Seiko Prospex Japan Celebrates 40 Years of Gundam With Three Limited Editions (SBDB033, SBDX027, SBDX029)

As many of you history buffs out there are well aware, 2019 is a big year for important anniversaries. On June 6, the world will look back at D-Day, which turned the tide of World War II 75 years ago this year. Baby boomers across America will be flooded with nostalgia all summer long, as we celebrate 50 years since the Apollo 11 moon landing AND the Woodstock festival, two of the most massive cultural touchstones of a generation, occurring within months of each other. And then, of course, there’s Mobile Suit Gundam, celebrating 40 years since it’s premiere on Japanese television in 1979.

That’s right folks, if you thought the moon landing was the only big historic event to get a special edition watch this year, well, Seiko has other plans. The Mobile Suit Gundam 40th anniversary series consists of three fairly niche Seiko references that all represent interpretations of characters from the cult favorite anime series. These are dramatic new takes on some well known Seiko designs, including a colorway update for a still brand new GMT in the Prospex LX line introduced at Basel this year.


First, for the uninitiated, a quick primer on Mobile Suit Gundam. Premiering in 1979, Mobile Suit Gundam aired on Japanese television for only a few years, but had a long lasting impact on anime and science fiction more broadly. The series follows Amuro Ray, a teenage mechanic, who pilots a giant mechanical, human powered battle robot in a war against the Principality of Zeon. If you’ve seen Pacific Rim and recall the human piloted mecha from that film, you have an idea of what Mobile Suit Gundam was all about. The initial series ran for only 43 episodes, but inspired an abundance of spin-offs, toys, and films. It would be an understatement to say that the aesthetic and ideas of the series are deeply ingrained in Japanese popular culture.

Ok, the watches. Let’s start with the SBDB033. Limited to just 300 pieces, this, like all the limited edition Mobile Suit Gundam watches, is part of the Prospex line. It’s a nearly 45mm sports watch with a 100m depth rating and a three day power reserve. With a color scheme of gray, blue, and red to match the series’ titular “Gundam” mecha, the SBDB033 is a Spring Drive GMT based on the very recently announced watches of the Prospex LX line that made their debut at this year’s Baselworld fair. Yes, you read that right. Seiko has taken one of their most serious new watches and given it a full Gundam makeover to honor the anniversary of a classic space opera. If that isn’t the most bonkers watch news you’ve heard this year, I would kindly ask that you share it with me in the comments below so my mind can be even more fully blown.


The other two models being released this year in celebration of the show’s 40th are both slightly less limited watches built on the Marinemaster Professional platform in designs that are meant as tribute to Principality of Zeon mechas. References SBDX027 and SBDX029 are heavy duty dive watches powered by Seiko’s 8L35 movement, and rated to a completely unnecessary but awesome 1000 meters. They come in distinctive green and red colorways that will be familiar to fans of the show, and include plenty of little details that pay homage as well. The shroud around the bezel will be familiar to Seiko fans who have studied the various “tuna” watches that Seiko has released over the years, with these watches falling into the largest “Emperor Tuna” category. As that moniker implies, these watches are big, coming in at a little over 52mm in diameter. If you were hoping for discretion in your watch made as an homage to giant, human piloted war robots, I suppose your search will continue.


So, there’s obviously a lot going on here with these releases. Putting aside the collectible, pop-culture aspect of these watches just for a moment, let’s pause to recognize the horology at work here. The Marinemaster 1000M that the Zeon watches use as a base is, quite simply, the most serious dive instrument that Seiko makes. For a brand that’s often most closely associated with its dive watch line-up (which is massive, at times confusing, and uniformly high quality), that’s saying something. Similarly, the Spring Drive GMT movement used in the SBDB033 is the same one used in top of the line Grand Seikos, and the case has the angles and finishing associated with old school Grammar of Design work that enthusiasts have long admired the brand for. In other words, if you strip away the classic anime association, you are left with some serious top of the food chain Seikos that reflect their best work as a brand.

Seiko, at least at the high end, is often seen as a somewhat sober and conservative brand. Think of the craftsman who dutifully and proudly works on a single task, day in and day out, in a manner unchanged over decades. Or the dial work that in higher end Presage models is often meant to evoke long held cultural traditions. It’s nice to see Seiko letting their hair down a bit, doing something unabashedly fun, driven directly at very enthusiastic and dedicated fans that is still, in its own way, of a unique cultural importance.

These limited editions won’t come cheap. The SBDB033 will sell for 630,000 Japanese Yen (roughly $5,600) once it goes on sale in August. The SBDX027 and SBDX029 will both retail for 400,000 Japanese Yen (approximately $3,600) when they hit stores later this month, and they are quite naturally being aimed exclusively at the Japanese domestic market. But, if you happen to fall in the overlap on the Venn Diagram of “Seiko enthusiasts” and “Mobile Suit Gundam fans,” you’re probably already figuring out a way to acquire these. Seiko Japan

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Zach is a native of New Hampshire, and he has been interested in watches since the age of 13, when he walked into Macy’s and bought a gaudy, quartz, two-tone Citizen chronograph with his hard earned Bar Mitzvah money. It was lost in a move years ago, but he continues to hunt for a similar piece on eBay. Zach loves a wide variety of watches, but leans toward classic designs and proportions that have stood the test of time. He is currently obsessed with Grand Seiko.