We can hardly hide our enthusiasm for Seiko watches, as is evident in our abundance of articles over the last few years. So, naturally, getting to be some of the first people to get their hands on the new models at Basel is immensely exciting. And, well, at BaselWorld 2015 they certainly did not let us down. First they took our breath away with new Grand Seikos, which were stunning. Then, they pleased our inner nerds with their new Prospex divers, many of which pay homage to their history, this being the 50th anniversary of the Seiko diver. With that said, let’s take a look at a couple models that stood out.
Grand Seiko SBGR095
As we showed you in our article on the vintage 61GS, Grand Seikos have been extraordinarily gorgeous since their earliest models. With their Grand Seiko Historical Collection they have been recreating significant models from the 60’s starting in 2013 with the much celebrated recreation of the ’67 44GS. This year, for the 55th anniversary of GS they went to another ’67 model for inspiration; the first GS automatic, the 62GS.
Apart from having expertly made, finished, tested and regulated movements and surprisingly modest prices, what sets Grand Seikos apart are their incredible cases. Coming in at 37.6 x 12.9mm with a modest lug-to-lug, the case on the SBGR’s are striking to say the least and perfectly sized. Every surface on the SBGRs have sharp edges and are impossibly flat, creating a beautiful, faceted form, all of which are polished by hand using their “Zaratsu” technique. The lugs in particular caught my eye as they drop down sharply creating a detail that is distinctly Seiko and visually pleasing. Keeping with the original design from ’67 the crown is at 4, which actually gives the watch are more fluid feel. Lastly, the case is bezel free, presumably making it a two-part design, which emphasizes the box-sapphire and dial.
Speaking of which, the dials are clean and classic, once again with perfect finishing. The steel model had a darker grey sunburst dial with applied steel markers, a slightly depressed chapter ring and Grand Seiko’s signature, razor hands. There’s not much to say here other than it works and works well. Each marker is as well finished as the case as a whole and those hands… when you see them in person, you’ll see why they put them on so many models.
The steel model, the SBGR095, is limited to 600 pieces worldwide and comes in at $4,300. While $4,300 is nothing to scoff at, this is a true luxury watch that rivals the Swiss with one of Seiko’s best movements, and some of the best case making, bar none. So for it to be under $5k is fairly reasonable. The three solid gold models are all limited to 100 pieces and come in at decidedly higher price points at $17,200 for white gold and $16,300 for the rose and yellow models.
Marinemaster Professional 1000m Hi-Beat 36000 Limited Edition
This one was really unexpected. As mentioned before, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Seiko Diver, which started in 1965 with the storied 62MAS. Now, they’ve actually released a few pieces in celebration, but none as wild as this complete beast of a watch. Where to start… well, the first thing that jumped out at me was the hi-beat movement. Ticking away at 5Hz, or 36,000 bph, the 8L55 automatic is a seemingly new caliber with 37-jewels and a 55-hr power reserve. While they don’t out right say it, it would seem that this is directly derived from Grand Seiko’s 9S85 hi-beat for the simple reason that it shares specs, and they have said the 8L55 is “assembled by Seiko’s leading craftsmen at the Shizuku-ishi Watch studio”… which is where the 9S calibers are made.
Since so few brands make hi-beat movements, it’s always of note when they show up. Seiko is one of the few with them, and this is the only watch outside of the GS line to have one. As for why they did it, well, like the watch as a whole, it’s a nod to their history, and the original 1968 6159 Marinemaster actually was powered by a 36k bph hi-beat as well. Hopefully they will use this movement in other Prospex watches too, though I doubt it will be used often.
The overall aesthetic of the design is as though Seiko took a little bit of a handful of classics and mixed them together with a modern flair… and then added blasted it with Gamma rays. As such, it’s clearly Seiko, immediately attractive and yet kind of crazy. The dial is deep black with gold accents and the same big dive markers and hands we’ve come to love. The bezel insert too has a vintage feel. Those two elements are pretty straightforward, classic and handsome.
The case, however, is nuts. It’s huge first of all, measuring 48.2 x 19.7(!)mm. I don’t have the exact lug-to-lug, but they were in proportion the rest of the case, so pretty long. Yet, while giant-sized, it was surprisingly light thanks to full a titanium construction, making it more wearable than expected. The titanium also has their super-hard coating, increasing durability.
With that said, there is no hiding that it’s a truly gigantic watch. 19.7mm height is nearly an inch tall, so you’re not getting this one under a shirt cuff. But, it was also a beautiful case (as to be expected), with some curves and lines derived from the 6159 and modern 300m Marinemasters, and good finishing throughout. Thanks to a one-piece case (top loaded with no case-back) and Seiko’s other engineering tricks, it’s also a saturation diver without an HEV, and has a 1000m water resistance (though they said it has survived down to 3,000m in testing).
The watch comes with a titanium with hard-coated bracelet and a black silicon strap. The bolted end-links of the bracelet add a particularly aggressive attitude to the watch, as well as brings out the modern feel of the case.
The Marinemaster Professional 1,000m Diver’s Hi-Beat Limited Edition (SBEX001) is limited to 700 pieces worldwide and comes in at a hefty $6,000, making it a true Seiko-diehard collector’s piece. Given the size, it’s not really one to walk around with (well, not on my wrist), but that’s also not really the point. This is a show piece and a celebration of their diver history. The wild and perhaps impractical design demonstrates the evolution of the brand and its capabilities. With the 1000m titanium case and modern 36k bph movement, it’s a big step from the 150m 62MAS 55 years ago.