Part of the undeniable appeal of a classic dive watch is that it can be dressed up or down to suit the occasion. Kicking it on the porch with a beer on a summer’s day? A well-worn diver on a pale canvas strap is the perfect companion. Have a presentation at work (don’t tell me you aren’t still wearing a nice watch during Zoom meetings)? A diver on a bracelet says “I’m serious about this, but also a fun guy when the day is over.” They are versatile, effortless, and, simply put – stylish. Well, except maybe for Seiko Tunas.
That’s not to deride these exceptional feats of engineering, rather to celebrate the fact that the various incarnations of Tunas starting in the 1970s were designed for, and actually in response to, the needs of professionals. Shrouded in armor, capable of diving to incredible depths, able to release helium without an extra valve for saturation divers; they were true tools for a purpose. Their wide, cylindrical designs bore no resemblance to typical dive watch designs, earning them their equally famous nick-name, while also making them appear more like equipment than a timepiece. And while perhaps not traditionally stylish, they have that kind of unintentional charm that only comes from a genuine disregard for aesthetics.
Over the years, there have been countless versions of the Tuna and other shrouded-case divers by Seiko, from Arnies to solar models and even digital takes on the format, with the most famous earning secondary nick-names, such as “Emperor,” “Golden,” and “Darth.” Often north of 45mm, and even up to 52mm, while there have been various case materials and movements at play, they were always massive unrepentant tool watches. Until recently, that is.