Watches with an astronomical bent are nothing new. They’re fairly common in fact, and present themselves in a myriad of ways. The Speedmaster, of course, is the obvious first round draft pick when it comes to space themed watches, but there’s a whole world of astronomical complications and watches that have been worn by astronauts out in the world to round out your hypothetical flight crew. Seiko’s latest entry in their premium Prospex LX line fits nicely into the genre, sporting a dial that forces you to think of our place in the solar system, surrounded by Seiko’s best tech and world class finishing.
The SNR049 is a Spring Drive GMT with an attractive gradient dial that shifts from black to blue. It’s meant to evoke the earth as seen from space, and once this idea is in your head, it’s frankly hard to shake. We’ve seen similar dial arrangements in the past on dive watches, meant to recall a poetic resemblance to the experience of moving deeper into the ocean, but somehow this black to blue shift makes an even more convincing impression. I think this must have something to do with the fact that most of us have seen images of the earth from a low orbit in our popular culture for much of our lives (either from actual astronaut shot footage, or through the magic of a Hollywood movie) so it feels a bit more familiar than the experience of diving. That said, even if you’re taken in by the space story behind the SNR049, it’s an aesthetically pleasing dial, with a prominent sunray pattern, easily visible in the lower, bluer, half.
Being part of the Prospex LX line, the watch is filled with premium, high end, touches. First and foremost, the movement used here is the Caliber 5R66, which combines Spring Drive accuracy (about 15 seconds per month, according to Seiko) with useful GMT functionality. The bezel is two-tone, matching the colors of the dial, and constructed from sapphire. The case, based on Seiko’s 1968 Diver’s watch, their first with 300 meters of water resistance and a high beat movement, has prominent Zaratsu polishing throughout. This is a big watch at 44.8mm in diameter, 14.7mm thick, and 50.9mm from lug to lug, but that just provides a larger canvas for Seiko’s Zaratsu finishing to be observed. Like other watches in the Prospex LX line, this one feels more like a statement piece than a watch meant to be worn daily, although Seiko claims the low center of gravity on the case of the SNR049 makes it a comfortable watch to wear, in spite of its imposing dimensions.
Limited to just 400 examples at a price of $5,500, this is clearly not a watch designed for mass appeal. Fans of the brand, however, seem to enjoy releases like this one, and they offer a more luxe version of the common Seiko dive watches we’ve all become used to and fond of over the years. The Prospex LX line allows Seiko designers to get creative and whimsical in a way that they can’t with the more hard-boiled tool watches in the Seiko lineup, and these watches are a good reminder that even for a brand that has mastered mass production, there’s still some real watchmaking happening at Seiko. Fans of this website probably don’t need that reminder, but a watch like this has the power to showcase what’s best about the brand to a different audience, so it stands to reason we’ll keep seeing these themed, highly specific, extravagantly finished limited editions going forward. Seiko