For as long as I’ve been into watches, the Seiko Alpinist has been a forum favorite, but a bit under the radar. Often recommended and traded in forum classified ads, it was always something of an insider’s watch, being made primarily for the Japanese domestic market, though widely available through various third party channels here in the US. It was a never a watch Seiko themselves seemed to put much energy behind – we had (most recently) a green dialed version that photographed incredibly well for Instagram, and represented an alternative Seiko if you wanted a sports watch that was a bit more refined, and not a diver.
Well, the expansion of the Prospex has presented Seiko with an opportunity to revisit and revamp the Alpinist, and the watch is now getting renewed attention from a broader audience and, importantly, much better distribution. A new Alpinist debuted earlier this year in an array of colors. In addition to the well loved green, Seiko brought us black and gray variants as well. Unfortunately for some purists, the new models left a little to be desired, with the addition of a cyclops magnifier atop the date window, and some prominent Prospex branding. If you’re among the chorus of Seiko fans who thought the new Alpinist was a bit maximalist, these new releases may be of interest.
First and foremost, the size has been reduced from the 39.5mm of the previous and current generation of “big” Alpinists. These watches measure 38mm in diameter with a case height of 12.9mm. Lug to lug is a modest 46.4mm, so they have a compact feel. The new, smaller Alpinists (carrying reference numbers SPB155, SPB157, and SPB159) lose the cyclops and the rotating compass bezel, a hallmark of the line for years. This is likely to be a point of some contention among enthusiasts, but I quite like the clean look of the new smaller Alpinists, and unless you have a real need for a compass, this feels like a case of addition by subtraction if there ever was one. Crown guards have also been eliminated on these smaller models, though the crown still screws down, and water resistance is a full 200 meters.
Variants include blue, green, and black dial options, each with a pleasing gradient effect. These watches also all have gilt accents on the numerals, which is a great throwback to a vintage style and just works really well here. Another critical detail is the date display having a black background on each model. While it’s only color matched precisely with the black dialed Alpinist, this is a much better option than a white background, and with the gradient effect having a darker ring on the outside of the dial, having the same date wheel across all variants works better here than it would in many other lines.
The movement powering these is the upgraded 6R35 caliber, which has 70 hours of power reserve and beats at 21,600 vibrations per hour. It might not look like it, given the vintage inspired styling, but this is very much a fully featured, robust, modern sports watch with the aforementioned screw down crown and generous water resistance, as well as a sapphire crystal and plenty of lume on the cathedral style hands and hour markers. This watch, and previous Alpinists, are really Seiko’s answer to the Rolex Explorer. It’s meant to be worn everywhere, has a rugged appeal and under the radar sportiness, but it all hides behind a degree of refinement that you won’t get on a modern dive watch.
This new, smaller Alpinist is priced at $725 for the green dialed version on a bracelet, or $700 for the black and blue on leather straps. That’s only about $25 less expensive than the larger Alpinist released earlier this year, which was also met with concerns about a price point that seemed out of whack with the Alpinist historically. Still, when you look at the watch in the context of modern sports watches from similar brands, the price point makes a lot of sense, and now fans of this style have some additional options to consider. Seiko