A few months ago, we ran a piece that took a look at some our favorite JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) Seikos. But if we ran that article today, sitting comfortably at the top of the list would be the recently released Prospex 200M Diver (ref. SBDC027), a 50th anniversary limited edition of 2000 units honoring some of Seiko’s most legendary divers. To say that this release is exciting would be an understatement. If you’ve been keeping an eye on the forums, you’d know that there has been plenty of buzz shrouded in mystery over the SBDC027. Now that it’s finally out in the wild, I can comfortably say that it’s lived up to the hype.
If the Seiko SBDC027 looks familiar, that’s because it is. The case is that of the venerable SUMO (SBDC001, 003, and 005), Seiko’s mid-range diver that’s a modern classic in its own right. The SUMO is known for being a bold watch in terms of both size and design. It’s 44mm in diameter, with large twisted lugs that bump the lug-to-lug height up to a hefty 52.6mm. The dial and extra-wide bezel feature engorged (some might say cartoonish) markers and numerals, with a matching handset that practically screams Seiko. Though at first glance one might see a large, clunky watch, a closer inspection reveals a level of refinements that goes beyond the MSRP of the piece.
But to call the SBDC027 a limited edition SUMO would be a mistake. The two watches might share a case, but any similarities end there. As I mentioned, the SBDC027 pays homage to some of Seiko’s most beloved historical models. If you look closely, you’ll see that the dial is a nod to the 6217-8001 (62MAS), Seiko’s first-ever dive watch. Released in 1965, the 62MAS is a perfect example of Seiko at its best, and a well-preserved specimen can easily fetch a sum north of 1K. The hands, however, are borrowed from another one of Seiko’s famous divers and a watch that needs no introduction–the supremely popular 6105. The mixing of vintage references, paired with a new tempered bezel insert and the classic SUMO case, results in a watch that doesn’t feel derivative, but rather wholly fresh and modern.
The SBDC027 also boasts a number of great features and upgrades that make it a desirable piece. The case is protected with Dia-Shield, Seiko’s proprietary coating that does a great job at repelling minor scratches and abrasions. The crystal is now sapphire, which some would argue is a great improvement on the controversial Hardlex found on the standard SBDC series. And then there’s the lacquered bezel insert, one of my favorite upgrades. From the real-world photos I’ve seen, it looks similar to the insert found on the MM300, and it does wonders at elevating the SBDC027 to another level of sophistication.
If I had to find one thing to complain about, it would have to be the choice of case. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Sumo case, and as a stand-alone piece with no historical connections the SBDC027 as a whole makes perfect sense. But it’s not just a new watch. The SBDC027 is meant to commemorate Seiko’s entry into the world of dive watches, and it does so with very deliberate cues. With that connection being a major influence on the release, I am left wondering what could have been. In terms of design lineage, the SUMO case is sort of a one-off. You can’t really trace its roots to any of the big historical models. It’s big and modern, and totally unique. But if we were to take a look at the case of the SKX-series, for example, it would be a simple task to trace the evolution of that line going back to the 62MAS. So maybe Seiko should have gone with the SKX case for this release, or better yet, an entirely new design that continues the evolution of Seiko’s diver family. Again, it’s a minor quibble, but it does leave me thinking of the possibilities.