Seiko’s New Tuna is a Tribute to a Classic from 1986

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While it’s certainly true that every Seiko dive watch has its fans, I’d argue that no diver has a more dedicated and hardcore base of support than the Tuna. This series of watches has all the trappings of a cult favorite: an unusual case shape that devotees insist wears extremely well, a history as one of the most tech forward dive watches in Seiko’s catalog and an association with actual professional divers, and a steady stream of variants with different movements, case sizes, and colorways that keep collectors interested. Seiko just unveiled a new limited edition Tuna that seems focused on old-school Seiko historians and collectors, paying homage to one of the brand’s most important divers released thirty-five years ago. This one is a little inside baseball, but for enthusiasts with a deep interest in all things Tuna, it’s easily one of Seiko’s most noteworthy recent releases. 

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First, a little background to understand the context behind this new watch, officially dubbed the Seiko Prospex 1986 Quartz Diver’s 35th Anniversary Limited Edition (as always with Seiko, a mouthful). The first Tuna was released in 1975, and with its distinctive shrouded case it set itself apart from other dive watches as an instrument clearly designed for professionals. The so-called “Grandfather Tuna,” reference 6159-7010, was created by Seiko after receiving a letter from a pro diver asking for a watch that could withstand not just extreme depth, but also shock. This gave birth to one of the most robust cases we can recall, and set a template for high tech divers to come. 

The watch that Seiko’s new LE is based on isn’t that initial Tuna reference, but one that would come later, in 1986. This watch upped the water resistance to 1,000 meters (from 600) and added what at the time was an advanced, high frequency quartz movement. Targeted to saturation divers, the combination of a super tough case, highly accurate and reliable movement, and an insane degree of water resistance made this watch a tool that people who risked their lives doing a dangerous job underwater could rely on. The new watch is very much in the same spirit as the 1986 version, borrowing a lot both aesthetically and in terms of the tech being used. 

This new anniversary watch is cast in titanium, just like prior Tunas, and maintains the same 1,000 meter water resistance rating as the 1986 original. Most importantly though for Tuna fans, it also incorporates a quartz movement, caliber Caliber 7C46. This is a modern, highly accurate Seiko quartz caliber, and is rated to within 15 seconds per month. While Tunas have been made with all manner of automatic and Spring Drive movements over the years, quartz is the movement family that feels most tied to these watches, largely due to that landmark release from 1986. 

This watch has a contemporary aesthetic, with a dial that fades from blue to black, and gold tone accents on the outside of the case. The famous shroud is made of zirconia ceramic, which is an incredibly tough material that will resist scratches and shock impacts. This anniversary Tuna ships on a silicone accordion style strap (another Seiko innovation that can be traced to the original Tuna from the 70s). A new feature making its debut in this LE is a yellow “Lock” marking on the crown, with an arrow indicating the proper direction to screw it down tightly. The crown tube has been painted yellow to match, so that the wearer can see at a glance if the crown is unscrewed. This is a useful feature that adds roughly zero cost to the watch, but does give you an extra pop of color, somewhat unexpectedly. 

In terms of size, the watch measures 49.4mm in diameter, and 16.3mm thick. Now, that’s a big watch, no doubt. But keep in mind that because of the unique shape of the case, there are no lugs to speak of. So that diameter measurement is, effectively, the lug to lug as well. The Tuna is one watch not to be dismissed based on case size alone. Have you ever heard someone tell you that a Tuna wore larger than expected? I haven’t either. For a great rundown of how a very different Tuna wears that might give us some clues as to how this one will feel on the wrist as well, be sure to check out Zach W’s recent review of the SRPF81K1, or “Everyday Tuna,” right here.

The Seiko Prospex 1986 Quartz Diver’s 35th Anniversary Limited Edition (reference S23635) will be hitting stores in July, and is limited to 1,200 examples. Pricing in USD isn’t available quite yet, but retail pricing in Europe is set at €2,700. Seiko

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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.
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