Seiko Prospex Ice Diver SPB179, priced at $900.

Prospex is Seiko’s mid-range sports watch brand, with its own higher end LX series. It’s fascinating to watch Seiko grow and prune their brands into unique shapes, like an artistic gardener tending to a Bonsai tree.

With the chain-sawing of brands across many U.S. distribution points in 2019, Seiko drew a line in the sand: cut broad distribution, cut SKU’s, focus heavily on retailers and educate the consumer on the products to create new demand.

This release reflects that tactic in action. The Ice Diver collection plays off the perception of heritage, coupled with limited availability, backed by a lot of watch for the money. Instant collectible equals increased market desire for subsequent releases. Hats off to the company for delivering sales during a time period when we’re seeing other companies disappear into the vanity fueled, limited edition, lofty priced abyss.

Seiko Extra: The Spring Drive Prospex LX SNR029

For those seeking a classic-looking Seiko homage with all the attributes of current issue Seiko technology, take a look at the GPHG-award-winning Seiko Prospex LX SNR029.

Seiko Prospex LX SNR029

This watch literally straddles both of our planet’s unknown universes: space and water. At a list price of $6,000, this watch gives its Grand Seiko cousin a run for the money. This Prospex LX is titanium, with a case developed by Porsche designer Ken Okuyama and powered by Seiko’s 5R65 Spring Drive movement that is less susceptible to atmospheric deviations than a standard automatic watch.

 

The movement is found in Grand Seiko models and was actually worn in space by video game designer Richard Garriott, a citizen who paid the Russians to make him the sixth non-astronaut to travel to space. Needless to say, he wore a Seiko Spring Drive watch (whaddya think about that, Omega, Breitling, Casio, Rolex and Fortis). If you can get your hands on this classic – grab it!

 

Eight years after Seiko debuted its GPS-connected, light-powered Astron, the Tokyo-based watchmaker launches a new Astron dedicated to Seiko’s founder Kintaro Hattori. The new Seiko Astron GPS Solar Kintaro Hattori 160th Anniversary watch commemorates Hattori with a special sixteen-facet zirconia ceramic bezel, representing one facet for each decade since Hattori’s birth.

The new Seiko Astron GPS Solar Kintaro Hattori 160th Anniversary Limited Edition.

This latest Astron, powered by the GPS-controlled Caliber 5X53, is a dual timer with automatic high-speed timezone adjustment (including Daylight Savings Time) while traveling in any time zone, with accuracy to 15 seconds per month even without receiving the GPS signal. The watch’s 42.8mm case and bracelet are made of titanium with a scratch-resistant coating. The watch’s dark hue, accented in gold, is meant to honor Seiko’s heritage.

 

Seiko has placed Hattori’s name and three reminders of his legacy on the case back, including the trademark “S” that he registered in 1900.  His motto “One step ahead of the rest” appears above it near the name Seiko, which the company first used in 1924.

Seiko is offering the watch, a limited edition of 2,500, in a presentation box with a commemorative “S” mark badge and includes a card carrying a message from Kintaro’s great-grandson and the company’s current Chairman & CEO, Shinji Hattori.

The Seiko Astron GPS Solar Kintaro Hattori 160th Anniversary Limited Edition will be available in October, the month of Kintaro’s birth, at Seiko Boutiques and at selected retail partners worldwide. Price: $3,900.

Specifications: Seiko Astron GPS Solar Kintaro Hattori 160th Anniversary Limited Edition (Limited edition of 2,500)

Movement: Caliber 5X53
GPS controlled time and time zone adjustment, dual-time with AM/PM indication, perpetual calendar correct to Feb 2100
, automatic DST adjustment, high speed time zone adjustment
, time transfer function
, signal reception result indication, world time function (39 time zones), power save function. 
Accuracy: ±15 seconds per month (without receiving a GPS signal and at temperatures between 5°C and 35°C)

Case: 42.8mm x 15.6 mm titanium case with super-hard black coating zirconia ceramic bezel, dual-curved sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, water resistance to 200 meters, magnetic resistance to 4,800 A/m,

Bracelet: Titanium with three-fold clasp with push button release. 
A crocodile strap is also included.

Price: $3,900.

Grand Seiko continues its yearlong celebration of the first Grand Seiko collection it debuted six decades ago with a new Heritage Collection Automatic Limited Edition powered by automatic Caliber 9S65, the impressive technical upgrade of the Caliber 9S55.

Grand Seiko Heritage Collection Automatic Limited Edition

The dial and layout of the steel-cased watch echoes the 60th anniversary models presented earlier this year, with their blue dials and historically referenced hands and markers. Here, however, Grand Seiko adds a standard-beat automatic model to the anniversary lineup (the previously announced example features a Hi-Beat 36000 caliber).

Caliber 9S65 beats at a more traditional 28,800 bph and delivers a power reserve of 72 hours and a precision rate of +5 to –3 seconds a day.

Oxidation blue

The automatic caliber here is also marked on its visible rotor with a special shimmering blue color, created using an oxidation process that both echoes the blue dial and is meant to mirror light seen in the morning through the windows of the new Grand Seiko’s Shizukuishi and Shinshu studios.

The Grand Seiko Studio Shizukuishi.

Grand Seiko has applied the blue hue to the titanium sections of the oscillating weight, adding anniversary text and date and the Grand Seiko logo. All of this, framed in a red ring (to recall the “red of the morning sun”) is visible through the watch’s sapphire crystal caseback.

Caliber 9S65. Grand Seiko has significantly enhanced the basic performance of this caliber, and has also redesigned the way in which the oscillating weight winds the mainspring.

This new Grand Seiko Heritage Collection Automatic Limited Edition watch is offered as limited edition of 2,500. Price: $5,200.

Specifications: Grand Seiko Heritage Collection Automatic Limited Edition (SBGR321)

Movement: Caliber 9S65, 28,800 vibrations per hour (8 beats per second) Accuracy (mean daily rate): +5 to –3 seconds per day. Power reserve: 72 hours.

Dial: Blue with date and red-tipped seconds hand.

Case: 40mm by 13mm
steel case and bracelet, sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, see-through screw case back, rotor with blue color and grand Seiko lion logo, screw-down crown. 
Water resistance to 100 meters. Magnetic resistance: 4,800 A/m

Bracelet: Three-fold steel clasp with push button release.

Price: $5,200 (Limited edition of 2,500)

 

Watches of Switzerland and Grand Seiko invite collectors to check out, online or in-person, the largest collection of Grand Seiko timepieces in the world at an exhibition space on Spring Steet in New York’s Soho neighborhood, just a few blocks from the Watches of Switzerland Soho boutique.

The watchmaker and the watch retailer have teamed up to launch the Nature of Time Experience, a gallery style display of new and rarely seen Grand Seiko watches alongside eight immersive and educational areas where guests (online and in-person) can learn about Grand Seiko craftsmanship.

The gallery, at 119 Spring Street, displays all Grand Seiko boutique collections, including the recently released Watches of Switzerland exclusive Toge Special Edition GMT, the complete Grand Seiko Nature of Time Collection, limited edition sixtieth anniversary pieces, and – in a U.S. exclusive ­– rare Grand Seiko watches made exclusively for the Japan market. All watches showcased at The Nature of Time Experience are available for purchase.

The Grand Seiko Watches of Switzerland exclusive Toge Special Edition GMT.

With special high-tech exhibits, the Nature of Time Experience will offer visitors the chance to learn how Grand Seiko designs and manufactures its mechanical, quartz, and Spring Drive movements.

Four ‘seasons’ from of the Grand Seiko Heritage collection.

“We’re extremely proud to open The Nature of Time Experience for Grand Seiko clients and all watch enthusiasts in the heart of New York City,” says Brice Le Troadec, president of Grand Seiko Corporation of America. “We are passionate about ‘redefining retail’ by creating this immersive, personalized, and safe experience for the watch collecting community.”

Grand Seiko explains that it designed the Nature of Time Experience to recall “the fleeting beauty of the “sakura” cherry blossoms. Based on the ancient Japanese philosophy of mono no aware – appreciate the beauty of ephemeral things – sakura season inspires celebration as well as contemplation.“

The exhibit’s Takumi Lounge, open later this summer.

Later this summer visitors will also be able to visit a bar at the exhibit called the Takumi Lounge, which Grand Seiko designed in true Ginza-style.

The gallery is at 119 Spring Steet and now displays all Grand Seiko boutique collections,and much more.

The exhibit space is located at 119 Spring Street in SoHo and is open through the end of September. The Nature of Time Experience is open to walk-in visitors, but reservations are highly encouraged due to limited capacity. Masks and social distancing will be required.

 

Overview: Grand Seiko Nature of Time Experience

Dates: Now through September 30, 2020

Hours: Monday – Saturday 11 am – 7 pm; Sunday Noon – 6 pm

Address: 119 Spring Street, New York, NY 10012

Organizer: Grand Seiko Corporation of America

Partner: Watches of Switzerland

Website: https://grandseikonatureoftime.com

Phone Number: +1 646-693-0893

Grand Seiko this week debuts two new U.S. Special Edition watches designed to celebrate the end of Autumn (or sōko in Japanese).

The two models of the new Grand Seiko Soko U.S. Special Edition.

The 39mm steel watches, each powered by Seiko’s hybrid Spring Drive caliber, feature a bamboo-themed dial with a vertical textured pattern, a green seconds hand and a green power reserve hand.

While both watches utilize he same textured dial that is meant to recall stalks of bamboo within Japan’s famed Arashiyama bamboo forest in Kyoto, particularly as seen at the end of Autumn during the first frost.

Grand Seiko’s incredibly skilled artisans have once again created beautifully rendered dials. In addition to the unusual texture throughout each dial, the applied markers and the hands are skillfully facetted, adding eye-catching depth to an already inspired design.

One model features a dark grey dial (SBGA429), representing shadow, while the second model offers a brighter silver color (SBGA427), representing light. The green seconds hand and power reserve hand are brighter green on the darker dial, enhancing their contrast while also underscoring the natural theme of both these Soko U.S. special editions.

Grand Seiko will deliver each watch with a steel bracelet and a crocodile leather strap with green stitching that matches the watch’s green hands. 

Hand-adjusted

Inside, Seiko fits its Spring Drive 9R65 Caliber, made at the watchmaker’s Shinshu Watch Studio. Spring Drive, as a reminder, is Seiko’s own highly accurate (to one second per day) spring-driven movement with an electro-magnetic regulator that functions with only a mechanical mainspring driving a gear train.

Grand Seiko Spring Drive Caliber 9R65.

Grand Seiko adds the watches to its Heritage Collection.

Price: $5,000.

 

Specifications: Grand Seiko Soko U.S. Special Edition, Grand Seiko Heritage Collection

Movement: Caliber 9R65
 Spring Drive, accuracy ±1 second per day / ±15 seconds per month/average, power reserve is 72 hours.

Case: 39mm x 12.5mm stainless steel case, dual-curve sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, screw-down see-through case back

Bracelet: Stainless steel and (second strap, supplied) crocodile leather with three-fold clasp push button release.

Price: $5,000

 

Grand Seiko and The Watches of Switzerland Group have together developed a new watch within Grand Seiko’s acclaimed GMT series. The new Grand Seiko Toge Special Edition combines influences from both entities in the partnership, notably classic British Racing Green that has been sensibly placed onto Grand Seiko’s beautifully textured Mount Iwate dial.

 

Grand Seiko derives the name of the GMT watch from Tōgè, or a mountain pass. Grand Seiko says the color and texture of the dark green dial, “subtly evoke the image of a drive over the many ridges of Mount Iwate in Northern Japan.”  

Inside Grand Seiko places its excellent Caliber 9S66 (tested to -3 to +5 seconds per day) with its MEMS escapement and a 72-hour power reserve.

Using a 39.5mm case designed Grand Seiko Chief Designer Nobuhiro Kosugi, the new watch displays a crescent moon-shaped profile with curved lugs that Grand Seiko polishes using the Zaratsu technique.

The watch’s green dial nicely complements the prominent gold GMT hand, both of which echo the brown leather strap with green stitching. Note that the textured dial pattern takes a break along the 24-hour track to ensure the track is clearly visible.    

The new Grand Seiko Toge Special Edition (SBGM241) will be offered in July exclusively at Watches of Switzerland boutiques and select Mayors locations in the United States, as well as Watches of Switzerland stores in the United Kingdom. It will also be sold online at www.watchesofswitzerland.com and www.mayors.com. Price: $5,200.

Those who prefer to see the watch on the wrist prior to making any purchase decision can take advantage of a new Augmented Reality (AR) experience that allows consumers to ‘try on’ the Grand Seiko Toge Special Edition at home through an Instagram and Facebook filter. To use the Instagram filter, click here.

Specifications: Grand Seiko / The Watches of Switzerland Group Toge Special Edition: (SBGM241)

Movement: Grand Seiko Caliber 9S66, mechanical GMT with 72-hour power reserve, accurate to +5/-3 seconds per day (when static)

Case: 39.5mm by 13.7mm steel with box shaped sapphire crystal with anti-reflective coating, see-through case back

Dial: Green textured ‘Mount Iwate’

Strap: Crocodile leather with three-fold clasp push button release

 

Seiko has re-created three early Seiko dive models as the watchmaker this year celebrates the 55th anniversary of its first dive watches. Now in the Prospex collection, the new models, which Seiko announced in March, are faithful to the original designs, though now with modern specifications and execution.

The three new Seiko Diver Re-creations.
The Original Seiko Diver’s watches from, respectively, 1968, 1965 and 1975.

 

       Two of the re-creations, echoing models from 1965 and 1968, are powered by the high-beat 8L55 movement; the 1975 re-creation carries Caliber 8L35. All three have sapphire crystals, and the 1975 re-creation has an increased anti-magnetic resistance of 40,000 a/m thanks to the dial made of pure iron. All three new models also share the same blue-gray dial.

The 1965 Diver’s Re-creation with new Seiko Hi-Beat movement inside.
The 1968 Diver’s Re-creation, also now fitted with a Seiko Hi-Beat movement.

All the straps also pay homage to the originals while being modern in both the material and color. All three watches will be made available as limited editions of 1,100. The 1965, 1968, and 1975 re-creations will be introduced in June, July, and August 2020 respectively. A special commemorative box with all three watches plus additional black straps will be available in May 2020. Just 100 sets will be released.

The 1975 Professional Diver’s 600m Re-creation, now water resistant to 1,000 meters.
This model has a titanium one-piece case and an outer case protector to echo the 1975 ‘Tuna’ original.

      In addition to this limited-edition trilogy, Seiko is also launching the 1965 Diver’s Watch Modern Re-Creation, an updated steel version of its first diver’s watch, as a limited edition of 5,500.

The 40mm 1965 Diver’s Modern Re-interpretation will be issued as a limited edition of 5,500.

This 200-meter watch features the same 55th anniversary blue-gray dial as seen on the trilogy and comes with both a stainless steel bracelet and a silicone strap. It is powered by Caliber 6R35 (not the Hi-Beat caliber used in the other 1965 model being released) that delivers a power reserve of 70 hours. It will be available starting in June 2020. Prices: $6,300 (1965 Diver’s Re-creation), $6,800 (1968 Diver’s Re-creation) and $4,500 (1975 Diver’s Re-creation). The 1965 Diver’s Watch Modern Re-Creation, 1,350 euros.    

Queen guitarist Brian May has worn a Seiko diver’s watch since the 1970s when he purchased his first Seiko in Japan. May’s Red Special guitar now inspires a new Seiko 5 Sports watch whose dial echoes the design of the guitar, built by May and father in the early 1960s. 

The new watch features Seiko caliber 4R36, a Hardlex crystal, a 42.5mm steel case and a red and black colored dial that echoes the Red Special, including a delicate wood-like pattern like the body of the guitar. 

The watch is offered as a limited edition of 9,000 with Brian’s signature on the case back and comes with a special presentation box designed on the lines of the Red Special’s custom flight case. The presentation box also contains a commemorative coin that is based on the sixpenny piece that he has used throughout his career as a plectrum. The watch is presented on a black nylon strap designed to mirror the strap that Brian now uses on his guitar. Price: 560 euros, or about $620. 


Specifications:
Seiko 5 Sports Brian May Limited Edition (SRPE83K1) 

Caliber: Automatic Seiko 4R36, 21,600 bph, with a power reserve of 41 hours 

Case: 42.5mm by 13.4mm stainless steel, 100 meters of water resistance, Hardlex crystal,
clear screw-down caseback. 

Dial: Red and black with wood grain pattern 

Strap: Black nylon