A Dive Watch for Mountaineering: Introducing the Seiko Prospex SLA049 and SLA051 Tributes to Naomi Uemura

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The last several years of Seiko Prospex dive watches has been studded with recreations of their own iconic watches from the ’60s and ’70s. From Turtles to Tunas, they’ve been steadily bringing their archive into the modern era (and you can see our reviews of many here) flaunting their history and showing that these old designs are still relevant today. Throughout, Seiko has taken two approaches to resurrect these models. The first is that they make a high-end, limited edition with an 8L series movement, often using finishing techniques typically saved for Grand Seikos. These re-creations tend to stay close to the details of the watches they are based on. The second approach is to create a watch in the spirit of the original but take far more liberties with the design, ultimately modernizing the watch. These models feature 6R movements and multiple colorways, some limited, but mostly open editions, and come in around $1,200. Today, we’re seeing the birth of a new, third approach with the SLA049 and SLA051 watches, combining the two approaches.

Based closely, yet not exactly, on the 6105, a.k.a. The Capt. Willard, from 1970, the SLA049 and 051 are grouped within Seiko Prospex’ highest tier of watches, featuring the 8L35 caliber, yet are priced somewhere in the middle, around $3,000, sitting next to the MM300s. You might recall that in 2019, Seiko unveiled the SLA033 at Baselworld (RIP), which is also a recreation of the 6105. That model was limited to 2,500 units, featured Zaratsu polishing, and had a price tag of $4,250. While that was meant to be a luxury replica of the original (despite there being some differences), these new models are both faithful and loose in their approach. They are closer than the SPB15X models, yet further than the SLA033.

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So, what’s the difference? Well, quite a lot, not the least of which is that the 049 and 051 are not just commemorating the watch, but also Naomi Uemura, a remarkable Japanese adventurer who wore it. Uemura’s claim to fame is that he is the first adventurer to summit the tallest peaks on each continent, as well as being the first person from Japan to climb Mt. Everest. To celebrate the 80th anniversary of Uemura’s birth, Seiko has recreated the 6105, which Uemura wore during a 12,000km solo dog-sled run. Rather than just another straight recreation, Seiko decided to tell a little of Uemura’s story with the watches themselves.

The SLA049, which is limited to 1,200 pieces and will cost $3,100, is rendered in shades of blue meant to evoke the atmospheric hues seen when viewed from the rarified air of Earth’s highest peaks. The bezel is a rich blue with likely a metallic sheen (based on renders), while the dial is a deeper, earthy blue. The most interesting feature, however, is the dial surface itself. Featuring a rough texture with randomized features, it speaks to the terrain of the mountains Uemura spent so much time conquering. An unexpected feature for a dive watch, which is obviously associated with aquatic activities, it’s a reminder that tool watches aren’t just used for their prescribed activities.

In terms of general design, the case seems to have stayed very close to the 6105, with one significant change. It’s 44mm (the 033 was 45mm), features the 6105’s signature rounded shape with a crown at four, nestled into guards. The water resistance has been bumped to 200m, the crystal is sapphire, and the steel is coated in Dia-shield, bringing it up to snuff with other modern Seikos. It’s a bit hard to see in the renders, but the case also features a mirrored step along its outer edge. I imagine in person this will be a distinctive detail that will clearly separate it from the vintage and re-creation models. In terms of the dial, there are some more significant variations.

Like the SPB153, everything has the DNA of the 6105, yet isn’t exactly the same. The markers appear a touch smaller, with less significant surrounds, opening up space a bit and appearing perhaps a touch more refined. The blunted hour and minute hands have received small pointed tips, and the stoplight seconds is less exaggerated. Perhaps the most striking difference, and one that I’m sure the comments will focus on, is that the date has been moved from a framed window at three, to a frameless window between four and five. With the dark date background, the dial appears date-free at a glance as all markers are accounted for. That said, there is an undeniable awkwardness to the date being sandwiched between the markers. We’ll have to wait and see where the crowd falls on this one.

Additionally, on the dial at six is the Prospex “X” logo, clearly signifying that this model falls into Seiko’s modern re-interpretation category. The 049 comes mounted to a 5-link bracelet with thin polished links between wider brushed links, for a dressed-up look. The watch also includes a blue silicone strap with train track pattern, emulating the rubber strap that originally came on the 6105.

Accompanying the 049 is the SLA051, a non-limited edition version of the Uemura 6105. Instead of blue, this model features a charcoal gray dial, still with rough texture, and a black bezel. This version is a touch cheaper as well, coming in at $2,900, but only with the bracelet. While LEs always have a certain draw, especially to collectors, the simpler gray/black combo of the 051 is classically appealing and will likely be a popular choice.

As the SLA033 has likely been sold out for some time now, the Uemura 6105s offer a new opportunity for Seiko enthusiasts to acquire a version of this iconic design fit with an 8L movement. Though one could argue this third, middle tier between the 6R modern interpretations and 8L recreations already existed with the MM300, it isn’t a range that has been expanded on much, so this is potentially an exciting development. Seiko Luxe

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Zach is the Co-Founder and Executive Editor of Worn & Wound. Before diving headfirst into the world of watches, he spent his days as a product and graphic designer. Zach views watches as the perfect synergy of 2D and 3D design: the place where form, function, fashion and mechanical wonderment come together.
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