One of the most exciting announcements at Basel last year was that Seiko was going to be bringing their coveted Prospex line to US soil. Amongst Seiko collectors and enthusiasts, the Prospex line has always been home to some of the most sought after sports models. Watches with good mechanical movements and tough cases. And while there have always been ways to get them if you were in-the-know, now that they are officially here (even being available in shop at Seiko’s Madison ave store) the deed is easier.
Bringing the line over wasn’t the only news of course, they also had new watches and the Prospex Kinetic GMT SUN019P1 really stood out amongst the offerings. A beast of a diver, the watch had strong hints of Seiko’s famous Tuna divers in both the case and the dial, but was its own thing with a new design. It just rang of what Seiko does well, especially in the case, so I knew we had to get one for review when possible. Design aside, it also is the first watch we’ve featured on w&w with one of Seiko’s kinetic movements, which are an interesting take on quartz. With an MSRP of $695 (but lower price in reality), the Prospex Kinetic GMT is a big step up from Seiko 5, but has build quality to match.
Seiko Prospex Kinetic GMT SUN019P1 Review
Movement: Seiko Kinetic 5M89
Strap: Steel Bracelet
Water Res.: 200M
Dimensions: 47.5 x 51.5 mm
Thickness: 15.5 mm
Lug Width: 24 mm
Crown: 8 x 4 mm
Weight: 225g (sized for a 7″ wrist)
The Prospex Kinetic GMT has one of the more interesting cases I’ve seen on a diver; or any watch for that matter. It’s sculptural, technical, beautifully machined… and utterly gigantic. Measuring 47.5mm from 3 – 9, 50mm from 12 – 6, 51.5mm lug-to-lug and 15.5mm tall, it’s a steel behemoth. That’s a simple and undeniable truth about the watch. But size aside, there is a lot to like about the design. It takes cues from the famous Tuna cases, though goes its own way for somethings… namely losing the cylindrical shape that gave it a can-like appearance.
Overall, the shape has a barrel feel, which is partially due to the endlinks of the bracelet. But also like many barrel cases, there are no flat surfaces on the top of the case. Rather, it all domes and flows, cutting sharply when it transitions to the slab sides. But the shape isn’t what makes the case interesting alone, rather there are curious details that stand out. The first and most apparent is the shrouded bezel. Like the Tunas, the the mid-case comes up over the bezel, which must be bottom loaded, protecting it on two sides, while leaving gaps from 12 – 3 and 6 – 9, allowing for easy turning. It’s a Seiko signature design that is continually compelling.
Looking at sides of the watch, the show continues. On the 9-side, there is a large vent revealing that there is an inner middle case, which has deep striations on it creating a very textured area. Flanking this opening are two hex screws that are used to secure the outer case to the inner. On the three side is a similar situation, but in a more complex arrangement as you also have two crowns. The crown at three is about 8mm wide and screws down. It’s fairly plain in design, with simple coining and a domed, unsigned front surface. The one standout detail is that it has a black line on it that only becomes visible when unscrewed, acting as a reminder. At 2 is a pusher with a screw down cuff that is used for checking the power reserve of the kinetic movement. Flipping it over, the solid case back features Seiko’s tsunami logo in the center in sculptural relief. Around the logo are various details about the watch.
The shrouded bezel is very easy to use as the gaps give you more than enough space to turn it. The edge of the bezel has classic bottle top grooves making it easy to grasp. The bezel mechanism is a 120-click uni-directional type. It’s not the greatest I’ve felt, being easy to turn with some back play and lacking a satisfying snap. It doesn’t turn so easily that bumping it would move it, but little pressure is needed.
Though this is a relatively inexpensive dive watch in the grand scheme of things, the finishing is quite nice and the machining is excellent. The top surface of the case has a radial brushing from the center out, emphasizing the ramped surface. The top surface of the bezel shroud, however, is polished, adding a little glimmer. The case sides are then lightly horizontally brushed, creating a nice contrast from the top, with the edge between the two being very clean and precise. Inside the vents, the inner case has a polished finished, once again adding contrast. Overall, very dynamic. They also capped this one off with a sapphire, rather than a hardlex, adding to the sense of build.
My one gripe is that 200m seems low for a watch this size… Now, as we know, there is not necessarily a correlation between the size and the water resistance (see Sinn’s T2), but generally speaking, larger dive watches have higher resistances thanks to thicker crystals, casebacks, etc… While 200m is more than enough for me, as I’m not a diver, I would like the number to be higher… 600, 1000, 2000… Just something to suggest why the watch is nearly as large as a small submarine. Perhaps it’s a strategic decision, as their higher priced Marine Masters are 600 and 1000, and they wanted to differentiate.
The dial of the Seiko Prospex Kinetic GMT is a modern twist on their classic dive design, and it’s one of the nicest dive dials I’ve seen. It’s clean and legible, with a clear hierarchy of markers, leading the eye first to the most significant. It has great depth, creating a visually dramatic space. And though the basic shapes are the same as those that have been on other dials for decades, the execution is new and expertly achieved.
The dial surface is matte black; the standard for creating high contrast. The primary index consists of massive applied or molded markers that raise up a millimeter or so over the dial. The twelve marker is a large triangle with a blunted tip, 3, 6 and 9 are sort of tombstone shaped, while the others simple large dots. While their top surfaces are flat, they all angle down towards the center of the dial. Each is made of lume with a pale, matte off-white color with grey painted edges.
There are two things here I’ve never seen before. One is the angled lume marker, which while a subtle detail does add to the overall look and feel of the watch… It’s not a simple thing to pull off, and therefore seems like it would be an expensive detail. The other is the grey paint. Sure, we’ve seen plenty of steel surrounds, but never a matte paint on a lume… and it’s not just on the sides either, creeping up over the top of the 12 marker, giving a v-shape. To make things even better, they glow very well, perhaps the best I’ve seen on a Seiko. They have a fierce green color that is as bright as C3 or anything comparable.
Raising up off the edge of the dial is a tall chapter ring in matte black. It’s a drop taller than the applied markers and angled down, bringing the eye in. On the ring are small lines and squares for the individual minutes in a light silver. Moving down to the main surface, there is a 24-hr index set in from the markers in the same matte grey seen on their markers themselves. The even hours are numerals while the odd are replaced with dashes. 24, 6, 12 and 18 are absent because of the larger markers. This is where the hierarchy of information is apparent. This secondary index is for use with the GMT hand, a function that is not relevant to diving, and always second to local time. As such, when you glance at the dial, you see the primary markers… Only upon closer inspection does the rest reveal itself.
Located between 4 and 5 is an angled date window showing the white on black date. This was a smart execution for the date on this watch as it doesn’t interfere with anything on the dial or quick reading. In fact, it’s fairly invisible, making it’s somewhat odd location not jarring. Just below 12, you have your standard Seiko logo in white caps. Just above 6 you have some denser text in true dive watch style. First, you have the Prospex “PX” logo, under which it reads “kinetic” in bold letters and finally “Diver’s 200m”.
Stepping out, the bezel insert has a classic Seiko feel as well. It has a metal insert with a lume dot at 0/60, numerals every 10 digits, lines for the first 20 minutes and dots after. It’s a nice looking bezel insert that is very Seiko. It’s a fairly standard design, airing on being a bit dated, but looks good and works with the dial.
Looking at the hands now, the Seiko diver style is very clear. The hour is a Roman sword with and elongated tip, matte silver edge and lume filling. The minutes hand is a large arrow also with a matte edge and lume filling. The shapes of both are bold and extremely easy to differentiate. Interestingly they both have black split lines that reach out of the center of the dial, which seems to be little more than a aesthetic flourish, but one that refers to the hands of the 6159-7010 Grandfather Tuna.
The GMT hand is very well executed as well, once again speaking to the hierarchy of information. Rather than be a full hand, it’s a skeletonized Roman sword with a darker edge and a thin line of lume. It looks like it’s a shadow of the hour hand, which it sort of is… It does tell the hour, but a different one, one that is less pertinent. The seconds hand is then a fine stick in polished steel on one side, matte black on the other, with a lume dot counter weight.
Seiko’s kinetic movement platform is very interesting. First debuted in 1988, it’s a quartz movement, but one that charges like an automatic, through the spinning of a rotor inside the watch. So, it powers up as you move. The rotor spins, generates electricity which is then stored in an internal capacitor. As with solar quartz movements, it has obvious benefits of not having to change batteries, but a bit of the feel of a mechanical. With that said, I don’t know and somehow doubt there is an advantage to kinetic over solar.
Powering the Prospex Kinetic GMT is the cal. 5M85, which has a power reserve of 6 months on full charge. Unlike the ETA 2893, which is the mechanical GMT you are most likely to find at an affordable price, the 5M85 GMT hand is truly a hometime hand, the hour hand is the local time. As such, when the crown is in first position, it adjusts the local hour hand, jumping it hour by hour, forwards or backwards. This is much more practical when traveling then adjusting the GMT as the local time is typically of greater concern.
Interestingly, the date is changed by rotating the hour hand, when the crown is in first position, around the dial a full 24-hrs. Since the hour hand jumps, this is a quick process. It also can be done in reverse, should you need to go back. Lastly, pressing the button at 2 will tell you how much power is left by jumping the seconds hand forward at different intervals. If you are wearing the watch often, this button will likely not be used often other than for amusement.
Straps and Wearability
The Seiko Prospex Kinetic GMT SUN019P1 comes mounted on a 24mm steel bracelet that tapers to 20mm. The bracelet features thick links with both brushed and polished surfaces. Though the polished surfaces seem a bit out of place to me, the bracelet as a whole looks good on the watch. That said, I don’t think it feels right. There is a fair bit of wobble or give in the bracelet as the links don’t mesh totally snuggly. Because of the weight of the watch itself, this allows it to move around a bit too much for my liking. The other versions of this watch actually come mounted to a rubber strap.
On the wrist, the watch, unsurprisingly, wears large… very large. It’s a huge watch. It’s long, it’s wide, it’s tall, it’s heavy… There’s no getting around it. It feels like you have a metal stone strapped to your wrist. So, immediately it’s going to only be desirable to those with larger wrists and/or those who like larger watches. For my tastes, as much as I like the look, it just doesn’t work on my 7″ wrist. To be honest though, I don’t think this watch would scale well. The dial would get very small or the bezel narrow quickly to bring the diameter down. The shrouded construction adds a lot of thickness as well.
That said, I wish it did. It’s a great looking watching that I’d love to wear. There is so much going on from every angle. The case is swooping and gorgeous, the dial is deep and dimensional. It’s got enough classic elements to fill the dive watch checklist, but is new enough to bring something else to the party. It’s also just not like every other watch. It’s unique, and distinctly Seiko in the best ways. And, as with most tool divers, looks great with casual clothes and boots.
For those who can pull it off, there is a lot to like about the Seiko Prospex Kinetic GMT; great design, great execution and unique. My issue with the bracelet being wobbly is easily overcome with a strap switch and the bezel, though looser than I’d like, wasn’t a deal breaker either. The real issue is the sheer size of it… it’s just not for everyone. But if you can pull it off, you’ll like it a lot. It might have the best dive dial I’ve come across on a modern watch.
The other potential issue is the movement. Not that it isn’t good; far from it. It performed well and I really like how the GMT is adjusted. It’s just that some, or many, might prefer an automatic 3-hand over the kinetic GMT. Seiko has plenty of autos in this price range, even within the Prospex line, so it’s not unthinkable. With that said, I do think there is value in having that complication, the kinetic movement is cool in its own way, and it distinguishes the watch from Seiko’s other tool divers.
The MSRP of this watch is $695, which seems pretty fair given the build quality and design. Of course, it’s already available for far less on Amazon, with some retailers going as low as $471 with Prime shipping… so the deal gets a lot sweeter. Whether this is the modern Seiko for you is a personal decision, but I know regardless it is exciting to see the brand put more focus on this mid-range model especially in the American market. I’m very excited to see what they have to offer at this year’s Basel.